2003-05-29, Old Trafford Cricket Ground, Manchester, England

The Rising Tour
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Notes

Appr. 3 hours, 5 minutes. One of the longest shows of the tour this far. "Loose Ends" makes its only second appearance on the Rising tour.

Eyewitness accounts

Were you there? Write about it!
1534
Dafydd Lloyd wrote: 11th time I`ve seen Bruce (in all formats !) since `81. Must rank in the top 3 shows I`ve seen of him (with Birmingham, ` 81) and Sheffield, `88.

Excellent show, where he seemed even more upbeat and up for it than in `99 Manchester or Earl`s Court. Though a word to the wise, Bruce...You`re 53 old son, and attempting to hang upside down from the mic stand (and failing gloriously !) is not advisable ! Thanks for trying anyway !

The set list was awesome ! "Loose Ends" ! "Candy`s Room" ! "Sandy" ! "Meeting Across the River" ! "World`s Ap..." ! Sorry, wait a minute how did that get in there !

What`s more the E Streeters all seemed to be really enjoying themselves on an, incredibly, glorious evening in Manchester ! Even more so than usual !! Their unofficial motto - "Today, we will be wearing mostly black !". (It`s the new pink, doncha know !). Good to see that Clarence is intent on dragging the band back to those halcyon days when "they were a hat wearing band !". Good on ya Big Man !

One note of minor disappointment. At risk of being dragged unceremoniously through the streets of Asbury Park, naked bar for a Human Touch Tour T-Shirt and an embarrased smile, am I the only person in this cosmos who hancours for the return of the full-band version of Born in the U.S.A. ? I mean there`s only so much sprawling 12 string one can take before developing a nervous twich, know what I mean ? Great on CD, but live I do miss the power and emotion of the band version, even though its probably deemed politically insensitive post - The Bush/Blair Tour of the Middle East 2003 !

Nevertheless, this was a great evening, and it does not surprise me that there is a rumour of the guys playing Baseball stadia in the U.S. as Bruce (charmer that he is....o.k. creep !) said he`d really liked this Cricket Ground as a venue - even comparing cricket to its inferior (ooh controversial !) trans-atlantic copy, Baseball ! O.K. so I said "inferior" not him ! Sue me !

Suffice to say that you`re all in for a great time when Bruce comes stateside, particularly in New Jersey/New York where he seems to pull out all the stops ! Painful !

Enjoy. Take care....and speak to you soon !

RBA wrote: I went to see Bruce at Wembley Arena in October 2002, London, for the first time in my life as I've only loved his music for 4 years since i was 12.The show was the best show i'd ever seen in my life.But then, all of our family had got tickets for Manchester and I couldn't wait!At London we were very far back so we couldn't see him well. This time we wanted a great standing spot like everybody does.I'd just gone 16 2 days before, ready for my 2nd Springsteen gig.We arrived in Manchester at about 10.00am and we waited for 6 hours for the gates to open.There was me,my girlfriend,my two brothers and their girlfriends and my mum and dad.We were all - what every springsteen fan likes to think, No1 fans.People were getting frustrated about the system that had been arranged but when the gates opened people were going crazy to get in.I remember racing past loads of older men to get to the front,I lived my dream at 16 years old. Me and my family were all together at the front, not right next to the barrier but a line back and we were close enough to smell the sweat from bruce and that did it for me.His face was so clear and we were right in line with the microphone.My second gig and we all made the front.After that we all had to wait another 3 hours plus for him to arrive but them 9 hours were definatly worth waiting for.The show was more than what I expected and after 3 hours of waiting at the front i still wasn't prepared for what was about to happen.I am not going to bother telling you how it was the best rock n roll show ever because you should know, it's bruce springsteen! Of course it's going to be the best show ever! Even though i felt like i was going to collapse because my feet couldn't take standing, I still never wanted the show to end.Even though I thought to myself after 'I'll never forget this night' after a week I couldn't clearly remember the show.But then i went on to the Glory Days wesite the other week and their is a picture of Manchesters gig and we are all on it.I looked at them and i re-captured an amazing, memorable night.Every song was a highlight, especially the old,classic Thunder Road!We can only hope now, that he comes back to rock the land of hope and dreams!

Magnus Lauglo wrote: We had been debating what he d open with. I was expecting The Rising, Stefano was feeling an acoustic Darkness. Bruce came out alone around 725 again, with his acoustic guitar and went into the same acoustic BUSA he had opened the last show with. I was quite surprised he would repeat the song. Once again it was fun to hear, but it isn t the ideal opening number for a show like this

The band came onstage and next few standard songs saw a relatively tame crowd. The band took a little while to get warmed up, but Lonesome Day had a particularly strong ending, and then they assaulted us with a triple Darkness mini set. Candy s Room and Prove it had been played at the previous show, and I was a little surprised at the duplication here. Doesn t Bruce know that lots of people had been at the shows in London? And as for all the peeps who weren t in London, wouldn t they have been just as happy with any two other songs? Darkness on the Edge of Town was the first change from London show, and I thought it was a little disappointing, as Bruce has gone back to performing it the way he did it on the last tour. He speaks rather than sings the fist part of the verses and has stopped playing the guitar break at a higher pitch. In short, I wasn t being blown away yet.

After this, Bruce did a funny little stage rap about playing at a cricket field, and started comparing cricket to baseball. I don t remember everything, but the crux was that the only similarity he had figured out, was that in both games the ball is very small and hard, and you don t want it to hit you in the face. It was only a short little stage rap of a minute or two, but he probably spoke more at this point than he had throughout both London shows combined. It was clearly kind of novel to him, and though he wouldn t mention the near cancellation at all over the course of the evening, he would several times make comments about cricket.

Empty Sky and You re Missing were received pretty well by the crowd, which stayed quiet throughout the songs and clapped enthusiastically at the end. Standing a little further back at this show, I noticed the video screens, which worked very well. At such a big venue, they are an absolute must, but someone I spoke to after another show commented that he thought they were set too low to be seen properly from the very back of the pitch. They use a fair amount of superimposing (I think this is the right term), where they mix the image from two cameras in order to get say close ups of Bruce and Patti from different angles on the screen at the same time.

Waiting On a Sunny Day once again saw the band and crowd getting into the swing of things. For all the heavy power of the rockers in the early part of the show, the intensity is turned up a notch by this little crowd participation. On this song, and several others throughout the evening, I noticed that the bass was much too loud; the only sound complaint I have from the 4 shows I saw. This problem didn t seem to be corrected until the encores. Bruce is now regularly doing his funny little upside down trick with the mike stand on Waiting and in Manchester he got it wrong and knocked off the mike by accident with his foot, which caused much hilarity on stage and amongst the crowd.

Two Hearts followed with Steve and Bruce almost kissing the mike together. Nice to get a different song from London, but I do think this song was sort of played to death the last time the band toured.

The same cannot be said for the song that followed. The band opened with a few loud booming notes, and it took me a few seconds to figure what they were playing. I believe that Sherry Darling was on the setlist, but Bruce noticed AlsionPaige22 s request sign (which she had been displaying from the front row since the London shows) and at the last minute must have decided to make her a very happy Laker that night. We got Loose Ends for what I think was the first time in 2003 and only the second time on the tour.
Hardly anyone in the crowd knew the song, but people seemed happy enough to rock along with it. It was a booming thunderous version, and Clarence nailed the solo all the way up until just before the end, when he ran out of breath and Roy or Danny played the end. It sounded great, and gave me hope that Bruce was in a request sign honouring mood that night.

Eileen, sorry you missed your Sherry Darling, bring a sign next time J

Then we got very strong versions of several standard songs, Worlds Apart, Badlands, Out in the Street and Mary s Place. I noticed for the first time that Nils plays some sort of electric banjo at the beginning of Worlds Apart, then shifts to guitar and then banjo again towards the end. Part of the guitar solo at the end of Worlds Apart is very reminiscent of the Murder Inc. solo, and it struck me that this four song sequence, is very much like the centerpiece of the shows last tour. Certainly it seems that Bruce likes playing a fun strung out band intro type song two thirds of the way through the main set. There were some minor sax problems during OITS, but I could tell if it was Clarence or the actual sound system.

There was a lot of clapping from the Manchester crowd, and while it was hard to compare to London, as I was standing much further back, it seemed to me like the audience was overall a little more into the show than the Crystal Palace crowd had been. Still, Bruce tried to get people up from their asses during Mary s Place. It s time for Manchester Ass Rising! C mon I know you can do it! Besides, you gotta be standing up because I am about to introduce to you the members of the legendary E Street Band! Or something to that effect at least. I for one wouldn t mind Mary s Place to be cut down by 5 minutes or so, but this was undeniably a powerful version.

After Mary s Place a stand up bass as brought onstage and as on the first night in London we got Meeting Across the River. I was quite surprised by this. I had anticipated Jungleland but I expected Meeting to be quite a rarity. It would show up in Dublin as well, so guess Bruce likes it in the pre J.land slot. As I remember it, only Bruce, Gary and Roy play on this song, the remaining band members taking a break. Perhaps one of reasons Bruce plays it, is in order to most of give the band a break between Mary s place and Jungleland. Roy especially must get quite a workout! And Bruce of course, but we knew that already. The song was performed to perfection, and marred only by Garry s bass being too high in the mix.

Meeting was of course followed by Jungleland, and after Clarence s disappointing performance in London, I was holding my breath to see how the Big Man would hold up. You could tell he was taking short breaths throughout the song in between notes, but he played it note perfect. It gave me a great feeling. He may be past is prime but is clearly far from being on his last legs. Someone noted that on the Reunion tour Clarence was given oxygen after playing the solo, but now he rejuvenates simply by sitting down for the rest of the song. He is certainly not the only one, the show is set up so several band members get go off stage or sit down at various points. Maybe at some point the band will find it fit to do an unplugged and seated tour? (And for the record, I think that could be very exciting musically). I wouldn t be surprised if a future tour is closer to the 86 Bridge benefit than the 99-00 tour.

When they did Into the Fire I suddenly realized that I hadn t been thinking I wish I were closer to the stage for quite a while. Clearly it is best to be up close, but it isn t as if it is impossible to enjoy a show from further back once you ve been in the first few rows.
The main set closer, Thunder Road was dedicated to someone in the audience whose name sounded to me like Oscar Bruce .

The band returned for their first encore, and I was expecting Bobby Jean or some other rock song. But this was most gloriously not to be. The first clue I got was that Bruce didn t plough straight into one of his Awwnn, Two, Three Fawr countoffs. He had his guitar in its usual position, horizontal and low on the hip and introduced the next song as a request, and he then made contact with some fans several rows back to his right. I had seen some people with a Sandy sign (much bigger than my own, I should mention) in that position in London, could it possibly be ? He made some friendly joke with them something like; I met you and your husband You must have a great husband. Or something like that.

And then without further ado came what I was hoping for: Sandy I squealed in most unmanly fashion and fell to my knees as he sang; the fireworks are hailing over our little eden tonight . When people around me looked at my strangely, I showed my sign, and I got a friendly pat on the back from someone. Believe me folks, it was a beautiful version. He went straight into the song without any musical intro, but unlike the dry renditions from the last tour, he sang the song instead of speaking it. He sang it with a full voice. It was a happy warm performance with plenty of accordion and the whole band filled in sax and harmonies aplenty. I remember glimpsing Stefano a few meters away. I wanted to make eye contact, but his eyes were closed, with his arms raised to the sky like a man praying. I felt pretty religious myself right then. I don t know how many people in that massive cricket field knew the damn song, but they certainly cheered loud enough when it was finished. I think those 6 or 7 minutes were my favourite moment of the entire week. In retrospect, it meant far more to me than getting second row right in front of Bruce in London, or hearing a certain other Wild and Innocent gem in Dublin. It was in short THE SHIT.

Sandy put a rosy tinge of the rest of the encores for me. Some people were still seated during BTR, I guess it is inevitable that you can t reach everyone in such a large environment. Ramrod saw Bruce exclaiming Everybody stand back 500 feet and then writhing around on the stage in mock frenzy during Clarences solo. In his joking; It s quitting time bit with Steve, Bruce motioned at his wrist and said I don t believe they play cricket this late Seven Nights to Rock continues to work well in its slot, quite a feat for an unknown song.

During LOHAD, someone in the crowd set off four small fireworks which erupted above our heads. I for one felt a little nervous. Bruce saw them, and I wasn t sure if he would say anything, as we know he has had quite understandable issues with fireworks at his shows. He finished the song and went into DITD without any comment. Once again, Jon Landau joined the band for the last song. The second encore could really use a little flexibility. DITD gets everyone up and jumping around, but plenty of other songs could do the same, and in truth everything after the mammoth Ramrod sounds like almost a bit of an anticlimax.

Once again, Bruce delivered his usual sermon of faith, strength, hope and love. From the sounds of it, completely the opposite attributes to what Oasis had brought to the city earlier, which almost put a stop to Bruce s show. Hopefully Bruce reinstalled a belief in rock n roll for more than a few of the people of Manchester. As for me, this was my 27th Bruce show, and the biggest one I had ever seen. Even if I d take an arena over a stadium any day, he s proven to me that stadium shows do work, at least in Europe. People around me kept silent during Sandy, and then applauded loudly when it finished. I don t know if I would take that for granted even at the Meadowlands.

Darren Cooksey wrote: Phew! A scorching hot day in sunny Manchester and the show that nearly wasn't clocked in at three hours and 27 songs! A fantastic venue (An english cricket pitch right next to Manchester United F.C. which hosted the European cup final the night before between two Italian teams ).

Born in the USA - acoustic
The Rising
Lonesome Day
Candy's Room
Prove it all Night

( The same opening five as the last show, a little disapointing for regular Bruce fans, but just a minor quibble)

Darkness on the Edge of Town

(Prior to Empty Sky, Bruce greets the crowd and goes 'on' quite a length about cricket and it's similarities to Baseball, being very sarcastic and getting huge laughs from the crowd. He ends by saying " and those cricket balls are really hard too, so thats the same ( as baseball ) if they hit you in the nuts it really hurts!! Not for the first time Patti just shakes her head and smiles. Rock star husbands, who'd have em?

Empty Sky
Youre Missing

(Prior to 'Sunny Day' the crowd start singing, out of key,the Do Doo refrain, promting Bruce to say "no, no wait for the band to start! That's not good!"

Waitin' On A Sunny Day
Two Hearts ( minus the 'it takes two' at the end)
Loose Ends- played by request, the band mess up the start (no Roy Bittan, did he know what they were playing??) and Clarence gets his Sax solo wrong!

World's Apart
Badlands
Out in the Steet (such a great out-door concert song)
Mary's Place - now even longer!
Meeting Across the River
Jungleland
Into The fire
Thunder Road

( At the start of the first encore Bruce talks about the request he is playing next, and whi it is for)
4th Of July Asbury Park, Sandy - no band intro as featured on Live 1975-85, Bruce starts the song from the first lyric.
Bobby Jean
Ramrod
Born To Run
Seven Nights To Rock- highlight of the show!

My City Of Ruins
Land of Hope and Dreams

(The Band stand in a line and mime whether to play another tune or not, and they take their time working up the crowd!)
Dancing in the Dark

Kevin Turner wrote: Bruce and the band seemed to have a really great time tonight. Old Trafford cricket ground generated a good atmosphere, Bruce cracked a few jokes about the similarities between cricket and baseball.

The band played really tightly with Mighty Max superb on the drums. Bruce's voice was incredibly strong and I never heard him hit a bum note all night.

The whole set was first class with "Meeting across the River" being a welcome surprise.

They might be getter greyer, balder but the music and performance just keeps getting better and better.

Can't wait til the next tour - missing you already.

Ian Ockerby wrote: what a great night,singing in the pub with other brucies before the concert,took my 16 year old daughter her first bruce concert,on our way home she said dad i have been to some concerts with my school friends westlife,blue,but that has to go down as the most enjoyable night i have ever had my hands are still sore from clapping so much,can we please do that again,when will he be back.it brought a tear to my eye.bruce your music found my daughter just like it did me all those years ago,i cant thank you enough,your the man.highlight of the night seven nights to rock we just held each other as we sang along,fantastic,hurry up back bruce my sons approaching his teenage years.

David Stringer wrote: Bruce saunders on stage 5 minutes before scheduled,alone and armed with acoustic guitar.The crowd erupts then quiets down for a bluesy rendition of "Born In The U.S.A".The band come on and kick into a stomping version of "The Rising" sequenced into "Lonesome Day".Next up 3 tracks from Darkness."candy's Room,"Prove It All Night" and a fantastic "Darkness On The Edge Of Town".Bruce is in fine voice.He says we have a nice spot here and jokes about the simalarites of baseball and cricket and asks for some quiet for the next few songs,a duet with patti on "Empty Sky" and a beautiful "You're Missing".

Time for an audience sing along to "Waitin' On a Sunny Day" then into "Two Hearts" and an unexpected "loose Ends", a real gem.

"Worlds Apart" and into "Badlands" were the crowd takes over with the "Wo wo o o oo oo",Bruce cracks up as he listens. "Out In The Street"(oh oh o o oh) preceeds fantastic "Mary's Place" were bruce gives us the 3 rules for a house party: 1 you've gotta be rightous 2 you gotta be rightous and 3 you gotta get your ass out of your seats! To which we all coax the people in the seats to get their asses up and they oblige as Bruce introduces the band.Great fun.

The big bass comes out for "Meeting Across The River" and then the holy grail epic that is "Jungleland".
A haunting version of "Into The Fire" makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end as Bruces voice echos around the cricket club."Thunder road (my favourite Bruce song) makes the crowd erupt again.
Bruce dedicates the next song to a woman who requested it,who follows him around form show to show and he says it's nice to see her husband with her for the first time.The song is "Sandy".wow! Bobby Jean's next then a great extended "Ramrod" which sees the band disapearing leaving Roy Bittan doing a bluesy piano solo(Bruce's son creeps up behind him and places a hat on his head as the band rejoin him for some 'Boss Time'.

The show wouln't be complete without the classic "Born To Run".Then a really enjoyable cover of" 7 nights to rock".

For the final encore Bruce sits at the piano.'So this is cricket?' he asks,to much laughter and thanks everybody for coming to the show and sticking with him all these years then goes into "My City Of Ruins","Land of Hope And Dreams" and after teasing the crowd wether to do one more or not a reved up version of "Dancing In The Dark".

As we walk to the exit with the sound of Bruce holering a new song via the big screens i know i'll remember this day forever.

Ian Tatlock wrote: This nearly didn't happen at all. The good people who live around Lancashire's County Cricket ground objected to the granting of a license for this gig, complaining that their gardens were abused by fans urinating, skinning up and shooting up the last time LCCC staged a concert here. The band in question on that occasion? Oasis! Say no more! LCCC successfully appealed, thereby grabbing a little financial security for themselves, claiming that Bruce Springsteen fans were respectable, balding, middle aged professionals who wouldn't dream of dropping a paper tissue in these very nice gardens, let alone an acid tab.

Before we got the tickets for this gig, I felt there were some hard questions to be asked and difficult decisions to be made in deciding whether or not we really wanted to see Bruce at all. It wasn't in any way a cut and dried case. When I saw him doing the River tour in 1981 at Birmingham's NEC, in terms of his recorded and live work, he was very much on top of his game, and in magnificent form, and I had consequently had a great night. Wembley Stadium in '85 was a similarly good show, coming on the back of the Nebraska and Born In The USA albums, and at least in terms of his live work, presented Bruce at the peak of his form. In the early 90's I think he lost the plot, as illustrated by the lacklustre Human Touch, and Lucky Town albums and the gig Chris and I saw with Paul, at the MEN Arena in May '99. So, there wasn't an automatic, resounding 'yes' to be given for attending this. Bruce can have his off periods, but when he's good, he's very good, and how often is it that an artist of his stature plays an open air gig, 20 miles from our house, on a beautiful warm summer's evening, in a setting as pleasant as this? In the States, they'll drive all night to buy a pair of shoes and see this sort of thing. Over here, people will travel from Huddersfield to be able to attend. Sod it! We'll go!!

Chris had the great idea of driving to Altrincham, then getting the tram to Old Trafford. As is always the case in these type of situations, I was worried about whether our car would still be there when we returned, but I knew that in adopting this strategy, we would at least avoid overpriced car parking and massive queues at the end of the show. So we left the car in a free Altrincham car park, and joined the queue of fans trying to buy a tram ticket from a machine. Whatever happened to human beings? After five minutes we got to the front of the queue, only to discover that we didn't have the right amount of change to buy the tickets we needed, and that our ?10 note was being brusquely refused. We then had to go and get change from elsewhere in the station and queue again, thereby forcing my anxiety levels to rise far too high at a ludicrously early stage of the evening. This threw into question whether or not we should have used the tram at all. I was worried that at this rate the gig would have started before we even arrived. Such controversy!

We eventually get to the ground by about 6.30pm and I have my next stress inducing crisis! As we walk in an officious moustachioed security guard asks me if I have any bottles of drink in my bag. Being an honest type and thinking that he'd search me anyway, I declare that I have one 55p bottle of Evian water. Because the good man says that it could be used as an offensive weapon, I have to hand it over. I complain, but to no avail. The moustache tells me that there is an abundant supply of free water inside the ground, but throughout the whole of the evening that follows, I didn't see a single water vending site or person. When it comes to her turn, Chris tells the man that she has no such hand grenade in her bag, and gets in scott free with her bottle of Evian. Was I bothered? Did I allow such a small, trifling, insignificant incident to get to me? In a word, yes! Did I rise above it? In a word, no! I was incandescent at the petty bureaucracy of it all. This did not bode well. It wasn't even 7.00pm, and the ticket machine and moustache have both tried to conspire to spoil my evening.

As we head for the toilets, Chris works hard to try to calm my fizzing nerves, by trying to be helpful in pointing out where I went wrong with moustache man - "You shouldn't have opened your bag for him. I didn't." Oddly enough, this type of soothing doesn't work very well! I head for the bar - where else? - where a small transparent plastic cup of red wine costs me ?3.80, and a pint of orange juice ?3.00. Had I so desired, as an alternative, I could have had a bottle of champagne for ?40.00, or a bottle of Evian water for ?1.50. I pass on the champers, and decide that..............WHAT? A BOTTLE OF EVIAN WATER FOR ?1.50. I thought that under the terms of the Geneva convention, bottles of water had been outlawed in here. I considered appealing against this grossly unfair and inconsistent application of policy, but thought that it was time I started to focus on the matter in hand - a Bruce Springsteen gig. C'mon man, this concert isn't an everyday occurrence. I'm in danger of letting these silly things get in the way.

Before we make our way further into the crowd, we check out the ubiquitous merchandise stall. Just as this is probably as an expensive a pair of tickets that Chris and I have ever bought, so the souvenir shop reflects the trend. With mugs at ?7, t-shirts at ?20, key rings at ?4, a printed programme at ?10, and a CD Rom programme at ?13, we graciously decide to pass on all of these very tempting offers. At the folk club gigs I attend by the likes of Martin Simpson, Martin Carthy and Ralph McTell, they supplement their income by selling a significant number of copies of their CD back catalogue from a stall in the foyer. Here, there wasn't a single copy of any of Springsteen's huge back catalogue to be found anywhere. I wondered why that was? However, at a recent Eddi Reader concert, for ?15 it was possible to pre-order an authorised CD bootleg of the show you were about to watch. Now had that offer been available tonight............

Generally, I hate large stadium or arena gigs, and after the last time we saw Springsteen at the MEN, I vowed that I wouldn't go to another one. So, to try to minimise the risk of all of the things I hate about these large shows spoiling things, we set about the important task of trying to find a decent spot. As you might guess, I want everything - perfectly mixed CD quality sound, and a cracking close up view very close to the stage. However, that kind of view would probably mean standing in a place where Chris would find it impossible to see. It goes without saying that if I had to choose between the perfect view with amazing sound without Chris; or a naff view and sound with Chris, I'd go for the former.......er....... I mean, latter every time. We try a couple of different reasonable spots, and eventually settle for a place about 100 yards from the stage, over to the right, in front of the grand LCCC pavilion.

At 7.25pm, without any fanfare or fuss, the pre-gig tape of sixties hits (Who, Beatles, Move, Byrds et al) suddenly stops and Bruce comes on stage. He looks very serious and solemn, and chooses to commence the proceedings with a slow delta blues version of Born In The USA, played with a bottle neck on his blue Takamine 12 string cutaway guitar. It's a million miles away from the gung-ho version on its eponymous album, to the extent that it's almost unrecognisable. Even though he received a long welcoming ovation for a good few minutes, it's a strange low key way to get things going, and his persona at this stage of the proceedings is a long way from the cheeky chappy joker we get to meet later.

On either side of the stage are a massive pair of screens that project very high quality video images of the on stage action. I try hard to watch the tiny, but recognisable figure of Bruce on the real stage, and attempt to block out the screens and ignore them. If I watch them, it feels like I've paid ?40 to watch telly! In the early stages of the gig, I think I watched the real on stage action, as opposed to the TV, for about 40% of the time, but later on, I think this figure is reduced to about 10% or 15%. By then, I'm justifying watching the screens by thinking I should just enjoy the whole experience and sense of occasion, and if that means watching TV, then just do it! In an ideal world, seeing a band as good as this, playing as well as this, in say the Bridgewater Hall, would be a truly exhilarating, powerful and awesome experience. However, that would mean that even if Springsteen spent the whole of his life just touring small 2000 seater venues like the Apollo, he still wouldn't satisfy the demand. I guess that the arrangement we have tonight, where he plays to 50,000 punters all in one go, is just about as reasonable a compromise as we're going to get. Like it or lump it dude!

Having said that, some of these people try to make it even more difficult for the rest of us to enjoy the magic of The Bruce Springsteen Open Air Live Experience. Some of these idiots seem to be very happy to spend their ?40 so that they can buy very expensive pints of lager and spend their time at the concert guffawing and talking in very loud voices. Now if that's what they want to do, I guess it's their prerogative, but not within my earshot, puuuurrrrrlease. I'd like to listen to the music if that's OK by you old chap. Laughing and shouting like that at a concert like this simply isn't cricket. Where do you think you are - an Oasis gig? If you were to try listening for a change, it would do you a world of good, and I think you may just find that at his best, Mr Springsteen has some interesting things to say about the human condition. Later on, some moron in front of us thought it would be a good idea to wave a large inflatable daffodil which, for me, because of the relative perspectives, completely obscured Bruce and half of the band. For God's sake. An inflatable daffodil! Why don't these people just stay at home. Easy now. I'm getting wound up again. Breathe. Count to ten. Breathe. Count to ten. Breathe. Count to ten. Other than this small minority of socially irresponsible vagrants, the remainder of the audience is made up of your average collection of respectable, balding, middle aged professionals like myself. At what other rock gig would you find a punter who had heeded the section of the ticket that said: "Warning: It is possible that exposure to loud music may cause damage to hearing," so meticulously that she'd pushed a big lump of cotton wool into each ear?!!

As the solo, and unfamiliar version of Born In The USA comes to a close, the other nine members of the E Street Band stroll on stage. It's the familiar line-up of Roy Bittan and Danny Federici on keyboards; Bruce, Steve Van Zandt, Nils Lofgren, and Patti Scialfa on guitars and vocals; Garry Tallent on bass; Max Weinberg playing the drums, and Clarence Clemons the sax. The newcomer is a violinist brought in to replicate some of the string arrangements from The Rising album, and very effectively she does it too. I'm afraid I didn't catch her name. Some clot standing next to me was busy yelling something about Bruce being God - followed by "whoo". The band look an odd bunch. Bruce still has a large collection of earrings shared between his ears, a haircut that's a kind a of gypsy mullet, a tiny beard just below his bottom lip, and a pair of long sideburns that can't disguise his 54 year old pock marked face. As ever he's in his working class hero outfit with black jeans, cowboy boots and a dark blue checked lumberjack shirt. Soprano or not, Steve Van Zandt is no oil painting either. I read in a Rolling Stone interview how amused Bruce had been by the fact that up until a couple of years ago, his three young children used to be very frightened by Steve's appearance, and at times tonight, it's easy to see why his bandanna clad head and face would have that effect on the under fives. Clarence still looks enormous; Patti provides the glamour (and Chris thinks little else of any musical worth); while the bespectacled Messrs Bittan, Tallent, Federici and Weinberg wouldn't look out of place in an Independent school staff room - not that they'd have the political naivet? to be found working there. On a couple of occasions during the course of the evening, it occurs to me that Nils is massively under used. A man with his guitar and vocal prowess should be in the spotlight far more often than he actually is. I also wonder whether Clarence sometimes gets a little bored, since the majority of his time is spent playing tambourine, and it's only now and then that he gets to let rip with one of his trademark saxophone solos. I'm sure that the money more than compensates for them both!

As I'm taking all of this in, Bruce swaps his nasty Takamine for a beautiful natural wood Telecaster that just looks gorgeous. I still can't make my mind up whether I prefer the look of Teles or Strats. I keep changing my opinion, but on the balance, tonight, I'll go with the Tele. The day before the gig, I'd been to Manchester with Danny who was wanting to buy a Tele and was looking for a bit of moral support and advice from Denis and I. He ended up actually not buying anything, but that's another story. Suffice to say that he would have been slavering like the clappers at the sight of the Tele Bruce now has over his shoulder.

With the full band now in place, they get down to business and launch into the first couple of what will be nine of the fifteen songs played from the current album. Both The Rising and Lonesome Day sound good, if a little reserved, but things really start to take off when the trilogy of Candy's Room, Prove It All Night, and Darkness On The Edge Of Town, give me a 'hair on the back of the neck' moment for the first of two times tonight! Bruce politely asks for a little bit of quiet during the next two 9/11 related tunes - Empty Sky and You're Missing - and the very respectful crowd duly oblige. The evening's first sing-a-long moment arrives in the form of Waitin' On A Sunny Day, which looks as though it could take over from Glory Days or Hungry Heart in the karaoke stakes. For the first time this evening, Bruce climbs down to a walkway just below the level of the main stage, and parades up and down, successfully encouraging the audience to join him in song. In that same Rolling Stone interview, I read that Bruce now has problems with his knee joints after all of these years of throwing himself about on the stages of the world. Watching his diving actions on this bit of the set makes it easy to see why his rheumatism will be very bad indeed in a few years time. At this point, the video shots of the ecstatic audience taken from behind the band look awe inspiring. It's easy to see why rock stars complain about the end of a show like this, and the difficulties of leaving behind that atmosphere and environment to go back to a lonely hotel room. Two Hearts is followed by Loose Ends, the latter being played for only the second time on this tour so far. Worlds Apart, Badlands, and Out In the Street precede the brilliant Mary's Place.

During the course of this cleverly extended number, the band are introduced by Bruce, who has adopted the persona and vocal mannerisms of an impassioned sanctified preacher. Clarence is the secretary of the brotherhood and we're told that Steve is from the Ministry of Intelligence. He continues throughout the whole band in this vein until he gets to his wife, when in proclaiming her charms, starts to sing the Fontella Bass hit, 'Rescue Me' to her. "Rescue me, take me in your arms, rescue me, I want your tender charms" he coos. She looks embarrassed, turns her back on him, smiles in a coy kind of way, before hurriedly walking away from him. He stops, looks at us all confused, and tells us that this usually works at home!! I thought it funny, but Chris thought it embarrassing. Either way, I suspect it wasn't as spontaneous as we were meant to think.

Following this extravagant round of introductions, we're back to the glories of the Born To Run album with Meeting Across The River and Jungleland. Bruce is an expert when it comes to designing the perfect set list. Throughout the course of this evening, we are presented with a series of peaks and troughs, as one set of magnificent highs is followed by an adrenaline soothing low. We've just had Meeting Across The River coming right after Mary's Place, and that type of coupling is typical of a succession of pairings which gradually build towards the end of evening climax. The next slow build up starts with Into The Fire and a glorious, thumping version of my all time favourite Springsteen song, Thunder Road. After this, the band leave the stage and we start this game of charades where we plead, 'oh please come back for an more,' and the band dutifully produce the goods. I was pleasantly surprised when they came back for their first set of encores to play a great, uplifting, accordion dominated version of 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), but Bruce explained that he'd been asked to do it and was simply acceding to a request. Well that's all right then. Things start to wind down a little with Bobby Jean and Ramrod, and the end of this amazing gig is now starting to come into view.

I've been to Springsteen shows in the past where he's spent a fair proportion of the gig preaching from the stage, and I haven't always felt comfortable. Tonight there's hardly any of this, but early on in the proceedings while he's doing his 'nice to be here in Manchester in such a pleasant setting' routine, he has a fairly amusing go at telling us the rules of cricket within a baseball framework, explaining that it's a game with only two bases where the pitcher has to bounce the ball and run, etcetera, etcetera!

As nature provides it's own constantly changing light show, with the sun now set and giving way to semi-darkness, the band leave the stage for the second time at 9.30pm, having played for more or less two hours. On their return they work their way through the second set of encores that include the old rock 'n' roll favourite Seven Nights To Rock, and a few more from Bruce's canon, including Born To Run, My City Of Ruins and an uplifting, moving version of Land Of Hope And Dreams, which ends with a well deserved nod to Curtis Mayfield's People Get Ready. With what appears to be his customary sincerity, he thanks us for our support of his live and recorded music over the years. By this time, Chris and I had started to make our way to the exit, which is as far away from the stage as we could get. The view here was dire. The sound was much as it had been in our original place - sometimes awful and muddy, but at other times fine. For too long tonight, the beautiful piano parts of Roy Bittan were far too low in the mix, and consequently wasted. I'm not sure whether this was to do with poor atmospheric conditions or the inadequacies of the sound man. Either way, it was a shame. Still, all things considered, at least we now knew we hadn't been standing in a bad spot for the vast majority of the evening. Finally, on stage, the band pretend to go through a 'shall we shan't we do another number?' type dilemma, before finally delivering a pretty good version of their 1985 hit, Dancing In The Dark, to bring things to a close.

So the longest gig of the tour so far is finally over, an incredible 3 hours, five minutes and 27 numbers long. Chris and I make our way out to the tram, and back to the car, which was still in one piece where we'd left it. We played Bruce on the CD player on the drive home. You can never have too much Bruce Springsteen. Tonight we saw the future of Rock 'n' Roll, and he's fifty four years old.

Steve Bridge wrote: The reviews posted earlier do more than full justice to the concert - it was an absolutely fabulous performance from Bruce the the E Street band - 110% for over three hours - well worth the price of the ticket, and the 'difficulties' with the stewarding, transport arrangements and ticketing.

The difficulties of writing a review are that there is so much to say - that hasn't been said before. My own highlights were the combo of Meeting Across the River / Jungleland - even the plain clothes cops in the stand behind us were applauding - whilst listening to their headpieces - what a shift to be on !!

Non-Bruce fans won't understand the emotion of the night - getting three out of the four songs I'd wished for - Candy's Room was the other, Racing ITS wasn't - was fantastic, a dream come true.

This night will last with me for ever - Bruce is still the future of R&R !!

Alastair Craik wrote: Back home from London for a quick night's sleep and then off to meet some friends early Thursday a.m. They laugh at me for not taking a jacket or waterproof but as we head south from Edinburgh the weather gets better and better. By the time we reach Manchester its hot & sunny. The show they tried to ban was my third show in 4 days and I was knackered (I wonder how Bruce and the band felt?) but I wasn't going to miss this for the world. To get one show of the quality England has seen this week is fantastic but for 3 shows like this is truly exceptional. If I had to piuck a highlight from Manchester it would be the first encore - Asbury Park 4th July (Sandy) but there were so many wonderful moments all week. Perhaps one of these highlights was Bruce falling off his mike stand when he tried to hang upside down from it - a reminder that he makes mistakes just like us. I just hope they come back soon .

Annette Ashton wrote: What a way to spend a lovely summer evening! You couldn't have got a better early 18th birthday present for my daughter Sarah! She whooped with joy at Sunny Day, screamed with excitement as Bruce did a full length knee slide along the stage! the look of sheer enjoyment on her face is a memory I shall cherish, thank you Bruce the concert was great, the E Street Band were fantastic and long may you reign!

"Big Steven" wrote: When Bruce Springsteen walked on to the stage I was stunned. I saw this guy in London but he was only an inch tall. My goodness he's grown.

There he was. A full album collection. A yard-tall collection of Bootlegs. A dozen books. A few videos, official and bootleg. Days-worth of logging onto Greasy Lake. Weeks or even months worth of listening to his music. None of that had prepared me for this. Fantastic! This guy just oozes life and confidence. If aura's were visible then we'd all need shades.

It was funny, I wanted to shout "I'm here, its me!" as if you really are the only Bruce fan in the world.

A million times on the Lake I'd seen people post "Oh yes, I was there, and front row too". I could now hold my head up high and feel I'd now joined a very special club, I'd been to a Bruce concert and been at the front!!
So, here is a review of the show and some thoughts

Born In The U.S.A. (acoustic)
I was still stunned by this time.

The Rising
Lonesome Day
Hang on a minute. Have the band had one big arguement? They look like a right miserable bunch. Not a single smile. Yeah, Bruce is working hard, really hard. But he's ignoring the band and they him. Patti looks really grim. Oh no. What's gone on here? Very tight performances, but they look so pissed. Crowd are enjoying it but over my shoulder I can see that the seats are on their bums and stories of the lacklustre seating in Crystal Palace means I am thinking - "Oh God! Bruce is gonna hate us Brits!". Anyway, LD has finished, what's next?

Candy's Room
Goody. I like this one and Smiler really wanted to hear it I heard. That'll get a nice reception in cyberspace.

Prove It All Night
Great! I fookin love Prove It! Really wanted to hear it. Smokin' guitar from Bruce but he messed the finale of his solo a bit and Garry and Steve exchange a funny grimace. God, you see so much up close.

Darkness On The Edge Of Town
A great solid number. Band are a bit looser. Bruce still working hard but to many in the crowd he is the size of a pea and I don't wonder if this 5-songs-before-saying-hello policy is a good one. Maybe he needs to think about the hello's before the Rising to get everyone involved.

Empty Sky
You're Missing
Ahh, Bruce you are forgiven! A funny "Cricket v Baseball" skit. He'd done his research noting you could hit the ball anywhere, only two bases, the ball has to bounce (not strictly true but that would be pedantic!), the pitcher actually runs and the ball is hard so "you don't want to get hit in the nuts". Patti pulls a funny face at that and they seem to relax and from then on all is well - Bruce is loose after all! Our "Fookin' love you guy" tries to get one out from a way away but Bruce is already into his song preparation and he didn't hear him.

Waiting On A Sunny Day
The great slow songs are over and Bruce pics up his acoustic from Ned Flanders and suddenly the Italians are singing the tune from "Sunny Day" which we Brits pick up in a heartbeat and turn it into a bit of a football chant. Bruce and band are amused. Has this happened before? Great moment. He tells us to shut up and "this is how it goes" and starts strumming. Into the song Bruce addresses the seats. He and Clarence have a little skit possibly arranged after Crystal Palace to get everyone up. They do and security run around like maniacs telling evryone to sit down. Bruce tries to climb his mike stand and falls off kicking his mic onto the floor. Very funny. Band laugh. Ice well and truly broken. (He made a big point of doing that right in Dublin ).

Two Hearts
Bit of a surprise which was welcome. The security are really pissing me off now. They are going mental at the use of camera's and are getting really mad at the crowd. I mean come on. Some of these are simple standard camera's and the ticket says no "professional" gear. What's the problem? OK, the band do not want to face 50,000 camera's, and having a camera burning a hole in your pocket with Bruce Springsteen 10 yards ahead of you is a little distraction from the show but a little reason please.

Loose Ends
A really great moment. Two girls a few feet to my left and on the front row, a brunette and a blonde were really into the show at this point. They knew all the words and were obviously big fans and had got my respect after my first thought was that they just wanted to see Bruce's ass up close! Anyway, Bruce looked into the front row and said "A request!". The girls looked at each other and thought 'Can't Be!'. Bruce mouths the song to Steve, Patti, then Roy a couple of times then to Max and the rest of the band. They then tear into Loose Ends. The girls immediately explode into an "OHHHHHHMYGOD!!! " moment not seen since Beatlemania. Brilliant. And I'm thinking, that’ll get the internet twitching!

Worlds Apart
A powerful song that lets the band indulge on some great playing. Clarence is sat down a lot. Is this normal or a new thing? Bless him.

Badlands
Out In The Street
Now the party has started. This was great. Can't see the seats getting into it at all though. Can't see how far the madness goes back in the crowd. Doesn't matter, having a great time. Steve is great.

Mary's Place
While running around Bruce notices the 10 year old child in front of me and waves. I want to shout out that the little bastard pushed in! Then I think that I must have been in Bruce's peripheral vision and somehow that makes me happy. Then I think that I probably need therapy.

Meeting Across The River
Jungleland
The big bass comes out. Not heard of this before. Meeting starts (its going to have to be a fixture if they have to cart that big thing around) and all I can think of is THEY ARE GOING TO PLAY JUNGLELAND!!! This stops me enjoying Meeting for a bit so I close my eyes and concentrate on the song. Must have looked a bit windswept and interesting because when I open my eyes a few people were glancing at me thinking I must be a HUGE fan or mad. Or both. Jungleland is on and security are bobbing up and down complaining at camera's. Idiots. Anyway, it is a fantastic moment. Clarence gets a lovely round of applause from JaniceUK's side when he replaces his sax. Awwww. This is one of my fave songs ever and I've seen it live. It does not get any better.

Into The Fire
Thunder Road
God I love Thunder Road.

4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
Another request and I love this song. The people who make requests must feel so special. Well done Bruce. Also, another internet-twitching song. Great set list.

Bobby Jean
I like this and was glad he played it. I spent more time helping security pass water along to the many thirsty females behind me than dancing but my public needed me.

Ramrod
He storkes the guitar across the mike stand. Can only mean one thing. I really don't like this song but this performance changed my mind. Seeing the band up close made it worthwhile. Worked well in a stadium setting. Funny how some songs change depending on the setting. However, Ramrod and Bobby Jean in the same show ! Some would see that as unlucky.

Born To Run
12 yards from Bruce singing Born To Run. If I die today, my life is complete.

Seven Nights To Rock
I'd heard of this on the Lake. This was incredible. Really good fun. Monday!......

My City Of Ruins
Land of Hope and Dreams
Nice, renditions but not really encore songs as such IMHO. LOHAD perhaps is encore but I can't get over that naff "just get on board" ending. Never mind. After LOHAD I took a picture with my flash. Security went nuts. I ignored him and looked past him. After a few moments stand off he backed off. Idiot.

Dancing in the Dark
One of the most remarkable changes in Bruce is an acceptance of his legacy and older songs. With the exception of Rosie he will play things like DITD without a problem when before he was in denial about this great great song. I love it. Landau came on stage and he looked like a kid in a toy store. Lets face it, the guy is a fan and he was doing something everyone of us would give anything to do. He played his guitar chord like a kid does who plays the cymbal in the school band. At the end of each bar he gave his guitar a playful stroke and looked like he was having a ball.

The show finished and the band left the stage to great applause. I remember thinking - I hope you guys know how lucky you are and you deserve everything for putting in that performance.

In no time the lights were off and they were taking the stage apart and I was inching along with the thousands to the exits as if it hadn't happened. If only I could reach out for a mental video tape and replay it all again. I only hope some of my pictures came out. Right now my aches and pains were coming back and the traffic and motorway roadworks meant I didn't get home until 1.30am. God, you really suffer being a Bruce fan don't you???

I had worried about the show and would it translate to the Stadium. I saw the Wembley Rising show and I was a little concerned. Although I thought it was fantastic show it was a bit Rising-heavy with a couple of (for me) duds like "Countin on a Miracle" and "The Fuse" and also faves like "Incident" and "River" played then were really intimate and low-key, not really stadium stuff. Having seen Manchester I felt it was a much better, tighter and brighter show but the fact I could not see far behind me and the fact the seated fans were not up and dancing was a little worry.

Kevin Turner wrote: Bruce and the band seemed to have a really great time tonight. Old Trafford cricket ground generated a good atmosphere, Bruce cracked a few jokes about the similarities between cricket and baseball.

The band played really tightly with Mighty Max superb on the drums. Bruce's voice was incredibly strong and I never heard him hit a bum note all night.

The whole set was first class with "Meeting across the River" being a welcome surprise.
They might be getter greyer, balder but the music and performance just keeps getting better and better.
Can't wait til the next tour - missing you already.

Rajiv Hasan wrote: As the Bruce Man strolled quietly onto stage five minutes before scheduled blast-off, my girlfriend, looking across at the big screen from our angled perch up in block F7, mentioned how tired he looked. Maybe the multi-date tour was beginning to take its toll. Maybe tonight he and the band would just go through the motions, offering us a labour of duty rather than of love. Maybe he was just getting old! We really should have known better...

There can surely have been very few performing artists who have given so much of themselves to their audience, and, true to his 'contract of communion' ethos, Bruce Springsteen and his wonderful E-Street Band gave us everything, and a little more.

If there were bags under the Boss's eyes at the beginning of the evening, by the end, he had well and truly burned them off into the warm Manchester night, with a blistering, rejuvenating performance of rock, soul and aching ballads that held 50,000 people in awe for over three hours.

We were in the 'must remain seated at all times' area. Fair enough - for safety reasons - but you just knew that people would have to get up and shake it loose at some point in the evening, especially when invoked to do so by the man on stage! The stewards weren't happy about it , but there was safety in numbers and anyway, we only got up a couple of times, unlike the poor drunken lad to our left, who looked like he was going to jump for glory at any moment. A couple of whingeing apes (sat directly behind us, of course!) did their best to spoil things by grunting out their mindless guff through the quiet songs, but generally, people were well-behaved and loving every minute.

Highlights were many for me. I'd been singing along to Loose Ends in the car on the way up from Nottingham a couple of hours earlier, so to hear it live (despite Clarence's little mishap on the sax solo) was pure joy. The Rising tracks are so much better live than on the record, especially Empty Sky, which begins now with the sweetest of harmonies between Bruce and Patti. Waitin' on a Sunny Day has also already assumed classic status as THE singalong song (the new Hungry Heart, maybe). Personally, I still can't quite get into Lonesome Day, and Mary's Place could be equally uplifting if it were about 3 minutes shorter. You're Missing is a spine-chiller and My City of Ruins bleeds with beauty.

In short, the band and Bruce were as good, as committed and as life-enhancing as the first time I saw them, at the Stadio Communale inTurin in 1988. They can't go on forever, so catch them while you can. Manchester won't forget this night in a hurry.

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