Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Rocking out in small rooms and on big lawns

Here comes the heat again. White Denim’s first 15 minutes at Dublin’s Academy 2 was one of the finest wig-outs encountered in an age. A packed room looked on in awe as the trio stonked away without taking the time …

Tue, Jun 30, 2009, 12:49


Here comes the heat again. White Denim’s first 15 minutes at Dublin’s Academy 2 was one of the finest wig-outs encountered in an age. A packed room looked on in awe as the trio stonked away without taking the time to draw a breath. Guitars, drums and bass entered this fuzzy zone where the interplay was intuitive and there was no need for anyone to even look up from any of the dudes to look up from what they were doing. Songs powered along and the energy in the space was just immense.

White Denim’s current album “Fits” deserves a podium of its own, but so too does the band’s live show. It’s an addictive sensation, all stone-crazy riffs and helter-skelter dashes from the garage-rock side of town. I’d imagine they’ve played their asses off in the last 18 months and it really shows in how they relate to each other and the tunes they’re throwing out there. Hopefully the local musicians in the audience, looking on with their mouths agape, realise just how much work they have to do to get to that standard. This is the real deal alright.

One of the other real deals on offer right now is provided by Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band. Over the last few years, these hardchaws have toured these parts a few times and each show is a masterclass in what a live music experience is all about. I saw them (yes, again) in London’s Hyde Park on Sunday evening and it was further proof that it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive. Every encounter with these masters at work is life-affirming and proof that they’re just not making them like this any more.

Coming less than 24 hours after an epic Glastonbury appearance – Glasto seemed to have had a share of epic turns this year with Bruce, Blur and Neil Young all starring in the despatches from England’s West Country – Springsteen and comrades seemed newly energised by their performance and the reception they got. After all, they don’t get to play to so many newbies at once any more – or play to an audience who spend their time waving flags and wondering if he’ll play “Born In The USA”. It’s interesting to note that the current tour features a couple of rare festival appearances from Springsteen – he even shared a stage on Sunday in Hyde Park, though the less said about some of these acts (I’m looking at you, Dave Matthews Band) the better.

In London, with planes flying surreally over the stage every couple of minutes en route to Heathrow, they opened with an appropriately rollercoaster run through “London Calling”, the second of the weekend’s nods to the memory of Joe Strummer. From then on, it was simply Boss-time, one bona-fide classic after another from a band who seem to be getting better and bolder with age. Yes, Clarence Clemons has slowed down of late – understandable after operations for double hip and double knee replacements – but he still hits markers time and time again. The rest of the band continue to throw shapes with the kind of gusto younger pretenders to their crown can only fake.

At the heart of it all is Springsteen. There are many times during this three hour power-drive through the back-pages of his career when he just loses himself in the euphoria of what’s happening around him on that stage. On “Badlands” and “She’s The One”, he stomps around the stage, rousing the band to go higher and higher. Two hours later, as they burst through “Rosalita” and “Glory Days”, he’s still urging them onwards.

Other highlights: the way Springsteen gathers the cardboard banners and posters with song titles from the crowd and uses them to direct the set-list. Brian Fallon from The Gaslight Anthem coming on to sing “No Surrender” and looking like the kid with the Willy Wonka golden ticket. A glorious “Born to Run” which threatens to burst out of the park and rush off down Park Lane. The way new songs “Workin’ On A Dream” and “Outlaw Pete” have bedded down and already sound like old familiar pals. A passionate “Trapped” roared to the skies. A great, great night out in London town. Those of you with tickets for his shows at Dublin’s RDS on July 11 and 12 are in for one hell of a treat.

Footnote: after the show, 40,000 people quickly and quietly left the venue, which is really a large field with a temporary fence around it. There were a couple of policemen on horseback to stop people walking into the traffic, but that was about the height of the police presence. No drunken eejits (even though plenty of bottles of beer had obviously been consumed judging by the content of the bins – oh yes, very little litter), no haphazard stewarding, no shortage of buses, no-one jumping over fences to get out faster, no calls to the London equivalent of Liveline, no fuss, no drama, no bother. It’s good sometimes to go to a professionally run event attended by civilised human beings. Just a shame you have to go abroad to do so.