PARIS 1: ‘The River’ Rushes On So Effortlessly

What do you get when you combine the intimacy of a typical American arena with the signature passion of a typical E Street European crowd?

That’s a question I’ve been excitedly pondering over the last couple of weeks, and Bruce and the Band’s first of two concerts at Paris’ 16,000-seat capacity AccorHotels Arena – formerly known as Bercy before a recent renovation[1] – provided the mightiest of answers:

To borrow the title from the highlight song of the night, you get a reason to believe…a reason to believe – contrary to popular belief – that this tour does indeed have a nightly message; a reason to believe in the continued – even overwhelmingly so on this night – vitality of Bruce, the Band, and his crowd; a reason to believe in the increasing possibility of inspired setlists; a reason to believe that the best nights of this tour are most probably still ahead of us; a reason to believe that these shows can indeed pack an emotional wallop; and most importantly, a reason to believe that Bruce still cares – and perhaps cares even more – now about his adoring fans than he ever has before. In fact, one of the only things that the concert gave us no reason to believe in was the technical capacity of the AccorHotels Arena to sustain the undying power of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

The arena

Yet the ultimately three hour and 47-minute, 33-song evening did not start with the full power of the Band; instead, Bruce matched the intimacy of the venue with an intimate solo performance on the piano of “Incident on 57th Street,” which evocatively began the highly emotional arc of the night. With both the stage and the crowd – closer to him now in proximity than at any other point on this European leg – bathed in all-consuming stark purple lighting[2] after the return of a full blackout marked the start of the show, Bruce turned in perhaps his most emotive performance of any song on this tour thus far, with the arena’s crisp sound clearly capturing every nuance of his subtle vocal inflections that breathtakingly conveyed the rollercoaster of feelings packed into the doomed love story of Spanish Johnny and Puerto Rican Jane; he even borrowed the spoken word-esque delivery that he’s been utilizing in recent performances of “Point Blank” for the emotionally climactic final two verses.

Though the crowd was thankfully dead silent for the beginning, they beautifully chimed in their voices for the choruses, at first quietly but then increasingly louder over the course of the song, also joining in the echoing of the “romantic young boys” lines. The palpably emotional tone of this sea of voices made it abundantly clear that Bruce’s rendition was resonating on a deep and personal level with a majority of the crowd. Though a few naysayers have claimed that these solo piano performances feel out of place as openers for E Street Band concerts, this version of “Incident” perfectly illustrated how they can perceptibly establish the emotional and narrative journey of a concert. I’ve written before about how this performance style strips down a song to its storytelling core, allowing the audience to hear the sheer narrative power contained in Bruce’s lyrics without any of the sometimes distracting musical frills. This was perhaps never truer than with “Incident,” serving as a reminder that the song may be Bruce’s first masterpiece as a writer, having given those who followed Bruce’s career from day one a reason to believe in the ungodly potential of this young upstart from New Jersey.

Speaking of which, the Band – including Patti – joined Bruce on stage after “Incident” for the tour premiere of “Reason to Believe,” bullet mic and all.[3] Given the fact that the song’s second verse also features – like “Incident” – a guy named Johnny leaving his love behind, the setlist made it immediately evident that this would be one of those special nights when Bruce had a clear message that would be developed and communicated to his audience over the course of the evening.[4] Though the song can be easily interpreted as a cynical ode to the fallacies of hope that naïve people cling to like a crutch to avoid facing the unavoidably relentless despair of their daily lives – written by an artist at a time when he was darkly disillusioned with fame since Nebraska was such an affront to the romantic pop image that had been thrust upon him – the modern, full band reimagining of “Reason to Believe” basically redefines the song, conveying that perhaps Bruce now understands it differently in his old age.

Bruce has transformed the moody, small, and intensely personal ‘wailing-into-the-void’ of the original recording into a full band spectacular of boundless joy. Though the bullet mic still captures the somber depths of the song, it also serves to make Bruce’s voice sound more expansive; rather than coming across like he’s existentially pondering to himself, he’s now preaching to his – to borrow a word from the song – “congregation.” The concept of this “congregation” is clearly important to his newfound understanding of the song, for he seemingly purposefully staged his blocking in such a way that he slowly inched himself closer and closer to the center platform over the course of the performance so that he was finally surrounded by his emphatic fans by the time he sung the line, “Congregation gathers down by the river…” while motioning to his entire audience around him.

Yet “congregation” isn’t the only important word in this line; he also seemed to place special emphasis on “riverside,” fitting given the name of this tour. And just in case anyone missed this subtle inflection, he took a looooooong pause a bit later in the verse after singing, “Groom stands alone and watches THE RIVER rush on…” – filling this silence with nothing but the sound of his own breathing before finishing the line – “…so effortlessly.”

The official poster

As someone who has absolutely loved almost every minute of this tour, I’ve had to put up with a fair share of criticisms, both of Bruce and of my own affection for what he’s been doing. Yet more than the setlist gripes and the doubts regarding my interpretations of his setlist decisions, the most frustrating complaints have been the ones that claim this tour has had no discernible message or point whatsoever. Since he’s not touring behind a new album – whose collections of songs often give their tours contemporary relevance – but rather a widely beloved album that’s nonetheless 35 years old, many have assumed this tour is nothing more than a mindless money-grab rooted in the sort of greatest hits nostalgia that Bruce swore he would never exploit. Yet these people mistakenly – and dare I say as equally mindlessly as they claim Bruce is being – assume that an artist as thoughtful as Bruce needs new music to communicate a new message, when in fact the act of revisiting old music in new ways can be a message in itself.

As I’ve already written countless times before on this tour – just look up almost any of my pieces regarding the American shows – playing The River every night communicated a message of the persevering timelessness of music. By looking back through time and revisiting these old gems, Bruce reinforces not only how far he, the Band, and all of us have come – especially those who grew up with his music, not only in real time but for younger fans like me who matured through the framework of words and ideas and lessons that his music provides – but these performances also capture just how little time we all may have left with each other, as he explained in his nightly concluding speech to the full album performance every night in America. The deaths that the Band has already sustained – commemorated in the nightly “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” tribute – are a reminder of this, and yet the fact that The River still feels so damn alive is a testament to the immortality of music. The Band will of course not be here forever to perform such powerful reminders for us, but they will keep pushing to make it understood until they can’t anymore to give us a reason to believe in the worth of what they’ve accomplished and continue to accomplish every night.

“Phooey,” many have responded to such arguments, “Bruce only decided to tour behind The River to sell more of the recently released boxed sets.” But then why didn’t he do the same for the box sets of Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town? What about the idea of touring behind The River every night resonated with him at this juncture in his life?

To answer these questions, it’s best to return to the last time Bruce and the Band went on tour without a new album: The Reunion Tour. During performances of “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” Bruce would deviate from the song after singing, “And I’m on my own, I’m on my own / And I can’t go home.” In a way, Bruce was stopping at the part of the song that described his existence before the start of the tour – alone, without his old Band by his side. For all intents and purposes, the E Street Band was dead. And yet – in the words of another Nebraska track – “everything dies baby that’s a fact / But maybe everything that dies someday comes back.” By picking up their drums and guitars again, they were restoring new life not only in themselves but also in their music. As such, when Bruce started his nightly mid-“Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” sermon, he immediately yelled, “Elvis is alive tonight!” With music, comes life.

And then, he sang a few lines from another song: “Take Me to THE RIVER.” Bruce has clearly always had the image of a river in his mind when thinking about the E Street Band defying death. The rest of his sermon continued with this river imagery; here’s an excerpt, taken from the officially released recording of “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” on Live in New York City:

“That’s where I want to go tonight – I want to go to that riverside. I want to find that river of life. I want to find that river of love. I want to find that river of faith, and that river of hope. Tonight I want to go to that river of sexual healing, and companionship. I want to find that river of joy, and that river of happiness…And that’s why we’re here night after night after night after night. Because you can’t get to those things by yourself. You’ve got to have help. That’s where I want to go tonight, and I want you to go with me. Because I need to go with you – that’s why I’m here.”

Bruce has long likened a river to a place where communal life happens – where a group of people can go together to experience joint rejuvenation of all kinds. By playing The River every night – a record that he’s repeatedly said tried to capture the full scope of life more so than his older albums[5] – Bruce was allowing both his fans and himself to find that river of life, together.

Yet now that he’s no longer playing the entirety of The River every night, he hasn’t just mindlessly abandoned this quest; instead, he’s relying on different songs that communicate a lot of the same messages, such as “Reason to Believe.” Though the song ends with the solitary groom watching the river rush on as he wonders “where can his baby be,” he still finds some reason to believe. And for Bruce nowadays, that reason to believe is in his congregation of fans gathering down by the musical riverside. He – and we – may have lost a few of our loves along the way – such as our shared losses of Danny and Clarence – but we still find a reason to believe in the undying power of rock and roll, symbolized by the congregation of fans surrounding Bruce at every concert.

Bruce surrounded by his congregation

Though the spurned groom may feel he’s alone, the river rushing on so effortlessly should serve as a reminder that life goes on, and there are many congregations of people waiting to accept him into their communities. Similarly, life and music persevere through the deaths of others, which may have been why Bruce filled the void after singing, “The groom stands alone and watches the river rush on…” with nothing but his deep breathing, the literal sound of his life. Unsurprisingly, the crowd accompanied his breaths with cheers of their own, a cacophony of aural symbolism representing how communities of people can literally sustain life past the ceasing of breath. And they do “…so effortlessly.”

Back in the day when Bruce was the type of person that interpreted “Reason to Believe” in a cynical manner, Bruce may not have ever wanted for the E Street Band to become an old rock and roll band, refusing to stop playing even when they’d past their primes. And yet now, with the wisdom only time can bring, Bruce understands that letting life get the better of you is never the right choice; we must all always find a reason to believe. When watching Bruce and the Band revisit so many old songs in ways that differ from how they were recorded – such as in these performances of “Incident on 57th Street” and “Reason to Believe” – it’s impossible not to think back through all of the years between now and then without also noting how little time we may have left with each other in the future; no one will argue that the E Street Band sees more road in their rear view mirrors than they do through their windshields ahead. And yet, when you experience concerts like Paris’, Bruce and the Band’s relentless commitment to rocking in the shadow of the increasingly imminent and unavoidable end can’t help but give us all a reason to believe.

We, in turn, also give them a reason to believe. Regardless of how conscious any of the audience was of these thoughts, the song and its meaning clearly clicked with the crowd. It was a fiery and impassioned performance, fueled by them participating like I’ve never experienced before with “Reason to Believe,” jumping to the beat and yelling “Yeah!” along to Bruce’s harmonica solo. We were letting Bruce know that the congregation was indeed gathered by the riverside on this night, hopefully giving him and the Band a reason to believe in the worth of their continued endeavor to spread the gospel of rock and roll to us all. As Bruce said in the aforementioned speech from The Reunion Tour, “I want you to go with me. Because I need to go with you – that’s why I’m here.” We are an integral ingredient in giving Bruce a reason to believe in the eternal power of rock and roll that flows through the river of life, and the energy emanating from the crowd within AccorHotels Arena gave him no reason to doubt that it was still rushing on so effortlessly.

Another consistent message of this tour has been Bruce making a concerted effort to thank his fans for giving him such a strong reason to believe for so long, as evidenced by the song that followed a frenzied performance of “Badlands” – which built off the energy and ideas of the communal exegesis of “Reason to Believe,” with lines like, “We’ll keep pushin’ till it’s understood” taking on added resonance in its wake. Bruce introduced the tour premiere of “Into the Fire”[6] by saying, “This is for the guy that I met outside of my hotel last night who recently lost his wife. It was one of her favorite songs…” The performance was tight and powerful, with the vocal harmonies of the Band – most notably Patti’s – reaffirming its communal message…but I actually want to focus more on that introduction.

For Bruce and the Band, they were merely playing one of the countless number of tracks that they can choose from their expansive oeuvre. For most people in the crowd, it was just another song in the setlist, with some happy that they were hearing another tour premiere before waiting to see what came next. And yet, for the man who Bruce dedicated the performance to, it was probably an indescribable moment of a lifetime. Just think about what it must have meant to him:[7]

Having recently lost his wife, he probably relied on Bruce’s music to help him through the darkest days, both while she was sick and after she passed away. Since “Into the Fire” was one of her favorite songs, Bruce’s music also hopefully helped her confront her own imminent mortality; so many of his songs – including “Into the Fire” – eloquently convey finding worth in the act of dying. A clear message runs through a majority of these: though you may be nearing your end, you can hopefully die in peace knowing that you’ve lived a life full of worth in the eyes of your loved ones. Even in your death – as the chorus of the song depicts – your loved ones can find strength, faith, hope, and love:

“May your strength give us strength

May your faith give us faith

May your hope give us hope

May your love give us love

These concerts must serve not only as emotional escapes for this widower, but also as forms of catharsis, especially since the idea of persevering through death looms so large over this tour. I’m sure that this guy shared all of these thoughts with Bruce, not to try to convince him to play the song but just to thank Bruce for how much he’s unknowingly helped fans like him through such tragic situations. 24 hours later, in the midst of enjoying yet another powerful concert, this guy probably wasn’t even thinking about their encounter. But you know who was? Bruce.[8] After visibly feeling the ceaseless love of the crowd through the singalong of “Incident on 57th Street” and the enthusiastic participation of “Reason to Believe” and the total bedlam of “Badlands,” Bruce wanted to return that love in the most meaningful way possible – not necessarily to all of us, but to the one person to whom he knew it would mean the most.

The official t-shirt

This dedication falls perfectly in line with one of the strongest messages that Bruce has been trying to communicate throughout this tour: paying the fans back for everything that they’ve done for him by incorporating them into the concerts. From inviting people on stage every night during “Dancing in the Dark” to sharing the mic with amateur singers for “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day” to granting sign requests[9] to playing so many River songs every night – an album that fans have been clamoring to hear more of since the original River Tour – to holding hands with fans and talking to fans and pointing to fans in recognition and crowd surfing on top of fans during shows[10] to calling up this goofy writer to sing “Growin’ Up” with him…Bruce has been indulging in these sorts of crowd interaction antics far more than ever simply to convey his gratefulness to us. ALL of these examples are Bruce’s way of thanking us; he knows that our love has afforded him a lifetime’s worth of moments that together encompass the entirety of his successful career, so now in return, he’s giving many of us personal moments that we’ll remember for a lifetime.

Such generous behavior runs like a current through this River Tour 2016, proving a profound message that allows a lot of his old songs to be interpreted in different ways thanks to this generosity of communal spirit. Though “Into the Fire” is commonly associated with the tragedy of September 11, his unique introduction in Paris transformed the song into a general meditation on the positive enduring impact that an individual’s death can have on a community of survivors. Note how the chorus specifies, “May your strength give us strength,” and not “May your strength give me strength.” Bruce understands that nobody should ever grieve alone, and the greatest way to alleviate a person’s sadness over the loss of a loved one is by showing that person that their loved one’s death was not meaningless. A community not only feels their death together but also learns to appreciate the power of struggling to survive in the face of our inevitable end through their example, in no small part due to such deaths inspiring revelatory songs as “Into the Fire.” In Paris, the entire crowd shared in the grief of this one man, and hopefully we all felt the “strength, faith, hope, and love” of his wife’s life and death through Bruce and the Band’s powerful performance.

Perfectly fitting with the predominant message of this River Tour 2016, Bruce evidently always envisioned the song to be one of a communal catharsis; note how he also used three of the sentiments that appear in the chorus of “Into the Fire” – “faith, hope, and love” – in his aforementioned nightly sermon regarding the newfound communal quest of the E Street Band during “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” on The Reunion Tour: “I want to find that river of life. I want to find that rive of love. I want to find that river of faith, and that river of hope.” This performance of “Into the Fire” captured how death has inspired and improved the resolve of the E Street Band, and how the Band continuing to thrive should instill strength, faith, hope, and love in all of us. The crowd – as they did all night – responded appropriately, with everyone raising their hands every time Bruce sang one of those four words of sentiment during the choruses. His message of the never-ending endurance of a community – whether consciously or subconsciously – was being received.

The original setlist

I’d be remiss not to point out how easily this opening four-pack – specifically “Reason to Believe” and “Into the Fire” – can comment on all of the violence that the world has been struggling through recently. From the racial disputes in America to the terrorist attacks abroad, the messages contained within these songs provide the type of positive framework that should be adopted. Though these deaths may seem senseless, they will hopefully inspire the next generation to improve this world, giving us all a reason to believe in a better future, no matter how bleak our present may feel.

With all of these thoughtful messages established, Bruce then launched into 15 of 20 tracks from The River, starting with “The Ties That Bind,” which immediately made apparent just how each of the first four songs of the night in some way explored the power of such binding ties. Much like how the introduction to “Into the Fire” should have changed how the crowd interpreted that song, so too did the emotionally devastating opening four-pack alter how these same old River tracks were received, highlighting just how much of the record is devoted to depicting a vast multitude of different types of connections that people both forge and break with each other.

Perhaps due to the added thematic resonance from the openers or because the Band had finally returned to an arena setting, these songs just seemed to click with this audience in a more profound way than at any other point on this European tour. It became immediately clear that this relatively small, indoor arena simply could not contain the passionate ferocity of a European crowd who were having the almost-full power of The River unleashed upon them – the energy was quite simply overwhelming. Unexpectedly though perhaps fittingly given the predominant message of the night, “Cadillac Ranch” – the most overt death-themed song on the record – may have elicited the wildest reception, with the crowd jumping and chanting along to the melody as Bruce gave BOTH Stevie and Nils a chance to show off their guitar solo chops.

Yet this wasn’t the only occurrence of Bruce allowing the E Street Band to add in some extra flourishes throughout the night. Most probably due to a combination of the crowd’s effervescent response all night long, their closer proximity to the Band, and their closer proximity to each in other, the E Street Band felt even more in sync than usual.[11] It was just one of those nights where the rock and roll stars seemed to align – everything was just working, and overtime too, from Bruce adding in his own whooping and hollering party noises during Jake’s “Sherry Darling” solo to Stevie indulging in a few extra vocal inflections during the “It Takes Two” coda of “Two Hearts” to his and Bruce’s pitch-perfectly paced back and forth buildup in “You Can Look” to Nils becoming so consumed in his spinning guitar solo during “Because the Night” that he literally almost tripped over a speaker to Bruce allowing Nils to actually hold the mic[12] for his “Little girl sitting in the window…” solo during “Darlington County” to Bruce even granting Patti a few seconds of vocal solo time of her own at the end of the same song. From the very first note of the concert, Bruce was a man on a mission – namely, to put on a pure and unbridled rock and roll concert that also communicated a clear message.

And it wasn’t only songs from The River that sounded like they spoke to this message; Bruce’s careful setlist construction also allowed songs commonly played on this tour to sound like they fit under this umbrella. “Tougher Than the Rest” depicts two lovers who find the strength to brave another relationship even though they’ve both been hurt in the past; “Land of Hope and Dreams” has become a testament to the undying, all-encompassing strength of E Street Nation; and since Clarence’s passing, “Jungleland” has become a symbol of the power of music to persevere through death.[13] Even tour staples like “Darlington County” – the only vestige of the dreaded “Working on the Highway” and “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day” nightly three pack that reared its head here – made sense in context of the setlist since the song – more than the other two – depicts a type of powerful and joyous relationship that rock and roll can create between two friends on a road trip trying to have carefree, escapist fun before being brought to an end by the law.

The ticket and Pit wristband

And then there was “Nebraska,” here given an absolutely breathtaking solo rendition,[14] only the second performance of the song during an E Street Band show since the Born in the U.S.A. Tour in 1985. Since it bookends the Nebraska album along with “Reason to Believe,” this pitch-black masterpiece unsurprisingly fit perfectly with the predominant theme of the night that “Reason to Believe” helped establish. The idea of mortality obviously looms large over the song, both in the murders the main characters committed and in the death sentence the singer is facing. And yet, he also transforms his own imminent demise into an appreciation for all of the fun that he and his love had before going to his grave. In an almost perversely negative example of the message of “Reason to Believe,” the singer finds a reason to believe in the worth of his actions because they gave his life meaning not only despite the fact but perhaps because they so directly led to his death.

We’re all going to die, but it’s what we do in the time before that day comes that should define our lives. Taken out of the murderous context of the song, lines like “At least for a little while sir me and her we had us some fun” could be applied to the E Street Band currently rocking out every night of this tour despite the fact that their end is nearing. Yet instead of focusing on their inevitable demise, they’re using its shadow to add greater significance to their current act. Death should always be a presence in these shows, but the main focus should be continuing to celebrate the vivacious life and the fun that we have had and still have in us and with each other. One of the final images of “Nebraska” actually depicts this concept of continually celebrating what gave our lives meaning in the face of certain death: “Sheriff when the man pulls that switch sir and snaps my poor head back / You make sure my pretty baby is sittin’ right there on my lap.”

Though “Nebraska” may have been one of the highlights of the night for me, no doubt this concert will most probably be remembered for what occurred during “Ramrod” in the encores. In the middle of yet another high-octane performance of what should be an encore-staple on this tour,[15] the overwhelming energy just proved too much for the technical capacity of AccorHotels Arena. In a near-repeat of the fuse blowing before the shows in 2012, the stage lights AND sound went completely out. Since Bruce always turns on the house lights at the start of the encores, the crowd was luckily not cast into total darkness, but clearly something was amiss since all that could be heard were the faint sounds of the instruments without any microphone amplification nor accompanying light show. The subtle burning smell that filled the arena confirmed our suspicion: the E Street Band had blown out the power in the joint.

Yet instead of just blowing the joint by immediately cancelling the show, Bruce and the E Street Band did the only thing they know how to do in the face of the end potentially being forced upon them: keep rocking. Bruce at first had Jake continue his sax solo unamplified, and though a few members of the Pit tried to loudly sing the lyrics in Bruce’s stead, most of the arena couldn’t hear enough of either to catch on. Yet that didn’t stop the place from letting out rousing ovation after rousing ovation – they were aware from the start that this was a special circumstance worth celebrating and having fun through. Bruce clearly agreed – he rallied his band member troops, let them gather their instruments, and then they all went for a little tour around the Pit and up over the center platform in the middle of the crowd like only the world’s most famous glorified traveling garage band could. Stevie and Soozie remained on stage to keep the audience clapping, and Garry was by their side literally hurling water bottles into the now air conditioning-deprived crowd.

The traveling band

Once everyone returned to the stage, they huddled up with a few backstage members of the crew to review the situation. As he always does, Bruce wanted to keep the crowd involved with what was happening on stage, so he borrowed a sign and simply wrote, “5 mins” on it. He spent those five minutes in much the same way he’s spent a good majority of his more conventional concert time on this tour: showing his fans how much he appreciates them, taking a seat on the downstage center platform and autographing anything that the people standing around it presented to him.[16]

Bruce’s sign
Signing autographs

About 15 minutes after the lights first went out, the stage became illuminated again,[17] Bruce checked his microphone, and with a, “Is it quitting time? Is it fuse blowing time? Then what time is it?!” introduction, Bruce returned everyone to Boss time as usual.[18] Perhaps too usual – I was honestly surprised that Bruce didn’t switch up the encores a bit to commemorate the incident.[19] He did add a new question in his build up to “Shout” – repeating, “Can you hear me?! ARE YOU SUUUURE?!?!” – but the rest of the night simply included new variations on old shtick, from Bruce changing his introduction for Stevie to, “The King King King King King of the Underground” – with each “king” landing on the downbeats of “Shout” – to Bruce donning a shiny boxing robe with “The Boss” inscribed on the back that Stevie threw over him while pretending to escort him offstage out of exhaustion. After Bruce once again said, “The Boss has left the building,” Bruce of course threw off the robe, ran to his mic, and launched back into “Shout.”

The Boss leaving the building

Bruce did, however, directly comment on the fuse blowing two separate times towards the very end of the night. Before “Thunder Road,” he said, “What a surprising night…what a great night. Electricity is on, it’s off, it’s on, it’s off. Nothing stops the mightiness of the E Street Band!” And in his nightly rhymed litany of an introduction for the Band, Bruce called them, “the rock out till the lights go out E Street Band.”

Though he was quite literally referring to the lights going out, these sentiments could easily be interpreted figuratively to speak to the predominant message of the night, which was unintentionally manifested in the events surrounding the Band blowing the fuse. Of course Bruce didn’t intend for the power to go out, but his and the Band’s reaction epitomized their approach to this entire tour. They had every right to hang up their guitars and stop the show, but instead they refused to relent, deciding instead to keep rocking for both the benefit of the crowd and for themselves as the literal darkness loomed over them. The Boss said it best: until those figurative lights go out for good, they will continue to rock out so that we believe nothing can stop the mighty Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

Though you may still think that this River Tour 2016 has no real message, that it’s uninspired, that the Band’s best days are behind them, that the setlists are predictably boring, that it’s a money grab, that it’s ludicrous to want to see so many concerts, nights like Paris 1 should give all of us a reason to believe.





[1] Another question that was answered: yes, horrendously corporate name changes are forced upon European venues in the same way as their American counterparts.

[2] Inside AccorHotels Arena, there was a line of lights above the middle of the floor in addition to the usual ones over the stage. Though these were pointed at the stage, they also illuminated a good majority of the audience, just one of the many technical aspects of this arena that allowed the crowd to feel more a part of the show. You can see these lights here:


[3] I can’t tell you if this was soundchecked because no one could hear the soundcheck – one of the only downsides of an indoor arena.

[4] The fact that he didn’t grant a single sign request backs up this point.

[5] Which featured more idealistically romantic and/or hopelessly depressing depictions of his small Jersey existence.

[6] It was soundchecked before Gothenburg 2.

[7] By the way, I’m friends with the guy in real life.

[8] Even more shocking is the fact that the song didn’t even appear on the written setlist, which means Bruce literally thought of this guy DURING the concert.

[9] Even those simply asking for elongated, heartfelt hugs, like the one he granted to a little girl as he made his way to the center platform during “I’m a Rocker.”

[10] Something he didn’t do on this night despite his return to an arena setting.

[11] Which is really saying something.

[12] Instead of just facing it in his direction like he usually does.

[13] Bruce also clearly places much importance in setting a fittingly quiet and somber aural stage for the song. As he cued up Roy and Soozie, someone in the Pit knew that Bruce pointing to their piano and violin, respectively, always means “Jungleland” is about to be played. As such, he screamed out, “OH MY GOD ‘JUNGLELAND!’ Bruce heard the exclamation, turned to the guy, and shushed the whole crowd with a smile.

[14] Combined with “Mansion on the Hill” in Belgium, can we expect these mid-show solo performances near the end of the first record of The River to become nightly occurrences? I hope so. Also, since he played THREE different solo songs here, can we all agree that Bruce is clearly ready to get his long-gestating solo album and subsequent tour up and running??

[15] I think Bruce is gradually coming to agree with this sentiment, especially since every subsequent performance of it has ramped up the hijinks. And after this little memorable incident, I think it’s safe to assume we’ll be road-housing in the encores for many shows to come.

[16] Interesting note: a cameraman came on stage to film Bruce signing autographs…even though none of the screens were working. Perhaps they’re making a documentary about this tour that just hasn’t been announced yet? Annie Leibovitz also spent much of the show popping up to the top of the stairs in the back of the stage to constantly snap photos of Bruce and the Band. He normally doesn’t allow photographers to be so visible, but Annie Leibovitz deservedly gets what Annie Leibovitz wants.

[17] Somewhat…it took a few minutes for all of the lights to return to normal.

[18] Minus the fact that the big screens never came back on.

[19] For those who are claiming that he purposefully followed “Ramrod” with “Dancing in the Dark” because the stage had just been cast into darkness, two retorts: 1) “Dancing in the Dark” is ALWAYS played in that slot, and 2) THE STAGE WASN’T CAST INTO DARKNESS BECAUSE ALL OF THE HOUSE LIGHTS STAYED ON. Okay, rant over. Also, the only explanation that I can come up with regarding why Bruce stuck to his usual script: perhaps his teleprompter wasn’t working?




  1. Incident on 57th Street
  2. Reason to Believe
  3. Badlands
  4. Into the Fire
  5. The Ties That Bind
  6. Sherry Darling
  7. Jackson Cage
  8. Two Hearts
  9. Independence Day
  10. Hungry Heart
  11. Out in the Street
  12. Crush on You
  13. You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
  14. Death to My Hometown
  15. Nebraska
  16. The River
  17. Point Blank
  18. Cadillac Ranch
  19. I’m a Rocker
  20. Darlington County
  21. Tougher Than the Rest
  22. Drive All Night
  23. Because the Night
  24. The Rising
  25. Land of Hope and Dreams
  26. Jungleland
  27. Born to Run
  28. Ramrod
  29. Dancing in the Dark
  30. Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
  31. Shout
  32. Bobby Jean
  33. Thunder Road

One thought on “PARIS 1: ‘The River’ Rushes On So Effortlessly

  1. Blair

    A great show. I last heard the band version of Reason to Believe on the European leg of the Magic tour in Dublin. This was a more powerful version. The fact that it followed the Solo Incident and was so early in the set and so unexpected seemed to light up the crowd. I certainly felt that this was going to be a great night. The fact that arena shows with the ESB in Europe are now so rare makes them special. The dimming of the lights, closeness to the audience and at Bercy the audience behind the stage give the shows a different feel to outdoor shows. Bruce retained the intensity right through the show and the interaction with the crowd at the power outage seemed to provide a feeling of were having a great time and this show is going to be completed as intended which the band and the audience totally shared.

    Liked by 1 person

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