Review: Bruce Springsteen shows the Rolling Stones how it’s done

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Showing the Stones how it's done… Bruce Springsteen at Leeds Arena. Photograph: dvddubbingguy on YouTube
Showing the Stones how it’s done… Bruce Springsteen at Leeds Arena. Photograph: dvddubbingguy on YouTube

Review: Bruce Springsteen
Venue: Leeds First Direct Arena, July 24

I’ve always been a fan of Bruce Springsteen since hearing Born To Run on the radio in 1975 and thinking “that’s a good tune”. It wasn’t until I heard Badlands from the follow-up album that I parted with my cash and bought Darkness on the Edge of Town, thinking that was the Boss’s debut album instead of his fourth.

at I was initially disappointed that the song Born To Run wasn’t on that album but over the years I’ve compared all of the ten Springsteen albums I own and Darkness is still the best. My last Bruce purchase was The Rising in 2002 which I described as lyrically sloppy at the time thinking that he’d lost it – and I haven’t bothered to listen since.

So my reason for paying £70 + £5 booking fee (what’s that all about?) and getting a ticket for this concert was: “I must see Springsteen before he dies (or I die)”. I don’t like large concerts and normally refuse to pay more than £35 to see anybody.

The concert is the first in the new Leeds Arena which has cost £60 million to build. Arriving at the car-park from York was a doddle and there were plenty of guides in yellow T-shirts to direct me along the three-minute walk to the venue. Getting inside was painless and quick although there were piles of food and drink on tables which had been taken from concert goers as no food or drink were to be taken inside (standard practice these days I’m afraid). The cost of food and drink once inside was very expensive and low grade fare (pizza and chips or burger or sausage in a bun).

Bruce arrived on stage 20 minutes late and people had started booing and slow handclapping before the lights went down. Promoters should make announcements when concerts don’t start on time – we understand about technical difficultly so just keep us informed.

Bruce eye view: a picture taken from the stage of the Leeds Arena, Tweeted by @springsteen
Bruce eye view: a picture taken from the stage of the Leeds Arena, Tweeted by @springsteen

I had concerns about the acoustics as the auditorium is built of concrete and steel like some huge fan-shaped tram shed. The sound in my seat was poor (Block 327 Q8) the treble was harsh (but clear) and the mid and bass frequencies were very muddy making it hard to pick out particular instruments on some solos. There was a drum break in the third song that sounded very strange as I could hear a popping sound hitting the back wall behind me.

The sound did improve a little as the show went on, and may have been great at lower levels, but at these prices I expect it to be good in every seat.

So what about Mr Springsteen and his E Street Band? well for the first two hours he played most of the songs from his latest album Wrecking Ball which I’ve not listened to – but these songs were well known by a large number of the audience and made me want to go and listen to the record.

He did include some songs from earlier recording such as The Promised Land from Darkness on the Edge of Town, Hungry Heart from The River along with a fantastic rendition of Atlantic City from the Nebraska album.

He also did his song jukebox section, collecting pieces of cardboard with requests scribbled on by members of the audience. The funniest moment was him working out which key to sing Bad Mood Rising (he chose the key of D after working out another key was too high).

After two hours the band went off stage only to come back on very quickly to play another hour of greatest hits such as Badlands, Born To Run and Lulu’s Shout.

Bruce and the band were amazing – he stage dived, went walkabout in the audience while singing, had a whole family up on stage dancing with him and got a young lad to sing the verse of a song for him while he had a short breather. Everyone was up on their feet singing along and dancing.

And then it was over – only it wasn’t! Bruce came back on with an acoustic guitar and harmonica and played a couple of very intimate songs with the final song being a very touching and brilliant acoustic version of Thunder Road.

At 63 years old, Bruce performs like a guy in his early twenties. He certainly knows how to work a crowd and can certainly show younger (and older) performers a lot about stage craft. In fact the Rolling Bones, last seen headlining Glastonbury this year, could learn a lot from The E-Street Band – but really they should just retire.

By contrast I hope Bruce keeps going. In fact I’ll come back and see him when he’s 90 (even if it does cost £500 per ticket).


Ian J Cole
Ian J Cole is a composer, sound designer and producer who splits his time between writing experimental music and being the creative force behind the pop group Katie And The Questions

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