Bruce Springsteen reveals how Slane concert was almost a disaster

‘I thought somebody was going to get killed and it’d be my fault’

Bruce Springsteen performs at  Slane in  June 1985. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

Bruce Springsteen performs at Slane in June 1985. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

 

Bruce Springsteen has revealed how his fabled Slane concert in 1985 almost ended in disaster.

Springsteen said he was so scared fans would die at Slane that his first ever arena show almost became his last.

“I thought somebody was going to get killed and it’d be my fault,” he has written in his just-published autobiography Born to Run.

“The crowd closest to the stage: an immediate couple of thousands, were deeply into their Guinness and dangerously swaying from left to right.

“They were opening up gaping holes amongst themselves as audience members by the dozens fell to the muddy ground, vanishing for unbearable seconds until righted once again by their neighbours.

“Then, once standing, they’d slosh back the other way and the whole interminable, nerve-grinding exercise would be repeated again, ad infinitum. It was a sight too hairy for my tender eyes.”

Springsteen recalled “seething” when he went off at the intermission and had a “highly charged debate” with his manager Jon Landau about cancelling the whole European tour which was sold out on the back of his phenomenally successful Born in the USA album.

“I could not face what was happening in front of the stage at Slane on a nightly basis. It was irresponsible and violated the protective instinct for my audience I prided myself on.

“Fans were pouring, red faced, soaked in booze and heat exhaustion, over the front barriers to be taken to the medical tent or to flank the crowd, throw themselves back in and take another crack at it.”

Springsteen said both he and the crowd calmed down for the second half of the show and he went on to complete a sold-out European tour without mishap.

“In the end, Slane joined a rising number of our other performances to attain ‘legendary’ status and, despite my distraction, turned out to be a solid show. On the streets of Dublin, it is often mentioned to me. If you were there, you were there. I was certainly there.”

Springsteen also wrote of his friendship with U2, a band he described as “some of the nicest people I’ve met in the music business.”

His relationship with the band stretched back to 1981. Bono had been the MC when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In 2006 The Edge turned up at the “crack of dawn” to be present at their first soundcheck for a concert they were playing as a benefit for the victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Springsteen also writes of his visit to his “old stomping ground” the RDS in June 2014 to see his daughter Jessica compete in the Nations Cup for the USA.

He revealed that around that time he became severely depressed and contemplated suicide.

“Standing, walking, sitting down, everything brought waves of an agitated anxiety that I’d spend every waking minute trying to dispel.”

While out with his wife Patti in Dublin and “doing my best to fake that I was a sane citizen”, he finally decided to call his pharmacologist who prescribed Klonopin (Clonazepam), an anti-anxiety medication.

It worked. “After a short period on Klonopin I was able to stop the medication and the agitation did not return. But it was a terrifying window into mental debilitation and I don’t think I could’ve gone on like that indefinitely.”