Friday 15 December 2017

Born in the USA - but adopted by Ireland

Bruce Springsteen, Pairc Ui Caoimh, Cork in 2013 Photo: Michael McSweeney
Bruce Springsteen, Pairc Ui Caoimh, Cork in 2013 Photo: Michael McSweeney
Bruce Springsteen with his wife Patti Scialfa and daughter Jessica Springsteen at the Dublin Horse Show in 2014. Photo: Cathal Burke
Bruce Springsteen arrives at Dublin Airport in 1988. Photo: NPA and Independent Newspapers Ireland
Bruce Springsteen performs with U2. Photo: Reuters
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

US rocker Bruce Springsteen famously hailed Ireland as his adopted home three years ago.

In an emotional vow to his devoted legion of fans as he concluded a five-gig Irish tour with the second of his sell-out concerts at Kilkenny's Nowlan Park, the New Jersey star promised to see them all "down the road".

He also admitted to his fans, many of whom spend their holidays following 'The Boss' and the E Street Band around their various tour venues, that: "The older you get, the more it means."

It wasn't an empty vow for a singer famed for his consideration for his fans.

Springsteen had played to 150,000 fans in Ireland over the course of 12 days in Limerick, Cork, Belfast and Kilkenny.

Single-handedly, the rocker had delivered a mini-tourism boom with an estimated 40,000-50,000 of those fans travelling to Ireland for the gigs from the US, UK, Italy, Germany, Sweden and Spain where Springsteen is similarly revered.

Concert promoter Peter Aiken, whose late father, Jim, first brought Springsteen to Ireland for his legendary Slane Castle concert in June 1985, later admitted that he could have sold out another three or four gigs around Ireland such was the passion for a man once hailed as "The future of rock'n'roll".

Springsteen, whose first album was released in 1973, famously boasts fans across all age groups, cultures and social divides.

His critically acclaimed album 'The Rising', written and inspired by the events of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, introduced him to a new, younger audience not just in the US but in Ireland.

His older material had already won him more mature fans ranging from Taoiseach Enda Kenny to US presidential hopeful and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. RTÉ political correspondent David McCullagh is another renowned fan of 'The Boss'.

Since 1985, Springsteen has holidayed in Ireland, has bought horses here for his daughter, Jessica (24), a US Olympic equestrian hopeful, and even found musical inspiration in Ireland.

In a clear nod to his affinity for Ireland, the father of three recorded a live album in Dublin's Point Depot between November 17-19 2006 as he was touring with his folk-inspired Sessions band.

One track on the earlier 'Seeger Sessions' album was a beautiful reworking of a famous Irish anti-war ballad 'Mrs McGrath'.

Several songs on his two most recent albums, 'Wrecking Ball' and 'High Hopes', are also deeply rooted in the Irish folk tradition.

Springsteen has never undertaken a European tour since 'Born in the USA' without including an Irish leg.

At his 2013 gig at Thomond Park in Limerick, he also paid an emotional tribute to jockey JT McNamara who was badly injured in a racing fall and also dedicated a song to him.

His affection for Ireland was also helped by a close friendship with U2 in the 1980s and the fact he shares common-cause on many civil rights issues with Bono.

When Bono was injured in a bike accident in New York and couldn't play a charity gig with U2, it was Springsteen the Dublin band turned to as a substitute lead singer.

Springsteen even insisted during one Irish tour that he had sampled the fish and chips from Leo Burdock's Dublin chipper that he had heard so much about.

However, it wasn't exactly love at first sight for the rocker and Ireland.

His first visit was for the Slane Castle opening European leg of the barn-storming 'Born in the USA' tour on June 1, 1985. But the rocker was visibly taken aback by the raucous nature of the huge crowd - later estimated to be around 100,000 - and their antics in front of the stage. Several times Springsteen urged the crowd, many drunk beyond caring, to calm down amid fears someone might be injured.

Springsteen's friend and manager, Jon Landau, later admitted the show had been an eye-opener for everyone.

"We got the wildest crowd in the first 15 minutes of the tour. The frightening thing was not what was happening here, but is it gonna be like this every night?"

Yet, however overwhelming that sunny June day by the Boyne proved, it was the start of a 31-year Irish love affair for not just Springsteen but the entire E Street Band, which will undoubtedly continue when the Boss hits the stage in May.

Irish Independent

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