fri 12/08/2022

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Etihad Stadium, Manchester | reviews, news & interviews

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Etihad Stadium, Manchester

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Etihad Stadium, Manchester

Three hours plus of old and new favourites from the Boss - and not a little sentimentality

When Clarence “Big Man” Clemons, the E Street Band’s charismatic saxophone player, died of stroke-related complications this time last year, there were those among us who wondered if we’d ever see the band together again. His on-stage interplay with Bruce Springsteen seemed to have become even more central to the greatest rock'n'roll show on earth since the band reformed proper in 1999, even if the knees that supported that magnificent frame could no longer hold out the length of shows that regularly topped the three-hour mark. That this year’s Wrecking Ball tour proudly bore the E Street name was something of a relief in that respect; that the tour itself has not failed to pick up glowing reviews as it travelled mainland Europe even more so.

That isn’t to say that the spectre of the Big Man didn’t loom as heavy over the Etihad as the cloud cover - “My City of Ruins”, hometown lament turned post-9/11 tribute, became something else entirely as the crowd roared its agreement to Springsteen’s “are you missing anybody?” refrain. There was only ever one person who could step into Clemons’ shoes: as his nephew Jake stepped forward to perform his first sax solo of the night the "Wee Man" proved that the reason why had as much to do with skill as sentimentality.

Away from the politics, those looking to forget the hard times had plenty to dance about

Sentimentality, as anybody who has ever had the privilege of seeing the E-Street Band’s live show will tell you, is not something that the Boss has ever shied away from: 30 songs culled from a career spanning 40 years neatly demonstrated rock music at its most powerful and transformative but also at its most schmaltzy and sheer fun. There’s a reason these stadium shows continue to attract an audience that has been there since the beginning - as well as, increasingly, their children and grandchildren: the boy plucked from the crowd to count the band back in on “Waiting on a Sunny Day” kept the rain clouds at bay for at least another half hour, and will doubtless remember it for the rest of his life.

Both the bombast of “Badlands” and “No Surrender”, the night’s opening double-header, and great storytelling songs like “Atlantic City” and “The River”, showed how relevant Springsteen’s earlier material remains today. A devastating “Jack of All Trades”, the song from the new album that most closely parallels the latter in structure and message, received as rapturous a reception as any of the old favourites as its writer re-established the importance of the protest song for a whole new generation.

Away from the politics, though, those looking to forget the hard times that have tightly squeezed old industrial heartlands on both sides of the Atlantic had plenty to dance about.The addition of a four-piece horn section and Cindy Mizelle’s gospel vocals entreating a packed stadium to “stand up and be counted tonight” made the southern rock elements that have always been prominent in Springsteen’s work even more apparent. There was also a treat in store for hardcore devotees in the form of the full Darkness on the Edge of Town-era intro to “Prove it All Night”, complete with piano and squealing guitars. Before “Land of Hope and Dreams” rolled around to present a magnificent set closer, it was no wonder the 62-year-old performer was hamming up exhaustion flat on his back on stage, a mischievous Little Steven only too happy to revive him with his “magic” sponge soaked in water.

At least, that’s where anywhere else would have ended the night - but the E-Street Band had another hour left in them. Jumping on top of the piano Springsteen performed what can only be described as the world’s most ineffectual strip-tease (damn those sleeves!) to reveal a Born in the USA-era grey t-shirt and taunt the newly falling rain with a celebratory sing-along “Thunder Road”. “Dancing in the Dark” saw two female audience members pulled from the crowd to recreate their own Courtney Cox-style fantasies and a riotous, ridiculous cover of “Twist and Shout” provided a magnificent finale.

But just before the end, there was a proper memorial to a missing family member. After introducing the second verse of “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out”, the song that mythologises the first meeting between Springsteen and Clemons, as the important part, the frontman silenced the band while the crowd went wild for a minute-long montage of the Big Man as they remembered him best. It was Springsteen at his most sentimental, sure, but in that moment it was the perfect tribute - and the perfect conclusion to an incredible night.

Overleaf: "Prove It All Night" gets the '78 treatment in Barcelona, earlier on this tour


This was my 3rd Bruce concert in the last 24 years and it was the best ever. You have to go and see him he is the best performer i have ever seen and he really loves all his fans a true superstar.

My third too. I'm still smiling - having the setlist as a playlist on my iPod might have something to do with it!

It was my 119th Springsteen show in the past 30 years and despite the rain, Bruce still had the same magic as he did in 1981, when I first saw him in Brighton and Wembley. Have seen him all over the UK, Europe and on the east coast of the USA. He never disappoints.

Been a fan for many many years but for some reason this was my first live experience. New songs are fantastic are as all the old favourites.However give up on the feignhning exhaustion and the constantly going to the fans.The music stands on its own without this.Looking forward to the next one.

I danced with Bruce in Manchester! 10 years ago, I was reading an article in Time Magazine called "Reborn in the USA" it featured my hero, Bruce Springsteen and it talked about the reaction of a fan who called out to Bruce in the middle of the street after the events of 9/11 and he said, "We need you". And out of that came The Rising. I realised at that moment more than ever I needed Bruce too. I was suffering inside due to an abusive relationship . I always loved Bruce and how his music made me feel but I never got to any of his live concerts. I had a chance once during the River Tour. My friend Stuart said I had to go and he was going to take me with him, but I went to visit my Grandparents in Oregon instead. I kept reading this article, and something inside me said that I needed to get to his next concert no matter what the cost. To make a long story short, I drove 5 hours from our vacation in Nevada to the San Jose Rising gig, and then from there I visited and for the first time in my life I interacted with other fans online & we share reviews of the concerts all over the country and across the pond. My next gig was Sacramento. It was a gift, one of those last minute gigs that got squeezed in and that was the first time I got close to Bruce in the pit. I took a picture of him that made Bacstreets magazine & I met Max and Garry at his hotel with some Bruce Buds that were stayng there too. I bought up all his CDs and DVDs and my new screen name on his site was Tougher than the Rest because I fell in love with the song after watching the love that Bruce & Patti shared on that video. I thought someday I want to find a love like that, & that's what I want to be, 24/7. So out of that came 24thantherest. I interacted with fans all over the world and found that we were all just regular folks who were empowered and inspired by the love of Bruce's music and that together we shared something special. So all of a sudden I was connected to something that was about to change my life. One of my Bruce Buds (mayyourhope, Martin) wrote a review. It was called "Manchester Tonight" It was about the gig at Old Trafford Cricket Ground. Maybe some of you were there. He emailed it to me but I accidentally deleted it. I sent an email out to folks across the pond asking if they could send me a copy (Martin was on holiday) and this guy called Kirk sent it to me. We became email buddies after that & sent each other care packages and talked about Bruce's music, what our lives were like, etc. I was living in LA and he was living in England. It was all very innocent, but suddenly I found myself head over heels in love. Him too, thankfully! So I flew to meet him in Nov, 2003. When he drove me home from the airport there were fireworks and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE billboards everywhere. (Kirk said he had arranged it all for me-It was really Bonfire Night and they were promoting the movie Love Actually, but it was meant for us). We were married in June, 2004 (Martin gave me away) and Kirk and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary this year. I am now a British Citizen, and I LOVE my life here. This is all thanks to Bruce. 10 years ago there was a group of people that struggled to get tickets to see Bruce in the UK. They started a group called Mary's Place and they all helped each other get in front of Bruce. Over the years we have become the best of friends. There must have been about 30 of us at Manchester this weekend. I've lost count! So here we are now- at ETIHAD Three of us (me, Kath and Sue)got to the venue at midnight the night before, slept in the back of Kath's car, got our numbers (78,79 and 80) did all the roll calls & were told to come back at 12 noon as there night be an update from Bruce's people on the wrist bands. This tuned into a nightmare as we ended up standing in a queue for 5 hours straight in the pouring rain and freezing cold. People were being taken away by ambulance because of hypothermia and my friend Sue was close to it. We all 3 had to hug to keep warm. We were told at 4pm that the venue was not going to honour our numbers and that they had given out all 3000 wrist bands. They planned to open all the doors at 5pm. Man City's Security were looking down at us from a window and laughing at us. I started a chant, "Numbers, Numbers, Numbers" and it grew. Little Steven tweeted that they were working on it and to hang in there. We were told Bruce refused to play unless they sorted out all of us who stayed over night and came in the early hours of the morning to get into the pit. They denied him that so we were left felling hopeless, disappointed and angry. I watched happy, joyful faces turn into sad, angry faces. But I never lost faith, and I held onto my dream that I would get in front of Bruce and make it on that stage. We had gone to the (ASDA) supermarket across the street from the venue earlier. I was soaking wet, so bought the Union Jack Pajamas and put them on under my jeans. I already had my union jack poncho and my 2 inflatable hats so I had a plan to work the hat & then entice Bruce with the other hat that I was hiding from him until Dancing in the Dark was played. Once the doors opened at 5pm, it was mayhem. Peoples tickets were wet & we all struggled to get through and stay together. We had to run to the stage area. Our door was furthest from the stage, ironically! But we got there, the three of us and planted ourselves to the right 3 people deep. When Bruce & the band hit the stage all the anger, frustration, tiredness and sadness was lifted and it stopped raining! It had been pouring rain for 12 hours straight. It was like some sort of miracle! During Spirit of the night he came right up to us and he told me he loved my hat . He held it and read that I wanted Tougher for Patti & me, (Red inflatable cowboy hat) so I told him he should wear it and he did! I was elated with joy when he sported my hat!! And during Waiting on a Sunny Day he held my hand and I wouldn't let go, even though I couldn't see him. The hat was covering my face!! As soon as Dancing in the Dark came on, I took off my boots and my jeans, stripped down to my Union Jack jammies & showed Bruce the blue inflatable hat along with the red one and I pointed back and forth to me and him & asked him to pick me. He kept looking at me and Stevie did too. I even saw Garry looking at me from the corner of his eye. I also saw him look at the girl who wanted to dance with Jake but didn't see the sign. Everything within me knew it was my time. So, I threw the blue hat on stage and pointed at him "You, here now! Me and you are going to dance"! When he came for the hat, I was elated with joy and when he reached down for me along with security I wondered how the hell I was going to make it up because this was the stage and like one BTX member here said, I aint no Courtney Cox!! LOL But Bruce pulled and my friends below were pushing my bum up and I made it on stage! I threw my arms up in the air to the crowd, because this was such a victory for me, for my love of Bruce, for the love I have for my husband and all my friends that I have met through Bruce's music. This one man, BRUCE CHANGED MY LIFE and here I am on stage with him!! We danced and then I just looked at his face and I hugged him, and I kissed him and I thanked him for changing my life. I told him I met my husband on his website and he said, "I know" and I told him that I loved him and he said he loved me too. This was one of the greatest nights of my life and I will never forget it as long as I live. THANK YOU, BRUCE! Kirk and I will be in Paris for both nights. I hope that Patti will be there too & that Bruce will do Tougher (for us) :D

Here's a rubbish mobile phone photo from the stand of Bruce in your hat...

Thank you so much for posting this! Your obvious joy being on that stage was one of the highlights for the night for us.


Thanks for the photo, Lisa Marie! I only just moticed that they printed my story! Manchester was amazing. I night I will never forget! x

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