There’s a whispered unofficial reality amongst veteran Springsteen gig-goers in Ireland – namely, the first night is usually the least good of his multi-night stands and that The Boss ages like a fine wine – generally improving on night two and peaking on night three.
If he’s only playing two nights, the advice goes: try to get tickets for the second night.
That is not to say that opening night is bad – it certainly isn’t, just that Bruce and his E-Street Bandmates are only getting going, warming up before hitting maximum perfection. Much of the audience has also bedded in for every night and uses the first as practice.
This year’s first night (last Friday) at the RDS was a case in point. It was good but lacked a bit of the usual audience interaction and was devoid of the usual fan request segment (except for Charlie Bird’s Land of Hope and Dreams request) that has become a staple of Springsteen shows.
Still, it had a 27-song setlist spread across 3 hours; nuggets like The Promised Land, Backstreets, Prove It All Night and The E Street Shuffle nestled into the set and a full-on, foot-to-the-floor 7-song encore; including a standing room only, no-room-for-air express train of Born in the USA (full-on bombastic version), Born to Run, Glory Days, Dancing in the Dark, and Tenth-Avenue Freeze-Out (i.e., the full songs, no medley); and the band were hardly phoning it in, either. Springsteen, himself, 72 years young, looking and acting like a man in his early 50s; Max Weinberg drumming with precision and – in parts – intensity and heaviness that would put son Jay (of Slipknot fame) in the shade; Roy Bittan’s piano rising above everything (including the E Street Horns, the horn section now cemented as a vital part of the modern-day E Street Band); Steven Van Zant looking uber-cool as per usual and the wondrous Nils Lofgren still carrying off that sensational solo in Because the Night with aplomb.
The earlier start time this year (the band coming on between 7 pm and 7:30 pm and finishing by 10:30 pm) may have tempered the atmosphere a bit, but by Night Two (Sunday), the crowd seemed used to that and the whole shebang was generally perceived to be better.
A total of 28 songs, this time around, with a few subtle changes – the brilliant high-energy My Love Will Not Let You Down (from the Tracks and Live in New York City albums) opening proceedings instead of No Surrender (which was bumped down to 3rd song) and the likes of Bobby Jean, Death to My Hometown and Darkness on the Edge of Town slipped into the set; and more intensity, the main man pumped up from the get-go.
Now, tonight is the third and final show on the Irish leg of the Springsteen-E Street Band European tour, and if full-on FOMO hasn’t kicked in yet, you may need to check if your pulse is still in full working order.
Other acts can fill out Dublin’s big venues, but few – maybe U2… or Cradle of Filth – can rival Springsteen and Co as not just a concert, but an unmissable EVENT, almost a rite of passage…no matter how many times one goes to see them.
Likely, the 60,000 people who have seen him in Ballsbridge since Friday have attended a Bruce Springsteen show before – probably many times and probably at the same venue.
So, kick that FOMO and get a ticket while you still can because this show can’t go on forever. Ticketmaster has this gig sold out (in fairness, both nights so far have been jammed – or to quote the late great darts commentator, Sid Wadell: “Even a garter snake smothered in Vaseline couldn’t slide in here!”).
But where there’s a will, there’s usually a way.