September 15, 2013

Notes from the road: Buenos Aires

The night was cold, overcast and a bit damp in the well-used Estadio G.E.B.A–a smallish, 17,000 outdoor rugby and concert venue in the heart of the city located in a park bordered by elevated railroad tracks. But the weather did not deter the enthusiastic crowd from giving a very warm reception to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band as they took the stage at 21:15.  Bruce apologized for keeping Buenos Aires waiting for 25 years–a message that was delivered several times throughout the show.

The crowd cheered and jumped up and down as Bruce opened with This Little Light of Mine.  The gospel/folk song perhaps setting the theme of I’m going to do my best to shine my light onto all that are in this house. Or perhaps it was I’m back here for you Argentina, thank you for this wonderful welcome or homecoming, maybe both.

Next up was We Take Care Of Our Own followed by Badlands and Death To My Hometown with the crowd still bouncing up and down to the music and singing along.

A large sign near the front grabbed Bruce’s attention and the band next launched into No Surrender with a great guitar solo by Bruce.  We wondered if this was tonight’s first audible. At this point a passenger train was incoming along the elevated railroad tracks, Bruce smiled and remarked ‘it’s a train, it’s a train’ before launching into Downbound Train.

Spirit in the Night had Bruce calling out ‘Espiritu de la noche’ as if to raise the spirit of their 25 years absence.  Next was a sign request for Cover Me. Theband then ripped into a blistering version of this Born in the USA classic followed up by She’s the One, with Max skillfully pounding out the ‘big beat’ that reverberated throughout the stadium.

Then came another round of sign collection and we noticed that for a musician who had not played here in 25 years, the signs were plentiful and spanned Bruce’s entire catalog. The requested Promised Land was up next and while the portenos (what the locals call themselves) may not have known every lyric like the crowds in Europe, they knew the songs and the melodies, the hand waves and dance steps.

When the band began playing Hungry Heart, Bruce had to coax the audience to sing along the opening lines.  It seemed as if the they were more used to respectfully watching performances rather than participating in them, but they soon needed little coaxing to ‘play their part’.

A beautiful and soulful version of The River was next with Bruce’s haunting vocals mesmerizing the now silent crowd.

One of the more unexpected songs of the evening for us was American Skin (41 Shots).  This was last played in Ireland on the day that the verdict was read in the murder trial of Trayvon Martin. We’ve come to expect that song when an event has occurred that warrants the message.  And while Argentinians may not know the roots of the story, they certainly knew the song and the chorus.

Because the Night had the crowd appreciatively cheering Nils’ frenetic guitar solo and spinning “whirling dervish” moves.

Darlington County was next, this time Bruce ventured all the way out to the light tower at the very back of the field where he playfully pulled a young girl’s hair who was singing along.

A great version of Shackled and Drawn from the new album was next and we thought we were hearing a new instrument—a rhythmic metallic pounding shackle sound. But then realized that it was the stadium maintenance crew called in to quickly pound in more spikes to reinforce the metal barriers between the pits and the aisles that were getting quite the workout as the crowd surged and danced along to the music and Bruce’s every move.

Bruce acknowledged the unseasonably cold night when he said to the audience ‘mucho frio, let’s bring on el sol’ and launched into Waiting on a Sunny Day.  Many in the crowd, who had not seen Bruce before, were surprised when he tossed his guitar exceptionally high in the air and the catch was made by his guitar technician Kevin Buell.

The main set concluded with The Rising, followed by a full band version of Thunder Road which sounded as great as ever, and then Land of Hope and Dreams as the main set closer. Although Bruce was singing about getting on “this train” we did not get a magical reappearance of another train on the elevated tracks.

When Bruce took the stage for the first song of the encores he spoke of being here in 1988, with the Amnesty International Human Rights Now tour. He recalled those being different times with struggles for the political future and concluded with ‘we missed you, we won’t stay away so long again’ which was met with loud cheers and applause before performing We Are Alive.

Born in the U.S.A received a rousing response, the loudest of the night, with the crowd dancing and singing along and it only got more intense as the encores built upon that with Born to Run and Bobby Jean.

Then came Glory Days which spotlighted a two sided fan sign that had a watch drawn on it—the front side “What Time Is It Steve?”, the back side “ It’s Boss Time!”, which brought Steve front and center.

Next was Dancing in the Dark with Bruce venturing down the center aisle again and selecting a lucky woman to dance onstage. They danced well together and as Bruce escorted her back to the field, he spotted another woman who had the typical Born In the USA look including the popular bandana.  Bruce brought her up to the stage but rather than dance, she was handed an acoustic guitar and invited to play along with him.  She strummed along in high style, great stance and joined Jake as they traded ‘Hey Baby’s’ with Bruce.  As the song concluded and she was escorted back to her spot you could read her lips as she was leaving the stage repeatedly saying to Bruce thank you for coming, thank you for coming.

The familiar horn intro to Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out played when the camera panned in on a fan with “10TH” written on one palm of his hand and “AV” on the other.  Bruce worked the stage and made his way to the middle risers, and the crowds surged and followed him as they had all night. But then something happened, the crowd turned their attention to the video screens for the tribute to Clarence and Danny.  It seemed like many had not seen this before and we saw many tears flowing around us.

Bruce bounded back up to the main stage and shouted ‘No Mas, No Mas’ while pointing to the Boss Time sign. Clearly encouraged by the crowd, they went into a rousing version of Shout, complete with band introductions and Bruce encouraging the crowd to sing along. As Bruce and the band left the stage, the crowd started chanting, “Uno Mas y no jodemos Mas” which we were told means “One more and we won’t ask for another”.

Bruce relented and came to the stage with his acoustic guitar and harmonica.  He was clearly exhausted, and told the Argentinian crowd, “I learned a special song just for you that I wanted to sing in Spanish. But I don’t want to mess it up so I will record it for you and put it up on my website soon.”

He then started strumming the familiar chords of This Hard Land. We noticed the crowd listened quietly, attentively, and respectively while hanging on every word before erupting into appreciative applause at the conclusion of the 30 song, 3 hour and 20 minute show.

As Bruce signed off with ‘We’ll be seeing you’,  we thought yes we will Bruce, yes we will.  We can’t wait to return to beautiful Buenos Aires to see you, the band, and our new circle of Bruce friends.

– Marianne Beyer and Jeffrey Luft