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:

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A Note on Footnotes

A few hours ago, my girlfriend and I were chatting about how the airport in Milan that we had just flown into for tomorrow’s concert looked like it was in the middle of a forest. Recalling the last time that I felt as if I was in such woodland terrain – at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin – I made some throwaway comment about the craziness of seeing wild boars running across the entrance to the stadium a few nights before the concert. She responded – as she often relentlessly does – with lighthearted, self-pitying scorn, “Oh, you mean the boars that I asked you to send me a picture of yet you still haven’t?!” Matching scorn with scorn, and taking the opportunity once again to question whether my Bruce-resenting girlfriend ACTUALLY reads my lengthy diatribes, I retorted, “I included a picture of the ol’ boars in the footnotes of my Berlin piece, which you not only claimed to have read but even liked! As such, you totally should’ve seen the furry creatures by now…” Her fateful response, which inspired this rather random, hopefully brief post:

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OSLO 1: Lost in the Flood of The River

Bruce has gotten the message.

After weeks upon weeks of European fans begging to hear more River tracks, Bruce has finally started to give them what they want. But at Oslo’s Ullevaal Stadium on Wednesday night, Bruce also had a message for his fans in return, one that has already been proven true countless times on this tour:

Never underestimate the setlist a seemingly minor market may receive.

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GOTHENBURG 2: The Anatomy of a Near-Flawless “River” Tour 2016 Setlist

Click here to read my thoughts on Gothenburg 1.

The most common conversation amongst diehard fans regarding this River Tour 2016 has undoubtedly concerned Bruce’s setlist construction. In Europe, tramps have repeatedly chastised Bruce for forsaking far too much of the album that gives this tour its name, opting instead to play just as many – if not more – of the same songs from Born in the U.S.A, a casual fan favorite. If they’re not going to be treated to the E Street Band’s signature live spontaneity, then Europeans at least want their predictable setlists to be full of songs actually from The River.

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GOTHENBURG 1: Let the Music Take Us and Carry Us Home

“This song is about the way the radio connected everybody when we were young. When you heard something you loved and it felt so personal to you – like a secret whispered into your ear – you were sitting home alone at night. Yet somewhere inside, you knew you were connected to all of these other people, dreaming the same dream as you were in that moment.”

This quote comes from Bruce’s introduction to “Save My Love” during the Band’s first of two concerts at Gothenburg’s Ullevi Stadium, but it also rather succinctly captures both the Swedes’ special connection with the Boss, and how they share that connection with the international community of fans who always descend on their lovely country when Bruce and the Band pay a visit. Comprehending the nature of this connection is key to understanding why Bruce always seems to treat Sweden to unique concerts, and this one the second longest of his career in terms of duration at three hours and 57 minutes, and tied for the most songs ever played at 38 was no exception.

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COPENHAGEN: A Tale of Two Halves

A shorter version of this post originally appeared on Backstreets.com, which you can read here.

Though most fans have marked Paris as the only European city being treated to indoor concerts, Copenhagen’s Telia Parken Arena definitely fit the bill. With a closed retractable roof and a relatively small, rundown, square-ish configuration reminiscent of a larger version of Baltimore’s Royal Farms Arena, the arena provided a new atmosphere for a European concert: dark, intimate, and stiflingly hot.[1] And yet, none of these adjectives accurately described the concert itself, which was full of light, joyful party anthems to please the masses, with a three hour and 15-minute setlist featuring three and a half tour premieres that at first felt like a fantastic breath of fresh air…until the second half of the show.

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BERLIN: You Inherit the Sins, You Inherit the Rock and Roll Flames

From the very first song of Sunday’s three hour and 22-minute, 33-song concert in Berlin, Bruce seemed to make a point of constructing a setlist that specifically, albeit subtly commented upon the tragic history and hopeful future of this extraordinary city. One of the MANY benefits of stalking following Bruce around Europe is realizing how much the different cultures of every city and country he plays changes how the same songs resonate on any given night, regardless of whether or not Bruce consciously intends to elicit a multiplicity of reactions.[1] And in Berlin, it felt as if almost every song – specifically in the first, less predictable half of the setlist – spoke to the past and present of this historically-rich metropolis, and the exuberant crowd’s passionate response was hopefully a sign that they understood the message.

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THE HAGUE: We’re in Love with a Jersey Boy

As scheduled, a few minutes after 7:30pm, Bruce and the Band casually took the stage that had been set up specifically for them at this quasi-festival within the Malieveld, which is basically a giant field in the middle of The Hague in Holland. No music accompanied their frills-less entrance, yet instead of the silence leading to another solo performance by Bruce at the piano, he and the Band simply launched into the now-standard European opening three-pack of “Badlands,” “No Surrender,” and “My Love Will Not Let You Down.” Matching his new vacation tan, Bruce was as laid-back as laid-back can be, at first giving off the impression that this would basically be a warmup show with a predictable, uncreative setlist to get him and the Band back in gear after their week-long break. But if this was indeed their initial plan, three hours and twenty-four minutes and 32 songs later, the 67,500 fans packing the Malieveld to the brim had elevated the night from being just another stop on the tour to one of the best shows so far, with Bruce and the rejuvenated Band not only feeding off their energy but giving them a special setlist to boot.

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COVENTRY: Saving My Love for This Travelin’ Band

A shorter version of this piece was originally published on Backstreets.com, which you can read here.

Five tour premieres? In Coventry?! Where the hell IS Coventry?!

Bruce and the Band clearly knew, and they showed up big time at the relatively small Ricoh Arena[1] for yet another three-hour and ten-minute, 33-song spectacular. Though that many tour premieres would lead some to assume the setlist was one of the absolute best of the tour, unfortunately the fact that they were all clumped on either end of the show prevented it from scaling those lofty heights, especially since the stretch in between almost derailed the whole evening thanks to a series of brutally predictable setlist decisions. The night was ultimately a tale of two great, expertly paced halves, with a subpar deviation separating the two.

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