Four tracks into night 2 of his Amsterdam stand it became all too apparent that Bruce Springsteen had tripped and fallen forwards whilst returning to the stage from an excursion down to greet his adoring fans in the pit then after being helped up by sidekick Nils Lofgren and 2 minders for a moment there were hearts in mouth as Bruce yelled “Goodnight folks”. But no this hadn’t been a pre-planned bit of theatre he had tripped and fallen in the city where you are constantly alert to the possibility of being slammed into by one of the gazillions of bicycles freewheeling from museum to cafe.

Overall I preferred night 1 to night 2. Night 2 had a crisper start with the rollicking My Love Will Not Let You Down (a favourite of this Reunion era which now spans more years than the classic E Street 73-88 era). There were fewer musical mistakes, no false endings for instance but that was a sign Bruce was slightly more cautious (less risks taken) especially since his trip. Bruce was more loose on Night 1 and you could see him really trying to work the crowd pulling out various show stoppers and cajoling a very polite and perhaps too respectful, tame even and difficult to get moving Dutch audience into life. Bruce is unsurpassed in his interactions with a stadium crowd and true to form he shows himself to be a master in reaching all 100+ rows in the arena even if he has had to work his butt off for 2 hours to achieve that. Night 1 improved as the show developed especially so with the welcome addition of Trapped into the main set (always strengthens an E Street Band show) and the inclusion of quite possibly a genuine audible and Bruce seemed to get the gang together to go through a nice tight Devil with a Blue Dress Medley clipped of much of the tom-foolery and hi-jinks that accompanied the song in it’s 1978-1981 heyday. It’s likely a not coincidental reference to the passing of Tina Turner although nothing is said to the crowd about this and there’s already been a tribute of sorts when he exclaims “packed with Detroit Muscle” in E Street Shuffle.

There are individual tracks that each of us in the crowd would rather swap for tracks we prefer but Bruce has demonstrated he is able to put together shows filled with meaning and ought to be trusted to that end. Something of Tunnel of Love perhaps or the superb Magic or how about some newer untried material? None of which would lose a crowd but aside from such quibbles this set showcases the different eras of the band pretty well. The inclusion of Nightshift which has become the sole contribution to this set from Only The Strong Survive even conjures up memories of his 1992-93 hiatus from the E Street Band when he was based in Los Angeles and explored different sounds and inspirations (he’s hinted in a couple of interviews recently that some weird material might be released soon-ish in a Tracks 2 box set of material chiefly from this 1990’s period – the hip hop album?). Nightshift ends with a wonderfully soulful duet between Bruce and Curtis King.

No Surrender had opened night 1 and the sight of the destroyed shell of a Russian tank on display in central Amsterdam serving as a warning not to take democracy for granted in a country that had been occupied 80 years ago. No mention is made of the conflict however Stee Van Zandt proudly displays his Ukraine flag guitar. Prove It All Night is one of the tracks which allow Bruce to show off his guitar skills (criminally underrated and downplayed even by himself over the years) and interplay with Steven Van Zandt and with the sax player Jake Clemons. Ghosts is terrific live as it seemed pretty obvious it would be when first heard on record three years ago. Letter To You feels better as a live track than it did as a standalone single track off the album, nice enough as it was, Bruce’s vocals here are more clipped and sharp lending a sense of immediacy – it’s still not quite Ghosts though Bruce does sing it with conviction.

My visit to the wonderful exhibit within the Troppenmuseum that very intelligently sets out the story of colonialism and racism and its impact on Netherlands and the world. Race is indeed the child of racism not the father and Marvin and Jackie did indeed open minds and set world’s on fire in ways that inspire to this day with BLM just the most clear example – part of that continuing struggle to right the wrongs of 400 years and colonial legacy. I’d have liked a bit more context from Bruce with this track but concede it’s also just a nice song and he’s not doing very much talking on this tour.

An hour and a half it takes to get the cautious Dutch crowd in the stands up on their feet but when they do they signal their complete devotion to the idea of infinite hope – Badlands gospel like march through some ‘tough it out’ times, The Rising and Wrecking Ball gives Bruce opportunities for call and return crowd involvement, Born To Run is confidently brash with the chorus belted out by 50,000. it used to stand out in a setlist filled with newer tracks promoting his new album and old warhorses but there are now so many classics in the set all together like Dancing in the Dark (not often played in 1999-2000 for instance) brings nothing short of euphoria to the stadium (now lit up as well as alive). Then the baseball slice of American culture Glory Days storms through in an arena with its own heroes Cruyff, Kluivert, Bergkamp et al. Like a Rembrandt masterpiece Thunder Road is given a spin on night 2 and it’s truly majestic. At the peak of his painting Rembrandt was also dismissed as a mere cars and girls painter. I think Bruce’s standing is likely to improve even further once it becomes no longer possible to experience one of his band’s concerts – he’s a relentless freak – Johnny 99 off perhaps his most critically acclaimed album Nebraska is reworked into a Doctor and the Medics inspired piece. Nothing beats the austere recorded Nebraska tracks though.

The stamina that Max Weinberg shows on drums for 72 is inspiring. You can tell he’s having to grin and bear it more these days to get the job done, previously he’d always seemed so cool and calm. His drumming remains a pleasure to watch, often holding the sticks upside down to generate the thickest blast on his snare. Steve Van Zandt looks in great shape again now too with his mugshot an iconic image from rock history especially when he’s pulling faces while spitting his two-part vocals into the same microphone as his Boss. Jake Clemons gets the biggest and most emotion filled hugs from Bruce. He really has saved this band from being consigned to the history books some ten years ago and his lung capacity has now matured he can really give those booming sax solo’s the full Big Man monty, as opposed to seven years ago sometimes they sounded a bit thin and wispy. Nils Lofgren and Soozie Tyrell have quite minor roles in terms of spotlight but just like Garry Tallent they provide great depth to the experience.

I love Kitty’s Back and would have gladly traded a limb to see that live had the chance arisen in 1999. Perhaps it isn’t quite as suited to a stadium setting as the dive clubs and theaters the song used to grace when it was last played this regularly (pre-1975). This stadium in particular has a poor reputation for sound quality and this jazzy oldy along with E Street Shuffle to many in the audience became lost in an inscrutable mish mash of sound. Still a joy to see it unfold though and it’s a skillful way to keep this show up tempo throughout while allowing Bruce’s vocals some respite and then Nightshift allows a good number of the band members time to go pee. The stomp of Born In The USA literally made the stadium floor vibrate again the stadium at fault or perhaps the bass was set too high.

Midway through the set is the spiritual centrepoint of the show – he tells the story of his first band and how he is now the sole surviving member – others having been taken far too young by conflict overseas or succumbed more recently to the big C. Last Man Standing was great on the record and is reworked as a solo acoustic number that segues into a gorgeous Backstreets. Tears in the eyes of many as they work their way through that

The screens have improved so much over the years – now gigantic things enabling people at the very far corners of the stadium to engage with the facial expressions. An interpreter stands in front of hearing impaired Bruce fans who are wildly excited by the show. It’s a welcome addition. Three of the songs have translated lyrics displayed on the big screens – Letter to You being the first – greeted with bemusement and mirth from the Dutch fans around me – perhaps some of the translation was off. It’s certainly a new feature of his show but is it really necessary in multi-lingual Netherlands? Other features are the lighting and use of dry ice within the stadium but mercifully even at 73 he’s not opted for laser shows, fireworks or intrusive special effects.

Ramrod, added late on to night 2, is deliberately rambunctious almost debauched and is playing in my mind as less than an hour later I walk through the absolutely packed crowds or young lads and lasses in Amsterdam’s famous red light district

So that was Bruce and his band getting the crowd buzzing again after 7 long years but is this a big way of saying farewell to the fans? The end of I’ll See You In My Dreams particularly night 2 felt very summational with the crowd tenderly lilting into the words and no longer is he exclaiming “we’ll be seeing ya!”

Highly delighted to have enjoyed both nights but also satisfied in a way that my trips to see the band in previous tours always left me wanting to see more and more shows. That was in the days where I was looking for something new and fresh each time whereas now the shows serve to rekindle memories I had in the past, a gentle reminder of how great Bruce – the song and dance man, songwriter, guitar player, band leader, poet and singer is and the musicianship of the band holds up well.

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