An Appointment with the Boss

On Friday night we headed off to the Etihad Stadium in east Manchester.  Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band were playing their second straight show in England of the Wrecking Ball tour after performing a knock out concert at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland on Thursday night. They are playing the Isle of Wight Festival on Sunday (most likely in the mud) before performing a few more dates in Europe and then onto Hyde Park in London in July.  Going to the Etihad made a hat-trick for us of Manchester ‘sporting grounds’ as we have seen the Boss play at Old Trafford Cricket Ground and Old Trafford football stadium on past tours.

Unfortunately with the heavy rain across the north of England and the sheer weight of traffic trying to get into Manchester we got stuck in a traffic jam coming from Liverpool at the end of the M62 and got into the concert at 8.15 pm an hour after the start.  Leaving Wirral at 5.30pm was obviously too late in the circumstances.  But the Boss is famed for his long shows so we knew there was more to come.  We walked in with the band playing ‘Atlantic City’ from the Nebraska album.  As we settled down the band kicked into ‘Prove It All Night’ and 19 further songs.

The full 30-song, 3 hour and 17 minute set list was:

1. Badlands

2. No Surrender

3. We Take Care of Our Own

4. Wrecking Ball

5. Death to My Hometown

6. My City Of Ruins

7. Spirit In The Night

8. E Street Shuffle

9. Jack of all Trades

10. Atlantic City

11. Prove It All Night (’78 Intro)

12. Two Hearts

13. You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)

14. Darlington County

15. Shackled And Drawn

16. Waitin’ On A Sunny Day

17. Save My Love

18. The Promise (solo piano)

19. The River

20. The Rising

21. Out In The Street

22. Land Of Hope And Dreams

As usual the Boss gives his all and more and he and the East Band played an encore of:

23. We Are Alive

24. Thunder Road

25. Born To Run

26. Bobby Jean

27. Cadillac Ranch

28. Dancing In The Dark

29. Tenth Avenue Freeze Out

30. Twist and Shout (with a bit of Louie-Louie).

Whilst it had been raining all day in Manchester it stopped, we are told, as soon as Bruce took the stage although we did have a few small showers from time to time. But being the Boss he came out to the audience during the showers as he likes getting wet on stage!

As professional cameras were not allowed I couldn’t take my trusty Canon SLR so along with other people using their iphones I tried to take some pictures using my old Canon Ixus 850 pocket camera, it doesn’t have any form of image stabilization so I couldn’t get any shots of the band on the stage that weren’t a bit shaky and blurred but I managed to get some pictures from the big screen on our side of the main stage.  We were sat in East Stand.  The stadium was not completely full, in the Colin Bell stand opposite us there were some empty seats probably being others that were stuck in traffic somewhere in the north of England but the pitch was packed.

There were lots of highlights from the show.  As is customary the Boss strutted along the front of the crowd pulling out some young people and ladies to dance and sing along with him.  One young lad pulled onto the decking sang a whole verse of ‘Waitin’ on a Sunny day’; he deserved one of Bruce’s plectrums that was thrust into his hand as a memento as the Boss lowered him back into the crowd.  “The Promise” played on solo piano by Bruce was another high spot.  On ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze Out’ when the Boss got to the line “and the big man joined the band” he and the band stopped playing and stood completely still as statues in their positions as they showed pictures of Clarence Clemons celebrating his life and contribution to the East Street Band. As the film ended they crashed back into the end of the song with the echoing crescendo “with a tenth avenue freeze-out, tenth avenue freeze-out…”

Clarence’s nephew Jake Clemons has taken on the mantle of playing sax and the crowd applauded him on every sax solo he gave.  Taunting the crowd that at his age (he is now 62) he is no longer up to giving any more songs Bruce falls onto the stage in mock exhaustion to be revived by Little Steven wringing out a spongeful of water over him.  Reinvigorated off we went into the pounding encore setlist.

The Boss and the East Street band played their last song and at 10.35pm as they took their last bows the riggers and roadies were straight onto the stage to start dismantling the scaffolding and equipment to get the show back on the road and off to the next venue.  We then joined the thousands of people getting out of the stadium thronging the streets walking back to their cars or public transport links and then wending their slow journeys home.