I had completely forgotten that my friend P had bought me a ticket to see Bruce Springsteen at the Mannheim Arena, and by the time Sunday night rolled around, I really didn’t feel like going. We’d had a busy weekend with visitors (lovely, charming and very special ones), I still wasn’t feeling well and it was cold, wet and stormy outside. I even tried to give my ticket to my husband. He wasn’t buying.
So I pulled myself together, and went with P and two of his friends. I’m happy to report that Bruce is still as cute as he was back in 1984 when he dragged Courtney Cox on stage to dance to “Dancing in the Dark”. He still looks as good in his jeans, the hair is still luxurious although tinged with grey and receding slightly, and he now has a web of crow’s feet around his eyes that suggests his default expression is a smile. And he gives good concert.
The show opens with his new hit “Radio Nowhere” and the crowd were on their feet and dancing – your intrepid correspondent included – from the first chord. (I’m listening to it on YouTube as I write, but unfortunately embedding has been disabled, presumably by request of the record company, so I can’t show it to you. Bah humbug.)
Anyway, Bruce and the E-Street band rock – their show lasted two and a half hours, and there was barely a second between one song finishing and the next starting. Although the show gives the impression of being relaxed and casual, there are nine people on stage many of whom require frequent guitar changes and that happens so smoothly you barely notice. It is carefully planned and, as German software developers love to say, executed. (“Let’s execute this show, immediately!”)
The Observer notes (aficionados can read Phil Hogan’s excellent review here), that it’s no greatest hits show, with at least a third of the songs from the new album. However they encored with “Born to Run” and “Dancing in the Dark”, so the Eighties teenager buried not so deep inside me was happy. I may have to go and buy the album because I loved “Girls in their Summer Clothes” which Bruce dedicated – in German – “to all German girls”, as well as “Radio Nowhere” and “Livin’ in the Future”.
I’m sure serious Bruce fans have noticed how many of his songs are about being on the road, the highway, the street, the run. I suppose even a New Jersey boy has a bit of a pilgrim in him. I’m glad I made my own personal pilgrimage through the dark and wet German night to see him play. It was excellent entertainment. I recommend that Bob Dylan visits with Bruce Springsteen in New York sometime soon, so that Bruce can reach out to him and share how to work a crowd. If Bob was barely live when we saw him Mannheim earlier this year, then Bruce was electric. (But not executed.)