July 26: Bilbao

From time to time there’s a night, a show, that shines over the rest. A night in which Bruce Springsteen explodes and offers his absolute best. This show was Bilbao. Like in St. Louis in 2008, Bruce came onstage with a mission, and delivered a show full of magic. His voice was back in great shape (after being a bit hoarse for weeks), the band was incredibly tight and powerful, Bruce’s stage performance was exceptional, but best of all, the song selection was fantastic, mixing recent stuff with older vintage classics and some rarities and one-offs, and he sang every line with conviction.

After Nils playing «Desde Santurce a Bilbao» (a classic local song) the band stepped into a tremendous «The Ties That Bind», then into «Badlands» and «Hungry Heart», and it was clear there was something else going on that night. That special extra bit that makes a show not just great but magical. Yeah, one of those nights.

Songs like «Murder Incorporated» sounded better than ever, with explosive guitar work at the end. Nils shined particularly in the long and furious guitar solo on «Because the Night» (ala Magic tour, but longer and more exciting than ever). «Factory» was stunningly beautiful, starting with Bruce singing solo the first verse (with a little guitar) and then the band joining in, similar to the 1978 version. It was followed by a great version of «This Hard Land», that sounded more like the original ’82 recording. A great «Raise Your Hand» was played next, while Bruce was taking lots of signs from the audience. The magic was in the air, and Bruce sang «Raise Your Hand» with his most soulful voice, atop the piano, and jumping up and down while the audience was in ecstasy. The song that is usually just background music to pick up signs was now a powerful highlight.

The rarities followed, with a great «Santa Claus is Coming to town» (the sign Bruce showed had a picture of Santa with Bruce when he was a small kid) followed by the best «Thunder Road» heard in ages (finally done at the right tempo, with Bruce really singing the first lines with passion instead of just reciting the words coming on the teleprompter). It sounded fresh and as epic as it should always be. «Does this Bus Stop at 82nd Street?» was next, a tour premiere that pleased the old fans (most of the audience clearly had no clue of what the song was). Not letting the magic vanish, Max inmediately went into the drum beats for «My Love Will Not Let You Down», a fabulous rock song that was one of the highlights of the show. Max kicked ass, Bruce kicked ass, Nils and Steve kicked ass. Electricity filled the air and the whole stadium was burning. It was real hot and we’re only hoping a song like this stays in the set for the rest of the tour.

With this level of excitement even more standard performances like «Waitin’ on a Sunny Day» and «The Promised land» felt great. Next was a beautiful «The River», with a great falsetto ending (ala Devils tour). The end of the main set was a blast, with a particularly hot «Radio Nowhere».

After «Born to Run», and waving goodbye, Bruce and band didn’t even leave the stage and went back to their instruments. He picked up a sing, placed in front of his mic stand and started playing a fun, exciting, hot-rockin’ and note-perfect «You Never Can Tell», including a dance with Soozie. The crowd went crazy. The Chuck Berry song was a tour debut, and it was Bruce’s first performance with the band since 1974!

The encores continued with a fabulous «Jungleland», where Clarence shined and nailed the solo (it’s worth mentioning Clarence nailed every solo on this concert, and he looked great, dressing different from previous shows). Another sign request brought a cheerful and fun «Rosalita», which Bruce introduced in spanish, asking Rosie to please come out tonight. The show ended with a trepid «Twist and Shout» (think of Buenos Aires 88), and after 3 hours and 6 minutes.

All over the night Bruce spoke various times in both basque (the local language) and spanish. Tonight’s connection and complicity with the audience was complete. Bruce’s performance was enough to get a great response from the fantastic Bilbao audience, and he didn’t need to run all over the front of the stage so much. The music spoke in this special night where all the stars shone. It was a time leap that brought back the memories of that show in St.Louis last August. It was that kind of show. After the show, all fans agreed something special had happened, and almost no one could remember a better performance (unless they had seen Bruce pre-Born in the U.S.A.).

In the early evening, at 7 pm, and with half the crowd already in the field, Bruce stepped into the field and went to a bar, where he chatted with fans, until too many people recognized him and he left.

See complete set list

Photos Bilbao: copyright 2009 Mamen Iturralde
Photo hotel in San Sebastián: copyright 2009 Eider Arzak

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