Liisa's Show Review:
Bruce Springsteen at Helsinki Olympiastadion, Friday July 11th 2008

© 2008 Liisa Sarakontu, lsarakon@gmail.com

After the fantastic Ullevi show last week I couldn't hope more than to get even something close to it, but boy oh boy what a joyride we had last night! I couldn't sleep for more than a couple of hours, and I just had to get up to start to write this. This will be long, but hey, I just had to get it all out right now.


Photo: Riku Olkkonen/Backstreets

Thursday night, the night before the show, I was in the movies with my family, and after the movie (we saw Narnia) I went to see what's happening outside Helsinki Olympia Stadion. It was about 9:30 pm, and there were just about 20-30 people waiting for tomorrow. I chatted with some and decided not to get my queue number yet as I don't think I'm ready to camp outdoors at this age even for Bruce.

Friday morning I just can't get anything done at home and at 10 o'clock I pack my stuff and head to the Stadium. Let's see, one teensy weensy bottle of water isn't going to be enough and so I take 2.5 liters of it, just in case. Some salty snacks to eat, the ticket of course and is still something missing - oh, my blue earplugs! I also put the orange Ullevi wristband back again to my wrist, just to brag a little...

Hmm, what about a request plate? I have this one piece of flexible cardboard here and a thick blue ink, so I could make one. Nothing as trivial as River or Thunder Road (although I would really, really love to hear them) but it has to be something more rare. Kartsa from my mailing list suggested Chimes Of Freedom yesterday and said that if it will be played, Greasylakers will go crazy. Okay, that's a good enough reason for me (although I have nothing against Greasy Lake) and as I also happen to love Chimes and I would like to hear a full band version of it, I do one.

I was outside the Stadium few minutes shy of 11 am, and now I have number 153 on my hand. Not bad, that means I'm going to be quite close to the stage if the numbered line system happens to work here! There is one roll call immediately at 11, and the next call will be at 1 pm, be there or you lose your place in the line. No problem! There's a big park around, lots of soft grass and you can choose if you want to sit in sun or in shadow. This is going to be a rather warm day, so I'll choose shadow.

But first I have to find an ATM machine to get some cash for a tour t-shirt and I have also to grab some lunch. During these two hours I also have time to stroll around the Olympic Stadium and see Bruce's big trucks parked there. They are purple, and they all have EST on their sides. For "E Street"? Nope, it is just the company logo but very suitable in this case. See them at http://www.yourock-weroll.com/ , and you can even find some Bruce photos under "Project Gallery".

At 1 pm we were told that the next roll call would be at 2:30 pm and they would start security checks at about 3:30 and pit wristbands would also be given at that time. So now back to under those big trees to lie on the grass. This is nice instead of that hot, dusty asphalt outside the crowded Ullevi! But remember, never take your best outfit to a show if you are going to queue. Do like me and choose grey jeans which already have stains and a hole or two, so it doesn't matter where you will end up sitting. And I can assure that it is best to sit if you just can when waiting.

At 2:30 everybody formed a line and now there were already hundreds of people. We were told to sit in one looong line, three people wide and as long as the whole big parking lot was. But again, we just sat peacefully instead of swiching places all the time like at Ullevi. While still in this line, the tickets of first few hundred of numbered people were checked and green wrist bands were given. After some more waiting we got peacefully through the security checkpoint and our line, still in proper order, was led to close to the main gate inside a fenced area.

Here we hear the soundcheck, discuss about potential songs we might hear today (but hey, to me anything goes tonight!) and I repeat my Ullevi stories to everybody who is sitting close to me. That orange Ullevi wristband sure got attention, as most people here haven't seen Bruce more than perhaps once before. At first we are able to move freely and now I have time to get a tour t-shirt. I chose the white one with that car as I already had that black full band one, although not the tour version but the one with band member names on its back.

About Bruce shirts: at Ullevi it was rare to see anybody without a Bruce-related t-shirt, cap or other clothing, but here in Finland they are quite rare. Instead I saw people with Motörhead, Bon Jovi, Hanoi Rocks, Neil Young and whatever shirts. But then I too attended my 1st Bruce show in a John Fogerty shirt, as that was the very only music-related piece of clothing I had at that time.

And then finally the gates are open, and us numbered folks can enter - and we are still strictly in that numbered line, so the ones who were here first are really the ones who got inside first! The number system was mostly identical to what was used at Ullevi but unlike there, here it actually worked. The line was far better organized and we had more room to sit and no reason to crowd all the time to get better places. Now, a good place close to the middle catwalk if possible, quick quick - aha here, on the left side (Nils' side) of the catwalk, about 4 people away from the front rail and just one person between me and the catwalk!

And then we can sit again, no hurry. I had managed to bring my smaller water bottle in, although there was a strict rule that only still unopened water bottles are allowed, if purchased outside the Stadium and this bottle was actually from Ullevi and opened and closed many times. In other parts of the world only opened bottles are allowed in similar situations, but hey, this is Finland and everybody brings vodka instead of water if opened bottles are allowed! Well, my bottle had just plain tap water and I think I actually saw less badly drunken people here than at Ullevi.

The tall guy sitting between me and catwalk turns out to be Italian, who is now seeing his 8th show on this tour! We had a nice chat. A group of Finns are sitting next to us, and one of them calls home to get the most recent weather forecast. It is going to rain sooner or later, but now its seems that the main clouds are still rather far away and the rain most likely comes only after midnight (just like it happened). After chatting some more it turns out that this friendly guy is from my mailing list! He is Kartsa too, but not the same Kartsa who told me to do that Chimes cardboard. But what a coincidence, this pit sure is a small place!

People start getting more nervous and althought it was nice to sit, even we folks close to the stage decide to stand up at 7 o'clock. It had been announced that the show would start at 7:30, as loud music isn't allowed after 11 pm this close to apartments and city center. We pass time by clapping, shouting, making waves and such stuff. There was a very active group of guys between me and the stage, who started most of these. First the waves died after few lines of people, but as we just kept on doing 3-2-1-WAVEEE!!! all the pit and most likely some parts of the other floor too joined in, and soon there were shouts from the back "Hey you there in front! More waves!" whenever we stopped. We also bruuuuced and I managed to lead all the pit to the first "E Street Band! E Street Band!" chant that night.

Time passed, no Bruce. It was already well past that starting time. Were they waiting for all the audience to arrive? It was printed on the tickets that the show would start at 20:00, so perhaps some people will arrive only then? Some roadies were on the stage and they seemed to be worried about the sun, which was still little above the highest tiers and would shine to the eyes of the band. Hey Bruce, come out tonight! This is Finland in midsummer, and it is not going to get dark yet!

Finally the circus music started, and slowly they arrived. Max first, then Garry and the rest and then Bruce and Clarence. It was close to 8 pm when Bruce greeted us with some Finnish (what on earth did he say? I could't hear it over the crowd noise) and we were into the Night. Not a bad choice, although I don't find this as such a strong show opener as that BitUSA was at Ullevi, and I think that also the next song, Out In The Street, would have been stronger.

But hey, they are finally here and they rock! Bruuuce! Everybody is dressed up in dark clothes just like in earlier shows. They look good and Bruce's voice sounds good. He probably had flu or something in Oslo, but now he seems to be okay. Radio Nowhere is again on the setlist, and sure it sounds good! The audience really takes part! And now the play No Surrender (not listed at brucespringsteen.net - or did I just imagine it?), oh that was sure on my wish list!

Hungry Heart follows, and Bruce walks to the middle catwalk for the first time. There is a little girl with her dad (queue numbers 5 and 6 or something like that) and she has both flowers and a big carboard saying "This is my first show" on one side and "Bruce dance with me please" on the other. Bruce takes the flowers, lifts the girl to the stage and they do dance and Bruce kisses her while the audience is singing the first verse. Aww, cute! Hmm, Ullevi folks sang better and Bruce even has to cue us to sing. Then Bruce throws the flowers to Steve (who barely catches then - now Steve is going to marry or something?) and starts to sing. He walks along the lower stage and goes to the next catwalk, where a red-headed woman jumps to the stage and clings to smiling Bruce, who has to call security to get rid of her. (Or then Bruce asked her to the stage, depends on who you ask.)

Uh huh, I hope that Bruce didn't get too upset with that attack and dares to come to the catwalks again. Or at least to the middle catwalk, where I am situated. The next song is Spirit In The Night (scream!) and omg that means that Bruce sure will come to the catwalk (SCREEAM! uh, that's really me? oops, sorry) and sure, here he comes! He shakes hands with people (but not me), and then he stands at the very end of the catwalk, lets people grab his trousers and just bends his knees and leans back, lower, lower until he is totally parallel to the stage, kept there by just people holding his legs and his own muscle power. He stays there forever, how is that even possible? Now he gets up, steps on top of that slanted speaker just within my reach and does it again! So quickly that the guys in the "making waves" team barely have time to grab his legs to prevent him from falling over! I too reach him, hold his left leg with my right hand and touch his knee with my left. Omg omg I'm touching him, SCREEEAM!

The audience was already loud, but now we all are totally bursting, this is so good! Summertime Blues makes us sing the chorus will all our hearts, and most people around me seem to be singing "ain't no cure for the Summertime Bruce" instead of the real lyrics. Clarence is singing strongly his parts, oh how fun this is! This far it has been "good" and "cute" and "omg", but now it is also fun, just as a summetime show should be. Bruce seems to notice it too, says something about this being like a summer show in New Jersey, and continues to Sherry Darling, which is also a request from audience. This is a summer show, indeed!

Before Sandy Bruce says the same things about life on boardwalk, Danny and Madam Marie as he said at Ullevi. I was there in such a deep nirvana when listening to Sandy that it was good that Bruce decided to perform it again here as now I could concentrate on it better. Those beautiful amusement park images on the big screen, Roy playing the accordion and smiling happily, Bruce just performing this beautiful song with all of his heart and soul.

Now we get I'll Work For Your Love, one of the six Magic songs tonight. The new album gets its fair share in this show, nice! Us pit people naturally know all these songs, but these are totally strange to a big part of the Finnish audience as that album didn't sell here that good. Candy's Room follows and then very angry Youngstown, which I think hadn't been played in Europe yet during this tour.

Then Murder Incorporated. I hadn't followed the set lists that closely and I didn't know that it could be expected, although it was mostly played in the US shows. Guitar solos everyone, and Bruce and Steven really duel with their guitars, wow! The band goes so quickly to Promised Land that I don't have even time to open my mouth and shout "I love you, Silvio" and something as original (probably a good thing, after all). Oh, we all believe in promised land! We are numerous, we are loud and now it seems that this audience or at least the pit is louder and sings the chorus parts better than Ullevi audience.

Everybody raise your hand and clap, this is She's The One. Max, keep on pounding those drums! Living In The Future sounds good and then Bruce takes us to a religious journey to Mary's Place. His preacher talk before the song is much longer than it was a Ullevi, this reminds me of some boots I've heard of the Rising tour. He talks to Steve and asks if everybody is ready to go to the river of this and that and of sexual healing, and he wants to take us all there. You, you, you and also you there on that highest tier. Nah Bruce, didn't you see those folks up there just sit on their seats and they sure don't know the lyrics either. Forget them, they are not worthy, and take just us pit people! We will follow you anywhere! Turn it up!

Bruce picks up another cardboard, a black one saying in bold letters Point Black and there is also in smaller letters something like "This is the last chance for my dad". Bruce says shortly about seeing that sign at many shows and then performs it. Beautiful. Then we get The Rising, and this audience sure has again its chance to show how we Finns can sing. Rising is a perfect stadium song, indeed! Last To Die and Long Walk Home are a familiar pair from Ullevi, and they are followed by Born In The USA. This is something most of the audience was waiting for, but I'm happy that I saw it as its rightful place, as a show opener at Ullevi. I think that Night would have fit better to this slot. But never mind, it is a full band version of BitUSA on a rowdy and noisy stadium! Life is sure good tonight! Then the band goes immediately to Badlands, and we again show our best singing and hand waving talents. If we have any possibility to make this show longer, we will!

Girls In Their Summer Clothes opens the encore, and this is what I was hoping to hear! Funny, whenever I hear it from Magic CD or the bootlegs I have, I always "hear" Beach Boys type backing vocals and even try to sing them myself, but now hearing Bruce doing it live I totally forget my own little additions and listen to it as Bruce wants it to be. (But if someone could make a mix and really add those oh-la-la-la ooo-wee-ooo sounds to Girls, please send me an mp3 of it!)

10th Avenue Freeze-Out has been on quite many setlists, and oh I'm happy that Bruce chose to play it tonight too! Scooter and the Big Man really manage to bust this city in half! Then Born To Run, and now the Finnish audience really takes part. When we heard it at Ullevi, it was nothing when compared to this loud version! Baby we were really born to run, woo-oo-oo-oh!

Bruce scans the audience, says to Steve that he saw it somewhere, then runs to the left of stage and returns with a neat "Rosalita come out 2nite for Finland" sign. Perhaps he would have done it anyway, but now he does it as a request. The "making waves" guys go wild, as they have this HUUUGE sheet saying "Rosalita for President" and they all keep on hugging and high-fiving each others when Rosalita starts. Bruce makes us all feel that he ain't here for business, he's here only for fun! And we sure appreciate that.

After it we get immediately Dancing In The Dark, and again we hardly get any break before the band starts American Land. Everyone is cheering and singing! Bruce leads all the band (except Clarence and Max) the the middle catwalk, oh he is again just a meter from me. But Charlie and his accordion are closer to me. Bruce, Charlie, Bruce - no, Charlie it is. I've already cheered for Bruce tonight, now it is Charlie's turn to get my full attention and I shout and raise my hands for him now!

After the song ends in the fireworks, I quickly look at my watch and it is ten to eleven, perhaps they have still time for one more song? We have been such a good audience, haven't we pretty please? Bruce is always smiling anyway, just like Soozie, but I don't think the rest of the band, especially Roy and Garry, smiled that much at Ullevi. Have they noticed that we do our best to take part?

This looks promising, they are still at the stage. Nils is showing his watch and then making a pillow of his hands. Nooo Nils, it is certainly not time to go to sleep yet! Bruce is talking to Steve and pointing something from the tiers to him. A funny sign? Someone they know? Bruce tells the camera man to look, no look a little lower, little to left, there do you see? What on earth they do see? Oh this can't be happening, oh this ain't real, they see SANTA! If there was one song I was sure I will never see in a summer show it would have been Santa Claus Is Coming To Town but now he really is coming to this town. This is really it, Clarence is doing his ho-ho-ho parts, this is E Street Band in a hot July night in Finland. And I'm here too! Is there anybody I could hug just now?

Santa ends with a snow storm on the big screen, which hints that it wasn't an audible but well planned. What a last song! Wait, Santa has still more verses? And turns into more rocking? No wait, this is Twist And Shout, we Finns get TWO extras after American Land! Suddenly I find lots of extra energy to twist (although there isn't that much room here) and especially to SHOUT! We have been so good that we get a long version with lots of audience singing. Garry shares a mic with Steven and seems to sing from his heart too. Now a little bit louder, still louder, louder! And now a little bit softer, still softer, still a little bit softer and we obey. Then Bruce tells us with a soft voice to do it again a little bit louder but nobody seemed to pay attention to such tiny words as "a little bit" and we go straight to LOUDER. Garry laughs, all the band seems to enjoy this. Bruce can anyway still make us go much louder until the song and all the show is finally over.

It is well past eleven now and I totally lost my voice sometimes during that last song. Or perhaps earlier, but I notice it only now. Kartsa manages to find me and we shake hands for this killer show before I start finding my way to the gate and back home. A guy I know takes the same bus to the suburb and he has been in the show too! So nice that we can share our feelings still on the way to our homes.

I sat up at home for an hour or two before going to bed. I was dehydrated (although not as badly as at Ullevi), all my muscles felt weird, my throat was sore and my brain was overheating. I managed to sleep about 3 hours before waking up again and realizing that it really isn't possible for me to sleep before I have got this steam out of my system. Now I have been sitting here for nearly 4 hours and now I will post this for you to read. I hope I can share at least some of what I felt yesterday night.

Thank you, Bruce and the E Street Band! Please come back to Finland as soon as possible, I can assure that you'll get another warm welcome here!

Set list

1. Night
2. Out In The Street
3. Radio Nowhere
4. No Surrender
5. Hungry Heart
6. Spirit In The Night
7. Summertime Blues
8. Sherry Darling
9. 4th of July Asbury Park (Sandy)
10. I'll Work For Your Love
11. Candy's Room
12. Youngstown
13. Murder Incorporated
14. The Promised Land
15. She's The One
16. Livin' In The Future
17. Mary's Place
18. Point Blank
19. The Rising
20. Last To Die
21. Long Walk Home
22. Born In The USA
23. Badlands

24. Girls In Their Summer Clothes
25. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
26. Born To Run
27. Rosalita
28. Dancing In The Dark
29. American Land
30. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
31. Twist And Shout

With 31 songs this was the longest of all shows during this Magic tour, and among the longest E Street Band shows during the last 20 years. Two extras after American Land happened only twice during the European leg, once in Ireland and once today. This was probably the best, longest and loosest show during this European tour. A Jersey Shore summertime show, as Bruce said during this night!

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