Bruce Springsteen in New Zealand 2017

Christchurch and Auckland, Summer ’17

Bruce Springsteen in New Zealand 2017

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band ended a five week ‘Summer 2017’ tour with two intelligent, well structured and engrossing sets in New Zealand, one on each island.

The first date in Christchurch was a day prior to the sixth anniversary of the earthquake that killed 185 people, from which the city is still recovering. Following the quake, Springsteen’s My City of Ruins became an anthem and locals petitioned for him to come and play. The show sold out it in an hour and dominated the local media in the days leading up to his visit to the South Island.

The rarity of a big event coming to a town still finding its feet was signalled with the eighties throwback of women on shoulders lifting their tops when on the big screen, a poorly non-cordoned pit which invited confusion from all-comers and fights on the way out between locals after all-day drinking. But it was a special evening of 3 hours of Springsteen and the E Street Band overwhelming all else.

During a stunning twelve minute version of My City of Ruins, as the hot sun started going down to the side of the stage, Springsteen spoke about how he was lobbied to come to Christchurch and play; with his own gospel style singing that followed in the song, compelling people to rise up, he was simultaneously holding 30,000 people in the palm of his hands.

Nearer the end of the night, with the sky now black, like a gift to Christchurch he played the beautiful My Hometown introducing it with the words “from my hometown to your hometown” with lyrics relevant to many of the locals who had left for less risk averse spots after 2011 but returned to see The Boss breathe fresh energy in the city. Earlier, during the epic My City of Ruins, he explained that the song, before taking on wider meanings, was originally about the economic hardship of his own town and that is one of the narratives of both nights.

In the early days of this tour in the previous month in Australia, Springsteen was going on stage after hearing the fresh daily calamities from a new protectionist president of his home, who exploited the failings of capitalism while announcing regressive hard right-ideological social and international policies. Footage and set-lists from those Australian shows feature Springsteen’s despair mixed with defiance, and that theme remains in his NZ sets; at Christchurch he comes on with his own joyful rally, No Surrender, which while released on Born in the USA album in 1984, recalls the frustration he spoke about during his 1980 River Tour, when music was an outlet for feelings that the conventional structures in place couldn’t express.

The combination of The River and Youngstown in both sets are a hard reinforcement of the lost and forgotten casualties in a society with no safety net; In Auckland those two songs are preceeded by Wrecking Ball, another battle cry that came straight on the heels of City in Ruins. And then on the final night, Youngstown was followed by a stunning version of American Skin (41 Shots). For most of the eight and three quarter minutes of 41 Shots  Jake Clemons doesn’t play his saxophone, but holds both his arms up in the air, like a hostage of fortune to police officers with guns. As the song goes on, the whole stadium has their hands up before Jake takes his sax back up again on the outro.

American Skin (41 shots) is arguably, alongside Wrecking Ball and The Rising (played on both nights), the best song he has written since the turn of the century, but both sets are full of old favourites. In Christchurch, there is a cracking guitar driven Hard to be a Saint in the City which followed a sign request and a brilliant Spirit of the Night, which sits so well back-to-back with another big band party song, Out on the Street.

On his final night he took no requests, but Backstreets is glorious in an encore. A couple of hours earlier, he came straight on to front of the stage, with a end of tour party feel, celebrating the end of five weeks working on the road kicking off a great night with a Born in the USA triple bill of Darlington County, Working on the Highway and Glory Days.

In both shows there are spots from Darkness of the Edge of Town, with a deliberate, slightly slower version of the title track at Christchurch, Prove It both nights and Candy’s Room in Auckland. Because the Night is seemingly now a staple part of the set, allowing Nils Lofgren to stylishly showboat a powerful guitar solo centre stage, Promised Land is eternally energizing and of course Badlands, the defiant mission statement of the band, is a constant highlight of any Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band gig.

These two nights look like being the last E Street gigs for a while as they on embark on solo projects for the remainder of 2017. But throughout both sets it is apparent how much fun the band have, all contributing and when Bruce is centre stage looking with sheer joy at the crowd as they watch them watching Springsteen.

For the many who got their first taste seeing The Boss interacting with the crowd, from stopping his acoustic intro of Working on the Highway in Christchurch to discover an inflatable Kiwis to posing for selfies mid-song, as well as the seasoned fans who travelled to both islands and queued in the sun for the pit, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in New Zealand was a treat.


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New, independent writing, ‘Glory Nights from Wankdorf to Wembley’ documents the journey that captures the culture of travelling to Europe watching football, from the inspiration of Springsteen to a sport where money is valued alongside glory. It is available to preview for free and download in full for less than a bottle of beer at Wembley Stadium from Amazon and Smashwords. More details, including photos and links to reviews, here.Glory Nights: From Wankdorf to Wembley