June 23, 2013

Notes from the road: Nijmegen

The last two times Bruce visited Holland, he played at the southern tip of the country at the Pinkpop festival. Headlining the festival in 2009 and 2012, Bruce stated multiple times that he greatly enjoys playing at these events. Maybe that’s why the show in Nijmegen marked a difference from other European shows, as a rare one with opening acts: Jamie N Commons and The Black Crowes.

Jamie N Commons took the stage around 4:30 pm. Few had heard of him, but the 24-year-old played like a seasoned rocker. With a remarkable, raw voice he blew away the audience. The Black Crowes were next and put together a fun show. The entire band looked, danced and sang as if they came straight from Woodstock.

After these amazing support acts, everybody was waiting anxiously for the Boss. At 7:30, the crowd was welcomed with the sound of a lone guitar, as Springsteen walked on stage for a powerful solo version of “The Ghost of Tom Joad.” With the greeting “Hallo Nijmegen, hallo Holland, hoe gaat het?” — Hello Nijmegen, hello Holland, how are you? — he officially opened the show, and the rest of the band took their places for “Land of Hope and Dreams.”

The requests came early this evening, as they have lately. Bruce grabbed some signs from the audience right away and played very fun versions of “Sherry Darling” and “Growin’ Up.” The third request was an unusual one. “We’re going to test the E Street Band,” Bruce stated, laughing, “Only the 100 people right up here in the front know what this actually is. It’s got a tricky bridge…” But the greatly talented band played “So Young and in Love,” from 1998’s Tracks, flawlessly.

After a grandiose version of “The River” — 60,000 people were singing along — it was time for something particularly special. With Bruce in full-album mode, he announced that they would be playing the Darkness of the Edge of Town album in its entirety.

The band started in full swing with an energized “Badlands” and “Adam Raised a Cain”. Guitars were rocking, drums were pounding, and the audience was screaming their lungs out. “Racing in the Street” was simply breathtaking. During Roy Bittan’s masterful conclusion, the clouds, which had been hovering all day, suddenly parted. A beautiful moment. “Prove It All Night” was the highlight of Nils’ evening. The guitar virtuoso played a mind-blowing solo, twirling around stage and even playing guitar with his teeth.

After the album was finished, those clouds had amassed again and rain came drizzling down. Bruce hollered, “Here comes the rain!” before setting off into “Pay Me My Money Down,” the party song of the evening. He brought all of the E Street Horns to the very front platform, where they all sang, played, and danced around. Cindy Mizelle, Michelle Moore and Curtis King joined them on the platform, carrying decorated umbrellas.

With a beautiful version of “Thunder Road,” Bruce closed the main set. He kicked off the encores with an overwhelmingly powerful “Born in the U.S.A.” After “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” the drizzling rain turned into a downpour. But Bruce could not care less: “I would go home, but it’s not raining hard enough!” He actually seemed energized by the downpour. At the end of “Twist and Shout,” he made the whole band come out to the front stage, ushering them all into the heavy shower — except for Steve, who hung back and watched with great delight.

“Twist and Shout” marked the 33rd song of the evening’s marathon, but the legendary E Street Band was not done yet. “It still isn’t raining hard enough!” Bruce shouted toward the sea of rain ponchos. The band finally played the mother of all party songs, the Isley Brothers’ “Shout.” Everybody was soaking wet, but nobody cared; 60,000 people were dancing and singing until their knees hurt and their throats were sore.

With the words “Ik hou van jullie” — I love you — and “we’ll be seeing you,” the band left the stage. What a show. We are once again reminded why this man is called The Boss. He may be 63, but he’s still rocking like a 20-year-old.

—Liselotte Schüren, Backstreets.com