It’s with a heavy heart, and, no doubt, some pretty aching knees, that Bruce Springsteen’s 2012 Wrecking Ball tour de force comes to an end. In typical Springsteenian fashion, his last official show of the year is at an all-star Hurricane Sandy relief benefit in New York, but, before that, there’s a trio of headline gigs in California, Arizona and Mexico City to deal with. Giddy fangirl that I am, I’ll be seeing him for the third time this year at his show in Anaheim, Orange County next week – and, before you ask, no, three times in nine months is not nearly enough.
A dashing – and I’ll stop here, for the sake of decency - 63 years old he might be, but as a live performer, Springsteen just keeps on improving. The rock’n’roll equivalent of a fine, and, um, shockingly handsome bottle of wine, there’s no doubt that this is a man, and a performer, that gets better with age. With every year that goes by, songs are added to his killer arsenal of heartland tragedies and smalltown triumphs whilst his unparalleled understanding of what a crowd wants, needs and are ready for, is honed even further.
In terms of the live show, it’s all there; from the bawdy banter and classic covers to old school rarities, crowdsurfing, diving into the crowd to chug fans’ beers and surprise acoustic sets hours before the evening’s official stage time. You want requests from the crowd? You got ‘em. In fact Springsteen is pretty much the only artist we can think of who’ll take punters song suggestions when playing gigantic stadiums.
Let’s also not forget that this is the year in which Springsteen – accompanied by the mighty E Street Band, now featuring the talents of the late sax-man Clarence Clemons’ nephew Jake - smashed the four hour gig barrier, with a whopping 33-song set in Helsinki. The year that he was joined onstage by an actual Beatle in London’s Hyde Park. The year that he teamed up with Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello, someone who most major league US rockers would steer well clear of thanks to his outspoken lefty leanings. The year that he wrote an off-the-cuff campaign song for Barack Obama. The year that he dragged an uncommonly starstruck Mumford and Sons onstage to holler along to ‘Hungry Heart’ at Pinkpop Festival. The year that he delivered a decidedly raunchy, hilarious, insightful, passionate keynote speech at SXSW. The year that he released ‘Wrecking Ball’, the most outwardly political album of his 40-odd year long career. Talk about keeping yourself busy.
We have no idea what’s in store for Springsteen in 2013, but it sure as hell better include a bunch more live shows. Here’s why:
UPDATE: Fans will be thrilled to hear that there are rumours of live dates in 2013, including Rock in Rio.