THE man responsible for bringing Bruce Springsteen to Thomond Park, veteran concert promoter Peter Aiken, believes those in the ground this Tuesday witnessed something “very, very special” that will go down as “one of the great shows”.
The legendary rocker treated a heaving Thomond Park to an extravagant and energetic race through some of his biggest hits over a three and a half hour period that left the 30,000 capacity crowd speechless, such was its intensity and power.
Paying no heed to his 63 years, Springsteen wowed the masses with a performance touching on the evangelistic, inviting the crowd to feel the “everlasting power of rock and roll” in his 32-number set, which featured a full run through of classic 1975 album Born To Run.
In several touching moments, The Boss paid tribute to injured Croom jockey JT McNamara on My Hometown and slain American teen Trayvon Martin during the spinetingling American Skin, and to the victorious Limerick hurlers on the anthemic Glory Days.
Peter Aiken, a man not given to hyperbole, summed up the night as “unbelievable”.
“It was one of the great shows, not just Bruce Springsteen, but one of the great shows,” he said.
“I just know that it was a very, very special night, not only for us, people around Bruce know that, and also people who were at it, will never forget it. I think when we look back that people will remember it as very special, especially the mention of the hurling.”
Prior to the gig, in an almost giddy build-up that was palpable around the city, Aiken had referred to the concert as “an event” and that is what it was.
The mere fact that New Jersey rocker, and his “foot stompin’” E-Street Band were coming to Limerick - their first sojourn outside Dublin – was almost unbelievable. Ardent fans, who camped for days for pit passes, mingled with the mildly interested observers, keen to experience the mania associated with Springsteen.
The reaction was universally, overwhelmingly positive. Springsteen’s performance eclipsed that of the RDS last year in this reporter’s opinion, The Boss feeding from the energy gleaned from a frenzied crowd.
Shortly after 5.30pm, there was a major surprise for the hundreds of fans who had arrived at the stadium early.
Without any fuss The Boss performed three songs, including For You and Hearts of Stone, during a ten minute impromptu sound check. Two hours later, he received a rapturous reception as he emerged on stage for what was the biggest concert ever staged in Limerick.
Before his first song, Springsteen told the massive crowd he was thrilled to be performing in the city.
“Good evening Limerick. We are so glad to be here with you tonight and are here to fill you with the everlasting power of rock and roll,” he said.
Opening with This Little Light Of Mine, The Boss was greeted with a roar that shook the very foundations of the stadium.
The legendary, sprightly 63-year-old rocker then proceeded to race through some of his biggest hits including American Land, Badlands and Hungry Heart.
The hit heavy set included The Rising, Dancing in the Dark, Shot, Badlands, Thunder Road - but it was the performance of lesser known songs, driven by requests from the front row of the crowd, particularly American Skin and an insanely impromptu Ain’t Too Proud to Beg, that impressed most.
Thomond Park and its management will take particular pleasure from the concert going off without a hitch.
This was the biggest event in terms of numbers - about 15,000 on the pitch and the same in the stands - that it has handled since it opened. A relieved John Cantwell, stadium boss, expressed his delight that it passed off exceptionally well and bodes well for the future. “This will be a great selling point for Limerick going forward in terms of the profile of the act and the scale of the event,” he said.
Peter Aiken sought to slightly lower expectations after the show, with rumours abounding that members of U2 and Coldplay were in attendance, but it still appears that Thomond is now at the top table for outdoor shows.
“We will be doing shows in the future in Thomond Park hopefully. I think we will be back next year again with something else, but it won’t be four shows in a row,” he said.
“We will be back but we need to lower expectations. This does make a statement in the entertainment world, but all the other shows we have done there have also helped; Thomond is a pretty valid venue.
“It does put it on the map, especially with an artist like Springsteen that is willing to go these places. You have to sell it, but does it help to sell Limerick? Of course it does, it is a major boost. And also his people will say to people how good a gig it was - but we don’t have X, Y and Z for next year, it ain’t going to happen like that.”