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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FC Barcelona v CA Osasuna Estadi Camp Nou January 28, 2013

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Barcelona is one of those cities. The kind that looks, smells and feels amazing. The kind that gets under your skin and the kind that has culture and heritage ever present, every where.

FC Barcelona is one of those teams. The kind that would make you get out of bed at 5am on a school day in Sydney so you could watch them in a European Cup Final. The kind that would make you always want to be them – whether it was playing Subbuteo (table soccer), kick a bouts in the garden or at Sensible Soccer on the old PC.

I’ve always wanted to visit Camp Nou and despite so much time in Barcelona I had never managed it. The thought of a stadium tour before seeing a match didn’t appeal. It had to be the real thing.

So…. this year when I went over my wife Jane decided to come with me and turned my work commitment into a short break. What else would you do on a break – see the sights? We’d seen many of those and it was a Sunday free in the city and I had a funny feeling that there might just be a game on…..

On a whim I checked the Barca site and there was a home match with an early evening kick off. Bingo. A quick scan resulted in good seats and as the opposition was Osasuna this was a “C” match and the tickets only cost an arm rather than an arm and a leg a.k.a. €55 each.

I’ll be honest, a football match is a hard sell to my wife, her last (and only game) was a cold and dreary Shamrock Park in the late 90’s to see Portadown play Glentoran. Then it was the legendary Vinny Arkins we went to see but this time it would be the mighty Messi! “Come on it will be brilliant” I promised whilst crossing my fingers and hoping as hard as I could. “You like Puyol, Iniesta and Xavi” I assured her “..and Piqué is married to Shakira” I added. “Shut up” she said “I’ll go!”

I’d first visited Barcelona in the late 80’s when I was passing through the airport visiting my brother David who was living in Pia, Southern France at the time. I went back again in ’93, then over the next fifteen years I was through a few times and I always wanted to but never managed to catch a game. I bought Barca pennants, scarves, jerseys though and said to myself “Mañana Mañana”

Fast forward to 2009 and a random phone call from the local arts office in Fingal, Dublin asking if my company Songschool wanted to be involved in a school exchange with their twinned region of El Prat De Llobregat (The area surrounding BCN Airport). Over the past 5 years I have worked on not only the school exchange but also with the local arts office in El Prat delivering an English language programme each Summer.  That totals about fifteen trips in five years and not one match!

This time though it was different. This time I had tickets. Well not actual tickets as such but a receipt that I printed off the computer and that I could present at the office for tickets. I closed my eyes when I got them through the portacabin window and imagined them proudly in my ticket book.

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What about the game? Messi scored early, Raoul Loe equalised and it looked like Osasuna had regained a foothold in the game. Then around the half hour mark Alejandro Arriba was given a harsh red card. Messi put the penalty away and that was the beginning of the end of the match as an even contest. Messi got another two in the 5 – 1 drubbing. In fact he played most of the second half on the right wing and missed a few reasonable chances so he could quite easily have had a few more.

The atmosphere was great and seeing the best player and arguably the best club team in the world in form is something to cherish. Barca play beautiful football. We got lucky.

It sounded like Babel on the night though with all of the different accents and that I suppose is what you get with an internationally popular team.

Would I go again? Maybe, but next time I want to see a more local and auténtico match and I’d try another great Catalan club –  CE Europa first and then maybe RCD Espanyol. Before all that though I’ll start with some of their merchandise and take my time, no use rushing these things.

Score 

FC Barcelona 5 (Messi 10, 27 (P), 55 & 57, Pedro 39)

Osasuna 1 (Raoul Loe 23)

barca match stats