Friday 28 April 2017

Bruce Springsteen on Slane: 'I thought somebody was going to get killed and it'd be my fault'

The fifth Slane was headlined by Bruce Springsteen in 1985. Photo: Getty Images
The fifth Slane was headlined by Bruce Springsteen in 1985. Photo: Getty Images
1. Bruce Springsteen at Slane Castle June 1, 1985
Bruce Springsteen concert at Slane Castle June 1985 (Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI collection.)
Bruce Springsteen concert at Slane Castle June 1985 (Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI collection.)
Bruce Springsteen concert at RDS, July 1988(Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI collection.)

Sasha Brady

Bruce Springsteen has revealed how his 1985 Slane concert came dangerously close to ending in a disaster.

The comments were made in the New Jersey rocker's just-released autobiography Born to Run.

Springsteen has toured Ireland 12 times since his 1985 Irish debut at Slane Castle but the memories of that much-fabled night are still clear.

Some 95,000 people attended the concert on June 1 - by far the largest crowd he had ever played for. But the scale of the gig became overwhelming for the singer. He feared someone might get hurt and considered cancelling the rest of the tour.

Bruce Springsteen concert at Slane Castle June 1985
(Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI collection.)
Bruce Springsteen concert at Slane Castle June 1985 (Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI collection.)

“The crowd closest to the stage: an immediate couple of thousands, were deeply into their Guinness and dangerously swaying from left to right," he wrote.

Read more: Devoted to The Boss - the Irish Springsteen superfans

Bruce Springsteen concert at Slane Castle June 1985
(Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI collection.)
Bruce Springsteen concert at Slane Castle June 1985 (Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI collection.)

“They were opening up gaping holes amongst themselves as audience members by the dozens fell to the muddy ground, vanishing for unbearable seconds until righted once again by their neighbours.

“Then, once standing, they’d slosh back the other way and the whole interminable, nerve-grinding exercise would be repeated again, ad infinitum. It was a sight too hairy for my tender eyes.”

1. Bruce Springsteen at Slane Castle June 1, 1985
1. Bruce Springsteen at Slane Castle June 1, 1985

He described how he argued with his manager, Jon Landau, and in the "highly charged debate" he threatened to cancel the entire sold-out European tour.

“I could not face what was happening in front of the stage at Slane on a nightly basis. It was irresponsible and violated the protective instinct for my audience I prided myself on.

Bruce Springsteen concert at Slane Castle June 1985
(Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI collection.)
Bruce Springsteen concert at Slane Castle June 1985 (Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI collection.)

Read more: Bruce Springsteen: King of the Castle

“Fans were pouring, red faced, soaked in booze and heat exhaustion, over the front barriers to be taken to the medical tent or to flank the crowd, throw themselves back in and take another crack at it.”

Bruce Springsteen concert at RDS, July 1988(Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI collection.)
Bruce Springsteen concert at RDS, July 1988(Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI collection.)

The singer returned to the stage and feared that things would spiral out of control but much to his surprise, during the second half of the show, the crowd settled and began to take care of each other.

“The crowd settled during the second half of the Slane show and I observed there was a sketchy but ritual orderliness to what appeared from the stage to be pure chaos. The crowd protected one another. If you fell, the nearest person to your left or right reached down, grabbed an arm and pulled you upright.”

For many fans, that rowdy, adrenaline-pumping night is the highlight of a wash-out summer. It kicked started The Boss' love affair with Ireland and since then he has never omitted Ireland from his European tour schedule.

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