May 4, 2013

Notes from the road: Stockholm, Night #1

Tonight’s show at Friends Arena in Stockholm, Sweden started off in familiar fashion: “We Take Care of Our Own,” “Out in the Street” for a Friday night, and “Wrecking Ball,” along with several other songs that one might expect to see in a Wrecking Ball tour show, immediately receiving a loud and energetic response from the capacity crowd. Business as usual? Not for long.

After “Spirit in the Night,” Bruce strode to the mic, harmonica in hand, and began to speak about his great appreciation for the warm welcome he had always been afforded in Sweden, dating back to 1975: “Stockholm was one of the first cities we came to when we first left the United States…it was miraculous to us to be greeted as we are when we come here, year after year after year. We want to thank you and all of your relatives for making us a part of your life, your country, your culture.” He admitted that he had been sitting in his hotel room earlier that week, thinking about how to surprise the crowd, and because of the country’s long history of supporting his music, he wanted to play Born to Run, the album that started it all, from beginning to end.

Responding with shouts and gasps and excited utterances, the audience then met Bruce with a stadium-wide sing-along to “Thunder Road” as the band began the album performance. Tonight, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” was brought back to album length, while still featuring the tribute to Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici playing on the large video screens in the background. A powerful “Backstreets” included the diehard fan favorite “Sad Eyes” coda, performed to an almost-silent arena. The houselights came on full strength during “Born to Run” and just as quickly shut off for the start of “She’s the One.” The infrequent “Meeting Across the River” featured a beautiful trumpet performance from E Street Horns member Curt Ramm and took us into the finale: “Jungleland” had the audience both shouting the lyrics along with Bruce as well as coming to complete and total silence for the final verse of the song.

Bruce collected several sign requests from the audience in the course of the evening, but only one would make an appearance later in the encore: the rare early cover “Mountain of Love.” As Springsteen said, “This is a song the band used to play, going back to the early ’70s — Michelle Moore was not even born yet!” However, instead of bringing on the full band, Bruce elected to perform the song solo on acoustic guitar, substituting a whistling solo in place of the song’s usual piano one.

A hit parade of Born in the U.S.A. favorites brought the show toward its close, including special guest Elliott Murphy on “Glory Days.” After capping the night with a rambunctious and energetic “Twist and Shout” just as the concert reached the three-hour mark, Bruce stepped to the microphone and thanked the audience for coming, reminding everyone: “We’ll be back tomorrow night!”

— Caryn Rose,