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Posts Tagged ‘Vrångö’

Where do I begin? Other than at the beginning, I mean. The memories are still burning in me, and I could write for days about each moment.

Of course it starts in Göteborg, and the sunny days ahead of the gigs, spent lazily in the Archipelago, on Vrångö, a beautiful small island, or walking around in the city it’s self, taking far too many pictures, or trying to fix Marianne’s computer, (she is a dear friend and was our host, thank you again, it was great to spend time with you again!!).

Göteborg is a beautiful city. It is the second largest city in Sweden. It is located on the West coast, Beautiful, green, lush and friendly with it’s own lovely archipelago and a large harbour. With the canal, the aforementioned harbour, large green parks and mix of new and old architecture, it’s a joy to wander around in this city. I truly love it there, I even joined the queue for the concert a day later than Inger and Marianne did so that I could spend an extra day photographing, I had a great day and got some really good shots! (If you want to know where they are, ask and I’ll tell you Hint; Instagram.)

For those who aren’t familiar with the concept of queuing for a concert, let me explain briefly. When a big artist such as Bruce announces a tour it’s normally done several months in advance. The ticket release date is announced shortly thereafter and the first queue starts. Queuing means exactly what the word implies, that we camp outside either the box office for the ticket release in order to ensure that we get tickets, because Bruce, at least in Europe, sells out in minutes, or outside the venue a few days in advance of the concert to ensure that we get into the pit, the closed off area directly in front of the stage. This is important to us fans because of the contact that we get with Bruce and the energy that flows back and forth between Bruce and the band on the one hand and Bruce, the band and us in the pit on the other. Another good part about being in the pit is that you are standing, not having to worry about blocking someone else’s view. During the shows I am normally jumping up and down or dancing along with everyone else in the pit. But I remember seeing him in Paris at the Stade de France, with Inger and our friend Laurie Ball in 2003. I wasn’t able to get into the pit, and it was raining something awful so I wouldn’t have wanted to anyway without a proper coat. I was enjoying the show as usual, but in the seats this time and got told in no uncertain terms to SIT DOWN!! I laughed and politely reminded the boisterous Frenchman that this was a Bruce Springsteen concert and not the opera. (To quote the Boss, “When they said sit down, I stood up”).

This time, in Göteborg, I was reluctant to queue, I must admit. I wondered out loud if maybe I was getting too old, and the idea of sleeping in a tent didn’t really appeal to me that much anymore, but, if my wife wanted to queue, and she did, then I would do it too. The weather in Göteborg had been, for the most part, perfect. Warm, sunny with just enough breeze to keep it from becoming unbearable. Friday was the exception. It got hot! We were outside all day, in the sun.

Anyway, This was now Göteborg, Bruce was here and I was going to be in the pit that night, so nothing was going to keep me from enjoying it, Well, ok, nothing except for sunstroke.. It was a great show!!  An excellent blend of old and new, including an incredibly beautiful rendition of Drive all Night, with two saxophone solos by Jake, the equally beautiful and rare Cover Me. and Youngstown with Nils Lofgrens unbelievable guitar solo leading directly into Murder Incorporated. It really was a great show, Bruce has a history that when he has multiple shows in a city, then the successive shows tend to be better, and if the first show was THIS GOOD, then hold on tight cuz the next night was going to be amazing!

However, having said all that, I started to feel queasy about half way through the concert, feeling somewhat faint. But refusing to give in. I sort of feared what was going on, but simply was not going to miss a minute of the show! Right after the show, we raced to get numbers for the Saturday night queue. By then, I was starting to get a migraine together with the sunstroke, and soon after I was shaking almost uncontrollably. Inger was wonderful. Focused and caring, she immediately called a medical help number, and her, Marianne, and Emelie, whom we had met when we joined the queue and had camped in the tent next to ours, were all very caring and helpful.

After Inger and I spoke to the medical emergency phone centre, the ambulance came to our campsite, located behind a local cinema house very close to Ullevi, and took me to the hospital where I spent the night being awakened every time I started to sleep. (They do that on purpose cuz they’re mean) Inger was staying with me at the hospital and Marianne had stayed behind and spoken to the guy who was running the queue for that show, so that we wouldn’t lose our place in the queue. After yet another almost sleepless night, some intravenous fluids and some migraine medicine, I was released at around 12:30. And where does a true Bruce fan go after such a night you ask? BACK TO THE QUE OF COURSE!!

The weatherman decided to give me a break from the heat on Saturday, which was great. However, about an hour after I get back, instead of heat, we got a dreadful rain and electrical storm. 30 millimetres, or about 13 inches of rain in just 2 hours!! When the time the rain started we were all in a fenced in area right next one of the entrances to the arena and could not leave for shelter. So there we were, some 300 or so fans hiding under our raincoats or ponchos trying to survive and not get lost in the flood.

We were let into the pit area inside the arena during the worst of the storm and stood close to each other to stay dry. There was very little of the usual play that happens before a Bruce gig, we were all busy trying to be dry  (an impossible task) and warm. The start of the gig was delayed about 45 minutes, probably hoping the rain would stop and it finally did. But even if it hadn’t, I had been trough too much the night before to allow anything to dampen my enjoyment. (Do pardon the pun)
The show on Saturday was incredible!!!! Absolutely the best show I have ever been to by anyone! Songs like Downbound Train, played with an incredible emotion, Bruce played Lost in the Flood, a request, with amazing power after having a quick impromptu run through of the beginning with Roy, the pianist. Bruce has never been this open in front of the fans before, it felt like we were being invited in where we simply had never gone before. Later came It’s hard to be a Saint in the City, also a request and one rarely played. Bruce introduced it as the song that got him his recording contract.  Where the bands are, brilliant choice, rain or shine by then we all wanted to be where ever this band was. Backstreets, again Ohhhh my! Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant! I’ve heard Bruce do this a couple of times but never this well, never with the emotions, the feeling, the true passion from him and the band, and another song of true beauty, one that he rarely plays, Frankie. It’s a beautiful song.
The emotions of the night were evident on Bruce’s face all night. He has a wonderful warm honest smile when he plays, he loves his work, but I’ve never seen him as sincere as tonight. At the end of the show, Bruce thanked the audience for “two amazing nights” and an Oh my God, seldom heard from Bruce onstage. I would gladly get out of a hospital bed for nights like this!

The band has lost two original members over the last couple of years. Organist and accordionist Danny Federici and saxophonist Clarence Clemons both have passed. Bruce has toured in 2009 without Danny, but Clarence died just slightly over a year ago and his presence was truly felt. His impact on the band, his presence during the gigs and his overall stature was remarkable and no show would be complete without him. He also had personal ties to Sweden, so the true Swedish fans would miss him very much for a number of reasons. It was fitting and wonderful when Bruce mentioned this towards the end of the gig, as a way of introducing Jungleland. One of the most moving songs I have ever heard, with an incredible, long solo on the sax brilliantly laid down in the original version by Clarence. It is his nephew, Jake Clemons who took over most of the sax solos in his absence and it must have been very challenging and moving for him to premiere that piece here in Sweden. There weren’t too many dry eyes afterwards, I would guess and Jake did a great job on the solo. It was truly moving as we could see the emotions on Jakes and Bruce’s faces as well as our own.
The Swedish fans are amazing.  I have to admit that. Their reputation for being great fans is very well deserved they have always had a very close and special relationship with Bruce and the Band and some of his best shows in Europe have been here. They have an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of Bruce, his songs, music and history, and Bruce has commented on how much he greatly appreciates that. During the Friday show, I saw Bruce do something I’ve never seen him do before. The Friday show had all the incredible energy that one could ever hope for in a Bruce show. The fans truly gave Bruce all the love that he so seems to crave and deserve during his shows, and at one point or maybe a couple of times, he actually turned to Steve and Max and shook his head in disbelief at the tremendous generosity of the fans and couldn’t say anything but “WOW!” I thought that was amazing and truly said a lot. This was something truly unique.

I have read a number of reviews by fans of Bruce or by music critics from sites such as Greasylake or Backstreets who have gone to many more gigs than I have, and who were at the show on Saturday and they all say the same thing. It was maybe the finest gig they have ever seen. The exchange between Bruce and the fans, the rain, the music, the emotional performances of Frankie among others, and Jungleland, the set list in general and the special requests all combined to give us a night we’ll never forget and thought would never be topped. In some ways, that’s correct, and while we waited in the pit for the third gig, the show in Helsinki, to begin, I told my wife that I thought this show could in no way match the two in Göteborg, especially the second show. That was about 2 hours before the scheduled start time. She nodded and said she understood, but wasn’t going to give up quite yet. She was right.

About 10 or 15 minutes after I said that, Bruce blew everyone away. In a move that shows everyone why the fans love this guy so much, with the stadium only about one-third full, he showed why patience and faith would be rewarded. He came onstage two hours before the starting time, but not just to say something to the tech people. I have seen Nils or even Steve do that a couple of times, but I’ve never seen Bruce do that. But even when they’ve done that, it’s normally with a quick wave to the fans and then right back off stage again. And NEVER WITH A GUITAR IN HAND! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? BRUCE IS ONSTAGE STRUMMING A GUITAR?? WHAT ARE YOU DOING?? THE GIG DOESN’T START FOR ANOTHER TWO HOURS!!

Here is this generous man, standing solo onstage talking personally to the fans in the front and saying he wants to do something special for those of us who had followed him around Europe, and travelled so many miles at our own expense just to see him and the band perform!!  He spotted and recognized many of the fans up front who had been to numerous shows, chatted with them, asked them personal questions that showed that he pays attention to them, made them feel like friends. I loved his comment that we were all broke and homeless and it was his fault!  It was incredible and very heart-warming. He then performed 5 songs, 4 of them tour premieres, including For You, which Inger had made a request sign for in hopes that he would see it. After the songs he walked slowly along the edge of the pit, shaking hands and chatting more with the fans, kissing the occasional cheek and getting a few kisses back, then he went backstage and left us all wondering what the hell was going on, but no one was complaining, we’d leave that to those who didn’t want to queue and still weren’t allowed in or couldn’t care enough to show up early.

Then there was the gig!! OHH MY GOODNESS!!!

Starting with a fantastic version of Rocking all over the World, it set the pace. It continued with a splendid version of Night, then Out in the Street, a true personal favourite of mine, and continued with two more favourites that I hadn’t heard him play for a long time if ever; Does this Bus Stop at 82nd Street and Light of Day. Ohhhhh my! This song rocks!!! He did a fantastic job with it! There were also soft and beautiful moments such as Be True and Back in Your Arms both beautifully done. Then it was time for the encores.
Can you believe 10 ENCORES!?? Among them Detroit Medley, Glory Days, Higher and Higher and even Steve’s song I Don’t Want to go Home (!!!!) We were all hoping that Southside Johnny, who was in town, would make a showing, but it wasn’t to be, but this version of Steve’s song, just Bruce and Steve on vocals with their two guitars, was fantastic. That could have ended the night, I would have gone home feeling incredible, filled up and much more than content. Bruce, as is usually the case, had more up his sleeve. Someone, it seems, told him that we were close to a 4-HOUR GIG! Of course he had to continue! With a long rocking version of Twist and Shout, this time a twist almost without end, the concert ended as his longest ever, 4 hours and 6 minutes! WOWWWWW

The day after we roamed around the beautiful fascinating city of Helsinki, a true gem on the Baltic Sea. Some of the coolest architecture of any city I have seen in my limited travels, it’s a great city to wander around in, but all we could talk about was Bruce and the amazing gifts we had been given by the greatest live performer I have ever seen or will ever see. I truly would be honoured if somehow he were to read this just so he would know that fact. Thanks Bruce, your music has truly changed my life in so many ways, and all for the good!

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