Liisa's Show Review:
Bruce Springsteen at Hovet, Stockholm Sweden, Sunday May 21st 2006

2006 Liisa Sarakontu, lsarakon@gmail.com

This is a sort of review of the Stockholm gig on Sunday, May 21st - or more like just random memories of my very first Springsteen show. It is long and it isn't totally coherent all the time. And it starts days before the gig itself.


Photo: gustavm

Beginning of April

Bruce is coming to Europe! Of course there will be no shows in Finland, but Stockholm isn't that far and the day would be ok for me (unlike D&D Stockholm show). Perhaps this time I will manage to see him? I found out the day when the tickets are going to be sold, and thanks to the local Bruce-related mailing list THL, I got some hints what to do and what not to do to get one. But it didn't help, I didn't get through to Globen before the show was sold out. I didn't manage to grab any of the extra tickets some of the list members had, so I had just kept on listening to the album and I had nearly got over the deep disappointment I had felt, until...

Monday, May 14th

A message from the THL list: Tickets are again available. This time I didn't try to call Globen by phone, but I went to the Ticnet web site. It states clearly that tickets can be bought only with Swedish bank or credit cards (and that's why I didn't try it earlier), but well, at least I can check what kind of tickets there are. Hmm, no good seats but standing tickets are available. Let's see how it feels to "buy" one, just for fun, as I know that my money isn't good here and besides, how on earth I could arrange a trip to Stockholm in six days? Here we go, now my Visa card number and... WTF? Ticnet says that the purchase is ok and gives me a code number for getting the ticket at Globen ticket booth. Uh oh... "Hey darling, you remember how sad I was when I didn't get a ticket? Well, guess what... "

I was very busy with my computer for the next few hours, and I managed to book a flight to Stockholm on Sunday and back to Finland on Monday, and a hotel room rather close to Globen and Hovet, where the show will be. My dear SO didn't mind that I was going and helped me to find best prices for flights and hotel. The teenager on the other hand didn't even believe that her mom was finally really going to see Bruce live. "Yeah sure, and Elvis will be there too?"

And then it is Sunday, May 21th.

My flight is leaving at 1 pm, and the airport isn't too far, but I still get up very early as I can't sleep. I have had all kinds of nightmares about missing the show in one way or another. Will I be in Stockholm on the right day, what if I miss my flight after all, will the Globen ticket booth be open so that I can get the ticket? Was my Visa payment really accepted?

I start packing my stuff, and at this fine moment I figure out that I have no clue where my passport is. Finns don't need a passport to visit Sweden, but that little booklet is my only valid photo ID and I need one to get my flight tickets! Damn, damn, damn I really didn't need this right now. I had already called the airport and they said that I might be able to get my tickets with my old passport, when I finally find it. Phew! Just half an hour before I had to leave to the airport. When looking for the passport I forgot to pack my ear plugs and all my flu and cough medicines, but instead of them I have a tiny bottle of booze. Well, it has to pass for all possible medication from now on.

Flight went ok, and the plane even flew straight over Stockholm so I could see the shining dome of Globen before landing to Arlanda. When I reached the city, I quickly checked in to the hotel (yes, my booking was ok here too) and went to the Globen area and find the Hovet ice hockey arena, where the show would be. Hmm, people standing over there and pressing their heads to the metal doors? Me too! Hey, that's clearly How Can a Poor Man and so it has to be soundcheck time! It would be nice to listen more, but I really have to get the ticket now. I finally found the cleverly hidden Globen ticket booth with some help from a group of super nice Swedes (thank you!) and soon I had the Biggest Prize in my hands: a real Springsteen ticket with my very own name printed in it!

It's 3 pm now, the sun is shining and there is a group of friendly looking people sitting in front of entrance #13, which was listed on my ticket too. I'll join them because I'm right now not interested in doing any Stockholm sightseeing and I would love to be rather close to the stage. The day goes on, I read some newspapers and chat with people around me. With some Swedes I analyzed thoroughly the Finnish and Swedish entries at Eurovision Song Contest, which had been on previous night. Our conclusion was that the pride of Sweden, Carola, was a good performer but her song was too "lagom" this time. (Hey, no giggling there! ESC is serious business on our side of Atlantic. Especially as Finland won for the first time ever just now. Hard Rock Hallelujah!)

There is some weird suffling of the line every now and then, as rumours tell that something might happen. The Chosen Ones (with numbers on their hands) form their own line, and then come back to our line and I try to figure out how to keep my position in this line. Then later I somehow manage to be just in the right place at the right time, and a red shirted security guy puts a white band with orange stars on my wrist. I haven't seen such a thing before, but I've done my homework (by reading RMAS, naturally) and I know that I'll be in the PIT!

The doors are opened around 6:30, and in we all go after a very strict check. I managed to smuggle my little bottle in, although a big bottle of water would have been a much more clever thing to have. The pit folks sat there peacefully until 7 o'clock, when something triggered a rush and we got to our places although it was still half an hour to the official start time. I wished that we could have been sitting a while more, because my legs are not in the best possible shape and we did already some standing outside in the line. Right now I also notice that the normal looking Swedish young men who were sitting between me and the stage have to be a team of basketball players, and I really can't see anything. During the next hour I slowly drift about one meter to right behind some slightly shorter guys, and end up little right from the stage center. There are less than 10 people between me and the stage. Now it looks good.

Finally, this is what I was waiting for!

We started clapping and Bruuucing around 7:30, and I started missing my nice blue ear plugs as that clapping really did hurt when it was loudest! At last, around 8:15, Bruce and the Seeger Sessions Band obeyed us and entered the stage and started John Henry - wow, it really rolled like an engine from the first notes! I guess this is a much better show starter than Old Dan Tucker from two previous shows. Not a exactly a singalong song, but nice, noisy and fun. Hands up, everyone!

And there he is, Bruce Springsteen. The Boss. So close to me that I can see his expressions with my own eyes, no need to stare those two screens somewhere up on the sides of the stage. Hmm, he doesn't look that small. His face is old, but otherwise he is in such a great condition! His voice is so good and strong. And he looks happy being here and singing for us with this band. What's that shadow on his face? Is he growing a beard, or has he just not bothered to shave after Patti went back to USA?

Then Oh, Mary, Don't You Weep. Now we can all sing the chorus, and boy do we sing! Everybody around me knows the lyrics for sure. I like this! This is far better than singing along with my CD player at home. Next song, what on earth is this going to be? Oh, it is a new version of Johnny 99! Weird, but it is fun and it rocks. Oh Bruce, how you shake that ass! This show just keeps on getting better.

Old Dan Tucker is supposed to be a singalong from the start, but Bruce has to tell us to sing as everybody didn't figure it out immediately. This song doesn't belong to my favourites on the album, and for some reason it is hard to sing along. Probably too fast and difficult lyrics for us non-native English speakers?

Eyes On The Prize is beautiful, and it was really a time for a little slower song right now. Then we pick up speed again, as the next song is Jesse James. Another song with a nice singalong chorus. Then comes something, which I don't manage to recognize. What a poor fan I am, as it is Adam Raised A Cain and although I haven't listened too much to this song, I still should have recognized the lyrics and I should have remembered from other setlists that it will most probably be played. Interesting version anyway, and I hope to be able to get later some kind of recording of this version so that I could listen to it again.

Then comes another song I don't recognize, but when Bruce hits the chorus I know that this has to be Long Black Veil. I have never heard this before, and I like it a lot. I've got to read the lyrics from the net later so I get the whole story of this song. The voice system in Hovet was rather good, but I still didn't get more than about half of what Bruce was saying between songs and the lyrics of the songs I didn't know before were hard to follow.

Bruce tells that he is now going to play an old love song, a love song to a mule. Erie Canal, again a nice singalong with that "Low bridge, everybody down!" After this Bruce says that he is going to do a couple of songs about war. First of them is a song I've never heard, but it is still easy to recognize from the first verse as Bring 'Em Home, which I've seen on one of the setlists. Beautiful, moving. There are no Finns or Swedes right now in foreign wars, but still we all feel the message. Second war song is naturally Mrs. McGrath.

Now Bruce talks us about the president (audience: boo!) visiting New Orleans (hooray!) after Katrina and then we get How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live. This is good. I've heard it on Bruce's web site and seen the video from New Orleans, and so it was a familiar tune to me. I really, really like it! It is such a powerful and beautiful song.

After these three we need something happier, and Jacob's Ladder fills that spot nicely. We are brothers and sisters, all, and we all are singing and climbing. And climbing and climbing, dang that ladder is sure high! Singing is fun, but my poor shoulders have their own opinion about climbing this far after so many other songs which required waving my hands high in the air! But Bruce tells us to climb, and so we keep on doing it together.

We Shall Overcome is sung with a kind of lag I don't like too much, but it is still beautiful. This could have been a singalong too, but now we did more just listening and only some humming along. Bruce probably wanted it to be that way. Then another song I recognize only after the first verses, Open All Night. A very different version from the ones I've heard (like the recorded version and the small handful of boots I have). Hmm, kind of boogie woogie or big band style. Hey ho rock'n'roll, fun!

Pay Me My Money Down is really sung or more shouted by the whole audience. Bruce tells everybody to stand up and take part. Like during some earlier shows, Bruce leads the band away after this except the drummer and the tuba player, which keep the audience singing the chorus. After some time Bruce comes back, sits on the piano chair and rests his legs on the piano keys. He drinks water from his bottle, looks around and smiles so broadly. Then he tells the tuba player to get from the stage, and then the drummer. He refuses to leave, but keeps on hitting the rhytm for us and runs around the stage with Bruce trying to catch him. Finally, Bruce gets him to stop too and just the audience keeps on clapping and singing the chorus over and over again until the band comes back. Bruce leads us now with his hands and makes us to sing one really long jaaaaaiiiiiillll until he lets us finish. But as the band isn't ready yet, we start the chorus again and this time Marc Anthony makes us to stop.

Bruce needs us to be quiet and concentrate on My City Of Ruins. We all raise our hands and sing the background "with these hands" while Bruce does the lyrics. Beautiful, and what a feeling of togetherness (if that is a word). But that high Jacob's ladder we climbed earlier still feels in my shoulders. Sorry Bruce, but no matter how hard I try, these hands wouldn't clear those ruins tonight! Is it ok if I just sing for a while and let them rest? (Note to self: try to build some muscles.)

Now Bruce teaches us some la-la-las and tells us to sing them in the right places. Aye-aye, but what is this song? Wait a minute, the lyrics are actually familiar althought the tune isn't - Ramrod! Then still another old song with a new arrangement, You Can Look. It was perhaps closest to its original version and so easiest to recognize.

When The Saints is of course a very familiar song, but it has now different lyrics from any of the versions I remember hearing before. That Marc Anthony guy sure has a nice voice too, but I still prefer Bruce's voice as I can hear the lyrics far better when Bruce sings. After that the band starts Buffalo Gals, which is fast and funny and makes us really dance although there isn't too much room for moving in the hot pit. But hey, where the band is going? No, not yet, please don't go, still a couple of more songs pretty please? The audience keeps on singing the chorus, but it doesn't help. The lights are turned on and the crew starts immediately dismantling the stage. No, I wasn't ready yet, I wanted more...

It is over

It was about 11 o'clock. My legs were seriously hurting. I was tired, and I was so thirsty that I felt sick. I went to lean to the fence in front of the stage and was joined by a Swedish girl who also was dead tired and not ready to leave yet. I remembered how RMAS folks have several times mentioned "getting setlists" after a show and I sure saw that some of those were on the stage. I told about this to the girl and we tried to ask from a couple of roadies for them, but they just rolled their eyes and said that they don't know anything about such papers. Then they started taking down the fence we were leaning to, and that was a sign that it really was time to go. I still sat for a while outside Hovet before I get enough strenght to walk to the closest underground station and got back to my hotel.

My ears? They weren't ringing at all! I didn't miss the ear plugs during the show, as the music wasn't too loud for me. Or then I've just ruined my ears too badly already to notice. My voice? Normal, although I have sang and shouted for two and half hours. Shouldn't I be totally hoarse by now? Ok, this is good. Just the legs are totally done.

It was very good being in the pit. I have been just to a very few big concerts in my adult life, and I have always sat on some crappy plastic chairs too far from the stage. I haven't had room to dance, I haven't even wanted to stand for more than a couple of songs because people behind me might have gotten annoyed, and I have felt silly being the only one shouting and waving my hands while other people have been just sitting and staring. I have needed binoculars to see the artist properly.

But now I was close to the stage, close enough to see and hear about everything I wanted to. Everybody around me was standing, clapping, waving and dancing. Singing and shouting too, and everybody knew the songs, the lyrics and even right movements for each song. Last time I felt this was sometimes in late 1970's when going to small clubs to listen some local rock bands. It was then good, and this was good too. This is the only right way to enjoy live music. No matter that my legs clearly say "take a seat, idiot", this is where I want to be next time if I just can. I want to be where the band is.

Did I like the music? Sure! I'm really happy that I managed to get a ticket and went to Stockholm. Well, I wouldn't have minded at all if Bruce had suddenly pulled E Street Band out from his back pocket, plugged in and done Promised Land and a couple of more of my favourites, but I understand that this couldn't happen on this tour. Besides, he didn't even have back pockets in his grey jeans. (Hmm, I really paid attention to this kind of stuff? Another note to self: don't stare that much at Bruce's butt.)

I was back at home at dinner time on Monday. Now it is Tuesday night, and I'm still trying to figure out what I saw and heard. And decided to write it all down. And now, as I have done it, I might as well post it for you to read.

Set list

1. John Henry
2. Oh, Mary, Don't You Weep
3. Johnny 99
4. Old Dan Tucker
5. Eyes On The Prize
6. Jesse James
7. Adam Raised A Cain
8. Long Black Veil
9. Erie Canal
10. My Oklahoma Home
11. Bring 'Em Home
12. Mrs. McGrath
13. How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live
14. Jacob's Ladder
15. We Shall Overcome
16. Open All Night
17. Pay Me My Money Down

18. My City Of Ruins
19. Ramrod
20. You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
21. When The Saints Go Marching In
22. Buffalo Gals

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