Saturday, 26 June 2010

My Bruce Journey - Part 25

'The dust of civilizations and love's sweet remains slip off your fingers and come drifting down like rain'

According to the internet the tickets for Old Trafford, Emirates night 1 and Cardiff went on sale on 5 December 2007.  Presumably Dublin went up at the same time.

We already had our O2 tickets so decided to try for Old Trafford.

In 1972 I watched my first Wimbledon men’s tennis final.  Stan Smith beat Illie Nastase in a 5 set match - I was hooked.  For years I looked forward to Wimbledon fortnight.  I bunked off school to watch it and later took time off work - sometimes the whole two weeks.  Housework got left and Mike had to cook his own tea.

Eventually in 1994 we got tickets for No 1 court.  On a beautiful hot and sunny day in June as we sat down in our (restricted view) seats I was really emotional.  This was a dream come true for me and I could hardly believe I was there at last.

We were lucky enough to get tickets for both Number 1 and Centre Courts for several years after that. Tickets are always oversubscribed so each year, if you want a chance of a seat on a show court, you have to put your name forward to go into a ballot.  When the ballot is drawn you get offered a pair of tickets for a particular court on a particular date.

I was happy to sit anywhere on any day for a while but then it wasn’t such a novelty any more and I rejected tickets because the seats weren‘t great.  What had once been such a thrill had now become commonplace.

I never want a Bruce gig to be like that.  I don’t ever want to get like the die hards on the forums who have been to hundreds of shows and always have something negative to say.  I always want to be amazed and thrilled just to be there.  I always want to feel that hunger for more.  I always want to sit at home watching a set list and wish I was there.

Can you think of anything more depressing than not looking forward to seeing Bruce? …than leaving a gig and being relieved you weren’t going to another?

I felt four Seeger concerts were enough for me.  Don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t have missed any of the shows but I didn’t go away from the last one wishing I was going again next day.  To keep it fresh we made the decision to only do two gigs this tour.  So only Old Trafford on the stadium leg.

I think the Emirates night 2 tickets went on sale on the day of the O2 gig.  We went home next day and we bought two tickets... then we bought two more - from Badlands because they were better seats.  We decided we were prepared to give the extra tickets away if we couldn’t sell them.

Then a week later we bought tickets for Paris!! … Ha! So four gigs after all - my reasoning for less was probably a little flimsy anyway.  We would, no doubt, have to go to far more than four shows a tour to get bored.

Anyway back to Old Trafford. Manchester is only a short journey from Leeds.  A quick drive over the M62 - so we can get there and back easily.  Cousin Jane and her husband Nigel were going to come with us. They were travelling from Leicester and decided to stay overnight in Manchester.

We got our tickets from Badlands.  There was much controversy about tickets.  Greasy Lake was steaming for weeks.  If I remember rightly some people who had seats near the front were moved to the back because the position of the stage had to be changed.  We were on the right hand side and couldn’t see the side of the stage at all.  We only saw Steven if he moved to the front.  People to the side of us in a block nearer the stage probably could only see half the stage at best.  There were lots of complaints afterwards although I didn‘t get the impression when I was there that anyone was unhappy.

On the plus side we were probably as near to stage as we have ever been - about half way up the pit and not too high.  When Bruce came over to the platform at our side he was really quite near.  We had no complaints about our position.

It’s a difficult decision for a Leeds fan to go to Old Trafford. Of course it was even worse when Bruce held up the Manchester United shirt and gave them a mention.  I think there were some Booooooos along with the Bruuuuuuuces.  We soon forgave him though.

It was piddling down with rain but being in the stands we were undercover.  We had arrived in the afternoon and spent much time walking around the stadium trying to find the Badlands party which was supposedly being held just around the corner from the ground.  As it turned out it was over the road and a few hundred yards away.  We only found it when we went to meet Jane and Nigel at their hotel and by then it was too late to go in.

Jane was crocked.  She had just had an operation on her legs and was on crutches.  She managed to stand for most of the time though.

This was our first time hearing, live, the Holy Grail that is ‘Rosalita’. It was never my favourite song but the veteran concert goers bang on about it all the time - you know the ones - I saw Bruce in the 1970s when he always closed with Rosalita.  Why doesn’t he play it now? Jane who had been going since the very early days knew all the words and was singing along happily beside me.  I just pretended. The song has grown on me now but I’m not devastated if he doesn’t play it and I still don’t know all the words.

We got a fairly rare ’I’ll Work For Your Love’ which I love and ’Trapped’ - a favourite.  He opened with ’No Surrender’ which seems to follow us around …or maybe he just plays it a lot.  There were a couple in the set list that aren’t up there in my top twenty and if I am honest ‘Mary’s Place’ does go on a bit, but all in all a great great night. There aren't really any good you tube clips but here's one anyway.

A very wet journey home followed during which we wished we had decided to book a hotel.  Already booked for Emirates trip in three days time. Taking Springsteen virgins with us.

Set List

No Surrender
Radio Nowhere
Lonesome Day
The Promised Land
Adam Raised A Cain
Darlington County
It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City
Because The Night
She's The One
Livin' In The Future
Mary's Place
Devil's Arcade
The Rising
Last To Die
Long Walk Home
Growin' Up
Tenth Avenue Freeze Out
Born To Run
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
Dancing In The Dark
American Land

Sunday, 20 June 2010

My Bruce Journey Part 24

'She stares off alone into the night with the eyes of one who hates for just being born'

We got our O2 tickets on that pre sale thingy because we are O2 customers.

Our seats were right up in the gods but really near the stage on Stevie’s side.

Mike’s new found cousin Jane missed out on tickets - they were really hard to come by - so we agreed to keep looking for her.  She was going on her own and It was because of this that I was, without much hope, looking on Ticketmaster trying to find three seats together.  Two seats came up in the lower tier really near the stage.  They were absolutely fabulous tickets.  Would have been the best seats we have ever had but I was indecisive.  I rejected them, then changed my mind - too late, they had gone to some other lucky sod.

We had bought extra tickets previously and although we got rid of them eventually there were some hairy moments when we thought we weren’t going to be able to sell them on.  As it turns out I don’t think we would have had a problem here because the O2 concert was so oversubscribed.  Hey ho - another missed opportunity on the long road of Bruce fandom.  We have friends who have touched him, friends who have had gifts from him, friends who have given him gifts - you know who you are! - but we haven’t got within 100 yards of him… yet.

Anyway in the end we got Jane a ticket. She would be sat on her own but she didn’t mind.

Not being very organised we didn’t get our hotel booked early enough and couldn’t get a room near the O2. We ended up on the wrong side of the Thames.  The hotel had a nice foyer and first impression was good but the rooms felt like dormitories.  Iron bedsteads and a pre-fabricated plastic cube dropped in the corner for the shower room/loo.  Now I am a bit fussy about my hotels and the feel of this just wasn’t right.  I was pleased we were only staying one night. .

There was no where to eat near the hotel.  Well it was such a run down area I doubt anyone would want to venture out after dark!  We decided to have something at the O2. So a taxi was ordered - final check before we leave the room: -
Cash OK
Credit Cards OK
Santa hats OK
Phone OK
Tickets ………. Noooo! Mike puts his hand in the breast pocket of his jacket to pull out the little folder holding the tickets - opens the folder they are not there!!  I just can’t describe how I felt but I know I started shaking.

Luckily before I have a chance to become really hysterical Mike reaches into said pocket to find the tickets which have simply fallen out the folder.  This whole episode probably only lasted 30 seconds but it has scarred me for life.  I have had nightmares since which involve me running around the O2 trying to find someone who will let us in without a ticket.

So panic over we set off, on a very long journey to the Dome.  It seemed to take forever and was for the most part in a tunnel which presumably ran under the river.

The O2 looked great - very atmospheric.  Everywhere was packed though so in need of some sustenance we ended up with a tray of chips when we got inside the arena.  Rather bizarrely I find I still have the receipt for the chips!

Bought my Magic T shirt - I love the design but the material is really a bit shoddy.

This was only our tenth Springsteen show and amazingly only our fourth E Street Band show.  I really loved it.  My overwhelming feeling was that it was frenetic.  One song straight into another bang bang bang - just non stop - really exhilarating.

We expected 'Santa Claus is Coming To Town' as it was so near Christmas but it was still great to hear it.

I have never gone from gig to gig hoping to hear a particular song - it only leads to disappointment (Mike is still waiting for 'Back In Your Arms') but this doesn’t stop me from getting that tingly feeling when I do get a favourite.  I add tracks both from new albums and old ones to my favourite Bruce songs all the time.  Often a track becomes a favourite after I have heard it live. Sometimes it’s because someone on, say, Greasy Lake, has mentioned something about a particular song that gives me a sudden appreciation.

Around this time one of my new faves was ‘Racing In The Street’ and this gig was the first time I got a song that I was excited about.  I had heard favourites at previous gigs but didn’t really appreciate the significance of them at the time.  This time I knew I had witnessed a real treat.

It was a fab night - up there amongst my favourite Bruce gigs. I loved the venue.  As I have said before I like being high up as long as I am near the stage.

We decided to try for a taxi home rather than face the underground crush so we joined a very long taxi queue.  It was perishingly cold and we did have a long wait but we got back to the hotel in the end.

Next morning I was too ill to go for breakfast.  I hadn’t had any alcohol so it wasn’t that.  Was it the after affects of the (nearly) lost tickets? or had I got over excited? or, and I plumped for this is the end, had I got dehydrated?  I felt really rough but improved as the day went on.

As I got better, Mike got worse, and by the time we got on the train he had such a bad headache he could hardly stand up.  So he flopped in his seat and shut his eyes hoping for no delays.

Can’t remember if we were delayed but I do remember that I left a bag on the train - I say ‘I’ as Mike wasn‘t in a fit state to sort anything out. Inside the bag were the Santa hats, Mike’s gloves and his favourite scarf. Luckily the Magic T shirt was in a bag I did manage to get home.

So … the day after I bought tickets for Emirates.

Set List

Radio Nowhere
No Surrender
Lonesome Day
Gypsy Biker
Reason To Believe
Because The Night
She's The One
Livin' In The Future
The Promised Land
Watin' On A Sunny Day
Working On The Highway
Racing In The Street
Devil's Arcade
The Rising
Last To Die
Long Walk Home
Girls In There Summer Clothes
Born To Run
Dancing In The Dark
American Land
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

Saturday, 12 June 2010

My Bruce Journey - Part 23

'My jacket's on I'm out the door and tonight I'm gonna burn this town down'

Magic was officially released on 1 October 2007 but by then anybody could download a bootleg version.

Before even that was available there were endless discussions about whether the tracks would be any good based simply on the song titles.  Lots of dislike of ‘Girls In Their Summer Clothes’ if I remember, before anyone had even heard it.  Oh! and the controversy over the cover art work - the consensus of opinion being that Bruce looks like a convict.

The artwork thing comes up with each new album.  The question of why Bruce’s advisors can’t produce a decent cover is baffling.  But presumably Bruce thinks they are OK.  Lets face it none of us like it when a bad photo of ourselves gets a public airing, although Facebook has forced us all to be a bit less vain. You know what I am saying. You can’t rely on your friends to filter out the bad pics of you. In fact they probably put them out there on purpose!

So the album is finished and Bruce and his staff are discussing the finishing touches.

‘Ok Bruce what about the cover art? What do you think about this photo?’

‘ I think its f-----g awful but stick it on the album cover anyway’

Somehow I don’t think that’s the way it goes but I guess he cares a hundred times more about the music than what goes on the front cover.

Anyway by far the biggest outcry was over the words. Bruce Springsteen - Magic. Where were ‘The E Street Band’?  Well actually there is a sticker on ours which gives them a mention but as the CD was heralded as the first album with the band since ‘The Rising‘ many people expected Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band.

I think only ‘Live 1975-85 actually mentions them on the cover.  I assume he’s not going to change anything at this stage in his career so we will just have to get used to it.

No no no! I don’t think that was the biggest gripe after all. It was the production.  Now I either like something or I don’t.  Not sure whether the guitars are too high up in the mix or you can’t hear the drums or there’s too much base or … well I could go on and on.  Anyway it sounds OK to me.

I couldn’t resist listening to ‘Radio Nowhere’ as soon as it was available and I loved it, just loved it - still do. I was determined not to listen to any more of the album until I got the genuine article but ‘Bushman Hat Productions’ sent us an advanced copy about a month beforehand - oh the temptation!

I resisted until a week before when we played it once in the car on a long journey home from visiting family.
I liked it straight away.

We settled down on Saturday 29 September 2007 for our first proper listen.  I love this album.  It is my favourite of the trilogy of E Street Band albums since the reunion.  Don’t get me wrong I love ‘The Rising’ but on balance there are more songs on ‘The Rising’ that I don’t like.  More about ‘Working On A Dream’ later of course.

Mike would choose ‘The Rising’ as his favourite hands down.  In fact it is his favourite Bruce album - closely followed by ‘The River’.

The thing that struck me most about ‘Magic’ when I first heard it was that nearly every song had a saxophone solo - only short in some cases but there nevertheless.  I wondered whether he thought that it might be Clarence’s last tour and he wanted to use him more.  As it turned out it wasn’t Clarence that I should have been thinking about and now when I listen I hear Danny more and more.

In any event he didn’t play many tracks from ‘Magic’ on the tour so Clarence didn’t get chance to practice much!

There isn’t a track on this album I dislike.  I love the melodies which are easy to sing along to and I especially like the lyrics on a lot of the songs.  A particular favourite is ’Livin’ In The Future’ 'Then just about sundown you come walking through town your boot heels clickin’ like the barrel of a pistol spinning’ round’ - just fab isn’t it?

It’s apparently an album about bad times in the country, politically, but it doesn’t really come across that way to me.  Some people think it is about personal bad times and it signalled a break up between Bruce and Patti.

Patti’s ’Play It As It Lays’ was released only a couple of weeks before.  I played this almost as much as ’Magic’.  She is almost certainly writing about a bad period in a long term relationship.  One that the protagonist in the songs (herself ?) is working through.

Put the two albums together and you might wonder but in any event she decided to stick with it ’I tried to pull a thread between who we once were and who we’ve become and if we’ve lost a little along the way that’s all right that’s OK and I’m just going to play it as it lays’

So given that I like the album so much I was really looking forward to the tour. The O2 here we come.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

My Bruce journey - Part 22

'... everybody has a neighbor eveybody has a friend everybody has a reason to begin again'

The furore surrounding ‘Magic’ seemed to happen months before the official release date.  Maybe it was just that I had become just a little more obsessed and was on the message boards every day or more likely because it was the first E Street Band album for an eon.

I switched my online forum allegiance from BTX to Greasy Lake (GL) in November 2006 between the two shows we saw at Birmingham and Sheffield.  I needed (yes needed) to see the set lists for the Wembley shows and if I remember rightly BTX didn’t have a caller at the show.

For you none Bruce readers I should explain that at most live gigs someone on the ground calls, or texts, in to another fan at home the songs that Bruce is playing, as he plays them.  Fan number two posts these online. The rest of us sad souls sit at home hunched over the computer waiting to see what comes next… then being terribly disappointed because he played the one thing you wanted to hear the night you weren’t there!  It's a kind of masochism

The set list for 11th November might actually have been the start of ‘Magic’ mania. Bruce played ‘Long Walk Home’ an unfinished new song.


He had been inspired by Lucinda Williams who had played a brand new song at her gig the previous night.

Bruce gate crashed her concert - don’t you just love it when he pops up unannounced.

I knew a bit about Lucinda. A work colleague who has a very eclectic music taste became aware of my leanings and lent me Lucinda’s ’Car Wheels on a Gravel Road’.  I loved the album right from the start. He also lent me a CD by another woman who’s name escapes me now.  I obviously didn’t like that one as much.

On the strength of this one album and her latest release (at the time) we went to see her.  I was in boots that were crippling my feet before I even got there.  We stood for what seemed like hours in a hot crowded little club. Lucinda came on about three quarters of an hour late and we had to leave before the end to catch a tram.  Not a very successful night.  She was good though and had I known more of the songs I would have really enjoyed it.  Mike took his bat home because she kept us waiting (only one person is allowed to do that!) and I don’t think he has forgiven her yet.

Interestingly she needed help to remember her lyrics but then she does have a huge back catalogue.  She wasn’t high tech enough to have a teleprompter though.  Instead at the front of the stage was a ring binder on a music stand.  When she followed her set list the pages were in the right order but when she deviated - people shouted out suggestions from the crowd - a chap ran on stage to find the right page for her.  So all you critics - Bruce isn’t the only one with memory problems.

It was during 2007 that Mike’s passing interest in American classic cars turned in to a bit of an obsession. His dream is to own a Chevy truck.  Problem is neither of us is at all mechanically minded and you need a lot of time, nouse (if you are from Portland Oregan this means knowledge nouse - definition ) and money if you buy an old wreck to restore. An already restored truck is way out of our price range.

We started visiting American car rallies - I was looking for a 69 Chevy with a 396...of course (lots of discussion about this here songfacts) but actually I love anything with fins at the back.  Anyway at one of the get togethers the local PT Cruiser club had lined up their cars and switched on the neons - now it may be naff it may be kitsch but I fell in love.

A couple of weeks later Mike bought a second hand Cruiser - yes you heard me correctly - Mike who can’t even buy a pair of trousers without weighing up the options for a month bought, on impulse, a car!  Then with gusto, he set about installing lights on almost every available surface.

Well Mike didn’t actually install anything himself.  He held the spanner for our brother-in-law who is a real petrol head and did all the work for us - thanks Mick.

We joined the aforementioned Cruiser club, called ourselves Born to Run and we were on our way or so we thought. It turned out we weren’t born to run at all.

The first time we took the car to show it off liquid started gushing out of the engine and we ended up travelling home on a break down truck.  The battery went flat every week and we had slow punctures in at least two tyres.

After a show in Leeds we had to have a jump start to get us home and at the first big rally the following year steam started pouring out of the bonnet when we were parading round the show ring.

In the Autumn of 2008 we took it off the road intending to break it out again last summer but the poor thing hasn’t seen daylight since!

Well, as usual I have deviated from the plot.  I was going to talk about ‘Magic’ but I’ll save it for next week now