Archive for June, 2013

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band: Coventry Ricoh Arena, 20 June 2013

25 Jun


Another couple of hours spent queuing in the Coventry rain secures wristband for front of stage area and a date with Freehold New Jersey’s finest son and his Band. Zak asks why I’d go see the same act twice in a week and I answered by saying that over the course of 2 gigs, Springsteen and the E Street Band played 61 songs – only nine of them on both nights.

 In recent years Springsteen made ‘Badlands’ a regular opener but tonight a solo Bruce with acoustic guitar and harmonica strolls on stage and delivers a quiet call to arms in ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’.

 It’s part of the man’s enduring appeal that his body of work encompasses rock, folk, country, blues, ballads and R&B and ‘Ghost’ draws on the Woody Guthrie/Pete Seeger strain with a bleak critique of the modern America ignored by mainstream Hollywood:

 ‘Man walkin’ down the railroad track; goin’ someplace and there’s no goin’ back: Highway Patrol chopper comin’ up over the ridge; hot soup on a campfire under the bridge. Shelter line stretchin’ round the corner, welcome to the New World Order; families sleepin’ in their cars in the South West: no job, no home, no peace, no rest.’

The concert itself is interactive: you don’t just ‘watch’ this Band play, you are asked, invited or cajoled into singing, dancing and getting involved.

And if you’re near the front of the pit and have a song request, the world’s most expensive interactive juke box band may just play your song.

In Glasgow, Springsteen took a cardboard sign from a young woman who’s Dad had died in March, asking for ‘Tougher than the Rest’. The band played the song and Bruce then trooped all the way back over to the crowd and returned the sign to her. That’s a man in touch both with himself and his crowd. Tonight ‘Seeds’, ‘Trapped’ and ‘The River’ are all done via requests.

‘Long Time Comin’ was a stage premiere for the E Street Band, the duet of ‘My Love Will Not Let You Down’ and ‘Two Hearts’ was just awesome. Thirty songs played  in all.

American Land

The Springsteen fraternity is vast: so after meeting Phillipe the bootlegging Parisian who follows Bruce and Co all round Europe in sunny Glasgow, Rich and I get into the front pit at Coventry and met Andy and Lesley, a couple from Chicago on holiday taking in a couple of E Street shows.

Andy is a full-on Springsteen fan and we share a high five and joy absolute when, in tribute to the late James Gandolfini, the Boss announces they’ll play the album ‘Born To Run’ from start to finish. Tony Soprano would have approved…..

BtR opener ‘Thunder Road’ benefits hugely from not being rattled through near the end of a show and the other 7 songs are given time and space to breathe, with Jake Clemons playing a soaring note-perfect saxophone solo in stand-out ‘Jungleland’.

A lively ‘She’s The One’ gets everyone singing and jumping along and the sweeping emotional grandeur of ‘Backstreets’ brings a tear to the eye.

I’m about 40 feet away from Springsteen, Van Zandt, Bittan, Tallent, Weinberg et al, as they play one of rock and roll’s great recordings in its entirety.

‘Happy’ doesn’t even touch the sides….

 The Ghost of Tom Joad (acoustic)

Long Walk Home

My Love Will Not Let You Down (sign request)

Two Hearts

Seeds (sign request)

Trapped (sign request)

Long Time Comin’

Wrecking Ball

Death to My Hometown

Hungry Heart

The River (sign request)

‘Born to Run’:

Thunder Road;

Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out;



Born to Run;

She’s the One;

Meeting Across the River;


Pay Me My Money Down

Shackled and Drawn

Waitin’ on a Sunny Day

Lonesome Day



We Are Alive

Born in the U.S.A.

Bobby Jean

Dancing in the Dark

Raise Your Hand

American Land



Gig Review: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Hampden Stadium, Glasgow 18 June 2013

23 Jun

Murder Inc.

The screen door slams, Mary’s dress waves: like a vision she dances across the porch, as the radio plays; Roy Orbison singin’ for the lonely, hey that’s me, and I want you only…’

The opening lines of ‘Thunder Road’ are some of the most evocative in modern music and tonight in Glasgow they bring an absorbing 3 and a half hour show to emotional conclusion. Four years since his last rain-soaked Hampden appearance and Bruce Springsteen leads the E Street Band through a live experience which entertains, engages and enthrals in equal measure.

There are thirty one songs delivered in spite of a PA system which took half a dozen songs to get some sort of equilibrium, shamefully reducing the searing riff of ‘Radio Nowhere’ to a volume which could be played at 4am to nervous sleeping kittens.

Luckily I’m in the front pit/golden circle and can still hear back-line and monitor feed, but I’m told that the stadium sound was awful for almost the opening third.

After a rare outing for 2nd song ‘The Ties That Bind’, Bruce goes straight to the audience to pick up cardboard signs with requests, making the gig some sort of virtual juke-box. This delivers an obscure ‘Joel Blon’ and, joyously, ‘It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City’ from his first record in 1973.

After this, the 17 piece E Street Band move effortlessly through the gears across a vast back catalogue, from the raucous hooliganism of ‘Badlands’, through the sadness of ‘My City of Ruins’, to the life-affirming ‘No Surrender’, and all points west, with Springsteen (‘I’m sixty-fuckin-three!’) constantly engaged and mugging with the crowd or, literally, getting in next to the hardcore stage-side punters.

Hampden in sunshine

My friend has written one of his best pieces looking at why a Bruce Springsteen concert is a genuinely extraordinary event: above all it is being in the same postcode as a musician, performer and songwriter who cares about what he does and what we think of it.

There is nothing faked or contrived here: in a world awash with faux cynicism, jaded commentators and mediocre artists with a sense of entitlement, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band love what they do - and don’t care who knows it.

Simple and sweet.

Set List:

1. We Take Care of Our Own

2. The Ties That Bind

3. Joel Blon (sign request)

4. It’s Hard To Be a Saint In The City (sign request)

5. Radio Nowhere

6. No Surrender

7. Wrecking Ball

8. Death To My Hometown

9. My City of Ruins

10. Spirit In The Night

11. E Street Shuffle

12. I’m On Fire (sign request)

13. Tougher Than The Rest (sign request)

14. Atlantic City

15. Murder Incorporated

16. Johnny 99

17. Open All Night

18. Darlington County

19. Shackled and Drawn

20. Waiting on a Sunny Day

21. The Rising

22. Badlands

23. Land of Hope and Dreams

24. Born To Run

25. Rosalita

26. Dancing in the Dark

27. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

28.-30. Twist & Shout/LaBamba/Shout

31. Thunder Road (acoustic)


Cameron and the Unions: ‘Look! There’s a red squirrel!’

05 Jun

Government by the Rich, for the Rich

What we’ve seen this week is the political equivalent of David Cameron looking over your shoulder, pointing behind you squealing ‘Look! There’s a red squirrel!”

With Tory MP Patrick Mercer caught bang to rights last week, trading money for political influence on behalf of Fiji, followed by bribery allegations made against Labour and UUP peers, our Prime Minister saw the chance to tackle man and ball¸ as they say in footballing circles.

So instead of tackling corruption, sleaze and political lobbying, Lord Snooty is focusing on, wait for it, UK trade unions.

Last week I voted in a ballot that my own trade union, Unite, was legally compelled to hold. Since 1984, UK law requires every union with a political fund to ballot all members, asking them if they want their union to use a proportion of income for political campaigning.

This at the Union’s own expense and regardless of the Union’s own internal democratic procedures and rule book.

This law is part of the most restrictive legal framework in Europe, largely constructed by the 1979-1997 Conservative government. The political malice and ideology behind this are evident to any objective analysis.

In short, these laws are drawn up to make life as difficult as possible for trade unionists.

In 1987 the National Association of Local Government Officers (NALGO) ran a campaign called ‘Make People Matter’. It made no mention of Labour, nor did it call for people to vote Labour, but nevertheless the Thatcher government used taxpayer’s money to take NALGO to the High Court, arguing they’d acted unlawfully because they didn’t have a political fund. They won, the union was fined and had to scrap their campaign.

Cameron’s recent move against UK trade unions is for 2 reasons: because he wishes they didn’t exist; and because half a dozen unions are affiliated to and financially support the Labour Party.

Cameron hopes Labour will vote against his proposed Bill, allowing him and strategist Lynton Crosby to portray Miliband and Co. as somehow being ‘on the side of corruption’ – a shamelessly partisan petty-minded stunt from someone supposed to act in the national interest.

I’ve got a better idea if the former lobbyist David Cameron really wants to crack down on undue influence: signal an end the Westminster and City of London merry-go-round for lobbyists, politicians, civil servants, bankers and corporate ‘advisers’. No more seamless moves from Westminster into the boardroom, or from Whitehall into offices you used to regulate.

As Seamus Milne points out in today’s Guardian, this cabal ‘swap jobs, favours and insider information and inevitably come to see their interests as mutual and interchangeable’.

He cites David Hartnett, head of tax at HM Revenue & Customs until last year and the man whose “sweetheart deals” allowed Starbucks and Vodafone to avoid paying billions in tax. Hartnett now works for City accountancy firm Deloitte, which in turn has Vodafone as a customer.

And Hector Sants, former head of the Financial Services Authority in charge of regulating banks until last year, who joined Barclays six months later.

Nor are such moves confined to high profile figures. With no less than 3,500 military officers and MoD officials taking jobs in arms companies over the past 16 years, it is astonishing that defence procurement is so inefficient. Or perhaps it isn’t…

So yes, the British corporate state is incestuous, corrupt and sleazy.

But in targetting organisations run democratically and openly, organisations which elect their governing bodies, publish annual accounts to their members, hold annual conferences in public, conduct their affairs in the open spaces of the public domain and are legally required to ballot union members whenever their President wants to make a cup of coffee, David Cameron and the Conservative Party show what they are about.

They act and govern in the interest of a super-rich elite: the 1%, a couple of thousand largely anonymous super-rich white men who own and control the vast majority of this nation’s wealth, property and capital. That’s why Cameron is in politics: to look after ‘his people’, the men (and yes, they’re mainly men) who fund his Party and give him his marching orders.

It’s one of those things the media don’t want you to talk about, not least because the likes of Rupert Murdoch and Richard Desmond are part of that 1%.

And in case you’d forgotten, that elite doesn’t like working people getting together in unions and organising for a voice at work, for better wages, safer working conditions, paid holidays and various other ‘demands’.

They don’t like them for the same reason they and their class have opposed every positive, progressive or redistributive measure since the Industrial Revolution: it reduces profit.

Stephen Smith: writer

Rants, rambles and other assorted thoughts

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