Sunday, 28 February 2010

My Bruce Journey - Part 8

‘ I wanna be where the bands are’

About the time that we were missing out on the Tom Joad tour we came across by accident a TV programme called, I think, The Women of Country.  Despite my teenage assertions that I would never like country music I found that I loved some of the music on this show.

This prompted me to buy a boat load of what was termed at the time ’new country’- Suzi Boggus, The Dixie Chicks, Trisha Yearwood and the like.  Apparently traditionalists don’t think this is proper country music which is somewhat of a comfort to me.

Never really got into the men of country though - the Stetsons are so off putting!

And yes we have Shania Twain’s ‘Come on Over’- the 1998 version.  She released another version for the European market a year or so later.  I know it’s fashionable to knock Shania but I loved this album at the time - played it to death.  I have to confess though that I liked her better before she became really famous. You can have too much of a good thing.

Contrary to popular opinion not all country music is depressing and sentimental.  Some of it is the most uplifting music I have ever heard.

If you have kids just read the lyrics to ’I Hope You Dance’. Ronan Keating made it famous in the UK but it is originally a country track recorded by Lee Ann Womack and it puts into words everything you wish for your children setting out into the world - now maybe that is sentimental.

Well back to Bruce.  We didn’t buy ‘Tracks’ when it first came out - couldn’t afford it. Got tickets for the Manchester show on 2nd May 1999 though and bought ‘Tracks’ to prepare for this.  I still didn’t realise at this point that we needed to know all the old stuff as well as the latest release to understand everything that was going on during a live gig.  As it happens he only played ’Where The Bands Are’ from ‘Tracks’ - one of my all time faves but I didn’t appreciate at the time how lucky I was to hear it.

Bought ‘Tracks‘ from MVC in Leeds in the days when we had the choice of any number of chain stores from which to buy our music.  I think it was one of the first times I tramped (word used deliberately!) from store to store trying to find the best deal.  This company went under quite some while ago and over the last few years Leeds has lost all but HMV and some good independent record stores.

I had my first taste of the Springsteen fan’s compulsion to talk about Bruce at any opportunity when I was buying ‘Tracks’.  Chap that served me just had to tell me he had seen Bruce live and how great he was.  Met loads of fans since and we just can’t help ourselves can we?

Bruce did two nights at Manchester. I know we went on the second night because I was reading the Manchester Evening News’ review of the first night over the shoulder of the chap sat in from of me. Bought the obligatory T Shirt - at the time I favoured the grunge look and it was extra large.  I have since altered it to a more fitted shape.

Listening to the boot of the show now I think we must have wondered what on earth was going on half the time.  He opened with ’Badlands’- obviously being only our second show we had no idea when to sing along.  Every time Clarence played the whole audience erupted - we had found our black man with the saxophone.  We would have missed the Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh’s in ’Out In The Street’ and must have been absolutely lost during ‘Hungry Heart’ and ‘Born to Run’!!  I would have had an amazing night had I been going now.  The set list is fantastic.

I remember recognising ‘Mansion on the Hill’ at the time as it has always been one of Mike’s favourites. Other than that - nothing.  I didn’t know that, ten years later, I would regret not savouring every minute.

So that was 1999. On to the new millennium.

Set List - MEN 2nd May 1999
Two Hearts
Darlington County
Atlantic City
Mansion On The Hill
The River
Murder Incorporated
Prove It All Night
Out In The Street
Tenth Avenue Freeze Out
Where The Bands Are
Working On The Highway
The Ghost Of Tom Joad
The Promised Land
Light Of Day
Hungry Heart
Bobby Jean
Born To Run
Thunder Road
If I Should Fall Behind
Land Of Hope And Dreams

Saturday, 20 February 2010

My Bruce Journey - Part 7

“For what are we without hope in our hearts”

Of course we bought the ‘plugged’ CD after going to the gig.

I know I played it a lot because Mike once asked me why I sing ’loving you sugar is a mans mans job’ Instead of ‘loving you woman…’ - it‘s what Bruce sings on the ’plugged’ recording.

We still didn’t have any of the early stuff so these versions of Darkness, Thunder Road etc were the only ones I knew for a while.  Atlantic City was the one song I remembered from the Sheffield gig and I have always liked the live version better than the one on ‘Nebraska‘.

We still weren’t buying a huge amount of music although as we now have over 500 CDs we must have made up for this at some point.  In 1995 as well as Bruce’s ‘Greatest Hits’ and ‘Tom Joad’ we bought lat least five other albums including Paul Weller’s ‘Stanley Road’ - Mike liked ‘Broken Stones’.

The albums we’re sure we bought are listed at the end of the blog.  We know this because Mike has spent many a happy hour this last week cataloguing our CD collection - anal or what!

Think I played ‘Greatest Hits’ a lot and I certainly read the cover a few times.  I’m a fan of sleeve notes.  I like to know what musicians may have guested on the album - the music business turns out to be quite incestuous.

But my absolute favourite is the ‘thank yous’ - they can be very revealing.  Who can forget the very curt ’Thanks Juli’ on ’Tunnel of Love’.  Compare this with ’All my love Patti…’ on ‘Lucky Town’ and the much less effusive ’Thanks to Patti…for her love, patience and support’ which has been on the last two or three albums.

Do you think that now Bruce is older he has realised just saying ‘I love you’ isn’t enough.  He needs to acknowledge that Patti has put up with him all these years.  I guess he’s not an easy man to live with!

Maybe I am reading too much in to this but if you listen to Patti’s ’Play it as it lays’ album she paints a very realistic picture of a married couples ups and downs when they have been together for a while.  If you believe it is in any way autobiographical (and I do) she seems to be saying she and her man have had good times and bad times.  She’s thought about leaving but has decided to stick it out.  From now on she is going to ‘play it as it lays’ , take it as it comes, go with the flow.

It feels as though Bruce’s thank you message is saying that he knows and appreciates all this.  Yeah, I hear you, I am definitely looking in to this too deeply.

Anyway back to ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’.  From time to time I try to get into it.  Most recently I put it on my ipod and listened on the bus going to and from work - but it just doesn’t do it for me.  Can’t say I hate it - can’t say I hate anything Bruce does - but it’s not my cup of tea.  ‘Tom Joad’ itself is OK and I like the full band version of Youngstown but otherwise - no.

The ‘Solo Acoustic’ tour passed us by completely.  At the time we found out about tours through Channel 4’s teletext pages but we were a bit hit a miss with this - sometimes checking every day and sometimes not checking for weeks.  We only knew there had been a tour because a friend said he had been to the Newcastle gig.

We saw Rod Stewart at Sheffield Arena in December 1995.  It was a freezing cold night and they kept us waiting outside for ages.  The gig was good though. I had been a Rodders fan since the early seventies and knew most of the songs.  This meant that I had more of an opportunity to sing along than at the Bruce gig. ‘Sailing’ although not my favourite song was quite amazing with thousands of people singing along.

Rod kicked footballs into the crowd - I understand this is a long standing tradition - in fact the atmosphere was really reminiscent of a football match.  He also got a woman up on the stage to dance with him - remind you of anything?

Went to Sheffield Arena again in November 1996.  We took my step daughter and a friend to see Celine Dion.  Can’t remember anything about this except we got stuck in traffic and arrived late.  This meant we missed the support who happened to be The Corrs.

So now we are heading towards ‘Tracks’ and the Reunion Tour.

Other albums bought in 1995

Cher - It's A Man's World
Del Amitri - Twisted
Rod Stewart - A Spanner In The Works
Curtis Stigers - Time Was
Paul Weller - Stanley Road

Saturday, 13 February 2010

My Bruce Journey - Part 6

‘I’ll wait for you and should I fall behind wait for me’

So we are on a coach travelling down the M1 on 15th April 1993.  Off to see Bruce for the first time.

We went with a coach company whose offices were down a little side street in Leeds.  I didn’t seek out the place so it must have been fate that had me walking past to see the Springsteen gig advertised in their window.  The date was around Mike’s birthday so birthday present sorted.

I tried to get to know Human Touch (HT) and Lucky Town (LT) because as a tour to promote them I thought Bruce would perform most of the songs.  Not being a seasoned concert goer I just assumed artists played songs from the latest release. Did I expect Born in the USA?  I can’t remember but he did do an acoustic version. (full set list below).

I didn’t want to go.  I mean REALLY did not want to go but I left that night REALLY wanting to go again the next night !  It makes me smile even now to think how I was won over.
I don’t remember when the epiphany occurred.  I would like to say that Bruce walked on stage and I was instantly converted but many years later with the advent of the internet and with it accessibility to set lists I discovered he opened with an acoustic ’Seeds’.  Now there is nothing wrong with ‘Seeds’ acoustic or otherwise but I can’t see it grabbing me immediately.

We now, of course, have a bootleg of the night - paid for in the days before we were savvy enough to realise we could download for free.  To keep the tradition which started when I began writing this I am listening now.

Can’t say it evokes any particular memories but yes we did think the audience were ‘booing’.  Quickly realised they weren’t or at least if they were it wasn’t because they were unhappy!

We had no idea it wasn’t The E Street Band.  In fact I am not sure if we even knew there was an E Street Band, although we must have had a vague idea of band members because we were looking for a big black man with a saxophone!

We were in seats about halfway back and halfway up.  Around us everyone stood when Bruce came on stage and stayed up throughout.  We couldn’t understand why, when people had seats, they stood up - we thought the standing area was for those who didn’t want to pay for a seat - how wrong can you be?  We still sit these days but now I get annoyed if the audience around me DON‘T stand during the gig.

Bought my first tour T shirt which I wore to death at first.  It’s now in a frame on our kitchen wall. 

This same year we saw U2 at Roundhay Park -The Zoo Tour.  Didn’t know anything they played, was bored to tears and it took us three hours to get out of the car park.  We have thought about trying them again though - perhaps next tour.

Eric Clapton with ZZ Top at Sheffield Arena wasn’t any better and Michael Bolton who we saw around the same time was a disaster.  He wandered on stage sang about ten songs and disappeared.  Took his jacket off at one point and all the women in the front row swooned - needless to say I wasn’t in the front row.

I can’t believe it was to be six years before we saw Bruce again.

Set List

2.Adam Raised a Cain
3.This Hard Land
4.Better Days
5.Lucky Town
6.57 Channels (and Nothin’ On)
7.Atlantic City
9.Many Rivers to Cross
10.My Hometown
11.Leap of Faith
12.Mans Job
13.Roll of the Dice
14.Born in The USA (acoustic) 15.I’m on Fire
16.Because the Night
17.Human Touch
18.The River
19.Who’ll Stop the Rain?
20.Souls of the Departed
21.Prove it all Night
22.Light of Day
23.Glory Days
24.Thunder Road
25 Born to Run
26.My Beautiful Reward
27.Working on the Highway

Friday, 5 February 2010

My Bruce Journey - Part 5

‘You can’t shut off the risk and the pain without losin’ the love that remains‘

1992 was a big year for us. We moved to Leeds - Mike’s home town, we got married and Leeds United won the last ever League Division One before the Premiership was formed.  There’s a great article reflecting on this here

We still live in the same house 18 years later - the longest I have lived in one place and the house where we have had the happiest times.

We also bought 'Human Touch' and 'Lucky Town' and I liked both albums.  For me they were better than any other Bruce album I already owned except for 'Born in the USA'.  At the time I had no idea how much they were hated by the fans and I had no E Street Band history to colour my judgement.  Listening again this week I still like his voice which some think is twangy and I love the guitar sound which is definitely twangy.

‘Human Touch’ is a great song and, although I have no children of my own, I can’t believe that any parent doesn’t think ‘Living Proof’ isn’t beautiful.  I have to confess that ‘Man’s Job’ was a favourite but now? - well we all make mistakes. It’s still a good singalong but a favourite - perhaps not.

‘If I should fall behind’ is lovely - in Mike’s top ten - but I know the controversy is all about the sound rather than the lyrics.

I know nothing about production, mixes, drum machines etc etc - it sounds just fine to me.

But my album of the year (released in June) was ‘Change Everything’ Del Amitri.  I played this to death and to Mike’s distraction for months.  I had a portable CD player at the time and this album was my constant companion whenever I was outside the house.  This was one of those occasions when I bought their next album, played it once, didn’t like it and never played it again.  Didn’t buy another and although there has been no official announcement of a band break up they haven’t released anything for a while.

Other album purchases were Michael Bolton ‘Timeless’ and Charles and Eddie ‘Duophonic’ both of which we still have and neither of which we play at all.  We fell out with Michael Bolton a couple of years after this. A story that might crop up later.

My nomination for worst song of the year has to be Whitney Houston’s ‘I will Always Love You’.  This is one of my all time favourite songs and she just ruined it.  I can’t bear to think that people only know her version and don’t know that the wonderful Dolly Parton wrote it…and performs it with so much more restrained emotion.  There’s more to singing than just belting out a tune.

Oddly for a city as big as Leeds there is no concert venue.  We need to travel to Sheffield about 32 miles away down the M1 or Manchester which is about 40 miles across the M62.

So on 15th April 1993 we found ourselves heading to Sheffield Arena to see Bruce for the first time…