by Alfonso Adánez and Salva Trepat
Madrid has historically had a particular relationship with Springsteen: a kind, cordial relationship with some interesting coincidences. In 1988 it was the comeback show to Spain, after the unforgettable show in 1981. Then there was a bitter event, when in November of 2007 Madrid was the first E Street Band show in 35 years without Danny Federici, who had to be replaced by Charles Giordano. Last Sunday the Madrid show also marked the first anniversary since Clarence passed away.
I could not imagine there would be two more milestones to add to the history of shows in Madrid: the debut of the beautiful “Spanish Eyes” (an outtake from Darkness on the edge of town, which was finally released on the double album The Promise), and the show being his longest ever, with Springsteen and the E Street Band spending 3 hours and 48 minutes onstage.
The stadium was packed and the expectations were high (specially after those extra long shows in Italy the week before). Bruce opened the show with the fury of “Badlands” and “No Surrender”, before going on with some tracks off Wrecking Ball, and album he’s strongly supporting and defending. Bruce looked fresh after a week off and despite the jetlag (he landed in Madrid that same morning).
As the show progressed both Bruce and the audience started sharing a huge dose of feedback. The audience got more and more enthusiastic, and Bruce responded with great joy and working real hard. The world debut of one of the mythical outtakes from the 70’s marked one of the highlights of the show. After numerous rehearsals during soundchecks in both San Sebastián and Madrid, the song finally made it onto the setlist
“Spanish Eyes” was dedicated to the Spanish women, and despite being a huge stadium it didn’t matter at all, none of the intimacy was lost, and there was magic behind every note and nuance. The afternoon soundcheck also included “One Way Street” (another Darkness outtake) and Sam Cooke’s “Havin ‘a Party”, but those will have to wait for another occasion.
Another highlight was “Talk To Me”. No big surprise here as it had been previously played at other shows during the current tour, but having Southside Johnny as a guest was a memorable thing to happen: it was a flashback to 1978, as we had onstage the 3 guys behind those fabulous Jukes albums: Southside Johnny, Bruce Springsteen and Miami Steve Van Zandt (let’s name him again ‘Miami’ for once). It might not be a popular song among the 60,000 people in the stadium, but both Bruce and Johnny gave a formidable performance, soulful, strong and fun, and absolutely everyone danced and had a great time. For a few minutes we felt like we were in a small club in the Jersey Shore in the mid-seventies. It was the first time the trio had been together on a stage in Europe.
“Spirit in the Night”, revitalized with the new intro, sounded more powerful and soulful than ever. Again, maybe not one of his most popular songs, but everyone seemed to enjoy it and quickly catched up with the chorus. It was immediately followed by another rarity, “Be True”, originally the B side to the single “Sherry Darling” in Europe in 1981. It was a brilliant performance, the band nailed it, Bruce sang it beautifully and Eddie Manion’s solo was just perfect.
As the night went on Bruce’s energy level just seemed to increase and increase, and a lot of adrenaline was spent on stunning performances of songs like “She’s the one”, “Youngstown”, “Murder Incorporated” (with its sharp, greasy and fiery guitar solos), as well as a rare appearance of “My Love Will not Let You Down”. Another gift for Madrid was a spectacular “Because the Night”, with Steven doing the final guitar solo. The “Apollo Medley” was back in the set after a little rest and it was well received. One of the emotional moments of the night was “The River”, which was dedicated to Nacho, a 20-year old fan who passed away the week before due to a brain tumor. Family and friends had sent messages to the organization (directly and thru the press) asking Bruce to dedicate a song to him, as this was going to be his first Bruce show.
A magnificent “Thunder Road” closed the main set. Bruce and the band looked real happy, the audience was on fire, so after a little pause they quickly began the encore part of the show, with lots of greatest hits that raised the “craziness” level even more. The audience was a roar. “Born in the U.S.A.” was a blast and it really gave an extra push to a show that had already passed the 3 hour mark a while ago. At the end of “Hungry Heart” Bruce left the stage thru the right side of the ramp, went into a group of workers who were waiting there, danced with them, jumped on some flightcases just a few feet from the seats, and people in there started rushing down, then the people in the pit moved to that side (Bruce was on the other side of the fence), and all hell break loose (in a good sense). The audience was hysterical.
The party went on and on, with delirious vesions of “Seven Nights to Rock” and “Dancing in the Dark”. Come “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” the show had surpassed the Milano mark from a week before, and Bruce still looked as fresh as when he came onstage hours earlier. The roar from the crowd was huge, and Bruce couldn’t resist to do “one more for Madrid”. A long and loose “Twist and Shout” put an end to the show, which by then had just made history: Bruce had just played the longest set of his career. All we could see then was happy faces everywhere in the stadium, faces of disbelief and surprise by the length, intensity and joy of the show.
Let’s say it again: it is incredible what this man is doing at 62, played some of the longest, and yet intense, shows of his career. His honesty, attitude, and dedication to his fans is just incredible. He’s a man on a mission. And he’s provin’ it all night, every night.
Fotos: Jordi Aguilera (2,3,4) / Point Blank (1)