A beautiful day for a concert…unlike last year for the U2 360 tour’s final show that was a damp yet amazing spectacle, this show was going to take place under a day of blazing sun and more than balmy temperatures. The ‘Boss’ was bringing his Wrecking Ball tour, one of few canadian dates, to the Magnetic Hill concert site. That is where the comparison’s should stop with this show, where the big show last year was as much about the spectacle as the music…with Bruce and the E Street band, it’s all about the music.
As much as I rave about the Magnetic Hill concert site, in my opinion the best outdoor site in Atlantic Canada, there are still a few improvements that I feel could be made. We chose to park on Gorge Rd. this time as we read the site map produced by the local paper which showed an entrance to the site at the top of the hill only to find when arriving that there was an entrance, but it fed you into the same bottleneck as every other entrance to the solitary gate that every patron must pass through. This, in my opinion is a flaw, I understand it is easier for security, but it’s a nightmare for fans that bake in the sun like herded cattle. There should be at least one other gate allowing access to the site, which would speed up the process and have vendors selling their wares inside the site at a much faster rate. Also on the published map were two ‘exits’ in the top right corner of the site (facing up the hill), but these are for crew, vendors, and media, etc, not for the general public. If you head for these exits you run into a fence, and security ushering you to the same exit points as when you came in, herded again out of a bottleneck. That said there were a few things that were different this time that I was impressed with. The ease at which, if you chose, to come out of the grandstands and venture into the area in front of the stage was improved. The food offerings were much improved over the past where you could only get unhealthy, deep fried gut rotting items, and added to those were fresh fruit (with gals walking the long line-ups selling cups of various fruits), seafood, healthy-ish wraps, chili, and ‘salads’…yes salads (which was very well received). As was to be expected the beer prices were a bit high ($7) per glass, but one huge improvement was that there was no designated beer ‘area’ which I always found led to over-drinking by many. Another improvement in the beer area was the fact that there were ‘vendors’ walking the fields/grandstands so you didn’t have to go to a beer stand to get it. Thank-god there are no silly rules, like at other venues I’ve been at, that you have to stand in one line to get ‘tokens’ for beer/food, and then stand in another line to ‘get’ the actual beer/food. Yet another welcome addition, was the site allowing foldable chairs into the venue in designated areas, bravo. The RCMP were utilizing a new ‘traffic plan’ which seemed to work well as traffic congestion was at a minimum, just as I’ve said, the ‘access/exit’ point of the show need to be improved. Oh, and turning the lights up on the overhead poles during the encore, didn’t like that.
The show started almost right on time, at a couple minutes past four, promoter Donald Tarlton stepped onstage to welcome the crowd and bring to the stage Antigonish, Nova Scotia’s, The Trews. The Trews, having recently put on a free concert at the city market during ECMA Week 2012, are always well received in the city with their upbeat rock music with very singable choruses. The Trews always put on a fun show, with great songs like “Not Ready To Go”, “Tired of Waiting”, “Poor Ol Broken Hearted Me”, and their great tribute song to a fallen soldier “Highway of Heroes”.
A flash back to the late 80′s and early 90′s, Tom Cochrane & Red Rider were up next after a brief change over of equipment on stage, launching into “Lunatic Fringe” right off the bat. Playing a modest ten song set that included classic songs like “White Hot”, “Boy Inside The Man”, “Big League”, and “No Regrets” the crowd rocked and sang along with a very energetic Cochrane. At one point he gave a shout out to Bruce, saying “I probably wouldn’t be here today if not for him”, and also to his wife and daughters who were watching from the wings. He had a brief intro before his final song saying ‘this wasn’t a Rascal Flatts song, I wrote this song” before they kicked into the anthemic “Life Is A Highway” to end his set.
“No Surrender” was a great song to start off this show with, as once it started there was no looking back. With no introduction or announcement “The Boss” took the stage at a little after 7:30pm and the crowd surged forward for a better position. For most it was their first time seeing Bruce, for others like one in my party, it was one of many (for my friend it was his 3rd)…for one whom even had a special song dedicated to him, a solo performance on piano of “If I Should Fall Behind”, it was his latest in his over 200 plus Springsteen shows.
Bruce, I discovered, is an entertainer that leaves it mostly up to the music, but also feeds off his crowd. I’d heard the story of the ‘signs’ just before the show but now got to see it in action. Bruce will gather a number of fan signs from the crowd that have his songs on them, show them to the band, and launch into them, playing “stump the band”. That is a testament to the E Street Band and the fact that they’ve done this so long together. One lady even got creative and made a $ symbol, complete with batteries and flashing lights, asking Bruce to play “Pay Me My Money Down”…which after holding it up to the band and asking “you think you’ve got that in you”…they blasted it out, getting the crowd to sing along…one should note this song is six years old from the Seeger Sessions and likely doesn’t get played very often.
But that’s what Bruce did, catered to his crowd, getting them involved, telling stories about “Magnet” Hill and a time from his youth where he used to visit “Gravity Hill” with a pretty girl and park your car at the bottom and roll uphill, how he thought it was the only one until he got here…”So here’s to Gravity” shouted Bruce.
The concert that went on for hours seemed like no time at all, with a rendition of “Because the Night” with a frantic Nils Lofgren guitar solo, it was a classic night of the E Street Band, with guitarist Steve Van Zandt and bassist Gary Tallent supplying backing vocals and Roy Bittan dazzling on the keys, a great horn section and they all were riding the wave over a Max Weinberg drum beat.
There was a missing piece though, the longtime member, the late Clarence Clemons, known as “The Big Man”…as they rolled through a late song we heard; “this is the important part”…the band slowed, Bruce stopped singing, and a very moving tribute to Clarence began on the video screen to which the crowd roared appreciatively! With those big shoes to fill, Clarence’s nephew Jake, has stepped in admirably and done his late uncle proud. Jake is an accomplished sax player of his own right and it showed as he figured prominently in the show and played his heart out for the Moncton crowd of 30,200 (according to DKD on Monday).
Only considering myself a modest Springsteen fan beforehand, I was blown away by this show, as were many, many others. After three hours and ten minutes of music, including 6 encore songs that had the crowd screaming in excitement, which also included Bruce pulling the Trews and Tom Cochrane back on stage for a rousing version of Twist & Shout…it was all over. Everyone left the stage as Bruce shook hands and patted them on the back…he was the last to leave, triumphantly raising his guitar in the air to the roar of of an exhausted and ecstatic crowd.
1. No Surrender
2. Workin’ On the Highway
3. Hungry Heart
4. We Take Care of Our Own
5. Wrecking Ball
6. Death To My Hometown
7. My City of Ruins
8. Spirit In the Night
9. Pay Me My Money Down
10. Jack of All Trades
11. Because the Night
12. Lonesome Day
13. Darlington County
14. Shackled & Drawn
15. Waitin’ On a Sunny Day
16. The Promised Land
17. If I Should Fall Behind (solo piano)
18. The River
19. The Rising
21. Thunder Road
22. Born To Run
23. Glory Days
24. Dancing In the Dark
25. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
26. Twist & Shout (with The Trews and Tom Cochrane & Red Rider)