Bruce Springsteen is a legend: fact. Bruce Springsteen doesn’t do bad shows: fact. Bruce Springsteen loves Ireland: fact. All the history seems in his favour, but on the first of Springsteen’s two-night sojourn in Dublin, it’s mother nature herself that seem to have conspired against him. The blackest of rain-clouds broods over the city skyline, pelting down its wet misery with malignant abandon, while a bitterly cold wind whips around the RDS as we get closer to showtime. A voice over the tannoy requests punters to take down their umbrellas in the interests of those behind them. Few comply.
And yet when Springsteen and the E Street Band take to the stage at 8pm sharp, launching into Creedence Clearwater Revival’s -Who’ll Stop The Rain?’, the elements are immediately forgotten as a full house begins its ritual worship at the altar of Bruce, who follows up the tongue-in-cheek opener with the classic -Badlands’ and -Cover Me’.
Having somehow managed to survive for 35 years while remaining a Springsteen virgin, State initially wondered why large swathes of the audience were booing after each song – it took about 35 minutes to realise that they were in fact chanting the name of their hero. 10 minutes later, we found ourselves joyously joining in.
Seeing Springsteen live is a quasi-religious experience, augmented by the fact that the New Jersey’s most famous son could have been a bible-thumpin’ Pentecostal preacher, had the gods of rock -n’ roll not come calling. The power of his presence alone is capable of igniting the audience, yet when it’s combined with the legendary talents of musicians like Little Stevie Van Zandt, Nils Lofgren and Clarence Clemens and genuinely classic songs like -Born To Run’, -The River’ and his latest anthem of hope, -Working On A Dream’, it’s incendiary (the latter complete with a hilarious motivational speech eulogising, among other things, Irish girls, Guinness and Burdock’s fish & chips).
While much of his newer material, particularly -Outlaw Pete’ is extremely well received, it’s when he delves into the great American songbook that is his back catalogue that Springsteen really sets himself apart from every 59-year-old on the planet (he turns 60 this September). The familiar harmonica intro to -Thunder Road’ signals a raucous singalong, and is followed up with the cracking -Because The Night’, a hit for Patti Smith in 1978, as the clouds break over the RDS and a rainbow envelopes the stage – even mother nature has succumbed to the power of Springsteen. This epic double whammy is followed with -Waiting On A Sunny Day’, from The Rising, as the blue sky stretches over the arena and Bruce delves into the front rows, emerging wearing a hat (-donated’ by an audience member) that on anybody else would look ridiculous but he somehow manages to pull off.
By the final third, he has everyone, State included, eating out of his hand: even the die-hard indie kids beside us are shaking their skinny-jeans-clad booties to -Tenth Avenue Freeze Out’. The Celtic-tinged -American Land’ prompts mass breakouts of improvised set-dancing, while Bruce extols the virtues of the ‘Viagra-taking, earth shaking’ E Street Band, before the epic three-hour set finishes with -Dancing In The Dark’ and a cover of -Twist & Shout’, Springsteen abiding by the oft-held adage to -send them home sweating’. Having faced down Ireland’s inclement weather gods and given 40,000 Irish fans reason to smile, despite the economic forecast, this man really is The Boss.
Photograph: Paul Beattie Photography