May 8, 2013

Notes from the road: Turku, Finland #1

The sun was shining when the E Street Band took the stage at HK Areena in Turku, and the sun was still shining when everyone emerged three hours later. Here in this oldest city in Finland, Bruce dedicated a rare performance of “This Hard Land” to the local fan group of the same name: “We have a fan club in Finland!”  He thanked them for a book authored by the community, featuring stories, pictures, and reflections about how they came to his music. When Bruce asked who in the crowd was part of This Hard Land and received a loud and vocal response, he laughed, “I guess we’ll never go hungry in Turku!”

A sign collection interlude took place a few songs later, unusual these days, with Bruce spending a fair amount of time reading and musing over the requests, continuing to grab more signs out of the crowd. All that consideration paid off. The first selection was “From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come),” which he introduced as a song that he originally gave to Dave Edmunds. The next sign featured a drawing of an old car — on a pink piece of paper. Bruce held it up to the camera on Max’s drum riser, and he was projected on the large screen behind the stage where the audience could see him pointing to the paper, and to the car… and then to the paper, and then to the car again… mugging at the camera and mouthing “Pink! Cadillac!” several times before turning around and launching into the Born in the U.S.A.-era favorite. The song featured a robust horn performance from the E Street Horns. Finally, “Brilliant Disguise” by request was a tour premiere, powered by strong keyboard work from Roy Bittan.

“Pay Me My Money Down” had Bruce bringing the horn section down front, and tonight they began to copy his dance moves, much to his obvious delight: first Clark Gayton, and then Curt Ramm, began stepping from side to side and up and down with aplomb. This might have been what inspired Bruce to assemble the entire E Street Band in a line at the front step of the stage (with the exceptions of Max and Roy, but even Charlie was there on accordion); he grabbed some fans for good measure before marching and dancing the entire throng along the stage, down the stairs, along the floor, through the mid-floor barrier, across the platform, and then back down the other side to the stage again.

The last sign request of the night would be held until the start of the encore, as Bruce stepped to the mic with an acoustic guitar. He observed that no one ever asks for this song; “Do you work in a supermarket?” he asked the requestor, before playing a solo acoustic version of “Queen in the Supermarket” from the Working on a Dream album to top off the night’s bevy of rarities. At the end of the encores, as he waved goodbye to the audience, Bruce announced, “We’ll be back tomorrow night with another spectacular!”

— Caryn Rose,