Turn It Up! Why Bad Sound Blighted What Could Have Been The Greatest Ever Springsteen Gig

Opening with Thunder Road and finishing with McCartney should have ensured this was a a gig to endure forever-it probably still will, but unfortunately for the wrong reasons...
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Opening with Thunder Road and finishing with McCartney should have ensured this was a a gig to endure forever-it probably still will, but unfortunately for the wrong reasons...


For many reasons Saturday’s Bruce Springsteen gig should have been epic; defining, a live music spectacular to live on and endure as an I-was-there evening.

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Firstly, he opened with Thunder Road.  It’s not been unknown around these parts to describe the first song on Born To Run as the greatest of all time, and to hear him open his gig with that harmonica and in that moment realise the first sing-a-long of the night was going to be “the screen door slams” is enough to, three days on and with serotonin levels at an all-time low after  a very long weekend,  threaten the onset of sniffly man tears.

There were memorable versions of Waitin‘ On a Sunny Day, The River and a Ghost Of Tom Joad that scaled heights I could never have anticipated for it.  There were guest spots from Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine, and John Fogerty. And, of course, there was Macca; on for the encore, sans bass and ready to grace the stage with Bruce for I Saw Her Standing There and Twist and Shout.  When he flounced on hair bouncing behind him it felt like a little snippet of history, a moment to be looked back and ruminated on for years to come.

And well it might have been, had we been able to hear the thing properly.

You’ve probably already seen the well documented story that Bruce and Paul got cut off as they were saying their thank you’s to the crowd with the band seemingly set to launch into Ten Avenue Freeze Out (the Hyde Park show was the first of the tour where they didn’t finish with it). A predictable public and online backlash entailed, led by names such as Boris Johnson who declared it an “excessively efficacious decision” and that, given the choice, he would have given them the go-ahead to “jam in the name of the Lord.”

Moving aside the fact that that last statement makes him sound like a sub-Partridge turtle-neck afficionado who's spent a lot more time in church than he ever has at gigs, the wealth of bad feeling about it was really spectacularly badly placed. E Street Band guitarist Stevie Van Zandt took to Twitter, asking "seriously, when did England become a Police state?"  A number of articles popped up across the web having a pop at the authorities for their supposed lack of soul, or whatever.

E Street Band guitarist Stevie Van Zandt took to Twitter, asking "seriously, when did England become a Police state?

Westminster council stated that: “Concert organisers, not the council, ended last night’s concert in Hyde Park to comply with their license, which allows them to run the concert until 10.30pm.”

Now the music romantic will state that the band should always play on and sod the license.  And to a degree, of course, I agree.  But the reality is they were playing a gig in central London, with hundreds of residents less than 1000 metres away.  Whatever your feelings regarding the sort of people living around Mayfair, they have a right not to have their local surroundings not invaded every weekend for a couple of months, as has been happening recently and will continue to with a wealth of events happening around the Olympics.

Also, Park Lane is blocked off to cars for the gig (or at least after). Festival organisers and Police would have planned this operation to the tiniest detail and though it might not chime with those that see the organisers as fun-bashing killjoys, the point is if you are going to do a gig in Hyde Park you have to abide by the rules, and Bruce and co would have been well aware of the rules in advance.  It was the rules that ensured the entire gig was about 20 decibels too quiet, that ensured a conversation could be had throughout the entire gig, even when E Street rounded the final straight and dropped Born To Run, Glory Days and Dancing In The Dark.  In these moments my ears should have been full of strings, synths and screams, instead I could make out my friend telling the girl next to us he uses two types of conditioner on his hair.

There’d been plenty of problems with getting permission for the gigs there this year and they had to drop the number of events to nine from thirteen (though these numbers don’t include all the Olympic-orientated stuff going on).  Obviously part of this also included the band having to stay within certain sound levels, but unfortunately those sound levels were not good enough for a gig that costs 60 pounds to attend.  Bruce and the rest would surely have known this, as sure as the fact that next time he is in town he must seek to remedy it by playing in a venue where the band can play loud and long.

sound levels were not good enough for a gig that costs 60 pounds to attend

One final thing worth saying- and criticising Bruce is not something that comes easy as I love the bones of the man- but the band came on 25 minutes late.  All bands come on late, we know this, but coming on late when you have such tight restrictions- and Bruce knew all about the restrictions because he actually got involved in the process of Live Nation ( the promoter) getting permission for the gigs in the first place- is pretty fucking stupid, and it was that lateness that caused the problem in the first place.

Anyway, let’s not be bitter about things- none of this is a reflection on the performance of the band themselves, which were as energetic and engaging as ever-  it’s just without these niggles a gig that could have been described as ‘best ever’ was merely ‘very, very good.’  Next time, let’s have it somewhere else Bruce.  And if you want to bring McCartney back, that would be alright too.

If you liked this, check these out

5 Alternative Springsteen Anthems

Bruce Springsteen Live: A Joyous Riot Of Rock And Roll

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