Some Roskilde concerts you see because you like the act, you’re familiar with their material and you want to see how it transfers live. Some you see because you’ve heard good things and they’re the best option playing at the moment. Other times, you stumble upon unknown quantities and give them a chance to catch your interest.
But some shows you see because you know you need to be there. You know it will provide an unforgettable experience and that there is no way you will miss it. Such was the case last night for The Boss, who, let’s face it, has been expected to carry this year’s Roskilde Festival since his booking was revealed in November.
I’m no Bruce Springsteen mega-fan, but as someone who grew up in middle America in the 1980s, Bruce is etched into the fabric of my life. I’ve heard his music since a little kid in Iowa, played by my parents, played in trailer parks, pick-up trucks, diners. Bruce’s working-class American is me, my family, my roots.
More than a bit surreal then to find myself, just three days after a lonely 4th of July spent away from home and on what happened to be my father’s 60th birthday, to be belting out ‘Born in the USA’ amongst a sea of over 60,000 Europeans.
Yet, there I was, and for three beautiful hours I wouldn’t wanted to have been anywhere else.
Mere seconds after taking the Orange stage with an impassioned cry of “Hva’ så, Roskiiiiilde?”, Springsteen had the massive crowd wrapped around his Jersey finger. Launching into ‘No Surrender’, Springsteen and the E Street Band never looked back as they proceeded to deliver a concert bound to hold a special place in the Roskilde Festival history books.
Given the marathon length of the performance, I took the opportunity to venture to various corners of the Orange scene in an effort to gauge how fully engaged the massive crowd was in the Boss’s performance. As Springsteen told the crowd that the E Street Band “came thousands of miles to be here tonight” and repeatedly asked: “Can you feel the spirit?”, it was clear that even all the way out to Orange’s periphery, they could. Hell, I even spotted the finance minister, Margrethe Vestager, enjoying the show.
Adding to the excitement and historic feel of the evening, Springsteen and the E Street Band were soon thereafter joined on stage by Philadelphia hip-hop crew The Roots, who had delivered their own triumphant performance on Orange earlier in the day. The appearance also made for a late-night American television reunion of sorts, as The Roots, who perform as the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallen, were temporarily sharing the stage with longtime E Street drummer Max Weinberg, who for years was the bandleader for Late Night with Conan O’Brien.
With the music of my homeland filling the air, I began making the rounds checking in on all of the American flags I saw flapping in the sky. Thinking I might find a fellow misplaced countryman, I gave up after speaking with three successive Old Glory-waving Danes and settled in for the show’s tremendous third act, a run through Springsteen’s most classic and iconic songs.
‘Born in the USA’ provided perhaps the largest crowd sing-along I’ve ever been a part of, followed by ‘Born to Run’ and ‘Glory Days’, at which point the sheer magnitude of what I was seeing - a classic performance by one of America’s most iconic performers at one of Europe’s most tradition-filled music venues - caused my eyes to get a bit misty.
It should be noted that, at age 62, Springsteen is something of a freak of nature. When not singing his heart out or strumming away on the guitar, he spent the show running around stage, greeting fans in the pit (even pulling a somewhat reluctant ‘Little’ Steven Van Zandt down with him at one point), standing on a piano and doing an age-defying backbend. That he had to periodically sit on the speakers and lay on stage to catch his breath was more than understandable.
Shortly after a tribute to former E Street saxophonist Clarence ‘The Big Man’ Clemons, who passed away in 2011 and has had his place filled admirably by his nephew Jake, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band led the audience through a rousing performance of ‘Twist and Shout’, a perfect cap for a night that managed to transcend both time and place.
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