Bruce Springsteen: Etihad Stadium, Manchester – live review

Bruce Springsteen,
Manchester, Etihad Stadium
22nd June 2012

Bruce Springsteen is partway through a world tour which took in Manchester last Friday. In typical Bruce Springsteen fashion he played a marathon set which touched on the whole of his back catalogue as well as including some of his newer, less well known, work. Paul Ariss was lucky enough to be in the audience at the Etihad Stadium & what follows is his review of another classic Bruce Springsteen gig.

\’If I had me a gun, I’d find the bastards and shoot \’em on sight’ sings Springsteen part way through his 30 song, 3 hour 20 minute set at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, and the rain sodden capacity crowd roar back their approval. Once again heralding the plight of the common decent man, in this case entertaining however briefly murderous thoughts as he struggles to make do in a world made wrong by unscrupulous and faceless money men, Bruce knows he is pushing against an open door to the many hordes of his faithful. His new and much lauded album Wrecking Ball drips with the injustice of ordinary lives ripped apart by those who scorn the dignity of community in favour of mercenary individual gain.

Yet to anyone harbouring thoughts of multi-millionaire hypocrisy or rock star opportunism, one only has to feel the generosity of spirit in performances such as this as he views the world through the eyes of characters he has been travelling with for well-nigh forty years. The man in Jack Of All Trades who contemplates the weakening of his moral core against overwhelming odds in middle age could well be echoing his own passing of boyhood in The River some thirty years earlier, then losing his construction job \’on account of the economy’. Springsteen revises the song once again and ends it with a hauntingly chilling falsetto that destroys any semblance of reflective romanticism or blind optimism.

It is that foundation of consistency of message without the revulsion of being preached to that helps the new, vibrantly fresh and at times refreshingly experimental material blend so effortlessly in with the old. Spirits In The Night & The E-Street Shuffle both nod to his barroom band days yet sit comfortably here as part of a larger story, indexed along the way by Thunder Road, Prove It All Night & Atlantic City and through Born In The USA’s Darlington County, paradoxically citing in its then carefree manner the World Trade Centres that would come physically and metaphorically crashing down to give birth to a darker, more frightening metamorphosis in The Rising.

But such themes are never allowed dominant space to the joyous, often evangelical nature of a Springsteen \’event’ such as this, as you leave with a much healthier and larger handful of hope than fear. “Whatever happens, together we can rise again” is a message most fittingly expressed by the celebration of the life of the E-Street Bands most iconic member Clarence Clemons, who’s passing a year ago this month has seen his saxophone picked up skilfully and enthusiastically by nephew Jake Clemons, continuing a bloodline that somehow now never felt in doubt.

Those who cynically think they know Bruce Springsteen through the narrow window of the Born In The USA bombast would be well advised to catch him live. His skill is a rare one, the total showman and the trustful confidante, which can only be carried off through absolute credibility earned through a rich body of work. And judging by the youthful mix of those pressed up close to the stage tonight, it looks as though his is a work very much on-going.

All words Paul Ariss

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Sketch contributor on BBC Radio 2 and 4 comedy shows. Shadow Writer on Series 7 and 8 of Channel 4’s Shameless, and contributor to its online platform.


  1. Bruce Springsteen 2012-06-22 Etihad Stadium, Manchester, UK | Bruce Springsteen Wrecking Ball Tour Blog

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