Bruce Springsteen and The Seeger Sessions Band

Bruce Springsteen is one of my musical heroes. His live performances are said to be legendary. On the one hand "a rock 'n roll baptism, a rock 'n roll bar mitzvah" (with the E-Street Band), on the other hand a lenghty introspective acoustic set (solo).

"The Devils + Dust Tour", an example of the latter, came to our shores in 2005 and was sold out within minutes. No luck for me, then. In April 2006, to support the release of his latest album "We Shall Overcome : The Seeger Sessions", Springsteen embarked on a USA-tour with "The Seeger Sessions Band". No European dates were announced. Luckily, said dates were added on his website not long afterwards. "7 November 2006" had been confirmed as the Belgian date, "Sportpaleis" in Antwerp as the location. My dad ordered two crippling/walletmunching tickets. 80 bucks a pop! Strapped for cash, Brucey?! But : I had a ticket for my first ever Bruce gig.

Bruce clearly said that he would mainly be playing songs off the "Seeger Sessions" album. No Born In The USA or Born To Run. No "Greatest Hits". Good enough for me, for I had thoroughly enjoyed the "Seeger Sessions" album. Never trust a musician, because he played much more than "just songs" from the last album!

Bruce entered the stage and shouted : "Hallo Antwerpen, oewist?" ("Hello Antwerp, how are you?"). He continued with "We gaan ons amusereren vanavond!" (a small mistake that would translate as "We're going to amususe ourselves tonight!"). The simple fact that he tried to speak our language immediately won over the audience.

The band kicked off with Blinded By The Light, the first proper Springsteen song from the 1973 album "Greetings From Ashbury Park, N.J.". Next up were John Henry and Old Dan Tucker, two exellent Seeger songs. Further On (Up The Road) was quite a treat. Originally a rocker from 2002's "The Rising", now a gospelsong with backing vocals.

Jesse James and Oh Mary Don't You Weep got everybody on their feet, much to the dismal of my father who just likes to sit down. A second surprise followed with Bobby Jean from 1984's "Born In The USA". More Seeger with Erie Canal, My Oklahoma Home (which got the whole crowd chanting the chorus "it blowed away!"), Mrs. McGrath, How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live? (not included on the original pressing of the album, so I'm screwed) and Jacob's Ladder.

Squeezed in between Oklahoma and McGrath was The Ghost Of Tom Joad, the title track from his 1996 solo effort of the same name. It bridged the gap perfectly : My Oklahoma Home is a sad song with a fun melody, whereas Mrs. McGrath is a sad song with a touching melody.

Springsteen dedicated Long Time Comin' (from "Devils + Dust") to his wife Patti, who stayed home to look after the kids. Jesus Was An Only Son (was he?) and Open All Night (from "Nebraska", at the moment of speaking an unknown album to me) paved the way to Pay Me My Money Down, the extremely excellent Seeger song.

An hour and a half, not bad? Think again, because Bruce added six encores. Froggie Went A Courtin' (more Seeger goodness) could be expected, but Fire (made famous by Pointer Sisters) was a surprise. You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch) was vintage Springsteen from 1980, but the penultimate high point was a lengthy rendition of the traditional When The Saints Go Marching In. The Boss and his 17 (!) brass band members waved goodbye with This Little Light Of Mine and American Land.

We got two hours of pure musical genius without a break. I wouldn't mind repeating the experience! Yes, Bruce, you rock!

Julian De Backer, 28 January 2007