Bruce Springsteen was more than ever the Boss on the Werchter plain: what a slap in the face!

Bruce Springsteen was more than ever the Boss on the Werchter plain: what a slap in the face!
Bruce Springsteen was more than ever the Boss on the Werchter plain: what a slap in the face!

It’s him. He’s the Boss. More than ever. Bruce Springsteen, 74 years old. With his bloated E Street Band (seventeen musicians and backing vocalists), which he calls “best bar band in the world“, he signed this Tuesday July 2nd in Werchter a memorable performance in front of sixty thousand spectators. Twenty-nine songs, some three hours of show. Rock, blues, rhythm and blues, gospel, soul. Huge hits and also more confidential nuggets which delight the unconditional fans. Calm songs, others which burst in all directions. Lyrics which speak of youth, of the quest for freedom, of the American dream, of love and of death. Life in other words, in all its beauty and hardness.”It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive“. “It’s not a sin to be happy to be alive“, he sings in “Badlands”title exhumed from his classic Darkness In The Edge Of Town (1978) which he performed at the end of the set, before encores that lasted another fifty minutes.

Bruce Springsteen Imperial at TW Classic 2023

An undisguised pleasure

And if on this July day with autumnal weather, the Boss made us happy to be alive, it’s because he is happy himself. The guy, he doesn’t cheat. You can see on his face that he’s happy to be there. That he’s having fun. Doesn’t calculate. Lets himself be carried away by the emotion of the present moment, making each moment even more precious. A kid, stuck in the front row, who will leave with his harmonica. A forty-year-old showing him a cardboard sign on which she wrote “Dance with me” and which he will make his ephemeral partner of a nocturnal waltz. Handshakes, hugs, dedications, smiles and even fits of laughter when another fan offers him an XXL office mug on which is written “I ‘am the Boss”.

More than 1.6 million tickets have been sold for this 2023-2024 Springsteen tour. He had already sold out Werchter last summer. The concert on Tuesday, July 2, was sold out in less than an hour. And we understand the craze. The magazine Rolling Stone relayed this punchline last May from the Italian music journalist Ernesto Assante.The world is divided into two parts: those who are Springsteen fans and those who have never seen him live.” We approve.

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Without artifice and without downtime

The beginning of the concert perfectly sums up the ethics, generosity and also the humility of the boss. Without fuss, without explosion, without the slightest artifice, each musician of the E Street Band goes on stage and greets the audience. Bruce arrives last, puts his fingers on his worn Telecaster guitar and throws the mash.Lonesome Day”, “Prove It All Night”, “My Love Will Not Let You Down”, “No Surrender”, “Ghosts”, “Darkness on The Edge Of Town”. Six songs in a row, performed without the slightest break, barely restarted by thunderous “One, two, three, four “. Bruce even takes two solos on “Prove It All Night”waddling between his lieutenant with gypsy scarves “Little” Steven Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren (who increasingly resembles, but in miniature, his idol Neil Young). A real gang. A real group.

An intact voice

Bruce is still in voice. This has of course evolved over the years but it brings new nuances to his repertoire. There is less speech too. It is the music that speaks. But before taking up in solo acoustic version the immense “Last Man Standing”he makes many people cry with the story of his teenage apprenticeship.My first band, The Castiles, in 1965. We were together for three years. Not bad for teenagers from New Jersey.“The song was born after the death of George Theiss, singer of the Castiles.”He died of cancer in 2018. And I realized I was the only survivor. The Last Man Standing..” Wow… What an emotion.

We also really liked his soulful reinterpretation of “Nightshift” Commodores that he recorded on Only The Strong Will Survivehis 21st album released in 2022. On this ballad, he highlights the intrinsic qualities of each and every one of his backing singers. On the enormous “Because The Night”once offered to Patti Smith, it is Nils Lofgren who releases a mind-blowing solo.Thunder Road”the anthem of youth and rural America, being muscled, for its part, by a solid rhythm section. And at the time of the encores, it is the jukebox that is worth all the fireworks: “Born In the USA”, “Born to Run”, “Bobby Jean”, “Dancing in The Dark”, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” and the cover “Twist And Shout” Top Notes. A huge slap in the face…

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