thomond park, limerick
Since a career-defining appearance at Slane in 1985, Bruce Springsteen has enjoyed a very special relationship with his fans in Ireland.
In a summer that's even more congested with open air shows and festivals than usual, Springsteen is able to shift in excess of 140,000 tickets. This is all the more remarkable considering that all of these shows take place outside the Pale.
The buzz around Limerick is electrifying. Bruce hits blare from every bar and cafe. There's excitable talk of this concert bringing an extra €10 million windfall to the town, which is great news even if you happen to hate Bruce Springsteen. Pubs have been granted a special exemption to remain open after the show.
Early birds are treated to a brief solo acoustic set. There's no official support act, but trust Bruce to do the opening honours at his own gig.
The E Street marathon properly kicks off shortly after 7.30pm with 'This Little Light of Mine', 'American Land' and 'Badlands' quickly steering the set into the classics.
But this is no glossy exercise in nostalgia. 'Death to My Hometown', 'Wrecking Ball' and 'We Take Care of Our Own' sound as purposeful and powerful as anything from his 80s heyday. Springsteen mightn't be selling his recent albums by the truckload, but no other artist alive blends the old and the new quite so effectively.
It's a time-honoured tradition for Springsteen fans to bring along handmade signs sporting song requests. Bruce randomly selects a cover of the Temptations 'Ain't Too Proud to Beg' and 'American Skin (41 Shots)'.
Just when most concerts would be heading towards the business end of an encore set, Springsteen talks about how hot summer nights like this inspire his music. He then proceeds to performs Born To Run in its entirety.
Limerick-based Springsteen fans would have listened to 'My Hometown' countless times over the years and appropriated the song as their own. To be actually witnessing it live in their hometown must be the realisation of their wildest dreams.
The hits come thick and fast. 'Born in the USA', 'Glory Days' and the guaranteed crowd-pleaser 'Dancing in the Dark' light up Thomond. Bruce perfectly executes the old James Brown trick of looking absolutely exhausted, but summoning just enough energy to continue.
The opening night of Bruce's Irish jaunt is truly exceptional and there's bound to be more fascinating twists and turns to follow in Cork, Belfast and Kilkenny. You can be sure that these shows will be fondly talked about for many years to come.