MADRID: Great Companions for This Part of the Ride

Madrid was a tale told between two tour premieres.

Being the last show in Spain – a country that Bruce loves almost as much as the country loves him – many were expecting a special night, though few could have predicted how that specialness would manifest itself in the setlist. Instead of a plethora of tour premieres like in Portugal, or dipping deep into the well that is The River album,[1] or playing it fast and loose with sign requests, Bruce had a very specific story to tell and message to communicate to his adoring Spanish fans and Basque fans and Catalonian fans and fans from all around the world who had made the trip to Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. Simply put, the show was an ode to the power of communal experience in overcoming obstacles that life may present to individuals, a concept that Bruce understands is poignantly conveyed through the Spanish concert experience – as he emotionally demonstrated through the show’s carefully constructed setlist, particularly the two tour premieres of the night.

The first – in my humble opinion – ranks among Bruce’s finest work of the E Street Reunion era, and can really compete with any song he’s ever written. After a blistering start that had worked the Madrid crowd into a level of frenzy yet to be experienced on this European tour, Bruce slowed the show down for a transcendent performance of the soundchecked “My City of Ruins.”[2] Before delving into this specific performance, however, I want to take a moment to explain why I love the song so much,[3] because I believe its meaning – or at least what I believe it means – was crucial in setting the tone for the whole night.

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Originally written about Asbury Park but ultimately coming to most closely be associated with the tragedy of September 11 and the city it befell after Bruce’s emotionally wrenching rendition during the benefit concert America: A Tribute to Heroes shortly after the attacks, the song encapsulates what sets Bruce’s lyrical skills apart from almost every other artist; he has the unique gift of being able to write lyrics general enough to emotionally resonate with all sorts of different contexts and people, yet specific enough to allow the listener to forge a real personal connection with the words. In fact, the lyrics of “My City of Ruins” almost speak to this interrelated juxtaposition between the general and the personal: while the first two verses seem to address a general, conventional city in ruins – such as New York City after 9/11 – the last verse appears to change that city from a big literal city to a small metaphorical city, with Bruce likening the tragic degradation of a city to the end of a personal relationship. Ultimately, the ruins of the city come to symbolically represent the ruins of the lead character’s relationship.

By playing the song in the wake of September 11, Bruce hopefully allowed his listeners to understand and most importantly feel on an appropriately grand scale the personal losses that so many individuals had to suffer through after the attacks. We could all see the pictures and videos and thus feel the devastation that hit New York City, but unless you personally lost someone on that day, it may have been hard to truly emotionally understand these intimate losses because personal ruins are much harder to see and thus feel than the physical ruins of a city. By drawing a comparison between the visible destruction of a city – which you can always leave – with the unseen destruction of a life – which you’re stuck in – Bruce ideally brought all of us one step closer to truly empathizing with our lost brothers and sisters.

Yet the song is about so much more than just emotionally enlightening those of us who were lucky enough to avoid such tragedies in our own lives; “My City of Ruins,” at its very best, provides a framework for those who weren’t so lucky as to how they can continue to live in the face of their tragedy, and that framework is founded upon the connection between the universal and the personal. By choosing to end The Rising – an album that was very much a response to 9/11 – with “My City of Ruins,” Bruce clearly wanted the message of the song to be his last AND lasting words on the subject. The aforementioned individual-focused third verse ends with a question that many who have ever lost a loved one probably asked themselves at some point: “My soul is lost, my friend / Tell me how do I begin again?”

Lesser artists may have started the album with this question, using the rest of their songs to posit different answers. But Bruce understands that these answers must be rooted in a deep understanding of the sadness that prompted the person to ask such a question; we cannot move on until we’ve come to terms with what we’re moving on from, which the preceding songs on The Rising try to achieve. In addition, Bruce is keenly aware that though reflecting on someone’s past is hard, predicting someone’s future is basically impossible because each individual will handle their sadness differently. “How do I begin again” leads to an infinite number of answers – one for each person who’s ever asked it, really – but it is in that universal multiplicity that each individual should find the necessary hope to continue to live.

Though “how do I begin again” feels like a personal question, the fact that so many people have asked it allows the answers to take on communal dimensions. A person may feel like they’re alone in their city of ruins, but the fact that we’ve all experienced ruined literal and metaphorical cities before – a shared knowledge upon which the emotional impact of “My City of Ruins” relies – means that this universal community of ‘friends’ can aid the ‘lost souls’ of individuals. Bruce captures this change in how the question can be understood from the individually personal to the universally communal in the final lines of the songs: “With these hands, / I pray,” becomes, “We pray…”

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When faced with a seemingly insurmountable loss, we must remember that other people have gone through such losses before. If these past sufferers could continue to live, we can too. And all the power that we need to begin again is contained in our very hands and the hands of all of the other people around us in our communities. The same hands that built the empty church in the first verse and the same hands that ‘boarded up’ the windows in the second verse will be the same hands that get to work on beginning again. It’ll require a lot of “strength” and “faith” and “love” and – most importantly – each other, but we will all “rise up” again in time. Together.

This message felt so very empowering when heard at Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium on Saturday night while standing amongst 80,000 fellow congregants in the Church of Springsteen, all raising their hands. During this final section of the song, as Bruce had the crowd repeat the refrain, “With these hands, we pray…” he looked to the sky and passionately wailed. Though the ordered phrasing of this refrain may call to mind hands in a prayer position, this wail served as a reminder of the importance of one’s voice in healing prayers as well. To match their hands in the air, the Madrid crowd echoed his cry of passion with their own voices, loudly chanting, “Rise up!” over and over and over again. Along with working on our lives with our hands, we must also always make our voices heard in acts of individual and shared expression – “ain’t nobody like to be alone,” and in recognizing yourself in the voices of others, you realize that none of us truly are.

As with most prayers, they can be powerful when spoken alone, but always feel even more impactful when sung together communally. Hearing Bruce sing a song in your headphones may emotionally resonate with you, but since so many of his songs touch upon the importance of community, hearing those same songs sung in unison by tens of thousands of people allows them to take on even greater resonance, particularly when the fans around you are as passionately involved in the music as your average Spanish crowd. Though audience participation is a key factor of any E Street Band concert, very few reach the levels achieved in Spain – there’s a reason many foreigners unaccustomed with these types of shows claim to lose their voices in the first few songs.

I don’t want to delve into too much anthropology here, but the rabid nature of Spanish fans feels cultural – I attended a soccer/football match in Madrid the night after Bruce’s concert, and there were so many similarities between the two crowds: nonstop communal chanting, jumping, arm-waving, spirit hand-shaking, and just widespread reveling in shared passion. At a show in America, if an audience member begins to express themselves outwardly – let’s say through unconventionally chanting along to a song – most people around that person will just stand there, look on, and judge.[4] If the same situation occurs in Spain, everyone else will join in on the chant. I’m sure some Americans will respond to this point by saying, “I paid to hear Bruce; not the crowd.” But those people are missing out one of the most special aspects of an E Street Band concert, an aspect at which Spanish crowds excel, one that “My City of Ruins” not only touches upon but embodies when performed live: the power of the communal experience in dealing with the trials and tribulations of life.

Though each of us have our own personal problems that a Bruce concert helps us handle, the most common shared sadness amongst us all was reminded of when Jake took his dearly departed Uncle’s gorgeous solo. As Bruce stated in his introduction to the song during the aforementioned benefit concert, it’s “a prayer for our fallen brothers and sisters.” Many didn’t know how the E Street Band would ‘begin again’ after Clarence’s passing, but Bruce, the Band, and all of us are providing an answer every night: you use those hands and voices to pick up instruments and continue to play together, as the rest of Band did beautifully on “My City of Ruins,” particularly Charlie and Roy on their solos.[5] And all of us in the crowd raised our hands and voices to sing in tribute together, a symbolic reminder that the foundations of a continued future can rise up from the ruins of death through the work of our hands and the prayers of our voices.

I’ve spent so long dissecting what “My City of Ruins” means to me because I believe its meaning colored almost every song played in Madrid, as if Bruce constructed the setlist to exclusively include songs that speak to this theme, thereby turning the entire show into a love letter to the shared passion of Spanish crowds. In return, the crowd provided a plethora of unique participatory antics that further validated Bruce’s love for them.

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Even before “My City of Ruins” clarified the focus of the night, every song that preceded it contributed to this message in some way, either directly through the literal meaning of the songs or indirectly through how they’re conventionally performed live: I’ve written before about the almost religious power of “Badlands” in concert; the title of “My Love Will Not Let You Down” says it all, with the crowd jumping and repeatedly chanting, “love love love love love” in unison, reaffirming the validity of the song’s title; “Cover Me” – a song about the desire for another person to help face the world – saw Bruce repeatedly saying, “wrap your arm around me,” to which the Spanish crowd responded by raising their arms as Bruce launched into his SECOND guitar solo of the song, clearly feeling it; “The Ties That Bind” is about, well, the ties that bind us to each other, with the crowd’s chanting of the chorus’ echoes serving as an aural symbol of those ties; “Sherry Darling” always calls for communal “party noises,” befitting a song with the repeated line, “I got you, and baby you’ve got me;” finally, “Two Hearts” speaks to the power of doubles over singles, with Bruce and Stevie both turning to the crowd to acknowledge the roar of noise coming at them before the “It Takes Two” coda.

Though some may claim the first sin the setlist committed was the European premiere of “Wrecking Ball,” the song actually fit perfectly with the communal theme of the night. By stripping away all of the pauses usually filled with superficial cheers of recognition – “Swamps of Jersey!” “Meadowlands!” “Giants!” “Parking lots?” – the streamlined performance revealed the song to be a poignant and worthy stadium-rocking primer for “My City of Ruins.” After the nonstop power of the first six, consistently themed songs, it almost felt like Bruce and the crowd were now ready to summon the inevitable wrecking ball to turn their rock and roll city into temporary ruins.

The first verse basically summarizes the longevity of Bruce’s career, a testament to his and his crowd’s staying power in the face of life’s unavoidable pitfalls. “Hard times come and hard times go,” stadiums rise and stadiums fall – as do cities, if not literally then definitely economically – and we all know that, “tomorrow / None of this will be here,” but the song captures the power of music and memories to transcend all of these finite limitations. When the symbol of life’s devastation – the wrecking ball – is on the approach, we must not wallow in sadness. Instead, mirroring the final communal image of “My City of Ruins,” Bruce demands his audience to, “raise up your glasses / And let me hear your voices call / ‘Cause tonight all the dead are here / So bring on your wrecking ball…” With the crowd’s hands and voices rising up –those same voices that ritually call up memories of the dead, such as Jake playing the sax solos of his deceased Uncle – the cacophony of sound echoed through the stadium, mirroring the echoes that memories of this night would sound in the crowd’s psyches for many years to come. A throwaway song during most concerts became a truly rousing performance in Madrid – not to mention a perfect introduction to “My City of Ruins” – all thanks to the avid participation of the Spanish crowd.

Their participation was expectedly just as strong for the two songs that normally elicit such reactions from the crowd: “Hungry Heart” and “Out in the Street.” Yet instead of feeling rote, their vocal contributions were injected with unexpected emotional resonance following “My City of Ruins,” with their chorus of voices feeling like proof that ‘ain’t nobody should feel alone’ on nights like these amongst a crowd like this. Perhaps aware of this extra emphasis – or simply due to Bruce slowly becoming conditioned to the extra physical exertion required from him to handle his stadium stage setup – Bruce walked to both of the extreme side platforms[6] to physically connect with his ravenously adoring fans.

Unlike his feigned exhaustion at the end of this stretch in Barcelona, Bruce seemed re-energized by the reciprocal connection of love between himself and the crowd, continuing to traverse the entirety of the stage during “The Promised Land.” Much like on “My City of Ruins,” Jake once again blew the roof off the stadium.[7] It was really a great night for him, with Bruce giving him ample opportunities to shine, perhaps understanding that Jake is the perfect symbol for the continued existence of the E Street Band in the face of overwhelming loss, in this case being the death of his uncle. As Bruce just beamed at the little Big Man during their sax and harmonica back-and-forth,[8] it was hard not to think about how many ‘boys’ had become and will continue to become ‘men’ through the music of E Street.

Jake thrived on the next song as well, even more impressive given how little he’s played it recently; during “Hungry Heart,” Bruce grabbed the only sign request of the night – a thematically fitting “Trapped.” Though Bruce mostly ignored the crowd’s signs – probably because he was trying to communicate a very clear message through a precise setlist – “Trapped” perfectly connected to the night’s emphasis on the power of communal voices in overcoming life’s limitations. Even though he didn’t write the song – and though it can be interpreted as a song that addresses a negative connection between two people – the collection of voices that greet the chorus mirrors the voices ‘rising up’ in “My City of Ruins.” There will always be times in life where we feel trapped in conditions life thrusts upon us, but our voices can always transcend these limitations, especially when combined in a communal chorus.

A chorus of voices also greeted Bruce’s performance of “The River,” as they have every night of the tour. With the cell phone fireflies illuminating the entirety of the stadium and the crowd joining in on the ‘ooos’ at the end of the song, every performance of the song stands as a nightly testament to the support system a community can offer to the type of everyday tragic relationship depicted in the song. Though “The River” may sound like it’s only about two people, it’s really about all of us, for anyone can find themselves one day in a relationship that life inevitably tears apart. The implicit presence of a comforting community that the crowd provides as a sort of backdrop to the song is symbolically manifested through the use of the giant screen behind the Band that’s unique to the stadium stage setup. Throughout the night, the video team creates beautiful stage pictures that largely superimpose shots of emotional audience members over typical shots of the Band, which really drive home the connection between the two. My favorite example of this:

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Yet after a truly haunting rendition of “Point Blank” – perhaps the best of the tour thus far[9] – the stretch of the show began with which most have expressed their grievances. Instead of playing songs from the second record of The River, Bruce opted instead to fill these slots with Born in the U.S.A. tracks – obviously his most popular amongst casual fans given the album’s global success – and predictable stadium crowd-pleasers. Though I would probably prefer to hear some other tunes, I do not think these are mindless, lazy setlist decisions on Bruce’s part as some have suggested.

First up was “Downbound Train” into “I’m on Fire,” the first two of the four songs that Bruce played here after premiering in Portugal, a treat for those who had decided to skip the festival set in favor of arriving in Madrid earlier for pit roll call purposes.[10] Yet Bruce didn’t only bring back these songs to appease those not in attendance at Rock in Rio; they also fit the theme of the night as well, directly in the case of the former and indirectly in the case of the latter through the response it garnered in concert. “Downtown Train” is a song about a heartbroken character who’s trying to reconnect with his lost love within the confines of his memory, and Bruce wailing “BOOOOOOOUND TRAAAAAAIN” at the end of the song to capture the character’s yearning conveys yet again how one’s voice can transcend the tragic spatial and temporal limitations that life often forces upon us.

Though “I’m on Fire” is a much slighter song, the Spanish crowd in Madrid made it yet another communal spectacle by loudly singing along throughout its duration. A clap-along to the beat was started by the hands of those sitting in seats, accompanying the voices rising up in a singalong from the pit. Just another occurrence of Bruce’s music uniting this special Spanish crowd of 80,000 into one unified, communal whole of hands and voices.

Two more Born in the U.S.A. songs followed, and though they’ve now both become European tour staples due to how much crowd participation they elicit, I feel Bruce plays “Darlington Country” and “Working on the Highway” every night because of why they inspire such a response from the crowd. While Bruce was already a household name by the time Born in the U.S.A. was released in America, the album provided many Europeans with not only an introduction to the Boss but also a general introduction to the American culture depicted on the album.[11]

Before the concert began, I was talking to a young Spaniard standing next to me who claimed he and many of his friends learned English through translating the words of all of the songs on Born in the U.S.A. If you’ve ever read anything about linguistic studies, you’ll know that one’s language practically determines how you not only interact with the world around you but also how you understand that world. A brief example: the English language has only one word to describe love, whereas the Greek language has many words to describe different types of love. As such, Greek people will have very different conceptions of love and thus understand it differently than those who speak English.

Many E Street fans will tell you that Bruce’s music provides a framework through which they better understand their lives, yet I’d argue that his music provides an even more fundamental framework for these Spaniards who learned English through Born in the U.S.A. Bruce’s words on the album are literally the foundation upon which these people understand and connect with English language and culture. As such, hearing these songs performed live in concert reinforces this base, almost primal connection. Is it any wonder then that Born in the U.S.A. songs seem to resonate so deeply with Spanish crowds? Though many people would prefer for Bruce to leave such ‘greatest hits’ behind, it’s important to remember how integral they were to so many fans’ introduction to Bruce, and how a majority of those in these stadiums – most of whom do not obsessively setlist watch from home – absolutely adore the songs.

And when Spaniards adore something, they let everyone around them know. During “Darlington County,” Bruce led the crowd in a repeated, “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” chant on every downbeat of Jake’s sax solo. As Nils ran to join Bruce on one of the aforementioned side platforms, a wave of cheers erupted from every member of the crowd as he ran by them. During “Working on the Highway,” the mid-song choral build of chanting voices that’s accompanied by the waving of spirit-hands was so loud that Bruce actually extended it because he was too busy laughing at being taken aback by the overwhelming noise. And during “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day,” the little boy Bruce called up to sing was just so happy[12] to be next to Bruce that he spent his entire time on stage simply hugging the Boss while crying instead of singing the song.[13]

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Though European audiences are much more expressive in their love than their American counterparts, I’ve noticed this love is almost exclusively directed at Bruce, as demonstrated by the repeated chants of, “Bruce! Bruce! Bruce!” versus sharing the wealth with the rest of the E Street Band. Regardless, Bruce Bruce Bruce afforded his fellow band members many opportunities to command the spotlight, such as on “Johnny 99” and “Because the Night.” Whereas the former only highlighted the communal musical skills of the E Street Band, the latter obviously connects to the communal theme of the night on many levels. Take the chorus alone: “Because the night belongs to lovers / Because the night belongs to us.”

“Spirit in the Night” – the last of the tour premieres from Portugal to make an appearance in Madrid – brought the crowd back to one of the first communities Bruce created in his music, and the performance featured Bruce traversing the entirety of the stage to ensure everyone in the house felt the spirit (the sound of their resounding voices said it all: “YEEEAH! YEEEAH!”). Though he attempted to pit sections of the stadium against each other – as he did in Portugal –   to see who could cheer the loudest, the crowd either didn’t get the memo or we were all just too united to be divided in such a way.

“Human Touch” followed, calling to mind the most conventional connection amongst the band on stage most nights:[14] between the husband-and-wife team of Bruce and Patti. Like Jake, Patti stepped up to the thematic plate and really seemed to elevate her game in Madrid, making her presence beautifully heard on such songs of connection as “Trapped,” “Because the Night,” and of course this gem from Human Touch. The song is one of Bruce’s most poignant explorations of the power of sheer human connection.

I’m well aware that I’m repeating myself a lot here, but I just wanted to convey how much thematic consistency I believe Bruce strived for and achieved with his Madrid setlist. Many have argued that Bruce is haphazardly throwing together these setlists without much thought or ingenuity, but this thematic consistency hopefully casts a lot of doubt on those arguments. Some could suggest that Bruce making the same basic statement over and over again proves monotonous and ultimately boringly repetitive, but artists have been repeatedly tackling the same subject with their art for hundreds upon hundreds of years. In his defense against assertions that hip-hop is mindless because every song of the genre does nothing more than reaffirm the singer’s wealth and status just in different ways, Jay-Z cited Shakespeare’s sonnets as bearing a similar goal, only with the subject of love. Almost all of the Bard’s 154 sonnets concern love, yet they each attack it from a different perspective. Taken together, this multiplicity of perspectives provides a universal conception of love that captures its infinite subjectivity.

Similarly, though most of the songs contained in Bruce’s Madrid setlist commented on the same subject of the power of the communal experience, they each provided a slightly different and thus unique perspective on this theme. Though he may repeat some words or re-use some contexts, the combination of how the words are used and where the songs fit in the setlist slightly change the night’s ultimate meaning. And since every audience member probably has an individual interpretation of each song, all of these interpretations simultaneously existing in the same space basically creates a temporary community of united, differentiated ideas.

Yet why – some may still ask – couldn’t Bruce choose to include some of his seemingly infinite number of other, lesser-played songs that also relate to the night’s theme? I’ve already commented on the importance of his ‘greatest hits’ to the lives of many Spaniards, but I also think that repeating the same songs forged a link between all of the Spanish crowds who enjoyed these songs in different ways. The voices of the Catalonians and the Basques and the Spaniards were basically all sha-la-la-ing to “Darlington Country,” tra-la-la-ing to “The Promised Land,” and “li-li-li-ing” to “The Rising” together, merely separated by the sort of spatial and temporal limitations that Bruce repeatedly conveyed can easily be transcended through the power of communal music.

In a way, Madrid was the culmination of all of the concerts in Spain that preceded it. As such, instead of ending the main set on the familiar note of “Thunder Road,” Bruce had saved a special message for those who had travelled to Madrid, and it took the form of the second tour premiere of the night: the soundchecked “Land of Hope and Dreams.” By this point, I hope you can interpret for yourself just how well this song comments on the communal themes and ideas that Bruce had been developing throughout the concert. In short, it proved the perfect bookend to “My City of Ruins.” If that song depicts the sort of tragic event that makes people want to pursue a happier alternative to their city of ruins, then “Land of Hope and Dreams” expresses the communal journey that all of our downtrodden brothers and sisters will take to find a more hospitable community in which to live.

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The two songs even mirror each other lyrically. As I wrote previously, the final proper verse of “My City of Ruins” ends with, “My soul is lost, my friend / Tell me how do I begin again.” “Land of Hope and Dreams” is a sort of answer to that question, a celebration of the power of community in overcoming such obstacles. The song ends by providing an answer that uses a lot of the same terminology as the original question: “This train…carries lost souls.”

The E Street Nation community can be seen as that train – a collection of people who share a love for Bruce, his music, and the values and ideals contained within his songs and his live concerts. And there is perhaps no better manifestation of that train than Spanish crowds, who will accept you even if you spend your time dancing with our leader’s wife (as a lucky fan got to do during “Dancing in the Dark”). All you have to do – as Bruce wailed to the sky – is get on board.

Yet this train is not without its sorrows, for it would be disingenuous and not true to life to make such a claim. As Jake reminded us by pounding his heart and pointing to the sky after the ‘lost souls’ line, the E Street Band train cannot chug along forever. We will always have the memories and the music, but our church will not always remain standing for everything corporeal is finite. Bruce made sure to implicitly point this out by including an emotion-filled “Bobby Jean” near the concert’s close. One of his most iconic ‘goodbye’ songs, Bruce oh so subtly changed a key lyric in the final verse; when singing about the power that his music will have to connect the lead character to his lost brother across thousands of miles, Bruce switched, “You’ll hear me sing THIS song” to, “You’ll hear me sing YOUR song.”

Once again, Bruce was making sure that the Spanish crowd knew they were just as responsible for the magical equation that is the power of an E Street Band concert as anyone on stage who had actually contributed to the writing of these songs. Through our passionate dedication both over the years and on this night, our community owns Bruce and the Band’s songs just as much as they do. By owning these songs, they can belong to all of us forever, letting the train keep chugging along in our memories even after the corporeal train has ceased to run. It’s no coincidence that on this night Bruce added “testifying” and “death-defying” to his E Street Band introduction; Bruce had been testifying all night, and the existence of a community that will long outlive him and the Band allows them to defy death.

Much like the crowd participation at the end of “My City of Ruins” that called for the raising of hands and voices in the face of tragic devastation, the end of “Land of Hope and Dreams” also called for the Spanish crowd to raise their spirit hands and loudly, repeatedly sing the refrain, “This train…this train…this train…” – the metaphorical vehicle through which we can all “rise up” together. Bruce immediately called for the house lights to light us up, illuminating the crowd and everything our nonstop participation represented about the powerful community of E Street Nation aboard this train.

With an acoustic “Thunder Road” to end the evening that basically turned into a giant singalong, no better line summarized this amazing night in Spain than, “Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night.” That same faith prayed for in “My City of Ruins” and that same faith rewarded on the train in “Land of Hope and Dreams” once again made an appearance. And once again, Bruce rewarded the faith of his loyal, impassioned community with a night that will not soon be forgotten.

We’re all riders on this train, and the train in Madrid and every other concert in Spain was full of great companions for this part of the ride.

Was it a perfect show? No. Do I wish he had played a few different songs? Yes, of course. But it was still a very special night, and one that told a devastatingly clear narrative. That narrative may not be as beholden to The River as European fans expected, but Bruce – like life – is rarely in the business of giving his fans what they expect. You may have thought this tour would be one kind of train, and I understand people who are disappointed by that train never showing up. But instead of focusing on that disappointment, I urge everyone to try to realize just how special the train Bruce and the Band are currently conducting really is.

Luckily, this train is far from reaching its last destination; there are many more cities to save before that final day comes.

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FOOTNOTES

[1] He played seven songs from the album, only one of which came from the second record. But just because he’s not including the full narrative of The River does not mean these shows are totally without any sort of emotional narrative. In fact, I’d argue that he largely left The River behind in Madrid because he had another, even more specific story to tell.

[2] Only one song was soundchecked but not played: “Radio Nowhere.”

[3] As anyone standing around me at the concert can attest to after witnessing the rivers of tears streaming down my face. My only gripe about the performance: it basically emotionally destroyed me for the remainder of the night.

[4] Trust me – I’ve been that person before. Many times.

[5] It really was a perfect performance of “My City of Ruins,” made even more powerful by the fact that Bruce (coincidentally? Probably) timed it to coincide with the sun setting. I’m always impressed at how masterfully the E Street Band can make it seem like they’ve been playing a song every night when in actuality it’s their first performance in years.

[6] Remember, Bruce’s stadium stage set up fits a grand total of five platforms in front, and two in the back of the pit.

[7] Well…he would have if there WAS a roof over the stadium.

[8] Bruce wasn’t so happy at the beginning of the song when it looked like his teleprompter was having some issues…yet he miraculously made it through the song without a hitch.

[9] As much as I musically love “I Wanna Marry You” into “The River” into “Point Break,” choosing two of these three really helps maintain the pace needed for a show not to lose members of the crowd in a stadium setting. Plus, the nuanced complexity of these songs is somewhat lost on those who cannot speak English fluently.

[10] The only tour premiere from Portugal not played: “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” a song that wouldn’t have really fit the theme of the night.

[11] I somewhat addressed this interchange of cultures here.

[12] Or perhaps scared?

[13] There were actually multiple instances of members of the Spanish crowd of all ages physically showing their affection for Bruce when called onstage. His “Dancing in the Dark” partner similarly wouldn’t stop hugging him, and Bruce randomly called up a little girl during “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” who wanted nothing more than, yes, a long hug.

[14] The fact that Patti showed up for every concert in Spain is a testament to how much the Springsteens really do enjoy this country.

 

 

SETLIST

  1. Badlands
  2. My Love Will Not Let You Down
  3. Cover Me
  4. The Ties That Bind
  5. Sherry Darling
  6. Two Hearts 
  7. Wrecking Ball
  8. My City of Ruins
  9. Hungry Heart 
  10. Out in the Street
  11. The Promised Land
  12. Trapped
  13. The River
  14. Point Blank
  15. Downbound Train
  16. I’m on Fire
  17. Darlington County 
  18. Working on the Highway
  19. Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
  20. Johnny 99
  21. Because the Night
  22. Spirit in the Night
  23. Human Touch
  24. The Rising
  25. Land of Hope and Dreams
  26. Born in the U.S.A.
  27. Born to Run 
  28. Glory Days
  29. Dancing in the Dark
  30. Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
  31. Bobby Jean
  32. Twist and Shout 
  33. Thunder Road
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