Saturday, 31 July 2010

My Bruce Journey - Part 29

'The cards I've drawn's a rough hand darlin'  I straighten my back and I'm working on a dream'

So 2009 had arrived and on 24th January so did ‘Working on a Dream’ which usefully can be condensed down to an acronym and from now on will be affectionately known as WOAD.

Before we even get to the music I have to say that among the Bruce community the cover seemed to be almost universally hated - yes hated.  Personally I can take it or leave it. I have discussed album artwork previously so I’ll leave it at that.

Well I wasn’t sure about WOAD at the time and I am still not sure now.  I really don’t know if it’s a good album or not. Perhaps I will know better in two or three years time - if I am still coming back to play it then I must like it.

It didn’t grab me in the same way as ‘Magic’.  It seems to me a bit rushed somehow - I’m talking mainly lyrics here because I don’t know enough about music to tell how complicated the arrangement is.  It is actually a very melodic album but ’Well surprise surprise surprise Yea surprise surprise surprise Well surprise surprise’ it’s a bit …well…repetitive.

‘Outlaw Pete’ feels like Bruce trying too hard to write another epic story song and I really don’t like it. Didn’t stop me singing at the top of my voice during the gigs though!

Not keen on ‘Queen of the Supermarket’ or ‘Good Eye’ and whilst I don’t dislike ’Working on a Dream’ - good tune great sentiments it’s also a bit repetitive.  This track actually came to be my mantra, my inspiration, as you will see later on.

A lot of the tracks (‘My Lucky Day’ ‘What Love Can Do’ This Life’ ‘Life Itself’ ‘Kingdom of Days’) touch on how it feels to have loved someone for a long time: about growing old together.  Mike and I can certainly relate to that - loving someone for a long time that is… OK OK we know a bit about growing old too!

I particularly like ‘Kingdom of Days’ but even this suffers from that rushed feeling. The middle eight - ’I love I love you I love you I love you I do’ etc isn’t very inspiring and surely with a bit more thought our man could have done better.

You know, I don’t want to sound as if I don’t like the album.  I have played it a bit this week and whilst it’s never going to be in my top five it is a good old pop record which isn’t too taxing on the brain.

Anyway by 30 January we had tickets, hotels and flights to the Dublin gigs.

Two days later we were sat in our friends’ house waiting for the start of Superbowl XLlll.

Now a lot of my work mates thought we were mad sitting up in the middle of the night just to watch 15 minutes or so of Bruce but not watching it live would have been unthinkable.  We had even looked at the cost of going to the game but we would have had to raid a bank to afford the tickets.  Still it would have been good to say ‘We woz there’

In the end I am not sure how I felt about the show (if you can call such a short set a show).  I was desperate for Bruce to put on a great performance and before he came on I was nervous for him.  Perhaps a little nervous for me too.  After all you don’t want your friends to think your choice of music is naff!  My desire to get other people to see what I see is compulsive but I am also aware that, to a non believer, he is just an old man still trying to rock.  He just isn’t cool.

So our friends aren’t big fans but they don’t dislike him either.  I don’t think the half time show gave them any reason to change that opinion.  It was OK but not amazing.

We managed to stay up until the end of the match and although I can’t remember much about the actual game I think the final quarter was quite gripping.  It was quite close at the end.

Some time during 2008 we had become Gaslight Anthem fans.  Like a lot of artists we follow we had found out about them because of the Bruce connection.  I knew they were Springsteen fans and came from New Jersey and I had also seen Brian Fallon’s acoustic cover of Backstreets on YouTube which is a bit hesitant but still good.

“The 59 Sound” was a constant companion for months on the car stereo and is still one of my favourite albums.

It was with them in mind that I decided to book a coach trip to Hard Rock Calling in Hyde Park - an excuse to see Bruce again and Gaslight Anthem were on the same bill.  Neither of us had been to a festival before. Can’t say they really appeal - all that mud, camping and iffy toilet facilities.

Glastonbury was never on our list of to dos and anyway most of it is on the TV these days.  Hopefully Bruce’s set would be on but I couldn’t see the Beeb showing 3 hours worth.  There were many rumours flying around as to how much if any would be shown - fingers crossed time.

So by then end of February we were sorted - the Hyde Park gig on 28 June and Dublin on 11 and 12 July.

Less than a month later we were sitting with a consultant in Leeds General Infirmary and I am asking him if I will be well enough to go and see Bruce Springsteen after surgery for breast cancer.

Yes really! - the thing I was most upset about was the fact that I might not be well enough to see Bruce.

Now I had to start working on my own dream.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

My Bruce Journey - Part 28

'Sunrise come, I climb the ladder.  The new day breaks and I'm working on a dream'

So the Magic tour is over.  I loved every minute of it.

The first, and possibly the only, time we wore Santa hats to a Bruce show.  ’Santa’ was great although not entirely unexpected and unless we get to another December show we may never hear this live again.

The first tour when we took some Bruce virgins with us and although Trevor (Mike’s brother) wasn’t converted we did have a small victory the other day when he reported that he had heard a Springsteen song on the radio that he liked - ‘Girls In Their Summer Clothes‘ - there might be hope for him yet.

The first tour we went abroad - to Paris.  I know this wasn’t necessarily the best choice - the crowds in Spain and Italy are more enthusiastic but we had a great time.  The French audience were so quiet during ‘For You’.  I am not sure that a rowdier crowd would have been as respectful.  Paris is easy to get to on Eurostar so it was an obvious first choice.  We would go again.

At the risk of repeating myself ‘Magic’ is my favourite of the recent albums.  At the time I was a bit disappointed with the live versions of some of the songs but I have listened to the boots again and they really aren’t so bad.  Someone else at the time suggested one or two tracks were in a higher key than Bruce’s voice is comfortable with.  I think there might be something in this.  Listening to, for example, the first verse of ‘Girls‘ and ’Long Walk Home’ - before the band kicks in - his voice doesn’t seem to be that strong.

I wonder if Bruce was aware that, live, some of the songs weren’t working so well.  He barley played ’Your Own Worst Enemy’ and ’You’ll Be Coming Down’ - one of my favourite tracks - was only done once.

So different from The Rising which was really powerful live.  Bruce has kept tracks from this in the set list - to the point that it might just be getting towards boring.  Do we really need another ’Sunny Day’? and didn’t ‘Mary’s Place’ begin to grate a little?  I wonder if he will do the same with ‘Magic’.

With gig withdrawal symptoms setting in we decided to go and see Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes who were playing a few miles down the road at The Picturedrome in Holmfirth (the town where Last of the Summer Wine is filmed).  We had seen him at the same venue the previous year and he is brilliant.

The Picturedrome is an interesting place.  You might say it is full of character or you might say it’s a bit run down.  Southside must like it though, as he comes every year.  This was our third Jukes gig so it was becoming at bit more familiar - I knew when to throw my arms in the air and where to sing along etc. - always better as there is less chance of making a fool of myself.

We took some new acquaintances with us who we had met through a PT Cruiser owners club.  They lived in Holmfirth and we were staying with them overnight.  We haven’t seen them since - not sure if it was us or Johnny who put them off!!

By this time we knew we would have the halftime gig at The Superbowl to watch.  Even this sent me into a panic trying to find out whether TV in the UK actually show the half time entertainment or spend the time replaying and discussing what went on in the first half.  Luckily we have friends who are NFL fans and they assured us we would see Bruce.

More excitement at Halloween with the release of ‘A Night With The Jersey Devil’. Great song and I love the video - his own swimming pool apparently.  I can’t embed this video but go on click the link you know you must!  A Night With The Jersey Devil

And if that wasn’t enough we get the announcement in November of a new album.  ‘Working On A Dream’ would be released on 26 January 2009 (in the UK) a few days before the Superbowl.

Before then we took a more than passing interest in Barrack Obama’s presidential campaign.  Mike and I are interested in American politics mainly because we were avid watchers of The West Wing.  Actually I should say are avid watchers as we have the DVDs and still get them out regularly.  This campaign had an added attraction as did John Kerry’s four years before.  We got a lot more coverage in the UK this time though.

We also got a sneak preview of ‘Working On A Dream’ complete with out of tune whistling at the Cleveland Rally.  I wasn’t sure about it then and I am still not sure but more of this in a future week.

Sadly in 2008 we lost Danny and on a personal note my father in law - Graham died only a few days earlier. We miss Graham every day. He was a quiet gentle funny man.

Danny we still miss your music.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

My Bruce Journey - Part 27

'Wounded deep in battle I stand stuffed like some soilder undaunted.  To her Cheshire smile.  I'll stand on file, she's all I ever wanted'

Unlike the usual ticketmaster service which involves your tickets arriving a stress inducing couple of days before the show the Paris tickets arrived almost immediately after I had booked - months before the gig.

This caused another problem though - where is that elusive place that’s out-of- the-way enough to be safe but no so out-of-the-way that you forget where it is?

We plumped for a little used drawer which has now, over time, become the place to store booking confirmations, travel documents, show tickets and the like.  Don’t think I had a can’t find the tickets panic once although said drawer had the gubbins in for three different gigs at one point.

The last time we were in Paris was for our honeymoon in 1992.  We spent three days in Paris during a Metro strike and four days in Eurodisney as it was called at the time.

Eurodisney had only opened four days earlier. It was all a bit chaotic.  Our hotel wasn’t finished so we were moved to another in the same price range.  We had booked The Sequoia Lodge - all log cabin and patchwork quilts and ended up at The Newport Bay Club - all yachts and navy blue stripes.  Check in took hours and there was a fire alarm test in the middle of the first night.

Sounds like a complete disaster but we loved both Paris and Eurodisney.

Anyway this would be our first time back so we decided to stay in Paris for a few days around the show.  I wasn’t sure how this would work - would the holiday be overshadowed by the gig or the other way around? As it turned out neither happened and we had a really great holiday and show.

We have taken an extra day or two away around a show twice since and it works well for us.  We don’t go on holiday much so Bruce has become our reason to go away.

Back to 2008.  After much internet searching we chose a hotel within walking distance of Parc Des Princes. Well I suppose it depends what you call walking distance - it was a good 20 to 30 minutes stroll.  The Hotel was at the very south west corner of the city, just near La Seine.  It was only small - 69 rooms according to the brochure - and had a lovely little courtyard where you could sit and have a drink.  We would definitely stay again.

We had a 20 minute Metro ride to the centre of Paris but we wanted to be convenient for the venue especially for getting back to the hotel afterwards.

We arrived via Eurostar on the Thursday before the gig on Friday night.

After checking in we headed back to the centre of Paris.  We had decided to try a recommended eatery - Chartier which as luck would have it was not far from The Hard Rock Café where Mark Wright was playing.  As usual we got lost. There must be a law - one of sod’s laws most likely - that dictates when you come out of an underground train system part way down a street and you have to make the decision of whether to turn right or left you always turn the wrong way!!.

We found the place eventually, had a great meal and then set off for The Hard Rock Café.  It was heaving so we chickened out and went back to the hotel instead.

Can’t remember what we did during the day on Friday and as this isn’t a holiday blog I am sure you are not really interested.  We will get on to the important stuff.

Had a leisurely stroll to the Parc Des Princes seeing more and more Springsteen T shirts as we got nearer. 

When we got there we were shown to our seat by a pleasant young woman.  Wherever you go - theatre, cinema (in the old days) arena etc you are pointed in the direction of your seat.  We just though the French gave a better service.  This person wanted a tip though!!  We had no change - a bit embarrassing - but hey we were foreigners so we probably got away with it.

The gig was amazing.  The crowd was a bit static maybe but this was our fourth gig of the tour so there was no pressure - we could just sit back and enjoy.  As long as I get to one show where the audience are really into it I am happy and can relax for the others.

Bruce opened with ‘Adam Raised A Cain’ a bit of a surprise.  Not one of my favourites and Mike doesn’t like it.  On balance though I like everything live and because of the thrill I feel at the start of a gig Bruce could open with anything and I would love it at the time.

This was followed, not unexpectedly, with 'Radio Nowhere' and the ubiquitious (for us at least) 'No Surrender'.  I like the song - it has some of my favourite lines - 'I want to sleep beneath peaceful skies in my lover's bed with a wide open country in my eyes and these romantic dreams in my head'

Mike got one of his favourites - ’Atlantic City’.  ‘Rendezvous’ was an obvious choice for France.  This was the only time we have heard ‘Fire‘ and it was great to get ‘Janey’- not strictly my name but I have adopted the song anyway.

The highlight had to be ‘For You‘ on the piano.  It was stunning and here the quiet crowd was a benefit because you could have heard a pin drop.

The walk back to the hotel was quite pleasant - not the usual crush.  Had a drink when we got back and a quick chat with two girls who’s first concert had been during the ‘Tunnel of Love’ tour.

We spent Saturday in Paris then home on Sunday wishing we had decided to go to Spain as well.

We did have a few days wondering about Giants Stadium.  We even went to North American Travel to see about hotels nearby.  The chap we talked to said we would be better staying in New York and travelling to the gig.  He also mentioned that his Dad had been to see Bruce years ago which made us feel very old.

In the end we talked ourselves out of it because we weren’t sure how we would call for the tickets if we were staying in NYC.

So Paris was the end of ‘Magic’ for us.

Back to set list watching for me until the next time.

Set List

Adam Raised A Cain
Radio Nowhere
No Surrender
The Promised Land
Spirit In The Night
Candy's Room
Atlantic City
Janey Don't You Lose Heart
Darlington County
Because The Night
She's The One
Livin' In The Future
Mary's Place
For You
The River
The Rising
Last to Die
Long Walk Home
Out In The Street
Girls In Their Summer Clothes
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Born To Run
Bobby Jean
Dancing In The Dark
American Land

Sunday, 4 July 2010

My Bruce Journey Part 26

'Laying here in the dark you're like an angel on my chest just another tramp of hearts crying tears of faithlessness'

We took Mike’s brother Trevor and his wife Val to the Emirates with us.  They were Springsteen virgins.

Now Val strikes me as a woman who is pretty open minded about music but Trevor … well Trevor does not like Bruce.  He doesn’t like his voice.  Mike and Trevor have been indulging in friendly banter over many many years during which time we have tried to convert him without success.  Come to think of it we haven’t had much success in converting anybody!!!

I am not sure what the compulsion is with us Bruce fans.  We seem to have a need to try and get everyone else on board.  I think it’s because if you do ‘get it’ it is one of the most fabulous feelings of your life and we somehow want our friends and family to be able to enjoy that experience as much as we do.

I am the classic example of didn’t-get-him-until-I-saw-him-live but after one show I was absolutely irrevocably and completely hooked.  Will this happen to Trevor and Val?

So we were going to night 2 - Saturday night and staying over to have a bit of a sightseeing day on Sunday. Val had never been to The Tower of London so that, at least, was in our plans.  Well Trevor didn’t want the trip to be a complete waste of time!

We set off early Saturday morning for the train from Leeds to Kings Cross.  We had hotels in Kings Cross but not the same hotels.  Our hotel - The Premier Inn let us check in early but Trevor and Val met with strong resistance at Comfort Inn round the corner.

Anyway once sorted we headed off for the nearest Wetherspoons which wasn’t where it should be.

How often have we done this?  We are the perfect example of why forward planning isn’t the best option. Mike and I are both planners so we often do our research and plan what we are going to do before setting out.  At least half the time the place we plan to go to isn’t there any more or is closed or we just can’t find it.

Only last weekend in London we headed off to a pub near Kings Cross to watch the footie only to find the place was shut.

Anyway back to 31 May 2008.  We finally settled down for a drink somewhere near Mount Pleasant sorting office.  Sat outside on a lovely warm day and finished our picnic.  Then quick change back at the hotels and off to the Badlands party near the Emirates Stadium.  Mark Wright did a set.  We had a couple of beers and off to the show.

We were sat in the lower tier - Clarence’s side of the stage a bit more than half way back.  Trevor and Val were in the upper tier almost directly above us.

Usually I have a good memory of the crowd around me but I can’t remember much about this lot.  There was a chap in front of us who was very surprised when Bruce started collecting signs.  He turned to his mate and told him he had never seen him do this before.  Obviously he wasn’t the type of fan that follows Bruce’s every move on line - I ask you who would do that anyway?!!

This night was apparently much shorter than the previous night - perhaps because they didn’t want to break the curfew again.  There had been a lot of controversy over the concert being staged here at all. Bruce was the first - the locals didn’t like it - nothing personal against Bruce you understand just concerts in general.

The set list was a great one for me.  ’Out in the Street’ was a surprise opener and we got ’Sandy’ with a story about Danny - can’t imagine what Trevor and Val made of this as they had no idea of the history.

I hadn’t realised until afterwards that ’Downbound Train’ was such a rarity and ‘I’m on fire’ was great - I have chosen this clip because it shows the adoration of the crowd.

My love of ’Backstreets’ started here.  I had always liked the song but, as is often the case, when you hear Bruce’s live take on a song it becomes so much more magical.

Mike and I had a thoroughly good night.  Trevor said it was just some bloke singing a load of songs he didn’t know (or words to that effect) and he'd bought a foot long hot dog for a fiver which was a rip off.   There was a bit of a crush getting home and a whiff of trouble at Kings Cross so Trevor whisked Val off to their hotel and we arranged to meet up next day after breakfast.

So Sunday - we found The Tower of London without any trouble - luckily it is still where it is supposed to be.  We had a very enjoyable tour - our guide was a bit of a comedian - and then off for some lunch.  Trevor treated us - said the price was what he thought Bruce was worth - can’t remember how much, about a tenner each maybe or was it a tanner? (for those youngsters out there this is pre decimal currency).

Trevor admitted over lunch that ’American Land’ wasn’t bad and Val said she would rather go and see Bruce again than David Bowie - Bowie is Trevor’s Springsteen.

Neither were converts - hey ho you can’t win ‘em all.

Set List
Out In The Street
No Surrender
Darkness On The Edge Of Town
Gypsy Biker
Radio Nowhere
4th July Asbury Park (Sandy)
Growin' Up
Downbound Train
I'm On Fire
Because The Night
She's The One
Livin' In The Future
Mary's Place
The Promised Land
The Rising
Last To Die
Long Walk Homw
Girls In Their Summer Clothes
Born To Run
Tenth Avenue Freeze Out
American Land