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

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
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).


20 thoughts on “Review: Bruce Springsteen shows the Rolling Stones how it’s done

  1. the reviewer hasn’t got a clue what hes talking about ,I was on the third level and the sound was amazing , Boss fans are true fans who will follow him all over Europe to shout Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce , the sound was great , our tickets cost £150 each because there was people who were there who were not Springsteen fans they were only there for the opening , causing touts to make a fortune on tickets, I would have happily paid the £150 a ticket to hear him play the last 2 acoustic songs , he was amazing and don’t forget he had played Cardiff the night before , he gives value for money and the louder the crowd sings the more Bruuuuuuuuuuce smiles and sings , crowd surfing and drinking pints of lager down in one ……..a 63 year old ……….keep it going Bruce as you are aptly named the Boss ,,,,,,and the fantastic street band well what can be said about them , Bruce says we will play this now , they don’t even miss a beat , straight into the song , no one does it better ……..Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce!

  2. think the review is a little unfair,great venue and great concert bruce at his best we were in block 328 and the sound was very good,defo no boos, although if you not a bruce fan you could well think they were booing, all in all perfect night.

  3. From Block 326, row T, the sound was poor, for most of the gig too.

    Bass and bass drum sound was bouncing back, presumably from the back wall/ceiling, and creating an echo.

    Show itself was top drawer with rarities and the solo TR and IISFB being hugely memorable.

  4. Having read the comments on this review I’m starting to think that a number of Brucie fans are rather pedantic beyond belief and the reviewer has certainly kicked a hornet’s nest. People were slow clapping before the start and the sound at the upper levers was poor at times – I was on the 3rd level and like the reviewer really enjoyed the show. Who cares if it was boos or bruucceeee or how many songs were played off each record – surely it was about how good the music was and as the review states “Bruce and the band were amazing” enough said

  5. Ian, Your biggest error thinking Bruce fans would ever Boo. It is Bruuuuuuce. Cannot call yourself a Bruuuuce Fan. Sorry.

  6. I was there (block 327) and have to agree with everyone who’s posted a comment criticising what is a sloppy review. I thought that the sound was dodgy for the first track but then improved and was fantastic. The crowd was buoyant, Bruce was in top form and despite being only a casual Springsteen fan, I loved every minute of the concert. Sure, Leeds Arena suffered teething issues – it was too hot inside, the queues for drinks were massive and getting out of the venue at the end was tricky as, for some unknown reason, the escalators down were blocked off. That said, I feel privileged to have been at the concert and proud that there is a world class venue – attracting world class artists – on our doorstep. I bet all of the people who have seen Springsteen at his numerous mega stadium gigs over the Summer would have given loads to have been at Leeds Arena last Wednesday night.

  7. Just to reiterate some criticisms of this hopeless piece. It was Bruce not boos. You may have got in o.k but there were queues 10 minutes before start so that’s explain delay. Teething troubles at arena would be my guess.

    Majority of tracks off Wrecking Ball? Just plain wrong. First was 12 songs in.Sound? I was in 323 it was perfect.That popping noise? It was he sound of a genuine fan banging his head against a wall discovering a numpty like you got a ticket instead of a true fan.

    All in all crass and inaccurate people of York deserve better.

  8. This may be paraphrasing but it’s pretty accurate I think. Springsteen himself, during the gig, said that they could ‘pretty much play anything in here and it would sound good’. So I’m happy to leave that one to a man who pretty much knows what he’s talking about. As for comments about booing, I’m sorry but thats pathetic. I haven’t seen him since 1985 so I’m no officianado but I was crystal clear that this was Broooooooce. No boos. None.

  9. I was really impressed to see York Mix were first with the review of a historic opening concert at Leeds Arena by Bruce Springsteen. Unfortunately the reviewer was not up to this particular job. There are so many inaccuracies In this piece it became tiresome to read. Springsteen fans know their stuff – get it wrong and you feel their fury! No one was booing – the reviewer should have know fans were calling Bruuuuuce in anticipation and appreciation! Basic!

  10. Definatley got it wrong about the boo’s. Waiting for Bruce to come on people were souting for Bruuuuce. The sound was great, the venue was great, the concert was amazing.

  11. I wasn’t at Leeds, but as a lifelong Springsteen fan (I was listening to Born To Run in the womb) I can tell you, us Tramps are a civilized bunch. You don’t queue for twelve hours to “boo” the man who is about to play for three and half for being twenty minutes late. The gutteral call and the traditional “woah oh oh oh ohhhh” are absolutely intrinsic to the pre gig atmosphere!

    Read any (other) review of Springsteen. Speak to anyone who has been, and they’ll tell you there’s nothing else like it.Try and capture the magic of a setlist that feels like it was written just for you. Try and write down the ridiculous way that one song can just change your life. Take a minute to appreciate singing Hungry Heart with 13,000 people. Cry and feel alright about it because there are grown men a row behind doing exactly the same.

    We love you Bruce, thanks for everything.

  12. This is a terrible review. We were sat in block 329. The sound was tremendous, usually at Bruce’s stadium shows the sound can be affected by wind blowing the sound about but this was wonderful. If you think that the first two hours were taken up by playing songs from Wrecking ball then you need to do some homework. The song “Shout” was actually recorded by the Isley Brothers, Lulu covered it. The show was a revelation, never have I heard so many rarities and I have been to more than a few of Bruce’s shows. Thundercrack was worth the ticket price alone. Particularly nice to see was Bruce taking his own drinks to the people at the front of the stage time and again, even though the security were keeping a steady flow of water coming. Please do some research in future before offering to review concerts.

  13. When publicising a review you have an obligation to get your facts right. The remark about him playing most of the new album during the first 2 hours is totally incorrect. The remark about the boos is totally incorrect.
    Difficult to take this review seriously really.
    I was in block 217. Great sound, great performance, great night.
    Thanks Broooooooooce!

  14. Sorry but can’t let this go – he played just 4 songs from his latest album so how the reviewer can say “well for the first two hours he played most of the songs from his latest album Wrecking Ball” is just poor research; the set list was on the official website early this morning. This tour has become more about Bruce playing rare songs that are treats for long time fans as opposed to ‘selling’ his Wrecking Ball, which I think should be applauded. Secret Garden has NEVER been played at an official gig before so the couple who requested it, present at 8 gigs throughout Europe this year, must still be on cloud 9. With regard to the sound I was in block 332 and couldn’t find any issues and was certainly better than the stadium gigs at Sunderland last year and Wembley last month

  15. Hi Angie
    Just on a point of accuracy I didn’t say that the first few songs were from the wrecking ball album but he played ‘most of the album during the first 2 hours which he did and also I wasn’t sent by YorkMix to the gig I offered to review it as I was there and from where I was sitting I stand by my review if you pardon the pun 🙂

  16. The so called booing commented on by your reviewer is not booing !! Its the fans shouting ” Bruce”. All of his fans know this! Also his first few songs were definitely not all from his latest album wrecking ball. I suggest you send a more knowledgeable reviewer to any future gig as this reviewer has given an untrue picture of last nights gig- and i know because i was there in the golden circle!

  17. The reviewer says people
    In the audience were booing, that is incorrect. If he had been to a Springsteen convery before – and would have noticed at several points through the show- the fans were actually shouting an elongated ‘Bruce’ or Bruuuuuuuuuuce, which to someone uneducated in Springsteen gigs could have been mis-interpreted as boo’s.
    The article needs correcting with this taken in mind.

    1. Hi Kevin I’m sure you were right about the shouting of Bruuuuuuuuuuce while the show was in full swing but before the show there was slow hand chaps with boos or Bruuuuuuuuuuce which I did think was out of order

  18. Like the reviewer, I’m a Springsteen fan from the mid 70s. I’ve seen him a few times including Leeds in ’85 and Hyde Park a couple of years ago. The good thing about the Hyde Park concert was that it was a ‘reduced’ set i.e. less than the 3 hours Bruce was on stage last night. That meant he had to focus on playing his better songs. There were way too many last night that were ordinary to my ears (admittedly I’m not keen on any of the recent albums, after The Rising, and generally album out-takes are left off for a reason) There were also 18 in the band. A little over the top I’d say. He doesn’t need it and it only compounds the sound issues.I’ve just read a review on brucespringsteen.net where it talks about an ‘intimate’ venue with ‘perfect sound’. I don’t know where that reviewer was sitting but in block 215 it was very muddy, making it difficult to pick out the various guitars, mandolin and violin etc. So all told, far from the best concert I’ve seen this year (Lucinda Williams at the Sage) or will see (Dylan in Blackpool) Won’t stop me singing his songs however. I do a mean The River if I do say so myself 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comment Stan it seems that the higher seating suffered from poor sound as I had a friend down the front who thought the sound was great and I’ll be singing the The River with you 🙂

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