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bruce springsteen & the e-street band at the kings hall

Sophia Devlin reviews Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band’s recent concert at the King’s Hall, Belfast on 21 July 2013

The 21st of July marked the triumphant return to Belfast of the only Boss you should ever listen to, Bruce Springsteen himself, accompanied by the legendary E Street Band. With King’s Hall sold out, the field giving way to a swaying entity of a crowd, Belfast was treated to a slightly unusual, but brilliant set list, with a real focus on the Nebraska and The River albums.

Serenading solely the more punctual members of the audience, Bruce delighted with a short pre-show set performed solo on acoustic guitar, including “Surprise, Surprise”, “Maria’s Bed”, “Growin’ Up”, a cover of Roy Orbison’s “In Your Dreams” and “This Hard Land” before ducking backstage once more to prepare for the main extravaganza yet to come.

Bounding onstage whilst loudly proclaiming his heartfelt excitement, the crowd is willed to testify to Marvin Gaye’s “Can I Get A Witness” before the band breaks into the slightly unusual choice of the Christian summer-camp favourite, “This Little Light Of Mine”.

Following up with the “The Ties That Bind”, during which Jake Clemons’ sax playing is greeted with a highly positive reception, after which Little Steven proceeds to get his fair share of the spotlight in a blistering “Jackson Cage”, only for the bar to be further raised by a particularly intense rendition of “She’s The One”, with Bruce yelling and stomping to Max Weinberg’s percussion in a manner not dissimilar to Kevin the Teenager throwing a tantrum- albeit, a highly talented and much better looking Kevin, with a real sense of showmanship.

Going on to collect requests from the crowd- which were painted on placards provided by the brilliantly named “New York City Serenade” stand- and propping them haphazardly on stage, before selecting “Reason To Believe”- of course, at his own leisure. However, once the harmonica solo began slamming against the melody, Belfast was gifted with yet another dozen reasons to believe in the group’s abilities, as if they needed any more!

Continuing with the old school rock an’ roll “Johnny 99” and the more soulful “Atlantic City”, before leading into the beautifully melancholic “Nebraska”, telling the woeful tale of a killing spree through the medium of Springsteen’s powerhouse vocals and one of his many faithful acoustics, as a collective air of appreciation and near stillness gathers amidst the masses.

The stillness doesn’t make it long past the closing bars though, and soon gives way to the tidal wave energy present in the classic “Prove It All Night”, as Nils Lofgren serves up a blistering guitar solo spinning like a man possessed, and at one stage, even playing with his teeth- all whilst performing in the Northern Irish equivalent of monsoon season, attired in a top hat and mutton chop sideburns. Someone give the man a medal already!

Next up to bat, a fist pumping hat trick, consisting of the war cry that is “We Take Care Of Our Own”, and the angst ridden, authority denouncing stomps of “Wrecking Ball” and “Death To My Hometown”.

The excitement is almost tangible amongst the spectators as the opening bars of the masterpiece that is “The River” float from the stage- the music and atmosphere that ensue could only be described as verging on other worldly.

Breaking the spell is “Fade Away”, which endeavours to mix things up and is proclaimed to be Steven’s personal favourite; and although executed brilliantly, it’s perhaps not the most stellar of song choices when taking into consideration their extensive back catalogue.

Despite this, the psychobilly swing of “Open All Night” succeeds in sweeping up the audience into a joyous frenzy, only to drop them captive into the classics: “Cadillac Ranch”, “Darlington County” and “Bobby Jean”.

Swooping upon his personally chosen guest vocalist, a small girl with no fear and a pink and white hat, “Waiting On A Sunny Day” is belted cheerfully by both parties, after which Bruce does a few laps of the front rows during “The Rising”, much to their delight and surprise, only for the main set to wind down with the stunningly sombre “Badlands” and a series of bows.

Of course, renowned for their encores. which could easily double as a standalone set list, “Rocky Ground” is the slightly repetitive opener that serves to showcase the astonishing vocals of the very talented Michelle Moore.

The crowd is truly reinvigorated to the point of reaching fever pitch by the time the truly massive anthems roll round, including the almightily patriotic “Born In The USA”, the fantastic “Born To Run” –and although every lyric has been echoed in a roar by the audience thus far, even the guitar fills are now being replicated in stereo – and Springsteen’s first real commercial hit, “Dancing In The Dark”.

By the time “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” is reached, Bruce is hopping round the stage like a highly enthusiastic boxer with something to prove, but the effect is somewhat detracted from by the wide grin of someone who is obviously truly content.

Finishing with a frenetic rendition of “Shout!”, interspersed with the band’s respective names and the massive crowd’s roared appreciation, Springsteen departs with a final triumphant cry of “I’m just a prisoner- of rock and roll!” Quite so, it would seem, especially if the multitude of raised fists and lung-wrenching whoops are anything to go by.

Finally, last but not least, as “This Little Light Of Mine” is relived one last time by the entire band, Bruce is eventually left alone on stage to deliver a heart stopping, solitary acoustic rendition of “Thunder Road”. He then departs, with no pyrotechnics or overdrawn fanfare, leaving the audience to drift off into the dark, a little dazed after experiencing almost three hours of solid, beautifully crafted music, but mostly incredulous that they just got to see what was truly the live show of a lifetime.

 

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This entry was posted on August 16th, 2013 at 11:58 am by Desima

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