I’m not going to lie, these images are unlikely to win any awards in the field of concert photography, not least because even with a 30x zoom and a reasonably flash Lumix camera, I was still much further from The Boss than was ideal this past Saturday night in Auckland, New Zealand. That said, they hopefully can give you a sense of how there’s never such a thing as a run-of-the-mill Bruce Springsteen concert.
The closest I’ve ever been to the man who’s been amongst my biggest heroes for as long as I can remember was at a sodden Western Springs on March 28, 2003. The Auckland rain was so torrential that night that I never wore the shoes I had on at that concert ever again. They were so caked in the orange speedway clay of the venue that they perished alongside my Springsteen virginity.
I was 21 years old, stone cold sober and had never felt so fist-pumpingly liberated as I did that day. Mere metres from the stage, I bore witness to the sense of brotherhood, optimism, emotion, humour and realism that has made Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band one of the most captivating live units in the history of rock and roll. I emailed Steve Van Zandt to tell him it had been a near religious experience and his reply of “thanks Tim, that’s what we aim to do!” remains one of the great inbox moments of my life.
Now at age 35, the same vintage as Springsteen’s weathered character in My Hometown, I’m still determined to feel like an eternally young fan of this American icon. To realise I’m the age of his Born In The USA figures and older than those featured in Nebraska, The River, Darkness On The Edge Of Town, Born To Run, The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle and Greetings From Asbury Park is confronting to the point of denial. Oh well.
There were so many highlights from this, my third (and second sun-drenched) Auckland Bruce/E Street Band gig these past 14 years. Nils Lofgren’s spiraling solo on Because The Night, the opening 1-2 Born In The USA punch of Darlington County and Working On The Highway, the stark American Skin, the frenetic Candy’s Room, the hymn-like My City Of Ruins etc. etc. And of course, the singalong fun of hits like Glory Days, Born To Run, Dancing In The Dark and Hungry Heart.
But there was one song that stood comfortably aloft for me. Across three concerts and nine hours of seeing my hero in a live setting, Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday night was the very first time I’ve seen Bruce and the guys perform Backstreets. A possibly autobiographical tale of male friendship that sours, this is amongst the most beautiful, heartfelt and sad epics in the Springsteen cannon. Especially if all you know of the landmark Born To Run album from 1975 is the title track and Thunder Road, check out one of the tracks that quickly established this LP as one of the most important of the 1970s. Followed by my top 20 images from the Saturday concert, here is Backstreets: