Sunday, 26 February 2017
February #1: In Which I Sing Backing Vocals For Bruce
Last June, I went to see Bruce Springsteen live in Coventry. This was back when I was only doing one post a week, so I had to crowbar my review into My Top Ten Divorce Songs. Here's what I wrote at the time...
I saw Bruce play live again on Friday night in Coventry. Probably the fourth time I've seen him now (it's getting hard to remember such trivia) but once again I was astounded by the show he put on. I've seen a lot of live music in my day (though not that much these days), a lot of big bands, big names, megastars. But I've never seen anyone put on a show like Bruce. 3 1/2 hours of solid, wall-to-wall action: the instant one song ends, it's 1-2-3-4, and here comes the next. 3 1/2 hours that were over in a flash. He came on at 6.40 and by 8.30, I was thinking, 'most bands would still be in the dressing room now, waiting for the underpaid support act to finish'. And there was still a good 90 minutes to go: longer than a lot of big names bother these days. If you're not down with Bruce, that's fine, I'm not here to persuade you otherwise. But when it comes to putting on a show, there's no one like him as far as I can tell. (I never saw Prince live, one of my great musical regrets... y'know, I thought there'd still be time... but from what I hear, he's maybe the only one who came close.)
Anyway, Bruce didn't play anything from Tunnel Of Love on Friday night. It probably wouldn't have fit the rock 'n' roll extravangza that 'The River' tour had promised. He didn't play anything from Nebraska or Tom Joad either. I didn't miss them - not with so much else going on - but I'd have loved to have heard them anyway. 3 1/2 hours... and he barely scratched the surface of what I'd have liked to hear him play...
Anyway, I have two reasons for bringing this up again today. Firstly, I finished reading Born To Run, the Springsteen autobiography, and obviously I enjoyed it a lot. It gave me insights into his character I'd never appreciated before (not all of it nice, but that's the trick with an autobiography: admit to your failings too). The stuff about his father, and Bruce's own battle with depression, was particularly moving, as was his tribute to Clarence. There were times I thought he tried too hard to be a great prose writer, because it was expected of him, but writing a book and writing a story in a song are two very different skills. Essential reading for Bruce fans, obviously. And the rest of you gave up on this post with the opening line, so I'm preaching to the converted.
The second reason is that the aforementioned Coventry concert has been released for official download, as all Bruce's concerts are nowadays: a great way of beating the bootleggers and making some more cash... who wouldn't want to own a live recording of a great gig? I have to admit, I've never been much of a live album fan, but I make an exception for Bruce, and I've been listening to this recording a lot since my pal Steve (who also attended the Coventry gig) gifted it me for Christmas.
I'm going to share two of the tracks with you today. The first is the track he opened with, a piano & vocal only version of one of his earliest songs, For You, which is incredible.
And the second, a big singalong crowd-pleaser, Hungry Heart... because, if you listen very, very carefully, I'm on backing vocals in there somewhere... amid a crowd of thousands.
If you're interested in checking out any more live Bruce, I recommend the official gig website: http://live.brucespringsteen.net/. Don't tell your credit card company I sent you.