Three Nights in The River.
From getting the tickets to the week of the concerts is a very stressful time for the Springsteen fan. All that planning, hotels, planes, trains and automobiles as well as arranging meet ups with friends both old and new and various #brucebuds some from previous shows and others from social networks such as Greasy lake, Backstreets etc it all begins to come together a couple of days before the first scheduled show of this “The River Tour Europe” in Barcelona on May 14th. My friend Niall and I left Bilbao early on Friday morning to meet up with Andy and Catherine at Barcelona´s El Prat (appropriately named) airport before rushing off in a taxi to the Nou Camp in search of the Pit Queue. We found Derek Baillie there with marker in hand to greet us with numbers 345 to 348 and off we went happily to drop off our luggage and begin what would prove to be a memorable weekend of Springsteen fun in the sun of the Catalan capital.
The queuing can often be tedious depending on both the organization and those around you. In this case both were excellent so we got into concert groove quickly and met some great people from all over the world. On the day of the show the mood was jolly and we were all able to take turns in leaving the line to get to bars, restaurants and toilets fairly easily. We entered the stadium around 5 in an orderly fashion and sat ourselves down front and centre about 4 metres from where Bruce would spend most of the show. As usual some people nervously got to their feet around 7pm, still 2 hours before show time so we all followed suit and stood chatting and alternately looking at our watches and the stage.
And so it began, Springsteen took to the stage to be greeted by a huge red and white BRUCE collage in the far away stands and began with the incredible “badlands” which sent us all on a mad euphorically loud, bouncing craziness which lasted for around 3 hours 40 minutes and included memorable performances such as “drive all night” and “purple rain” and the seemingly never ending “twist and shout” before leaving us weary and sore all over but in a state of pure joy. It had been 3 years since his last trip to Spain and we had missed him so much, I am certain he shared our relief that all was well once again on E street.
As we filed out of the stadium people’s faces were painted with broad grins as we began our long walk home recounting our personal favourites from a memorable show.
I awoke on Sunday morning with a familiar ringing in my ears and with a mood of anticipation as I got on a plane to Bilbao and subsequent bus to Donostia, stop 2 on the Spanish leg of the tour.
In San Sebastian I found a couple of friends, Martin Cowan and Russell Darby who had travelled from Scotland on motor bikes waiting for me as I got off the bus and we took a taxi to Anoeta, home of La Real Sociedad to get a number. Jon Atxa, a regular Springsteen attendee was in charge and popped number 201 on the back of my hand leaving me thinking I was going to get even closer than in Barcelona.
Queuing was once again an agreeable experience and many people I had met in Barcelona turned up here too making it even more fun. When we entered the stadium we managed to get on Bruce´s right hand walkway so we knew that he would be over with us at least a couple of times during the show and we were not disappointed.
“Gabon Donosti” Bruce screamed before starting with “working on the highway” and once more sending us into a frenzy lasting just over 3hours 35 minutes. Highlights for me, “my love will not let you down” and “tenth ave” where we shook his hand and in a sort of phoney beatle mania touched his legs like some possessed teenagers. Again we left the stadium overwhelmed with a mixture of joy and fatigue at witnessing once again the greatest live act ever give his all to us , his flock of middle-aged freaks.
I had a couple of days to recover before driving down to Madrid with my wife and friends to attend the 3rd show in a week in the Bernabeu stadium on Saturday 21 May. This time there would be no pit queue as my companions were not up for that kind of “suffering” instead we enjoyed the city, met friends and just relaxed until around 7pm on the night of the show. The atmosphere in Madrid seemed even more charged than in the previous 2 concerts, there seemed to be a higher level of anticipation and people were talking about the previous 2012 show which had been Springsteen´s longest ever European show lasting almost 4 hours.
Again “badlands” got it off to a flyer with the crowd getting into the show from the first notes of the song.
Highlights this time, “trapped” “land of hope and dreams” and a beautiful acoustic version of “Thunder road” to close the show. And then he was gone. The expected euphoria was still there as we left the stadium but in my case it was slowly replaced by a void, a sort of longing, a feeling of sadness that this wonderful week had come to an end. More than 10 hours of live Springsteen in 7 days should be enough to satisfy even the most desperate of fans but as we all know there is never enough. I would happily have flown to England for the Manchester show before going to Dublin and so on, but alas, this is not possible so I have to make do with the memories and of course the huge number of photos and videos being shared on social media. And now back to normal life at work and home I still feel the need to share my thoughts on these wonderful times and say thanks to all of you who made it possible, the fans, the crew, the staff, the E street band and to the Boss himself, see you all in Paris in July.