The philosophy is simple: Fuck It.
“Fuck It,” I decided. “I’m going to Cape Town.”
On my first morning in Cape Town I was sitting having breakfast when a lady came over, put her hand on my back and smiled at me: “Awwwww poor you, you’re eating breakfast alone. You must be here on business!” I resisted the urge to respond with a wink and a “I ain’t here for business baby, I’m only here for fun,” aware that I was setting myself up for a fall. But in some ways she was right, flying 6000 miles to South Africa for some Springsteen concerts is very serious business. And I take my work SO seriously.
Luckily for me though, the word “alone” does not exist in the Bruce Bud dictionary. I arrived at the concert and within minutes I’d got chatting with several fans that I’ve met online (ahh that’s something I didn’t think I’d ever be writing). Our excitement grew before the set finally started with a lively Free Nelson Mandela. The song set the tone for the night ahead, a night of celebration, on this monumental occasion for thousands of South Africans, with Bruce also marking the significance of the night with several poignant words about Nelson Mandela.
The crowd too were gracious and kind. In some ways I felt a bit nervous taking up a vital ticket when I’ve been lucky enough to see Bruce play in cities close to my hometown so often. I started the night standing at the back of the pit, before hearing some unfamiliar words: “Would you like to stand in front of me, I really don’t mind.” I was shocked that as Bruce came forward to the crowd, instead of being elbowed in the face as is often the norm, I had South African fans eagerly pushing ME forward – “go on you can play his guitar” – which soon left me in the second row in the middle. Behind me a 60 year old man squealed in delight as Bruce sprayed us with sweat, and next to me another cried like a kid who’d over indulged on E-number packed sweets: “He’s going to crowd surf!” And he did.
I’ll admit, before the concert I was preparing myself for Tom Morello‘s guitar playing to grate on me. His presence in the band has caused a mixed reaction among the fans, and one of the worst reviews I’ve seen of High Hopes described his contribution as “seven turgid minutes of bellowing and shredding”. Firstly, turgid is a word which should only ever be used to describe a firm fruit. But secondly, and yes I know there will still be some doubters, but The Ghost Of Tom Joad for me was one of the most powerful performances I’ve ever experienced from Springsteen. I like that I now have two incredible, and totally different, versions of one of Springsteen’s best songs. The meaning hasn’t changed but we are seeing it delivered in a different way. If Tom Morello inspires Bruce at the moment, and his live playing isn’t too dominant (which it wasn’t), then his involvement in a few shows isn’t a bad thing for me.
Looking relaxed and happy, Nils’ solos were insanely good and the extended version of Because The Night was the best I’ve seen. Stevie too was in his element, the crowd giving him the recognition he deserves for his work over the years and his writing on the 1986 protest song Sun City (if only he’d opened the set with that rap).
As Bruce strolled the back walk way at various points throughout the concert, I kept spotting a young girl and her dad, reminding me of my dad introducing me to Bruce’s music. It was clearly her first concert, and for three hours her jaw hung open in a combination of shock, and sheer joy at what she was experiencing. It made me smile to think of the journey she is about to begin as a Bruce Springsteen fan. Although I’ve seen some complaints (many from people who weren’t actually there) that there was too many hits played, I felt it suited the night and worked for people like her and the rest of the crowd, who had never had the chance to see Bruce Springsteen live in their home country. Bruce charmed them with relentless energy, and effortlessly won over anyone who was at the concert because they felt a little bit intrigued by a New Jersey rocker nicknamed The Boss.
|Bruce (and my hands) make front page news|
I know in the past I’ve gone into some detail on the set lists but this time the problem is this: I’m writing this in Cape Town, and the sun is shining. There’s so much to see and there’s many many burgers for me to eat. I feel so lucky to be here in this incredible place and I can’t take that for granted – F**k It – I have to go and see it.
I love the F**k It mentality. Well, I’ll love it until my next credit card statement comes through at least. If the F**k It philosophy is tempting you too, there are direct Virgin Atlantic flights to South Africa, a box office at the venue, a pit with your name on it and three more Springsteen concerts in the country this week…