Saturday, 29 May 2010

My Bruce Journey - Part 21

‘Now sir you tell me the world's changed  Once I made you rich enough rich enough to forget my name'


The day after the Birmingham gig we are going home via Derbyshire on our way to a genuine American diner to meet up with Mike’s cousin Jane and her husband Nigel for the first time.    American Diner (Derbyshire)

Mike likes diners. He isn’t into the 50s rock and roll music or teddy boys and the like but he loves the d├ęcor, the food and 50s and 60s girl groups.  The Crystals and The Ronettes you will know but there are hundreds you will never have heard of.


Proper diners are not fixed buildings.  They look like old train carriages and are usually built off site and transported to their resting place.  Diner Museum

There are still diners all over the USA.  Can you guess which state has the most ? Yep New Jersey - anyone spot a theme running through our lives here?  New Jersey is known as the diner capital of The World but as we all know this is not it’s main claim to fame.

We had a great meal, promised to keep in touch and arranged to meet up again, possibly at a Bruce gig.

A couple of days later we are heading out to Sheffield.  We parked up at the arena early, popped in to pay the security guard and listened to a couple of minutes of the sound check.  Then off on the tram to the Badlands party in Sheffield City Centre.

This was an odd affair.  There was hardly anyone there and I think we would have left early if we hadn’t arranged to meet our friend with the hat (see previous blogs).  On the plus side the lack of a crowd meant we had a good view of Mark Wright’s set.  He was great as usual.  We bought the album - not sure which one but we have them all Mark!

Got chatting to a couple about whether there would be another ESB tour - there were lots of the usual rumours at the time.  He thought they would tour again Spring 2007. Well - a bit out but not too bad.

Looking back at BTX in 2006/07 there seems to have been some consensus of opinion that a tour starting some time in 2007 would be the farewell tour although not billed as such.  Posts after the end of the ‘Working on a Dream’ (WOAD) tour are very much on the same theme - it goes like this - the Magic tour and the WOAD tour (2007-2009) pretty much merged into one another to become a greatest hits farewell tour.  Well make of this what you will.  We feed off rumours when Bruce isn’t doing anything because we have nowt else to talk about.

We had a really good seat about in line with the back of the pit looking to the stage on our left.  A lady who I would have thought was about 65/70 years old sat on my left hand side.  She had come with her son-in-law who was a big fan.  She was only here because she had seen St Luke’s on the telly.

Now by this time the gigs had taken a different turn and although some of it was similar to St Luke’s there was much more of the old re-worked stuff.  On top of that an arena atmosphere is a bit different to an old church!  I can’t imagine what she thought when Bruce came on stage to the usual huge roar and sang ‘Blinded by the Light’ but I could see her out of the corner of my eye throughout the night and she didn’t seem to be enjoying it much.

Behind me were two girls who stood up and were asked several times to sit down.  I was jigging about so much they could tell I was itching to get up but I wouldn’t risk it.  After the Birmingham incident I was pretty much glued to my seat - didn’t want any more aggravation.  The two of them eventually persuaded a steward to let them onto the floor.

We really enjoyed this night.  The good seats helped and the set list had some of our favourites - ‘The River‘, ‘Atlantic City’, a great ‘ Devils and Dust‘ and ‘Youngstown’ especially for Sheffield.  This was Mike’s favourite show of the four. I can’t pick one out.
Before I started writing about the Seeger Sessions I thought the concerts would all lump together in my mind and I might be able to fill a week, two at the most but each concert had something that made it stand out in my memory.  That’s Bruce for you - no two nights are ever the same.

Sadly we are at the end of our Seeger gigs.  They were all thoroughly enjoyable, feel good nights.  I for one would be quite happy if Bruce did something similar again… but then I would go and see him whatever he did.
So that was 2006.

At the start of 2007 we got a New Year present from ‘Bushman Hat’ productions. A CD of the Sheffield gig as recorded by our friend with the hat.

Set List

Blinded By The Light
John Henry
Old Dan Tucker
Adam raised A Cain
The River
Jesse James
Oh Mary Don’t You Weep
Youngstown
Erie Canal
My Oklahoma Home
Atlantic City
Devils and Dust
Mrs McGrath
How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live
Jacobs Ladder
Growin’ Up
Open All Night
Pay Me My Money Down
Bring ‘em Home
You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
When The Saints Go Marching In
This Little Light Of Mine
American Land
Froggie Went A Courting










Saturday, 22 May 2010

My Bruce Journey - Part 20

‘There’s Diamonds In The Sidewalk There's Gutters Lined in Song’


There was a cock up with the Birmingham NEC tickets.  They were supposed to go on sale 9.00am Friday 4th August 2006 but we found out from BTX that they had already gone on sale Thursday night.  A mix up over a.m. and p.m. apparently.  So we already had two tickets guaranteed before the Friday morning rush.

Got our Sheffield Arena tickets from Badlands.  Those of you who have been following this may remember our first Bruce gig was at Sheffield so it would be good to go back after 13 years worth of fandom behind us - we were the old hands now and it felt good.

Two more dates for the diary and the first time we had done four gigs on the same tour.

Mike and I have been researching our family history, on and off, for a good few years now.

In the early days we spent many a happy hour in Leeds library doing research.  The library is in a wonderful Victorian building which hardly gets a mention on the internet because it is overshadowed by the Town Hall and many other buildings on The Headrow.  A couple of years ago it was closed for refurbishment and to my shame I haven’t been in since it reopened.

When we were regular library visitors the family history department was a couple of musty, stuffy old rooms down a maze of corridors.  Sounds very uninspiring but I loved pouring over the microfiches trying to discover births marriages etc.  Somehow it seemed appropriate to be delving into history in an old fashioned building using out of date equipment.

Nowadays most of the research can be done on the internet and for me it has lost some of it’s charm.  Mike still dabbles from time to time and he has managed to trace his family back to 1770

My ancestors have proved more difficult.  On my dad’s side we got stuck at  my great great grandad - no father’s name on the birth certificate meant we couldn’t go back to the previous generation.  Mind you, this was a great success compared to my Mothers side. Her Mum - Alice was illegitimate and we don‘t know who the father was. Alice’s mum was in service so we suspect the master got her pregnant.  We will probably never know!!

Anyway during his research Mike found a long lost cousin - Jane.  We got to know each other initially through emails.  How to describe yourself in a few paragraphs?  Well, I am 50...ish, happily married, no children of my own, two grown up step children, one grandchild and another on the way…then…what? Oddly most people don’t mention physical characteristics.  In this world where looks mean a lot you would think these would come high on the list.

So you get on to what defines you: what makes you who you are.  For people who love their jobs that could be the next thing you mention.  You might say where you originally come from if you live away from your roots.  I don’t mention either of these.  The next thing up on my list is I am a Bruce Springsteen fan.  It’s such a big part of what makes me who I am.

So we mention to Jane, fairly early on in the getting-to-know-you correspondence that we are both Bruce fans and tell her we are going to see him in Birmingham.  Turns out she has been a fan since the year dot and has been to every tour!!  Well would you believe it?

It’s easy in our little, cocooned, Springsteeny world to think that everyone loves Bruce but in reality you don’t often come across another fan in day to day life.  Most people think he has retired or worse died - then mention ’Born In The USA’ but you all know this!

November 9th 2006 Birmingham.  We stayed at The Premier Inn just across the way from the Arena.  The Eric Meola exhibition was on in the city and Badlands were putting on a do there.
 http://www.snapgalleries.com/exhibitions/bruce-springsteen-born-to-run/

We didn’t go but we did see loads of people around the hotel with the book.  I must say I was tempted and would have been absolutely gutted if Bruce had turned up and we hadn’t been there.  I bought the book later (not the limited edition) and I notice the other week it was in the sale at HMV.

The hotel was absolutely packed. I think Mark Wright was playing in the bar but I couldn’t really see him and certainly couldn’t hear for all the noise.  We ordered some food before the show which we had to wait an age for and then strolled over to the NEC.

We were sat about half way up half way back looking to the stage on our right.  The Birmingham tickets specifically say that people might stand up so I was on my feet from the start.  Someone asked me to sit down and after a couple of minutes, to make my point, I did.  Stood up again as soon as Bruce told us to get of our assess though!

Now this is a thorny problem.  I might say that sitting down spoils my enjoyment but although it tempers it a bit I can’t say sitting will ruin my night.  I might say the person who can’t see should stand up too but what if they can’t - broken their leg or something.  What gives me the right to spoil their night?  You might ask why, if I want to stand, I buy seats instead of GA tickets.  So - I don’t know - but it made both Mike and I feel awkward and I am never the first to get up now.

It was a great night.  I loved the fact that we were now getting more reworked classics.  This version of Further on (Up The Road) is one of my favourite Bruce tracks.

 

My brother loves it too and he is not particularly a Springsteen fan.  We also got ‘Long Time Comin’ - one of the tracks I do like from one of my least favourite albums.

This was our first taste of American Land live.  I had tried to get a handle on the words but they come a bit thick and fast.  I know some folks hated the fact that the words appeared on the big screen but chill people, have a good time and sing along!

Was this when Bruce started to notice the kids in the crowd?  Lots of little guys held up signs for ‘Froggy’ and he seemed to love singing it for them.

We gave the bar a miss again afterwards - too crowded.

The next day we were going to a craft fair at the NEC - I make my own cards and stuff - when I am not blogging!!  It might have been a mistake though.  Although I love crafting it isn’t what you would call exhilarating (it’s more relaxing) and I was still in too much of a Springsteen frame of mind, too hyped up, to appreciate cards, paper, stamps and all those artsy things.

I kind of like to bask in the afterglow of a Bruce gig so doing anything else the next day doesn’t really work for me.

But we had one more thing to do on this particular day. We were going to meet cousin Jane for the first time…

Set List

Blinded By The Light
John Henry
Old Dan Tucker
Further On (Up The Road)
Jesse James
Oh Mary Don't You Weep
Bobby Jean
Erie Canal
My Oklahoma Home
The Ghost Of Tom Joad
Mrs McGrath
How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live
Jacob's Ladder
Long Time Comin'
Jesus Was An Only Son
Open All Night
Pay Me My Money Down
My City of Ruins
You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
When The Saints Go Marching In
This Little Light Of Mine
American Land
Froggie Went A Courting

Friday, 14 May 2010

My Bruce Journey - Part 19

'Brothers and sisters don't you cry they'll be good times by and by'


We are going on the train to London. I love travelling on trains.  I prefer sitting in the airline seats - don‘t mind which way I face.  Although the table is useful I am frightened to stretch my legs in case I end up playing footsie with the person sat opposite and I am not very keen on having to find space for my book, magazine etc among the detritus of other people’s food wrappings.

I lived in a small village as a kid.  My mum and I used to take the train to the nearest town, about 30 miles away, once a month or so.  My parent’s ran their own business and it was mum’s chance to get away from the shop-literally. 

That was until Dr Beeching decimated the rail network.  The station fell into disrepair and then became derelict.  There is a now little estate of rather soulless bungalows in its place.  The station house was renovated though, rather than knocked down, and you can still tell what it once was.

Anyway back to the matter in hand.  We had booked this ticket/hotel package through Badlands staying at the London Novotel in Hammersmith.  It’s an expensive way of doing it but sometimes convenience and the guarantee of a reasonable seat wins the day.

This was also our first Badlands pre show party.  I have to admit I felt a little awkward.  I was surprised by how full the place was.  In my head I had imagined a smaller band of like minded people all ready to welcome us.  Instead I felt out of place and overwhelmed as if everyone else knew the plot except me.  Most folks were talking in larger groups so Mike and I found a couple of seats and talked to each other.

You know -I’ll speak to anyone wearing a Bruce T shirt.  Not so long ago I walked into our local chemist and further up the queue was a lady in a ‘Magic’ T shirt.  As it happens I had my ‘Born to Run’ T on.  I walked up to her, pointed to my chest and grinned.  We chatted for a short time about the shows we had been to but I could tell she thought I was just a bit touched!

What I imagined would make breaking the ice easier actually made it more difficult - you can hardly approach someone at a Badlands party -with or without a Bruce T shirt - and say ’So you’re a Bruce Springsteen fan then?’

We saw Mark Wright for the first time at this do.  I remember he did a pretty faithful rendition of ‘Fire’ - chair an’ all.

I was looking forward to this gig.  It was my second on this tour so I was relaxed about it - I knew it would be great... and there was something special about going to The Hammersmith Apollo formerly the Odeon of course - a place that looms large in Springsteen folk law.

It’s a building full of character with that musty smell of all the old cinemas in our towns and cities - there seemed to be a Odeon cinema nearly everywhere when I was young.  This one is now seen regularly in ‘Live at the Apollo‘ on TV in the UK.  We never fail to say ’been there’ when we watch it.

It’s a fairly small place.  I think the stalls were the pit.  Wiki says the permanent seats were removed in 2006 so presumably not long before this gig.  We sat about a quarter of the way back, dead centre, in the balcony - a really good seat.

When Seeger was first announced there was much talk on the internet about the sort of songs that would be suitable for a folk album.  Lots of discussion about ‘Long Black Veil’.  We didn’t know the song but we did have a Band album which we had never really played.  This was dragged out now and - yes - great song - played it a lot.

We had heard a little about the rehearsal shows so we knew they had played this.  This prompts me to consider the chicken and the egg conundrum - did the person who first put the idea of this track out there know that Bruce was thinking about it …or… did Bruce hear that people were talking about it and decide to give it a try?

Anyway this and ‘If I Should Fall Behind’ were two songs we would have liked to have heard.  I like ‘If I Should Fall Behind’ and it is a particular favourite of Mike’s. Patti was there so… a chance but we didn’t get it.

We did get ‘Long Black Veil’ though whoooo !! There is a God after all.

Oddly I can’t find any Hammersmith videos on You Tube so here’s ‘Long Black Veil’ from Rome.


I really loved the show.  I liked the smaller venue, the history of the place seemed fitting for the traditional songs, the lighting which was so atmospheric was particularly good here and the clincher: we were so much nearer the stage.  The Evening Standard seemed pretty impressed too.

Looking back I see the set list was (with the exception of Long Black Veil) the same as the previous night. This could have been a disappointment but the contrast in the venues made them seem like two completely different shows.

I am sure there was a bit of a party at the hotel afterwards.  We had a quick look in the bar - no seats, half an hour to get a drink - no thanks - straight to bed for us.

Up in the morning.  Off to HMV in Oxford Street for Mike to check out his girl group CDs (they had a really big selection then) and sit in Starbucks spotting the Bruce T shirts walking by … wondering when our next gig would be.

Set List

Oh Mary Don't You Weep
John Henry
Johnny 99
Old Dan Tucker
Eyes On The Prize
Jesse James
Cadillac Range
Long Black Veil
Erie Canal
My Oklahoma Home
How Can I keep From Singing
Mrs McGrath
How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live
Jacob's Ladder
We Shall Overcome
Open All Night
Pay Me My Money Down
My City of Ruins
Buffalo Gals
You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
When The Saints Go Marching In

Saturday, 8 May 2010

My Bruce Journey - Part 18

‘I wish I was Mr Gates… They’d haul my money in in crates… Oh wait a minute they do haul my money in in crates‘


So there we were on a cold wet day in Manchester sitting in Costa Coffee watching the world go by.

This probably gives you quite a good insight into us - sat in a coffee shop rather than a pub - not that we are tee total - but as a couple we usually go to Starbucks rather than The Rose and Crown.

I really don’t understand people who get plastered before a gig - what’s that all about?  Have a drink or two if that’s your thing but why go to see Bruce when you are so legless you don’t know what is going on and you have to go to the loo every five minutes because you are so full of beer?

I was approaching this concert with some trepidation. Although every other Springsteen concert I had been to had been amazing, fabulous, inspiring and any other superlative you can think of this was a new direction and I couldn’t be sure I was going to enjoy this as much.

I find going to more than one concert helps as after the first one I relax a bit because I know it’s going to be OK - well it’s as good a reason as any for going to multiple shows!!

We didn’t have good seats - right at the back in the top corner.

Our mentor who copied us those first two cassettes (see earlier blog) was due at this show.  His seat was in the lower tier and we only had a quick chance to chat beforehand as he arrived late.  He was wearing a rather distinctive hat - I thought it was because of the rain - but more about the hat in a later week.

I get really excited before a show - like a kid at Christmas.

A pattern has definitely emerged over the years.  We sit down and predictably I make a comment about how near or far we are from the stage. We watch the roadies setting stuff up and the people filing in to the standing area behind the pit.  The pit of course is already full by this time.  I point out some one waving madly.  I don’t know them but I wave back anyway just to confuse them.

The lighting guys start to climb up the rigging which keeps us entertained for a while.  We get excited when we see the set list being taped to the stage.  I turn to Mike and say ‘set list’ even though he knows.  I make a remark about the huge amount of still empty seats at 8.00pm or 8.15pm or 8.30pm…

… and when Bruce finally walks on stage all the anticipation turns into a great wave of emotion and I want to laugh, cry, cheer, jump up and down - a great feeling.  He always manages to get on stage just before I’m thinking he might, just might have kept me waiting that little bit too long.

This was only the second show of the tour.  There was some talk at the time about it being a bit rough around the edges but I didn’t notice.

Bruce chatted a bit about the origin of some of the songs.  I think as the tour went on he stopped this probably assuming many of the audience had heard it all before.

The set list was no surprise - being early in in the tour Bruce wasn’t ringing the changes much - many of the Seeger songs along with a few of Bruce’s own songs reworked.  I still wasn’t really familiar with a lot of the early stuff.  I barley recognised ‘Cadillac Ranch’ and singing it as a medley with ‘Mystery Train’ (a song I hardly know) just made it all the more confusing.  I felt like I did at that first show when I didn’t know what was going on but happily I wasn’t the only one.  Bruce cajoled the fans to join in but even the pit seemed a bit bewildered and he pronounced their efforts as ‘miserable’.  I couldn’t find anything from that show but see if you think this lot do any better a few days later.



He seemed happy enough though and everyone redeemed themselves with the ‘blowed aways’ during ‘Oklahoma Home’.

We still weren’t sure how many set list changes would be made night on night so I was chuffed to bits to get ‘How Can a Poor Man‘.  That steel guitar thingy sends shivers up my spine.

‘Pay Me My Money Down’ was great and at this early stage in the tour, the band walking off the stage leaving just the tuba player (Art Baron) behind was a surprise.  Thought it was funny but maybe it wore a bit thin after more than two or three shows.  Still as the tour went on and the crowd got the hang of it they took the opportunity to sing and sing and sing and ...well you get the picture.

I wonder what the lesser known musicians felt about these big concerts.  Presumably it wasn’t something they were used to and it must have been both wonderful and daunting to be the subject of such adulation.

It was a brilliant show - like a big party really.  Now the drive back over the M62 and a quick sleep before setting off on the train for Hammersmith.

Set List

John Henry
Oh Mary Don't You Weep
Johnny 99
Old Dan Tucker
Eyes On The Prize 
Jesse James
Cadillac Ranch
Erie Canal
My Oklahoma Home
How Can I Keep From Singing
Mrs McGrath
How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live?
Jacob's Ladder
We Shall Overcome
Open All Night
Pay Me My Money Down
My City Of Ruins
Buffalo Gals
You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
When The Saints Go Marching In







Sunday, 2 May 2010

My Bruce Journey - Part 17

‘We are Brothers and Sisters All’


We ordered our Seeger Sessions CD from Badlands - the first time we had bought from them.  They promised ‘very prompt’ delivery which is obviously a euphemism for you will get it on Saturday even though it’s not in the shops until Monday.

This was fantastic - I wasn’t expecting to get a listen until Monday evening and having the whole weekend to absorb the new album was a huge bonus.  I can’t remember hearing any of the tracks beforehand so it was a complete surprise when the first bars of ‘Old Dan Tucker‘ tumbled out of the stereo speakers in this joyful, haphazard sort of way!!.

Now I was expecting folk club type music - think Leonard Cohen, Fairport Convention, Joan Baez, or the traditional sort of thing that Mike Harding plays on his show. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006wrmz This was music for a ceilidh.  It made me smile… and incidentally we did hear Mike Harding play a couple of tracks when the album was released.

It went on to my ‘Bruce’ play list on my iPod and after listening to it as an album for a couple of days I reverted to shuffling the play list.  It’s usually a good way for me to rate the songs when they come randomly mixed in with familiar tracks - favourites or ones I like less.

I have all Bruce’s songs on my iPod - even the tracks I don’t like - and I make myself listen to them. I reason that every song Bruce has written, or chosen to cover, has to be good (I admit I am a little biased) so there must be something to like about them.  I just haven’t found it yet… but I will.  I often come to really love a track after I have seen it live but, as I am never going to see everything live, there may always be the few songs that I just don’t get.

Anyway back to The Seeger Sessions.  I liked the album instantly although thought it a bit unusual, eccentric even and let’s be honest would any of us have bought this album if it hadn’t been a Springsteen album - well lots of fans didn’t buy it EVEN THOUGH it was a Springsteen album.

Two more albums down the road I still smile when an SS track comes on the iPod but as we have only bought one other folk album since (more of this in a later week) ‘We Shall Overcome’ hasn’t had a dramatic effect on our music taste.

Particular favourites are ‘Old Dan Tucker‘, ‘John Henry‘, ‘Oh Mary Don‘t You Weep’ and ‘Pay Me My Money Down‘…

… and I absolutely love ‘How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live’.  When I found the video of The New Orleans’s Jazz Festival on the net I played it over and over.

 

This meant I had to buy the ‘American Land’ edition of ‘We Shall Overcome’ when it came out - well I suppose I could have downloaded the extra tracks from iTunes but I bought the whole thing again - was that a bit of a con?

So here we are looking forward to two concerts but there was heartbreak to come!!

I had always believed that life was intrinsically fair: that if you were kind to someone then sooner or later that kindness would be rewarded: that good triumphed over evil: that if you wanted something badly enough you would get it.  That was until St Luke’s.

We didn’t get tickets and it turned my view of life on it’s head.  You might say that a grown women in her forties should have known better on the other hand you might wonder if I had been lucky enough not to suffer any great disappointments up until now.  Well I haven’t had things all my way - who has? but I always reasoned that things happen for the best in the end. How can not getting St Luke’s tickets ever be for the best!!!

Walt Disney said that all our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them - well I had pursued …desperately.  So much for my dreams.  So much for Walt Disney and his happy ever afters.  I swear a little bit of my optimistic outlook on life died when I didn’t get those St Luke’s tickets.

Anyway with the CD playing in the car we set off to Manchester on a very gloomy wet day to hear only the second gig proper on this tour- yeah Bruce is trying this folky stuff out on us Europeans first.