Springsteen may sing about tough life - but he never fails to bring joy

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The Boss showed the new school how it’s done with a three-hour spectacle full of verve and enthusiasm, writes SHANE HEGARTY

OKAY, WHILE the 80,000 at Bruce Springsteen at the RDS on Saturday and Sunday included all age groups, the show’s older demographic meant a marked contrast with the scenes at Punchestown. The mud was safely tucked away under the covered pitch and searches were non-existent. All that people were asked to do – in a very polite way – was not to use brollies, so that everybody could see the show.

On Saturday night it rained steadily as the crowd streamed towards the venue – the genius who invested in several thousand disposable ponchos and supplied them to street traders must be the happiest man in Dublin.

Inside the RDS, the stage crew was kept busy sweeping off the rain as the giant screens swayed in the wind until, at 8.05pm, Springsteen and the E-Street Band ambled on stage and proceeded to blow everyone away.

The youngest thing in the band these days is Clarence Clemons’ new knees (he threw away his cane with a dramatic flourish), and Springsteen’s birth cert insists he’ll turn 60 later this year, even if he appears to be getting fitter every time his by now annual visit to Ireland comes around.

He restrained himself from the knee slides that had accompanied previous shows – the slipperiness of the surface might have seen him propelled into the stand. And at one point in the show, as Springsteen jumped on to the walkway, he slipped, his legs went from under him and he landed slap on his back while still gripping his guitar. There was a collective gasp as the music kept playing and guitarist Nils Lofgren dashed towards him with the speed of a presidential bodyguard. But Springsteen was quickly up and back at it, and the heartbreaking, booty-shaking, Viagra-taking E-Street Band were now the ass-breaking band too. “That’s the second time I’ve done that,” he chided himself.

The show was just shy of three hours, featuring 30 songs in all, performed almost entirely without pause: No break. No encores. Just a set that was bursting at the seams, beginning with Who’ll Stop the Rainand proceeding to ramp itself up time after time, dictated pretty much by whatever Springsteen wanted to play next. Highlights? Take your pick. The Obama-era anthem, Working on a Dream; the requests slot, which brought out You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch), Seven Nights to Rock, For Youand Thunder Road; the moment at which Springsteen pointed to the arrival of pale blue evening sky and greeted it with Waiting for a Sunny Day.

Born to Runwas typically ground shaking; American Land,during which Springsteen’s son Evan joined the line-up, has always seemed to belong to the Irish; and the closing few songs – Dancing in the Dark, Ramrodand Twist and Shout– were joyous.

There are a couple of paradoxes about Springsteen. One is that a guy who’s made enough money that he wouldn’t have to work for several lifetimes still writes and sings about the difficulties of the common working man with extraordinary sincerity and power. But there’s also the irony of how a set that features so many songs about the toughness of life – T he Ghost of Tom Joadand Stephen Foster’s 1855 song, Hard Times– can be delivered with such extraordinary verve that by the time you leave, you’re very glad to be alive.

We couldnt help noticing ... the battle for the front row

Getting into the front row of Saturdays show required extraordinary stamina and determination. Apparently, the queue began on Wednesday, and most of the first 150 people were from outside of Ireland. Those who arrived as early as 6.30am on Saturday morning werent even in the first 250. After that, roll calls were every two hours and then every hour, until close to opening time.

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