2003-05-27, Crystal Palace National Sports Arena, London, England

The Rising Tour
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Appr. 3 hours. "Born in the USA" is done solo acoustic.

Eyewitness accounts

Were you there? Write about it!
Magnus Lauglo wrote: Sure enough, Bruce emerged at about 725pm alone with a black 12 string. He went straight into BUSA. He had soundchecked part of it either that day or the day before, so it was no huge surprise, but a nice change anyway. It sounds much like the version we are all familiar with on the LINYC album, but has some very fast strumming at the end. It was nice to hear a different song to open, but I must say Ryancoke is comepletely right about these acoustic opener. The song does not work very well at all as an opener. Back in 93, Bruce opened with maybe 3 acoustic numbers with Roy, and I think that worked very well. But for whatever reason, the acoustic BUSA is no great opener for an ESB show like this. If Bruce wants to play it, he should do it later in the set, and if he wants to shake up the opening slot, he should feel welcome to use any one of his many rock songs, from No Surrender to FOUTR. But barring that, The Rising works just fine. BUSA was the most political Bruce ever got throughout the show, as on the first night in London, he would hardly speak at all between songs.

After BUSA, the band came onstage all at the same time, and went into The Rising. The next real surprise of the set was the post Lonesome Day spot, and I was awaiting it eagerly. As the last note of Lonesome Day died down, I made out Max s frantic drumming on the cymbals, and I realised we were in for Candy s Room. This is a great song, and one I hadn t heard live before. It starts very slowly, as Bruce speaks (rather than sings) the first few lines, and I think part of the momentum the band had built up with Lonesome Day was lost. But then the song picked up, the drumming got louder and heavier, and within a few moments the crowd was up and rocking again. By the time Bruce cried out; She says baby if you wanna be wild, you got a lot to learn the pace had been reached again. I don t remember much about the song, most versions sound the same to me anyway. I think maybe Bruce s guitar solo was slower than usual. It was great to hear, and clearly Bruce thought it worked well in this slot, as he kept it there for the next 2 shows. Next up was Prove it, which made a welcome return and then a slow powerful Atlantic City, which chugged along at a relentless constant pace, like a giant locomotive. On the setlist I would see later, it emerged that Atlantci City was a last minute replacement for Darkness.

Empty Sky and You re Missing followed, and were received pretty well, but these songs really belong in an arena show. One thing about the stadiums is that they are inherently less intimate than arenas. Even if you are front row, you are further from Bruce than you would be in an arena, by several meters (over a dozen feet). I met one or two fans who said they actually preferred stadiums because there was very little pushing at the front. But give me an arena any time. I actually think a little bit of pushing only adds to the excitement of being at the front. Immediately after You re Missing ended, the fans at the front began to raggedly singing the Waiting on a Sunny Day riff. Bruce seemed amused by this, but finally said Let me start , before ploughing into the song. Steve is now singing the first chorus. I personally would suggest most humbly that he should keep to singing harmonies and backup. Waiting... is the first song that sees Bruce come out on the front ramp, which gets him closer ot the fans in front, and also has him running out to the left and right wings. I can see the song being a setlist standard if he ever plays stadiums again on future tours.

Next up I think was Sherry Darling. This was an audible, replacing the planned Darlington County (reversing the pattern from the night before). Clearly Bruce was going to mix up the songs for us, he even made some comment to this effect at one point ; Who was here last night? (loud cheering) We re gonna play some different things for you tonight . It was great to hear the song again; it s a happy fun summer song, which should definetely stay in heavy rotation this summer. Steve tackled the short guitar solo - he is being given more solos than before, and later he would also play the short solo on Badlands. Then Clarence did his best on the sax part, but the result was sort of piecemeal. In fact, for those of you who are famailiar with it, it sounded a little like the sax on the Darkness studio outtake version. I don t now if this was on purpose or not. Needless to say, Big Man would shine brighter later on in the week.

Worlds Apart followed. As on all four shows I saw this past week, the intro is shorter. Bruce does far less of the wailing and clapping his hands above his head in the beginning, almost as if he s rushing through the song. Like much of the Rising material, the song worked better last year, but in this case Bruce could easily bring it back to its old heights by not rushing through it so much. Nice to see Danny on the accordian though.

Following a robust Badlands as I had hoped, the band went straight into She s the One. This is a great old song, and I was looking forward to hearing the harmonica solo at the end, which I believe Bruce began doing last autumn. Towards the end of the song, I think Kevin Buell threw him a harp, and Bruce used it to finish the end of the song in grand bluesy fashion, much like his final guitar assault on the live versions of the song from 78. It s a great addition to a live song which has a long tradition of going through musical changes and improvisation.

Next up was Mary s Place, during which Bruce once again exhorted the London audience with reserved tickets to get out of their seats. I don t know which night in London got the better crowd, but Bruce saw fit on both nights to try to get people out of their seats. Stadiums are massive, and even the moderatedly sized Crystal Palace at about 40K made for quite a challenge for the band. At one point during the song, I remember Patti and Clarence did a funny flirty little dance across the stage as Bruce was pacing back and forwards along the front ramp.

I was hoping for something other than Jungleland towards the end of the man set. I had waved my Sandy sign at a few points, until an over-zealous security guard told me to put it down. I had also spotted another request sign for the same song behind me, so I was hopeful that we might get it. But not tonight. I heard the opening piano chords to Racing in the Street and was almost as ecstatic as I would have been if he had played my song. This was another Darkness song I had never heard before, it had eluded me even though I caught over a dozen shows on the last tour. Finally he was playing it, and I was right there in the second row. Being slightly shell shocked, I don t remember much about the performance, but I did notice that at the end, when they do that final long musical bit (which I had previously thought of as more or less a piano solo), the whole band, including Clarence were playing, rather than just Roy.

Then we got Into the Fire, which is probably Patti s best song, and Thunder Road, which will hopefully stay in the set for the rest of the summer. This was perhaps Clarence s best moment of the night, he held the last note of his solo at the end, and all was right in the world.

So far, the show had been very impressive. Setlistwise nearly every song that could conceiveably have been changed from the night before had changed. This trend continued with the first encore set, which kicked off with quite a surprise; Night. I m not sure this obscure song works so well so late in the show but it was great to hear again, and the crowds in the reserved seating began moving around and generally looking as if they were alive. A rambunctious Ramrod followed, and a young girl (perhaps Bruce s daughter?) sneaked out on stage to put a plastic British policeman s helmet on Roy s head as he played his piano solo.

As BTR drew to a close I was hoping for Detroit Medley, and that s exactly what we got. I had seen part of the medley played as part of light of Day on the last tour, and I had hoped in vain that he might play the medley in Detroit last year. Finally, on my 26th show, and after seeing Bruce live for 10 years, I got the medley, and surely anybody who wasn t up and stomping along to this one must have been physically, or at least emotionally dead. They aren t doing that long instrumental solo anymore, but trust me, it is still great to hear. Again, as with many of the Holy shit, I can t believe I m seeing him play this! type songs, I don t remember much of the performance. But it was wonderful to finally hear live. As he drew to the end of the medley it looked like he might not be done yet. I wondered if he was going to add a fifth song, perhaps I Hear a Train or Travelling Band.

But it seemed the band didn t pick up on this. When he went into Seven Nights (clearly an audible), you could see at least some of the E Streeters were taken completely by surprise. I think I saw Nils frantically changing guitars, and Clarence stood looking dumbfounded and shocked for several seconds, his back bent in what looked like utter exhaustion. What can I say, this is what is must have been like back in the day, when the E Street Band were playing three hours or more every nght, and you never really knew when the show would finish. Mercifully for the band, and many in the audience, Seven Nights closed the first encore.

The second encore was standard fare, Bruce thanked the fans again before playing MCOR, which never fails to impress, and a happy looking Jon Landau joined the band onstage for Dancing in the Dark as he had the night before.

Bruce hit London with two powerful shows. Despite an average at best crowd, the band put a great deal of energy into the sets, and clearly had a lot of fun. The second London show was also had one of those jawdropping setlists for those in attendance, and I m sure for those sitting at home following things online. Of the four shows I saw, I think the London gigs had the most energy.

Darren Cooksey wrote: Vive le Boss It s Boss time!

Bruce came out alone with his acoustic guitar just before 1930 hours, and began with the stripped down version Of Born in the USA. Not the opener I was hoping for but he kind of won me over with it. By the way, the sound tonight was perfect, no distortions in the mix at all. Up next was The Rising which had everyone singing along, and they obliged with Lonesome Day too. A really good natured crowd here tonight with a number of Italians in the crowd (One with a sign for Point Blank & Lost in the Flood). Candy's Room seemlessly segued into Prove it All Night, and then the first real surprise of the night...Atlantic City. The first time he has performed this since Atlantic City, NJ last March. He seemed to point to a sign in the crowd before playing this, however I do not know if it was on the original setlist. Prior to Empty Sky he asked " Who was here last night?" and nearly everyone raised their hand! Bruce responded by saying "Yeah right! Get outta here!" He then promised some more different songs later in the set. The crowd were very patient for the two Rising ballad's, and exactly the opposite for Sunny Day, as eveyone joined in the singing. One of the highlights of the show. A great Sherry Darling followed with Bruce goofing up to his three kids who were sitting at the side of the stage. The rest of the first set continued with World's Apart, an extended Badlands, a welcome rest for Out in the Street as it's replacement She's The One got it's second only airing on this European tour, a fantastic Mary's Place with Bruce gave everything, a welcome Racing in the Street, followed by Into The Fire and Thunder Road.

The encores began with a surprise, with Night getting the nod this time. The extended Ramrod complete with the band leaving the stage except for Roy, who is left to tinkle his ivories in the spotlight. During this moment one of Bruce's daughters put a Policemans helmet on his head!! Very amusing, very...London! The show rocked out with Born To Run, Detroit Medley and Seven Nights To Rock. Sheer heaven, Bruce does this old Rock'n' Roll nuggets so well he should do it more often The band have such a good time with this I'm sure it'll be played every night till the tour has finished. A final (too predictable maybe) trio of City Of Ruins, Land of hope & Dreams and Dancing in the Dark completed the set. Next stop, Manchester!

Alasdair Craik wrote: Radically different set list from last night (1 song less from "The Rising" and 9 (yes 9 different songs). Never known so many changes over 2 nights - did somebody tell Bruce how many people had tickets for both nights?. I'm trying to decide which was better Monday or Tuesday - does it matter both nights were fantastic and the variety in set list made it essential to be there both shows - and he did "Candy's Room"!! Nils - I don't know if you read this site but we met on Oxford Street (Alasdair from Edinburgh), thank you for taking the time for talking to me, it must be a pain in the arse to be constantly recognised when you are just out having a walk but you were a complete gentleman and I respect you for that as much as I do for your musicianship.

Richard Pithouse wrote: I came all the way from Durban, South Africa to see Springsteen. This is the first time that I have been able to afford to make a trip like this so I can't compare it to any other Springsteen concerts.

When you have been looking forward to something so much for so long you begin to think that the reality can't possibly match your expectations. But the concert was better than I dared to hope. I expected but was still awed by the relaxed musical brilliance of everyone on stage. But I was amazed at the way in which Bruce gave himself, completely, to each song. Every song sounded as heartfelt and powerful as if it had just been summoned up in that moment and for that moment and the range of emotions evoked was extraordinary.

I guess that Springsteen was in an unsually buoyant mood that night (no 41 Shots or Youngstown and a lot of clowning around) but the thousands of us there experienced that (against the sneering snobbery of the British broadsheets) as life affirming - and not in any trite way, Springsteen has always worked really hard for an earned his happy endings.

I have learnt so much from Springsteen over the years. Seeing him lived just confirmed that he is one of very few artists, in any medium, who has consistently wrestled with (and walked with and seduced and fought and listened to and danced with) the things that really matter.


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