Sunday, 10 July 2016

The best audience in the world - Bruce Springsteen @ San Siro Part 1

First things first: This was a trip that almost didn't happen. We had already booked another concert trip for this year, long before Bruce announced The River Tour (and even longer before its European leg). So I didn't know if I was going to be able to see him in this tour. But by several twists of fate, good luck (and even some bad luck thrown in for good measure), I was able to see him not just once but twice. And seeing Bruce in consecutive concerts in the same city was something I wanted to do for quite some time.
I was very excited for this tour, I had a feeling this was going to be "different". And the major difference was that he would be playing "The River" album in full. After 2013 where I got to listen two other albums in full, "Born To Run" in Padova and "Born In The U.S.A." in Milano and Paris, I was looking forward to a complete performance of "The River". But then, at the end of the US leg Bruce announced to the audience that this would be the last night they would play "The River" in full. "So what am I going to see?" I thought. "The Greatest Hits tour? Again?" (As you have probably figured out by now, some of us Bruce fans are always moaning. He may play a stunning 3 1/2 hour concert for our benefit but we complain that he didn't play the songs we wanted to hear, or that he played the songs he always plays but we have heard lots of times already. Or we just complain because we simply think he could have played something else). And certainly the start of the European leg did look a bit like "The Greatest Hits tour". I told myself to shut up however because this was Bruce after all but also because the second of these two concerts would be the first for my girlfriend and at her first Bruce experience it would be the hits like "Dancing In The Dark" and "Hungry Heart" she would want to hear and not some deep cuts from "The River". Oh well...
So, I arrived in Milano by myself on the morning of the day of the first concert. After a very short rest at the hotel, I made my way to San Siro. The Milano metro system has finally been extended to the stadium, so we don't have to walk all the way from San Siro Ippodromo. And what's more, an official merchandise shop was set up inside the San Siro station so I would not have to queue at one of the stands outside. 
Well, with my merchandise sorted (the obligatory River Tour t-shirt), I made my way to the stadium. 
I was prepared for a thorough security check of my bag like in Manchester more than two weeks before, but because I arrived rather late, it seems that the guards were bored, so they only asked me if I had a "bottiglia" inside (I knew that, "bottle" so I said no) and if I had any "latina". Now my limited Italian vocabulary does not include that word but I figured that to speed up the process, the wisest course of action was to answer "no" again which I did. (Later on, I would find that it meant "soft drink" which I did not carry with me, so I was morally satisfied that I did not lie).
There was only one thing left to do now and that was to wait for the concert to start. And I was really looking forward to that. Not for the obvious reason (that I am going to see Bruce again after 3 years and 2 days) but because just like 3 years ago when they did the "Our Love Is Real" choreography, the Italians had once again prepared something special. What would it be? 
Well. even if you're not paying attention you know the wait is over when the music of Ennio Morricone is heard from the speakers. And yes, it's another choreography this time stating "Dreams Are Alive Tonite" which Bruce stares at as he comes offstage. 

And then the show starts and it starts exactly like it did 3 years (and 1 month) ago with "Land Of Hope And Dreams". Did he do that on purpose? Was it planned beforehand as the set opener? Or did he decide that on the spot after seeing the choreography?
After that we go into "The River" mode with "The Ties That Bind" and you can almost feel that "Sherry Darling" is coming up next. I have come to the stadium prepared wearing my "I got some beer and the highway's free" t-shirt. 
I wonder how much of "The River" we are going to get tonight. The answer is almost all of it! And in sequence! You see, even though after Sherry we get "Spirit In The Night" and "My Love Will Not Let You Down" we go back to "The River" where we left off at "Jackson Cage" and continue all the way to "Crush On You".
The set continues at a fast pace with "Lucille" squeezed in before "You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)" which is followed by the title track when it is dark enough (not too much though) for the stadium to be lit up by the audience using not their lighters like in the old days, but their mobiles. 
So, I'm like "OK, I've heard The River in concert several times, but will I hear what I've been waiting several years to hear and should come up next?" The sounds from Roy Bittan's piano assure me that yes, "Point Blank" is up next! 
And as the night continues we will also get "I'm A Rocker", "Ramrod" and "Drive All Night" which was considered a rarity in the (not so) old days. Not forgetting the amazing "Jungleland". One more thing I never got to hear in one of my previous 11 Bruce concerts was some of the stuff he had done with "the other band". But I finally do tonight in the form of "Lucky Town". 
By that time we have reached that part of the show where more hits are pouring in (did I mention that we got 5 songs from "Born In The U.S.A."?) The stadium lights are now on as one "Born" (In The U.S.A.) is followed by another (To Run).
And  we know that the end is near when "Dancing In The Dark" comes up with all the obligatory routines (people coming up on stage, dancing with Bruce, playing guitar etc.). No Sunny Day though. 
The party draws to a close with "Shout" and the band leave the stage but Bruce is back and we know that there will be a solo acoustic bonus (either "Thunder Road" or "This Hard Land") as we have observed from previous setlists. It's Thunder Road this time and with this Bruce leaves us telling us "See you on Monday" while the music of Ennio Morricone is pouring out of the speakers again after almost 3 hours and 45 minutes.

So, at the end of the day, I can't complain because I got to hear almost all of "The River". What he skipped from it were some of the ballads which was understandable ("Too many ballads for a stadium show" is what he allegedly said when asked why he would not be playing the complete River anymore on this tour). It seems that he timed it perfectly so that by the time he played "Drive All Night" night had indeed fallen. However, I think that "The Price You Pay" would fit in there somehow though, and that the greatest omission was "Cadillac Ranch" which is definitely not a ballad. Surely that would fit in there with all this party atmosphere he had created, wouldn't it?
By the way, I've got news for you Bruce, we'll see you on Tuesday, not Monday, you have one extra day of rest...

01. Land Of Hope And Dreams
02. The Ties That Bind
03. Sherry Darling
04. Spirit in the Night
05. My Love Will Not Let You Down
06. Jackson Cage
07. Two Hearts
08. Independence Day
09. Hungry Heart
10. Out In The Street
11. Crush On You
12. Lucille
13. You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
14. Death To My Hometown
15. The River
16. Point Blank
17. Trapped
18. The Promised Land
19. I'm A Rocker
20. Lucky Town
21. Working On The Highway
22. Darlington County
23. I'm On Fire
24. Drive All Night
25. Because The Night
26. The Rising
27. Badlands
28. Jungleland
29. Born In The U.S.A
30. Born To Run
31. Ramrod
32. Dancing In The Dark
33. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
34. Shout
35. Thunder Road

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