It’s Springsteen time again
140,000 Irish music fans can’t be wrong. As Bruce Springsteen limbers up for his five-date Irish tour this month, fanboy Jim Carroll looks at his enduring appeal
Over the years, he has returned again and again to play here and those bonds have become stronger. There’s even the usual Irish-American link in the news that Springsteen’s people hailed from here. Greg Lewis and Moira Sharkey’s book Land of Hope and Dreams claims that the singer’s great great grandmother headed from Mullingar, Co Westmeath to Freehold, New Jersey back in the 1850s.
But long before we adopted him as one of our own – around the same time as we discovered the Obamas from Moneygall – Springsteen’s Irish shows were always well-attended, even during the post-Born In the USA years, when albums such as Tunnel Of Love and Lucky Touch didn’t really have much appeal beyond the hardcore following.
In recent years, the numbers have gone up and up, especially since the release of The Rising album in 2002. That album ushered in Springsteen’s golden age and the long-time fans were joined a the front of the stage by the curious, the newly devoted and, in recent years, the “event giggers” – music’s equivalent of Roy Keane’s prawn sandwich brigade.
Just as there will always be a fan next to you who has seen Springsteen 20 or 30 times already, there will also be always someone at the show who is seeing him for the very first time. Indeed, the audiences at his shows here and elsewhere have of late got younger and younger, as new generations discover the appeal of that astonishing back catalogue.
It’s certainly not just in Ireland that you’ll find evidence of Bruce-mania. You’ll hear similar tales about Springsteen’s bond with fans in Spain (one of the most frenzied crowd reactions I’ve ever seen at a Springsteen show was in Madrid a few years back), Sweden and Norway (six shows in the past nine months there), not to mention the audiences back in the United States who still flock to the shows.
When Baillie Walsh went looking for fan-footage for his forthcoming Springsteen & I documentary about the connection between singer and audience, he was inundated with clips, photos and stories from all over the world. This Springsteen thing is not limited to one country.
The more you deconstruct the mania and dissect the myths, the more you realise it all comes down to the live show. They’re not making rock’n’roll showmen like Springsteen any more.
He’s the last of the great rock frontmen, the man who delivers tremendous, powerful and entertaining shows every time, events full of raw power, emotional touchstones and fantastic, timeless songs.
There’s no self-consciousness, no attempt to appear hip, nothing studied or artificial. Just a guy and his band who look like they’re having the time of their life on that stage as they romp around for three hours or more, hamming it up for the audience and playing life-affirming tunes until its time to skedaddle.