Following the acoustic surprise we realised we still had three more hours to wait and so we kept ourselves entertained speaking to some of Springsteen’s newest fans, a cheeky little 11 year old boy and his baby sister. The South African concerts have been packed with younger fans – not children, but adults in their 30s who are most fond of the Born In The USA era, made evident by the crowd’s roar each time this effing song has been played (although I fear the true meaning of the lyrics was potentially lost on many). In fact apart from this little lad, the really young Springsteen fans have been few and far between. Bruce had struggled at each concert to find a kid for Waitin’ On A Sunny Day (in every other country I’ve seen children literally hurled towards the stage) and the children who have had their moment to sing with Bruce in SA have mumbled through the words of this simple song (apart from one Italian bambino, of course, the lyrics run through their blood).
|I’m not convinced she lasted the night…|
Our little 11 year old friend decided to stay at the barrier with us. Every other Springsteen concert he would have been crushed, but here in this massive pit the crowd didn’t push or surge forward, and his loveable little face lit up in delight as the concert started, Free Nelson Mandela followed by Land Of Hope And Dreams, and then a No Surrender sign request (the sign’s owner saying he was Springsteen’s “first black South African fan”). Together these songs were the perfect introduction for a young fan’s first Springsteen concert and the grand finale of my own SA tour.
Soon there was rain. After the ‘Frenzy in Firenze’ in Florence in 2012 I realised that sometimes there really is no better way to watch Bruce and the band to perform – and as the crowd reached for their ponchos, this man with endless energy took the night to a whole new level. A sign request for I’m On Fire then led into The River, and it was the first time I’ve been able to enjoy this song without a man stood just behind me challenging Bruce’s falsetto with his own, less impressive, version.
The rain came down heavier as Bruce moved into the big production songs. A powerful Murder Incorporated was a welcome addition to the setlist for me, before another epic Johnny 99, where Bruce steered the horns out through the rain to the front centre stage, a collection of brass instruments parping away inches from our happy, very rosy, sun-kissed faces.
|Thank you @charlthom for your pic!|
Paying his respects to Nelson Mandela, something he has made a point of doing during every SA concert, Bruce was soon leading us through the now ‘usual’ songs to finish the set. Despite the band performing just metres away, it was impossible to resist turning my back on them to catch a glimpse of the rest of the stadium, thousands and thousands of people going crazy for one man and his guitar. I may know what to expect by now, but I’m still shocked at the overwhelming power and reaction to Springsteen’s music each time I see him play live.
When we had filed into the stadium earlier that day I was speaking to a guy who had been “dragged along by his friends” to go to his first Bruce Springsteen concert. He had no idea what he was about to experience and I warned him: “This is the end of your life as you now know it.” That night saw the start of many new Springsteen journeys for the residents of South Africa.