July 19, 2013

Notes from the road: Cork

A magical night in Cork began with a solo pre-show. Bruce performed “I’ll Work For Your Love,” and “Girls In Their Summer Clothes” on acoustic guitar and “Real World” at the piano for those lucky enough to be inside the stadium early.

The band took the stage at 7:20pm. “Good evening, Good evening Cork!” Bruce cried as Roy’s honkytonk piano trilled the beginning notes of “This Little Light of Mine.” “Let your love light shine! Let your spirit shine!” he called to the crowd. The Civil Rights spiritual set exactly the right tone for an incredible show full of summer treats and surprises.

“My Love Will Not Let You Down” featured a fiery guitar trifecta between Bruce, Steven, and Nils as the song blasted into the stratosphere fueled by Max’s powerful drumming. During “Out in the Street,” which followed, Bruce went down to the lower platform to get up close and personal with those in the front.

“Alright, we need some summertime music!” Bruce said before going out to gather signs for song requests. It was a beautiful balmy night to be sure, bright sunshine, a perfect summer evening. Climbing back up on the stage with a pile of signs he effectively trashed the written set list, going into a mini-set of summer songs. “This is a good one for the summer,” he said as Jake’s sax intro led into “Sherry Darling.” Eddie absolutely killed it with his solo later on in the song and Steven, as always, proved the perfect foil. Next was a real surprise, “Wild Thing.” “I don’t think this has ever been played by the E Street Band before,” Bruce mused, remembering the Troggs’ classic’s awesome power from his teenage years. “I thought it was the greatest song I ever heard…I think it still is.” You would have thought they had rehearsed it, it was that note-perfect. Steven had an ear to ear grin. Roy took the solo on organ and nailed it to the wall. “Reg Presley,” said Bruce at the song’s conclusion. “One of the most perverse and fabulous front men in all of rock and roll!”

The summer mini-set continued with the beautiful love song “Frankie” next, followed by “Adam Raised A Cain,” which Bruce introduced as “the other side of summer.” This driven, testosterone-fueled anthem featured a blistering guitar solo by Bruce, showcasing both the horns in their power as well as the E Street choir.

“Death To My Hometown” was next, a perfect rebel yell song for Ireland and for Cork, the Rebel County. “We Take Care of Our Own” reminded us of our obligation to care for each other. Then the chugging, relentless “Seeds” with the horns blasting fiercely and Charlie’s Yamaha underpinning the melody. A guitar duel with Steven and Bruce ratcheted up the intensity. This segued seamlessly to the rallying cry, “Wrecking Ball.” Bring it on!

We were granted a breather from the nonstop intensity of the set so far with the soulful “Jack of All Trades.”  “Hard times at home, hard times in Ireland,” Bruce noted as the melody began. As the song edged to its conclusion, Soozie’s somber violin broke my heart as it always does along with Nils’ aching guitar solo, followed by Curt’s trumpet solo. All in all, perfect.

Continuing to respond to sign requests, Bruce went down to the front to take a sign from a guy called Derek. “My man, you been carrying that sign a long time,” he commented before showing it to the audience – “The Price You Pay.” To say that this one is rarely played would be a vast understatement; the much beloved song from “The River” album was beautifully executed with the horns and piano in particular standing out.

Another beloved nugget followed, the 1978 version of “Prove It All Night,” which began with an extended piano introduction followed by Bruce’s searing guitar solo. Long luscious minutes later, Nils brought it to a riotous conclusion with his spinning guitar solo, also raising the guitar to play a few notes with his teeth.

“Darlington County” followed on the heels of that anthem, another perfect summer song for a road trip per Bruce. “Pay Me My Money Down” was an absolute show-stopper with the audience fully engaged, singing and dancing. “Wait a minute,” Bruce noted at the beginning of the song. “I’m working my ass off. I still see Irish people sitting down! In thirty seconds the Irish brain is going to tell the Irish ass, shake me!” Talk about a full-on Irish ceilidh by way of New Orleans. Everett played spoons, Charlie on accordion, and each of the horns took a solo before joining Bruce on the small center platform, dancing and blasting for all they were worth. Behind them all, the E Street choir twirled festive jazz parasols. The entire production brought the house down.

Next, another perfect segue to the glorious set piece “Shackled and Drawn,” beginning with Bruce’s call and response which ended in a falsetto this night. Cindy’s magnificent voice thrills me every time I see this one, and it was a riveting version, the band clearly on fire. The front line dance at the end of band and singers is just beyond belief.

For “Waiting on A Sunny Day” we had two little leprechauns, a boy and a girl, sing the chorus. This was followed by “The Rising” and we were now two hours into the show, with the sun just beginning to set over Cork. “Badlands” next, with the line “it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive” feeling just right under the circumstances. Steven urged the crowd towards the coda and there’s really nothing like hearing a stadium do that chant.  A passionate “Land of Hope and Dreams” brought the main set to a close with Steven’s soulful answering vocals to Bruce’s lyrics. The band took their bows. But they weren’t done by a long chalk.

Bruce took the stage to do a solo piano version of “Real World” to begin the encores, as he mentioned he had done the song earlier in the pre-show as well, but to far fewer people. It was both stunning and heartbreaking.

“Born in the USA” shook the venue to its very foundation followed by “Born to Run” and then “Seven Nights to Rock.” “Dancing in the Dark” featured dance partners for both Jake and Bruce, as well as three lovely Irish lasses on the main stage who were given guitars to help finish the song at the mike with Bruce.“10th Avenue Freeze Out” was next, followed by an exuberant “Shout” and the lively, rapturous refrain of “This Little Light of Mine” after which Bruce did “Thunder Road” solo acoustic, which put paid to a truly stunning evening of rock and soul treasures from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in the Rebel County.

 – Holly Cara Price