Seen Live: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

It’s June 10th, 2012. I am standing on the pitch of Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence, Italy, surrounded by some fifty-thousand Italians. The Boss is about halfway through his main set, and he has just pulled some kid up on the stage to help him out with the chorus when it hits me: if the rain doesn’t let up, I’ll be soaking wet by the time he reaches the encores.

I’m waitin’—waitin’ on a sunny day
Gonna chase the clouds away
Waitin’ on a sunny day

Like in 2009, Bruce Springsteen’s Pinkpop show is the only one in the Benelux. So, for much of the same reasons I had then, it was time for a road trip. A look at the tour dates left me with a clear favorite: Florence. On a sunday. In June. What can go wrong? I mean, any excuse to spend a few days in Florence (which is just amazingly, mindfuckingly beautiful—ask mr. Stendhal all about it) is a good one.

(Side note: when I finally decided I was going all tickets were sold out, so I ended up buying one from a ticket reseller. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. But if the Spanish Olympic Committee trusts them enough to make them an official collaborator and they offer a full refund when things go wrong, I thought it would be worth a try. Still, when about a month later the official channels had some tickets available again, I jumped at the chance and bought another one. So I sold my first ticket through the same guys, and got really annoyed by their customer service. Let’s just say that they weren’t really quick or helpful. Well, until just two days before the show when they told me that the original seller—surprise, surprise, surprise—didn’t have the ticket after all and I, as well as my buyer, would get a full refund. Lesson definitely learned: never do something that stupid again.)

The first time I was in Florence was well over ten years ago. It made such an impression that I had to go back someday. Five years ago, I returned and I still loved it there. Apart from being the very definition of picturesque, there’s just so much to see: the Uffizi (unfortunately, the entire sixteenth century section and most of the first floor was closed off for renovations and all), the Medici Chapel (with seven statues by Michelangelo in the adjacent Sagrestia Nuova), the Bargello, more churches than you can shake a stick at—well, I suppose you can shake a stick at all of them, but you’ll have a pretty sore arm from all the stick-waving—the river Arno (which isn’t much to look at really, but still, with the Ponte Vecchio and the hills in the background) and quite possibly my favorite place in all of Europe, the Loggia dei Lanzi on the Piazza della Signoria. I mean, what’s not to like about an little gallery of amazing statues in the open air. Just sitting there, looking around, gazing out over the Piazza and the Pallazo Vecchio and a replica of Michelangelo’s David and oh my god who I don’t happen to believe in I could go on and on about how amazing that place is.

Loggia dei Lanzi
Loggia dei Lanzi

What I also like about Florence, is the weather. It has never let me down. So far.

Sunday started out nice enough. During the hours leading up to the show, it was cloudy, but warm. Before I left the hotel* I checked the weather, but all reports were contradicting each other severely. Given that nothing I brought would be any help against the rain anyway, I left everything I didn’t need behind. By the time I reached the Fiorentina stadium, the weather was pretty much the same. Neither did it change much during the roughly three hours I had to wait there. And then, half past eight, after a wave went round the stadium not just once or twice but six freaking times, it was Boss-time.

Two years ago, I went to see Springsteen in Dublin, because I read rave reviews about the atmosphere there the previous year. But compared to those tiny, tiny Italians, that was nothing. After Ennio Morricone’s Once Upon a Time in the West, Bruce kicked off with Badlands, and the whole stadium exploded. The whole field was jumping, way past the sound tower, where I was standing. In all excitement, I didn’t pay mind to the drops of rain that started to fall.

After a strong and hard hitting opening sequence, an impressive performance of My City of Ruins followed. Also, the drizzle had graduated to a proper rain. It ebbed and flowed a bit, but never stopped. But then, neither did the show. Bruce was clearly having fun, and pulled out classics like “Spirit in the Night”, “Prove It All Night”, “The River” and “The Rising” along with covers (“Trapped”, Elvis’ “Burning Love”, “Honky Tonk Women”) and a fair amount of new tracks. “Land of Hope and Dreams” was the end of the main set, and by that time, I was drenched and totally in the zone. Without leaving the stage, the band dove into the encores, and it stopped raining. You could safely say it was pouring down in a deluge of biblical proportions. Like a lot of people around me, I couldn’t care less. Soaked to the bone, I surrendered to the moment. And what a moment it was: Born in the USA, Born to Run and Hungry Heart back to back, singing and dancing in the rain with a bunch of ecstatic Italians. Good times. Epicly awesome. During “Dancing in the Dark” I danced my way to the back, wrung out my shirt and listened to “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” from underneath the stands among those who took shelter there earlier. Even though the band started “Twist and Shout” I decided it was time to go. Even under the best circumstances I don’t care for that song. I was walking past the stadium when Bruce and the sixteen-headed monster of the E Street Band closed the set with an well-chosen cover of Who’ll Stop the Rain. For the die-hards.

Under normal circumstances, I don’t like rain. I pretty much hate it. Unless it’s all-out, full-on cloudburst. Like this one, the kind that there’s just no hiding from. It’s safe to say that it’s been a long time since I had this much fun in the rain. Like the two previous Springsteen show’s I’ve seen, it was an epic Celebration of Life through the Majestic, Redemptive Power of Rock and Roll Music. Next time he’s in the neighborhood, I’ll definitely have to stop by again.

Funny thing is, apart from that one rain-shower on sunday night, the weather was exceptionally nice. The only thing worth mentioning was the wind on tuesday, which closed down the Florence airport, so all flights were redirected from Pisa—which meant that I had to sit folded up in a bus for and hour and a half. At least I got to see that damned tower all the way in the distance.

If you’re into that kind of thing, I also got a bunch of photo’s of my trip.

Seen live
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence, Italy
Set list
Badlands / No Surrender / We Take Care of Our Own / Wrecking Ball / Death to My Hometown / My City of Ruins / Spirit in the Night / Be True / Jack of All Trades / Trapped / Prove It All Night / Honky Tonk Woman / Darlington County / Burning Love / Working on the Highway / Shackled and Drawn / Waitin’ on a Sunny Day / Apollo Medley (The Way You Do the Things You Do / 634-5789) / Save My Love / The River / The Rising / Backstreets / Land of Hope and Dreams // Rocky Ground / Born in the U.S.A. / Born to Run / Hungry Heart / Seven Nights to Rock / Dancing in the Dark / Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out / Twist and Shout / Who’ll Stop the Rain

* Well, the Al Duomo Bed & Breakfast really. The first night I got to stay in an awesome big room, with a view of the Duomo and the bell tower. Which means you don’t have to set an alarm as those bells will wake you up for sure. Loud as very loud thing, they are. For the next two nights, I was relocated to another location a few hundred meters away, even closer to the Duomo. I’d recommend the place, especially if you can get to stay at the Via Rome location.