Berlin 2002 - The unforgettable 3 hours

This text was originally written three days after the concert and was meant for Express Ilustrowany (the most popular newspaper in Lodz) and therefore its style differs from a typical report from a concert fans may expect from a fan. The title in Express Ilustrowany was: "Bruce and The E Street Band in Berlin – the unforgettable three hours".

Born in New Jersey, USA, Springsteen (aged 53) has been considered one of the greatest touring musicians in the world for 20 years and news announcing his performances still thrills his followers many months in advance of his concerts. Even though Boss, as he’s called by his fans, doesn’t play four-hour concerts any more, it’s still not easy to get to a Bruce Springsteen ( and his E Street Band) concert as his October performance confirmed.

fot: Wojciech Markos Markiewicz (c) 2002

Springsteen’s new album release "The Rising", relating to 9.11, the terrorist attack in the USA, was one of the highlights of his tour, and the fans couldn’t conceal their disappointment as he wasn’t performing as many European concerts as he had in the US (seven concerts played in Europe whereas only this year’s part of the US tour amounts to forty, compared to sixteen European concerts in 1999) and it was going to be a hard fight for them to get tickets.  At the end of August, several hours before the Internet advance sale was launched, the servers froze and were only accessible again many hours later, by then it was too late, the tickets had been sold out. The tickets for Berlin and Rotterdam were sold out in just 15minutes. In Bologna, Barcelona and Stockholm ticket touts were offering tickets for as much as 130 euros for a 72.50 euro ticket.

fot: Wojciech Markos Markiewicz (c) 2002 

Fans from other European countries were in a much worse situation, e.g. tickets for the German concert at Velodrom were only available for residents. Some of our German friends agreed to help us get the tickets, but even they had difficulty accessing the organizer’s website. In the end a friend of mine managed to find an agent selling packages: two tickets with accommodation in a double room for €250, and he got the last two. Then, a few days before the concert in Berlin a small amount of such packages appeared on the market, but this time they were much more expensive - €350!

fot: Wojciech Markos Markiewicz (c) 2002

We decided to get to the Berlin concert by car. We set off from Lodz at 8 a.m. so that we could reach the Novotel at the Tagel Airport in time. Having had a short rest, we made for Velodrom. Despite our concern (both of us only knew English), we had no difficulty getting there by bus, underground, and finally fast train system S-Bahn.

fot: Wojciech Markos Markiewicz (c) 2002

Due to very clear signs at the stations and our meeting three guys who had came to the concert from the south of Germany, we knew where to get off the train. When the Germans found out we were from Poland, they were surprised we’d travelled so far and even more amazed at the fact that we’d managed to obtain tickets. One good thing about the tickets was that they gave authorization for us to use all means of public transport, whilst on the way to and fro, for free.

fot: Wojciech Markos Markiewicz (c) 2002

Velodrom is located just outside the station, and we joined the queue leading to the entrance. On our way to Berlin we hadn’t dreamt we’d be among the first fans to be let into the sector right in front of the stage. The organisers must be praised – knowing how dedicated Boss fans are (some had arrived the previous night with sleeping bags) they had prepared a stall with cooked food and laid on toilet facilities.

fot: Wojciech Markos Markiewicz (c) 2002

According to plan the gates were opened at 6p.m. and bearing in mind some unpleasant memories from previous concerts we’d been to in Poland, we got ready for the worst. Yet there was no crushing or pushing and after about 20 minutes we were through the first control gate. It’s hard to say if the security were more interested in our having any dangerous objects rather that any cameras and audio recorders, which, as stated on the tickets, were not allowed. Even though Germans are considered to be a disciplined nation, it turned out that many of them had managed to ‘smuggle’ such devices into the concert.

fot: Wojciech Markos Markiewicz (c) 2002

When at 7.30 (the time the concert was supposed to begin) there were no musicians on stage, the audience started a Mexican wave at which point I recalled the Rolling Stones concert in Chorzow, Poland, where the audience acting in the same way enchanted Jagger and the band, who were peeping at them from backstage. In spite of waiting for Boss for quite a time, the fans showed a lot of patience, and only when an announcement was made, that the recording and taking photos were forbidden, it resulted in humming and whistling from the crowd. We were then informed that all mobile phones should be switched off as they might cause interference to instruments and the audience burst out laughing.

fot: Wojciech Markos Markiewicz (c) 2002

At 8.15 the lights were turned off and Bruce Springsteen and the legendary (as Boss himself puts it) E Street Band took possession of all of us for almost three hours.

During the Berlin concert Springsteen sang (along with the choir of 12 thousand fans) 25 songs and 7 of them were performed in the course of two encores. Boss talked to the audience between numbers, but even if he hadn’t you still would have felt the emotional bond between him and the fans. Boss spoke to us in German, making some mistakes which didn’t bother the German fans, who were in seventh heaven. Their reaction was extremely emotional when he introduced ‘Born In The USA’, in German, saying: “I wrote this song about the war in Vietnam, but today we’ll play it in the name of peace”. On Monday German newspapers and even Reuters quoted his words and linked them to inflamed diplomatic relations between the US and German governments after the Germans opposed the American armed intervention in Iraq.

fot: Wojciech Markos Markiewicz (c) 2002

Although Springsteen’s concerts are extremely spontaneous, there is also time for reflection. This time Boss sang ‘Empty Sky’ and ‘You’re Missing’, probably the most piercing songs written after 9.11. Equally piercing as the lyrics was the silence in which we were listening to them.

The three hours spent in the company of Bruce Springsteen and his great band passed quickly, but all those present at Velodrom on October 20th will keep the concert in their minds for a long time to come.

We were planning to start our journey back to Lodz on Monday afternoon so it gave us time to plan some sightseeing in the morning. Unfortunately for us it started pouring with rain and, as a result, we drove through the centre of Berlin, past the renovated Brandenburg Gate, before heading for Poland earlier than anticipated.

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