Springsteen in Croke Park – Into the Mystic

A Bruce Springsteen gig is never run of the mill.

I’ve seen him eleven times now, all told. The first time was the Tunnel of Love tour, and since then I’ve seen him reunite the E Street Band, play solo, and play with the Seeger Sessions Band, amongst other tours. Unlike Bob Dylan, Springsteen never has an off night. He gives his all – 100% – no matter what. And, ironically, because of that, it’s hard to say what sets one Springsteen gig apart from another. But – for me – Sunday night in Croke Park was a breed apart.

First off, let’s deal with the naysayers.

There were problems with the sound. Well, there may have been – in the stands – but from the various points on the pitch where I stood, the sound quality was excellent. And, in fairness, this would appear to be a problem with the venue, not anything to do with Bruce.


He played too many obscure songs. Okay. So, the name of the tour was The River, the idea being that the set would be made up of A LOT of tracks from said album. So, y’know, you could have a few listens to the album before you go. Although, I would question – if you’re unfamiliar with The River – what the hell you’re doing at a Springsteen show anyway!?

So why was this Springsteen gig so special?

Well, as far as the songs go, there were a lot of gems. He opened with a solo piano rendition of ‘Incident on 34th St.’, followed by three more songs from the early albums before segueing into a lucky dip of songs from The River – ranging from the all-out pop joy of ‘Sherry Darling’ to the sombre ‘Independence Day’ (dedicated to a fan in the audience who had just turned 18).

But there’s more to a Springsteen concert than the music. As hokey as it may sound, it’s about a kind of communion with the audience. There’s a spiritual aspect to a Bruce Springsteen concert – indeed, that explains the almost religious devotion he commands from his fans, a feat few other artists can match.

And that was what set Sunday night in Croke Park apart from some of the others I’ve seen – the energy. There’s nothing quite like seeing Bruce perform in a venue like Croke Park to a crowd of 80,000 people. Such was the energy there, that if there was a roof on the place, it would have been blown off. Granted, there were times when a few of the more “obscure” songs failed to connect with some of the fair-weather fans, skulling Carlsberg at the back of the stadium, but this was more than made up for by the reaction of the die-hards in front of the stage.

Springsteen in Croke Park - HeadStuff.org
An incredible photo by Lucy Harrington shows the sheer scale of the night. That’s 80,000 very happy people.

Added to that were some wonderful crowd-pleasing moments: Bruce brought up not just one but three young ladies to dance during ‘Dancing in the Dark’ – one who wanted to dance with Stevie (and had travelled all the way from LA to do so), another who wanted to dance with Jake (the sax player), and one particularly overwhelmed young woman who danced with Bruce. And then, he brought the three of them up on the stage to close out the song with him.

And, of course, there was the small matter of a certain local musician called Bono joining Bruce for a duet of ‘Because the Night’. It’s funny, because – ordinarily – the country seems to be in agreement on their loathing of Bono. Except when he gets up on stage with The Boss, apparently, because without doubt, the loudest cheer of the night was when Bruce introduced him. And he nailed it.

By the time, Bruce got to ‘The Rising’ – followed by one classic song after another – he had the 80,000 in the palm of his hand. The energy amped up and up through ‘Born in the USA’, ‘Born to Run’, and ‘Dancing in the Dark’ until – by the time he got to the raucous cover of ‘Shout’ – the entire stadium threatened to lift off the ground. And finally, he closed the show as he had begun it, alone on the stage for a solo version of ‘Thunder Road’.

And he was gone. Leaving 80,000 shell-shocked people with the apt lyrics of ‘Thunder Road’ ringing in their ears: “Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night.”

There certainly was in Croke Park on Sunday night.

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