Thursday, 14 July 2016

The best audience in the world - Bruce Springsteen @ San Siro Part 2

The 4th of July was one day of complete rest between the two Springsteen concerts in San Siro. A well earned rest after the magnificent first night there. I spent the day picking up my girlfriend who was joining me for the following day's concert and walking around Milano like tourists with her while preparing her for her first ever Bruce experience. The little streak of "bad luck" I mentioned among other things on my previous post was that she found out that she had to take an exam on Sunday so she could not join me on Sunday night so we ended up getting tickets for the second night as well, which if you consider it was a streak of good luck. And since all's well that ends well, she got a very good mark on her exam, 9 out of a possible maximum of 10.
We arrived much earlier at the stadium this time and this enabled us to hang around outside for a while and experience the various promotions taking place, the most prominent of which was of a mosquito repellent product, which could prove to be quite useful as we found out - the hard way - on our outing the previous night at Naviglio Grande. Oh, and I should not forget to mention the alcoholic drink samples which did actually prove useful during the concert while Bruce - and us - were giving it our all
We got to our seats early, so we had more time to move around mostly for drinks at the bar. For some strange reason both beer and water were exactly 1 euro cheaper compared to Sunday's concert.
We were expecting quite a different setlist tonight, not based too much on "The River" since we heard most of it on Sunday night. And this time when Bruce came on stage, he started as he did on every concert of the US leg of the tour with "Meet Me In The City". This song is one of The River outtakes featured in "The Ties That Bind" box set. We've had promises of River outtakes on this tour, but so far it was mostly "Meet Me In The City" that was played. Tonight however, it was its European premiere.
It can be said that Bruce covered that aspect on this concert because he also played "Roulette", another River outtake. After which he went on proper River mode with "The Ties That Bind" followed by, as I was hoping, "Sherry Darling" which is always welcome at least by me. A perfect summer song, a perfect stadium song, a perfect party song.
However, from that point on he continued with mostly sign requests like "Spirit In The Night" and "Rosalita" before returning to "The River" with the obligatory "Hungry Heart" on which again, as usual the audience sang the complete first verse and chorus, and "Out In The Street".
"Mary's Place" was another sign request, (recently played in Oslo if I remember correctly). This was followed by "Death To My Hometown". It's nice to see a song from "Wrecking Ball" securing a regular spot on subsequent tours. While I'm not expecting to hear any songs from "Working On A Dream", it would be nice to hear something from "Magic" once in a while. "The River" once again had the audience illuminating the stadium with their mobiles, while this time the Italians had an extra effect planned. (Some mobiles were used to illuminate an "I Love ESB" sign apparently).
Following in the same mood, while on Sunday night we had "Jungleland", this time we had "Racing In The Street". And then he proceeded to complete our River experience. He played the only up-tempo song from "The River" that was missing from Sunday's set: "Cadillac Ranch"! How could he not? "I'm A Rocker" was another River song that was played again tonight.
This was followed by "Lonesome Day" and "Darlington County" and while we were probably expecting to follow the latter with "Working On The Highway" as he has done a few times in this tour (or maybe something else off "Born In The U.S.A.") he surprised us by coming back to "The River" for one last time with one of the best tracks on the album "The Price You Pay".
I was content. During the course of these two nights I had heard almost the full River album, minus a few ballads and certainly all the songs from it that I wanted to hear, proving again that these two nights at San Siro was actually a wise choice for this tour.
But that's not all. There was another surprise in store for us in the form of "Streets Of Fire", a tour premiere. And what several people consider the main set was concluded with "Badlands". And yes, dear Bruce, that's the proper place in the set to play "Badlands" and not as the opening song as you quite often do. It's a fan favourite. Make us wait for it. You wouldn't start a set with "Born To Run" or "Dancing In The Dark" now, would you? "Badlands" is followed by "Backstreets" (my two favourite Springsteen songs with one word in the title starting with B) and then we get into party mode with "Born To Run" when the stadium lights are turned on and we know that we have reached the concluding part of the concert (A concluding part which is often quite long, so you shouldn't think about going home yet). There's no "Born In The U.S.A." tonight though, instead we get more rock 'n' roll with "Seven Nights To Rock". Once again, there's the obligatory "Dancing In The Dark" with people coming up on stage, followed by "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" and finally(?) "Shout" so that we get the feeling that "San Siro Night 2" is coming to an end... 
But no! There's also "Bobby Jean" and congrats to Bruce who in this tour has turned this song into an "end of the night" anthem, usually a bonus even after "Shout". At the end of the song Bruce had had enough! He can't take it any more! So the paramedics come to take him away with a stretcher! But showing more strength at 66 than Cristiano Ronaldo at 31 he dismisses them and gets up again on his own!
And still it's not the end! After escorting the E Street Band members off the stage, we get another acoustic performance to finish off the night.  In this tour Bruce usually chooses "Thunder Road" or "This Hard Land" as a final solo performance. And since we got "Thunder Road" on Sunday night, tonight it's time for "This Hard Land".
And with that, Bruce says goodbye, to us, to San Siro, "the best audience in the world" as he called it. As we expected it was a lot different than  the first one. Not too much of River, a bit more of "hits" and a few rare tracks (and more response to sign requests). For me, the second show complements the first one (as it almost "completes" The River, adding some songs left out of the first one). For my girlfriend, and I guess for other people like her who were on their first Springsteen show, it was a chance to hear "the hits" they already know ("Born To Run", "Hungry Heart", "Dancing In The Dark") and maybe discover some new ones (I noticed that my girlfriend particularly enjoyed "Rosalita"). And now she wants to see him again...
...In San Siro of course. I guess that in the future, if all goes well, I will always choose San Siro, even if the only seat I can get a ticket to is in one of the San Siro restrooms!

01. Meet Me In The City
02. Prove It All Night
03. Roulette
04. The Ties That Bind
05. Sherry Darling
06. Spirit In The Night
07. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
08. Fire
09. Something In The Night
10. Hungry Heart
11. Out In The Street
12. Mary's Place
13. Death To My Hometown
14. The River
15. Racing In The Street
16. Cadillac Ranch
17. The Promised Land
18. I'm A Rocker
19. Lonesome Day
20. Darlington County
21. The Price You Pay
22. Because The Night
23. Streets Of Fire
24. The Rising
25. Badlands
26. Backstreets
27. Born To Run
28. Seven Nights To Rock
29. Dancing In The Dark
30. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
31. Shout
32. Bobby Jean
33. This Hard Land

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

Friday, 1 July 2016

Party like it's 1989 - The Stone Roses in Manchester

It was back in November of last year that the streets of Manchester were suddenly filled with posters of lemons. Immediately we went on Stone Roses alert! True enough, the next day two gigs in Manchester were announced for the 17th and 18th of June. Tickets would go on sale on November 6, 9AM GMT. From Stone Roses alert we went to ticket stress mode. On that day, a few minutes before 11AM Greek time I had two computers and several browsers open on two different sites. My initial plan was to go for the 18th of June gig, but when the box office opened it was complete chaos and total mayhem. The sites would put me in a queue and when I got at the "front" of this virtual queue I got put on the back of a new one or was told that tickets were not available. At one point one of the sites crashed. I was switching between the 17th and 18th of June gigs in a desperate attempt to find something. Meanwhile two further gigs were added; one on the 19th and then another on the 15th. And finally I was allocated two seats on the 17th! Whew! The hard part was over. All we had to do now was wait for June...
...And June finally came and the dream was about to come true. In the afternoon of June 17th we took the tram from Manchester city centre to Etihad campus (and got souvenir tram tickets labeled "The Stone Roses").
As usual, we went first to the merchandize stand, to get ourserves sorted.

Then, we slowly went on our way to our gate, which involved walking around the stadium. We then passed through security which was a big tighter than usual, but that's understandable, right?
We found our way to our seats, high up, but at least covered in case it rained. And as we were watching the stadium starting to fill up and were waiting for Buzzcocks, the first support act, we had time to appreciate the fact that one of the songs played through the speakers was "Hallelujah" by The Happy Mondays, the other big act of the Madchester era.

So Buzzcocks came up on stage and treated us to several songs dating as far back as the 70's not forgetting their trademark "Ever Fallen In Love". Even I am not old enough to remember this, I first heard it circa 1987 in its cover by The Fine Young Cannibals.

The next act were Coral. Coral had been playing support for Paul Weller when I saw him at the O2 Arena back in 2009. However due to some closed lines at the tube I had arrived late and missed them, so I finally got to see them now, 7 years later...

Public Enemy seemed a strange choice for a support act, but maybe not so if you take into account how much Ian Brown was into hip-hop. This was actually one of the factors causing friction between him and John Squire who was probably more into Led Zeppelin as evidenced from the second album... And still you have to appreciate the fact that this gig gave us a chance to see live not just one great hip hop act from the 80's but the greatest hip-hop act ever.
Their set started with a warm up from their offshoot PE2.0 who even gave us a Prince tribute .

Then the main act came on with "all the hits". Yes, it's fair to say that. You see, I was expecting "Fight The Power" and "Don't Believe The Hype" but I never thought they would play "Shut 'Em Down", from the 90's my second favourite Public Enemy single (after "Fight The Power"). We also got DJ Lord showing us his ablilities when mixing "Seven Nation Army" with Nirvana. Finally Flavor Flav finished the set telling us to "f**k racicm" but more importantly "f**k separatism".

And now, what the world is waiting for... The Stone Roses!

And we all knew how they were going to start. "I Wanna Be Adored" is the perfect opening song, followed by "Elephant Stone" and "Sally Cinnamon" and and and... By that time I knew I was living a dream come true and I could not believe it. They played b-sides, they played standalone singles, they played 3 songs from the second album (including "Love Spreads" but not "Ten Storey"), they even played their new one "All For One" which may not be a great song but it's a fitting singalong anthem for such an occasion, but most importantly they played the first album in full. They even played "Don't Stop", the backwards song! What more could I have asked for? You know at every gig you go you think at the end "Ah, but they didn't play this and this" and I myself could think of a couple of songs like "Going Down" (my favourite b-side and "Ten Storey Love Song" (which is first album material placed in the second one), but since they played the complete first album, and especially "This Is The One", I was more than happy, I felt complete. Even if I walked out of the stadium after "This Is The One" I would be content. During that song I shouted out to the couple who were in front of us "This is not This Is The One, this is The Greatest Song Ever Written". God knows what they thought...

The set ended appropriately enough with "I Am The Resurrection". It started with the first song on the album and ended with the last one.

 They did not play their second newie "Beautiful Thing" which is far superior to "All For One", but it was played through the speakers while we were exiting the stadium. And when we got out we noticed that it had actually rained. Of course we would not have noticed anything since we were under cover but we did not notice the crowd inside the arena noticing.
Well, that was that. After 27 years I had finally seen The Stone Roses live.
I forgive you boys... but don't leave town!

01. I Wanna Be Adored
02. Elephant Stone
03. Sally Cinnamon
04. Mersey Paradise
05. (Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister
06. Bye Bye Badman
07. Where Angels Play
08. Shoot You Down
09. Begging You
10. Waterfall
11. Don't Stop
12. Elizabeth My Dear
13. Fools Gold
14. All for One
15. Love Spreads
16. Made of Stone
17. She Bangs the Drums
18. Breaking into Heaven
19. This Is the One
20. I Am the Resurrection