Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band @ The RDS Dublin May 25 1999

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Looking back now I could say it was good fortune. a great band fronted by a legend, a great gig and we found “our” song. A few lines from which were my contribution to my wedding booklet and I thought I was safe until Fr David dropped the Gospel according to Bruce Springsteen bombshell –  What the hell ???

Rewind a few years and I was living in a ground floor flat in Upper Grand Canal Street, Dublin and working in the HMV store on Grafton Street in the city centre. The pay was dire but I made a few good friends and also had access to securing tickets when they were released. So I did just that when the tickets for the first Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band gig went on sale and invited my girlfriend at the time Jane (now my wife) to join me.

A few years before I’d seen him playing solo in the State Theatre in Sydney and now he had reformed the E Street Band I was determined to get to see the full line up in action.

I’m not a Bruce fanatic but I really like a lot of his songs and Jane was at best a casual listener and she swore she owned a vinyl copy of Born In The USA somewhere. I’d travelled through Ireland and Europe in 1989 and had two cassettes – Nebraska and REM’s Green on solid rotation so I knew that album inside out. I had bought every album since The River and thought Human Touch and Lucky Town were underrated. Wasn’t that keen on his earlier stuff it has to be said.

I thought the gig was great. The sun was setting on a warm summers day and the band seemed to be taking it up a notch every song. Loads from his back catalogue and a sweltering version of Youngstown & The Ghost of Tom Joad were highlights for me as was Mansion On The Hill from Nebraska.

Jane thought the gig was good at this stage and then the magic happened!

The stage was completely dark and a spotlight came on the centre microphone. Bruce was playing his electric and started “If I Should Fall Behind”. He sang the first few linesof the song in the spotlight and then went back into the darkness and from there emerged his wife and backing singer Patti Scialfa to deliver a few lines and she swopped with Nils Lofgren and then Clarence Clemons. It was a brilliant lesson in stage craft.

Jane loved it and as we walked home she asked me did I have that song. Of course the nerd in me said, album version, bootleg etc. I even had a version by Go-Between Grant McLennan.

Fast forward a few years and Jane and I were getting married. I slipped a few lyrics from the song uncredited into the booklet thinking it would be nice and possibly even clever.  I had also chosen the song as the first dance later. Incidentally Pierce Brosnan stole this idea a few weeks later for his own wedding.

The chapel was lovely, better known as the one from Ballykissangel, and the sun was shining . Most priests would be into Daniel O’Donnell or The Celtic Tenors I would have thought. That is stereotyping of course but you are probably thinking the same thing if you’re honest.

I was pulled up in the middle of the service by the only priest in Ireland who not only had a bog’s notion who Bruce Springsteen was but as it turned out was very familiar with his lesser known catalogue as well. He was reading through the usual scriptures and verses and noted “Oh and here we have a reading from the Gospel according to Bruce”. Rumbled!

Fr David was cool though and we chatted away about box sets and bootlegs during appropriate moments like the register signing.

All went well.  I’ve caught Bruce live a good few times since, sometimes with Jane but mostly with my cousin Paddy who is a Bruce fanatic. That gig was special though.

Jane and I? Well we said we’d walk together come what may!

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Setlist:

My Love Will Not Let You Down
Prove It All Night
Two Hearts
Darlington County
Mansion On The Hill
Youngstown
The River
Murder Inc.
Badlands
Out In The Street
Tenth Avenue Freeze Out
Red Headed Woman
Working On The Highway
Promised Land
The Ghost Of Tom Joad
Born In The U.S.A.
Jungleland
Light Of Day
Cadillac Ranch
Hungry Heart
Born To Run
Thunder Road
If I Should Fall Behind
Land Of Hope And Dreams

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REM @ RDS Dublin June 24 1989

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Once upon a time REM were one of the best bands in the world. They produced great records and brilliant live shows. I saw them a few times including when their international star was shining very brightly indeed.

I was in Northern Ireland on a six month working holiday. More correctly I worked for about 5 months and holidayed for a month. This was the late 80’s and I was based in Portadown the news that REM were to play in Dublin coincided very nicely with the holiday part and so I booked a ticket.  This was when concert tickets looked cool too. The gig was someting to look forward to as I spent my days working in a creamery pouring sour buttermilk into a vat for re-pastuerising or stacking milk cartons from a production line.

A mate and I headed down and sorted a BnB across the road from the Royal Dublin Showgrounds in Ballsbridge in leafy South Dublin. This didn’t look to me like a major concert venue, I’d only ever seen The Sydney Entertainment Centre and it was nothing like that. It really felt like stepping back in time a little with the architecture and gardens (…and still does) .   This was also when the train over the border was often two trains and a shuttle bus between Newry in the North and Dundalk in the South because of “security alerts”.

I’d come across REM and their music when I had taped a music show that was on late on SBS TV in Australia. The Clash and U2 were to be the featured artists which meant that half a dozen of their videos would be played. REM’s So Central Rain and Radio Free Europe were played. I bought their albums Reckoning and Murmur as soon as I found a music shop that stocked them.

This was their first major world tour and the once darlings of the Indie scene had since taken the corporate route and signed to Warner Bros. Some old fans were calling them sell outs.  Green was their first album with the new label and I loved it.

Support on the night was The Go Betweens who I had seen a while before in the Paddington RSL in Sydney. The sound that night was ordinary and I was under impressed with the band but thought I’d check them out again anyway. I’m really glad I did because they were on form and played a great set with lots of material from their album 16 Lovers Lane. I still love that album.

REM came on stage to an RDS crowd that wasn’t huge but pretty vocal. Michael Stipe wore his David Byrne influence on his white suit sleeve and off they went. The gig was brilliant and the band in great form. They played a great and diverse set of well known and obscure songs, covers and originals. Few shows for me have ever come close.

I think that they would have played for longer than their 12 song encore but Michael announced they didn’t know any more songs (not sure how true this was). I remember than U2 and The Waterboys were in the audience too that night, maybe even Hothouse Flowers.

Some time later I was back packing around Europe and in Milan I paid well over the odds for an American magazine so I could read something and there was an interview with Peter Buck. He talked about their world tour and said how the band felt that that show in Dublin had been their best.

Next time I saw REM was in the Sydney Entertainment Centre in 1995 as part of their Monster tour. This was a bit of a let down after their previous gig. I’d bought the album and tried to like it but I was falling out of love with the band. I bought a few more of their albums but made a decision to stop after a while. Their music no longer spoke to me or maybe  I just wasn’t listening. I did see them live one more time though. This time is was in Lansdowne Road in Dublin. I had actually moved to Dublin from Sydney and was living in a small flat less than a mile from the ground. My job in HMV music shop on Grafton Street in Dublin ensured access to concert tickets.

The gig was good, they played a mixture of old and new and they were experienced at playing arenas at this stage but for me the edge was gone.

Later on again they played in Ardgillan Castle near where I ended up moving to in North County Dublin. I was offered free tickets but didn’t go.

Apparently the sun set was beautiful as the band played.  I could hear them play “The One I Love”  from the house as I opened my back door and looked up for the brightest star

Set list

Finest Worksong
Exhuming McCarthy
Turn You Inside-Out
Pop Song 89
Disturbance at the Heron House
Auctioneer (Another Engine)
Orange Crush
Feeling Gravitys Pull
King of Birds
These Days
We Live as We Dream, Alone
(Gang of Four cover) (Snippet)
World Leader Pretend
Begin the Begin
Underneath the Bunker
Pretty Persuasion
It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
Encore:
Get Up
Stand
Crazy
(Pylon cover)
Swan Swan H
You Are the Everything
Encore 2:
Harpers
(Hugo Largo cover)
Ghost Rider
(Suicide cover)
So. Central Rain
Red Rain
(Peter Gabriel cover) (Snippet)
Perfect Circle
Moon River
(Henry Mancini cover)
After Hours
(The Velvet Underground cover)