Ireland has a hungry heart for Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band at the RDS in July 2012. Photograph: Dara mac Dónaill

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band at the RDS in July 2012. Photograph: Dara mac Dónaill

Sat, Feb 2, 2013, 00:00

QUESTION:Why is Bruce Springsteen so popular in Ireland?

This is the real drive for five. Bruce Springsteen’s brace of shows at Kilkenny’s Nowlan Park in July means a total of five Irish appearances this summer for the E Street Band.

Tickets for the Cork, Limerick and Belfast shows are long gone.

The Kilkenny gigs, which bring the European leg of his Wrecking Ball tour to a close, will probably also sell out when they go on sale next Thursday morning.

That’s about 140,000 tickets sold by Springsteen for Irish shows this year.

With the exception of U2, it’s hard to think of any other act who could sell that number of tickets in Ireland this or any other summer.

It’s harder still to think of any major league act who’d actually bother to play five stadium shows here.

Springsteen’s bond with his Irish fanbase is something that is worth teasing out. From his first Irish appearance at Slane Castle in 1985 – the show which demonstrated that Springsteen was on his way to superstar status in Europe as well as America – right up to this summer’s Wrecking Ball tour, Springsteen has always delivered tremendous, powerful and entertaining shows.

The positive, quasi-evangelical word-of-mouth about Springsteen’s live shows means there are always more people who want to go along to share the experience.

In recent years there’s been a marked change in the audience at the shows, with more youngsters joining the grey-hairs out front.

The truth is that they really aren’t making rock ’n’ roll bands like Springsteen and his E-Street cohorts any more.

Over the past decade, though, it sometimes feels as if Springsteen has actually moved to Ireland such has been the frequency of his shows here.

Naturally, he has roots here.

Greg Lewis and Moira Sharkey have pointed out in their book Land of Hope and Dreams: Celebrating 25 Years of Bruce Springsteen in Ireland that the singer’s great-great-grandmother, Ann Garrity, hailed from Mullingar.

Perhaps Cusack Park in Mullingar will be the next stop on Springsteen’s Irish schedule?

Yet it should also be remembered that Ireland is a lucrative location for the Springsteen pension pot.

With tickets priced at €90 and €100 a shot for the upcoming Irish shows, Springsteen will be grossing in or about €13 million forhis work here this  summer.

While there may be many other acts who might fancy their chances at doing a similar run in Ireland, Springsteen is the one with the fanbase who can actually make such an ambitious run of dates work to his advantage.

The fact that he’s playing all these shows outside Dublin, for instance, has ensured loads of publicity and buzz.

One constant in Springsteen’s 28-year run of Irish shows worth noting is Aiken Promotions.

There have surely been other offers over the years from rival promoters, but Springsteen and his manager, Jon Landau, have remained loyal to Peter Aiken and his late father Jim, who did his first Irish show in 1985.

That’s proved to be a relationship that has worked out well for all parties.