What time is it? 20:57! Time for Bruce Springsteen and E Street Band! The lights go out and a loud roar spreads over the Barcelona Olympic Stadium. Three minutes before the set start time, the members of the legendary band appear one by one. At 9:00 p.m. sharp, Springsteen comes out. The stadium shakes with 55,000 spectators. Is this really happening? We look at each other, at people we know and don’t know. Yes, it’s happening!
“EeeeOne Two, three, four” As only he can say it, drums by Max Weinberg and the party begins! A packed stadium goes wild. After 7 years, Barcelona welcomes its “boss”. It’s no coincidence that Springsteen prefers the Catalan capital as the starting point for his European tours. For good luck? Maybe. After all… Barcelona + Bruce = Amor per sempre in perfect Catalan.
We were the lucky ones, thanks to the solidarity and experience of our friends from No Surrender – the Greek group that worships Bruce Springsteen – we managed to find ourselves 50 meters from the stage, among blood brothers and blood sisters (that’s what Springsteenians call each other) of different ages and nationalities, but united by the same magical flame of Bruce’s music.
Last Man Standing
More restrained in his movements, but still full of fun, energy and passion, Springsteen celebrates the joy of life. At 73, counting personal victories and defeats, having already experienced losses, he now knows that the best of times are behind him. “I don’t know if this means anything to you, but I’m the last living member of my first band, Castilles,” he said, smiling a little after referring to his friend George Theiss (the penultimate member who passed away in 2018) and before singing Last Man Standing alone with his guitar and the accompaniment of a husky trumpet.
And yes, we teared up a little but after even the emotionally charged Backstreets, Springsteen pushed us hard again at his rock ‘n’ roll party! In fact, shortly thereafter at Glory Days, his wife and band mate Patti Scialfa, Michelle Obama and Kate Capshaw took to the stage for vocals. A few feet away were Barrack Obama and Steven Spielberg.
Springsteen’s faith in life spread like wildfire through his Fender Esquire Telecaster and his musical stories. Yes, everything comes to an end, but here we are! He insisted we soak up the moments, pushed our emotional buttons and made us laugh. To experience genuine joy!
The Promised Land
He is absolute, robust and funny, rehearsed and spontaneous at the same time. He’s not your best friend, but he’s given you lyrics and music to wander down your personal paths as he invites you to “leave a town full of losers and pull out of here to win.”
His songs play as long as the highway in front of you is open. He doesn’t pat shoulders: nothing is easy. He’ll sing stories of love and friendship. About the need to chase your dreams, to believe in your own personal “Promised Land” and to dare to dance in your darkness. It will remind us of Bobby Jean, Terry, Candy, Kitty and of course Mary. He will invite the souls of two beloved E Street Band members, Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici, to the Tenth Avenue Freeze Out. He will rock the crowd to Badlands and Born to Run, constantly urging them to sing along and excitedly enjoying the entire stadium singing along. A common people in a common place: his music.
What Springsteen has managed at 73 is to be crystal clear. You know that the show will be a show and that it’s him and the band. The legendary E Street Band, “the best band on the planet”. And yes! These are great, very talented musicians who have been playing together for almost 50 years with incredible chemistry and understanding of each other. They are brothers and family but the roles are honestly separated. They will all solo, they will all do their musical tricks but Bruce is the one who will direct them, give the signal, and set the tone. He will introduce them and ultimately pay respect, ushering them off the stage. Only to return and bid us a personal goodnight with one last song and a touching mutual promise “I’ll see you in my dreams”.
Prove It All Night
In practical matters, the production was impressive. Three truly huge giant screens projected gorgeous shots and amazing sound quality and balance. Austere, black, very spacious stage that could fit the… 18-piece expanded E Street Band (with the addition of horns, a second percussion player and backing gospel vocals).
Excellent organisation by the Catalans, as crowding was avoided at all costs. Adequate, courteous staff who guided the crowd along a route of about 1,300 metres so that we could all calmly enter the stadium. Toilets, bar (ok, overpriced beer though) and a sense of security even in the Front of Stage Pit where the crowd was very close but in no way cramped.
Spaniards, Italians, Germans, Dutch and Greeks all around us. Children, old people, 30s, 40s, 50s, women and men, couples and families, friends. Everyone! Damn… Two years of pandemic wiped out at once among such a crowd. Smiles, arms outstretched, cell phones and cameras, banners with messages and song titles. As one of them read: “Fuck Covid, We Are Alive”.
Not to be considered sacrilegious, but a concert like this could be described as a religious service. There is the ephemeral temple, the stage, the “priest”, the chanters and the worshippers. There is the high podium of the dance floor, the lights, the “troparia”, the lyrics. All together, partakers of the music!
We left clean. Clean inside. The concert was worth every penny. You are left with the feeling that the 18 guys on stage sang and played for you. As it was a flattening spectacle of three non-stop hours, we sat on the steps of the slowly emptying stadium for a while to realize what we had experienced! Walking down Monjuik Hill towards the city, the enchanted crowd, still mimicking the Badlands rhythm. The city continued to celebrate. After all, for two days you could see people with band t-shirts everywhere on the streets and waved to them! Because “you were there too”.
The E Street Shuffle
Let’s conclude the article as it deserves. With the line with which Bruce Springsteen himself used to close his concerts, letting the audience shout the last three words out loud:
“You’ve just seen the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, house-rocking, earth-quaking, booty-shaking, Viagra-taking, love-making, legendary E STREET BAND!”
No Surrender | Ghosts | Prove It All Night | Letter to You | The Promised Land | Out in the Street | Candy’s Room | Kitty’s Back | Nightshift | Human Touch | Mary’s Place | The E Street Shuffle | Pay Me My Money Down | Last Man Standing | Backstreets | Because the Night | She’s the One | Wrecking Ball | The Rising | Badlands | Thunder Road | Born in the U. S.A. | Born to Run | Glory Days (with Patti Scialfa, Michelle Obama, Kate Capshaw) | Bobby Jean | Dancing in the Dark | Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out | I’ll See You in My Dreams
Information about Bruce Springsteen’s 2023 world tour can be found here.
All photos copyright except cover: Aris Gavrielatos-Maria Spanoudaki