Home » today » News » To give pride to ordinary Americans. Bruce Springsteen played in Vienna for almost three hours

To give pride to ordinary Americans. Bruce Springsteen played in Vienna for almost three hours

Guitarist and singer Bruce Springsteen is sweating. He’s been playing for an hour and hasn’t stopped yet. As soon as he finishes the song, he doesn’t even leave room for applause and is already counting down to the start of the next one. He clenches his teeth, tenses his facial muscles, raises his eyebrows while singing. She closes her eyes ecstatically. He cuts into the guitar with visible force. After a while, he makes a triumphant gesture, perhaps raising his hands to the sky.

At Vienna’s Ernst Happel Stadium, where nearly 50,000 people watched him this Tuesday, the seventy-three-year-old American arrives shortly after seven in the evening as the last of the 18 members of the E Street Band. Short gray hair slicked back, a silver talisman around her neck, a constant smile on her face. In a black short-sleeved shirt, dark blue jeans, dark red martens and a beige electric guitar around his neck, he is from the first song No Surrender contagiously enthusiastic, bursting with energy.

The audience under the stage is immediately flooded with a pleasant euphoria from the intoxicating sound of the numerous line-up. And the fact that one song smoothly transitions into another without unnecessary talk increases the intensity of the experience. Just like looking at Springsteena, whose shirt and both hands are quickly sweaty on a hot summer day. The audience takes this as proof of a job well done. And he keeps up the pace until he finally plays over two and three quarters of an hour in Vienna.

The 73-year-old winner of 20 Grammy awards and a film Oscar, always famous for his concerts, went on tour after a seven-year hiatus. There was a slight uproar in America when Ticketmaster sold a small portion of tickets to sports halls for up to 100,000 crowns. Because of the prices set by the singer’s promoter, some criticizeda fan magazine even in protest finished activity.

At the start of the show in February, several members of the band fell ill with the coronavirus, during a spectacular guitar throw the singer hit by mistake technique in the head. In March, he received the medal from US President Joe Biden, after which he was already in Barcelona invited former First Lady Michelle Obama with her husband Springsteen on stage filmed podcast.

A singer since then he fell during a performance in Amsterdam, a pair of fans in Norway zinscenoval engagement. And before the show in Dublin, Ireland he visited to the town from where one part of Springsteen’s family apparently emigrated during the famine in the mid-19th century. The second one is Italian, which is manifested in the long-term by the volume of his band, the family atmosphere on stage, perhaps even more generally a kind of taste to enjoy life.

Compared to the previous tour in Vienna, his wife, guitarist Patti Scialfa, is missing from the stage. And the singer, famous for playing songs on request, is performing practically the same songs night after night this year. One from every decade, but most often goes back to the 70s and 80s of the last century, to the albums Born in the USA and Born to Run. Also in Vienna, hits such as Because the Night whether Glory Days, although supplemented by four from the recent album Letter To You. On the contrary, anything from the acoustic recordings of Nebraska or The Ghost of Tom Joad is absent.

For most of the evening, the singer stands in the middle of the stage. When he goes to the front rows, he hands out picks and harmonicas. Dozens of people hold up signs above their heads, on which they tell him their stories in the style of “I’ve been listening to you all my life and I just turned fifty”. Even the seventy-three-year-old rocker will surely be pleased that there is still a glimmer of a confession of love here and there.

During the encore Dancing in the Dark, several girls in the audience offer to pull them up on stage and dance with them, like in the music video he did with young Courteney Cox, later star of the series Friends. Although Springsteen does not take advantage of the offers in Vienna, at the end of the song, he dramatically rips off his shirt in one move to reveal his shaved chest. The gesture is the same as it was decades ago, only the meaning has changed: while he meant it then, today he laughs out loud.

Everything for dad

The meaning of the songs does not change. At their core are often hard-working, overlooked Americans willing to fight for what they care about. As the protagonist of the song Prove It All Night, which will also be heard in Vienna: he insists that he can buy the girl a ring and a dress, but at the same time he asks that she finally start taking him seriously. A typical Springsteen story about success, for which one must do something.

A moment later it happens on Working on the Highway, a perfectly pointed song about a worker who builds an asphalt road and dreams of a better life. In the course of the song, he falls in love with a girl, marries her, but her father does not approve of the marriage, something goes wrong and at the end, the worker builds the asphalt road again, only as a prisoner in chains. The song has multiple interpretations, but between the lines it may be hinting at how hard work can make a person fat.

Bruce Springsteen (right) and Jake Clemons, who replaced his late father Clarence in the band. | Photo: AFP / Profimedia.cz

So concentrated into three hours live, Springsteen’s music is full of dark stories about Americans who find themselves in a tight spot with no one to help or pay attention. The reason is that Springsteen can tell a whole life in one song. And that he sings about the most ordinary people as if they were heroes, that he sees great dramas in their destinies and tells them bombastically, magnificently, as if they were awaiting ascension. As if to tell them: you have something to be proud of. There is something profoundly American about that.

Comedian Jon Stewart recalled years ago how he would sit in his car after a bar shift and play Springsteen songs. “Suddenly I didn’t feel like a loser. When you listen to Bruce, you’re not a loser. You’re one of the characters in an epic poem about losers,” Stewart said, capturing the sentiment shared by millions of Americans in the 1970s and 1980s.

That is one level of this stage persona. The second, more personal, singer he explained in recent Broadway appearances. From an early age, Bruce Springsteen suffered from a lack of recognition from his father, who worked as a taxi driver or a strip worker in a car factory and was apparently a bit of an alcoholic. My son subconsciously began to style himself into it at concerts: so that I could understand your world. So that if you didn’t like me the way I am, I would at least become the son you wanted on stage, he explained.

In other words: all this adoration of ordinary Americans is at the same time a sophisticated son’s declaration of love for his father.

In the Broadway recording, Bruce Springsteen describes picking up his father at a bar. | Video: Netflix

Solo on one leg

Of course, one doesn’t have to be American to appreciate that. In the Vienna stadium, people are driven into euphoria by seeing how much Springsteen puts himself into music. “We give it our all every night, and in return you realize how much great you have in you,” summed up the E Street Band’s approach in the autobiography Born To Run, also published in Czech.

He cuts the strings of his electric guitar, an almost identical copy of his long-standing beige Fender Telecaster with a neck from an old Esquire instrument, with the full force of his right hand. That’s why he started wearing bandages on his wrists in his fifties to relieve his hands and prevent possible tendinitis. He doesn’t take them off all evening.

He is focused when singing, his baritone voice is lower today than on the early recordings, but for example in the song The River he still reaches the high notes in falsetto.

The celebratory mood is added to everything by the layered and elemental sound of the eighteen-member band mixing rock with soul. Simply put, the E Street Band develops the style they achieved on 1975’s Born To Run, and their songs are magnificently outfitted with everything from piano and Hammond organ to multiple guitars and a full brass section to vocalists. The entire evening is reshuffled on stage, for each song someone leaves and another comes. The impression is as strong as when Bruce Springsteen was last in Prague’s Eden 11 years ago: and today the band already includes several seventy-year-olds, including the rhythm player, longtime bassist Garry Tallent and drummer Max Weinberg. They are still in shape.

The second most important after the frontman remains the guitarist Steven Van Zandt, otherwise the former star of the series The Sopranos. He comes on stage in a purple coat and pirate hat, under which he hides a typical scarf and eccentric earrings with long fringes. For a while he plays an electric guitar in the colors of the Ukrainian flag, then in the evening he switches between seven models, including a twelve-string Rickenbacker.

Van Zandt and Springsteen often sing into the same microphone so close that their faces are almost touching. In the later part of the evening, they have a small acting study, where they pose with their backs to the audience with folded arms and debate whether to end the concert or continue playing.

At the end of Dancing In The Dark, Bruce Springsteen dramatically ripped his shirt in one motion in Vienna. Photo: AFP / Profimedia.cz | Video: Jayne Cobb

When playing, Van Zandt uses practically no guitar effects, i.e. boxes. On the other hand, Nils Lofgren, another key member of the lineup, who adds more colorful colors to the songs, has perhaps a dozen of them under his feet. For example, in the title song from the album The Rising he has the guitar lying flat and plays it bottlenecked, that is, he slides over the strings with a glass tube on his finger.

Lofgren’s peak moment comes in the hit Because The Night, when he gets into a frenzy during a thoroughly contrived solo. First he starts twitching uncontrollably, then hops on one leg before finally spinning wildly to the side and kicking the air to add even more drama to an already intense song. The entire solo has a metal ring on the thumb of the left hand, used for example when playing the banjo, thanks to which the notes sound more transparent than strummed with the belly of the finger.

For the sound of several songs, it is important that Bruce Springsteen, following the example of Bob Dylan, still uses the harmonica in several compositions. That another member of the band, Soozie Tyrell, alternates between acoustic guitar and violin. And a loud audience response to saxophonist Jake Clemons, who replaced his late father Clarence in the band in 2011. The son’s role has now gained importance again: in Vienna, Springsteen gives him space practically every other song, at one point he even leans on him, just like when with his father posed on the old alba Born to Run.

The passing of Clarence Clemons and also organist Danny Federici, who died in 2008, will at one point be commemorated by projections on the big screen. And both seemed to subliminally influence the shape of the evening, in which Springsteen sings about the dead several times. Starting with a song Ghosts about deceased players via cover version Nightshift from the Marvin Gaye-worshipping soul group the Commodores to Last Man Standing articulating Springsteen’s dismay at the fact that he is the last surviving member of his first teenage band.

The song Because The Night as played by Bruce Springsteen in London in 2012. Guitarist Nils Lofgren’s solo was similar in Vienna. Photo: Reuters | Video: Hard Rock Calling

In this late part of the evening, the singer takes the microphone for the only time and begins to speak. German subtitles run on large screens. Springsteen tells how his friend’s death shook him. Death, the singer directs to the point, clarifies one’s thoughts and sorts one’s priorities. “That’s why I advise you: live every moment to the fullest, be kind to yourself, to those you love, and to the whole world,” he appeals. After which he says goodbye alone with only a harmonica and an acoustic guitar again with a song about the last things called I’ll See You In My Dreams.

The closing song underlines the feeling that this show is also a bit of a celebration of life in the face of death. That even in this way the singer fills the void left by loved ones. That with the knowledge of the approaching end, he was forced to clarify why he was here and what was the meaning of his life. Bruce Springsteen didn’t have to think long. He found that meaning in music a long time ago.

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