Bruce Springsteen morphed into a gospel minister and drove fans to tears with an ode to his long- time saxophonist, Clarence Clemons, who died last year.
Also at the weekend Roskilde festival in Denmark, Jack White led an all-female band through a tight set, while Robert Smith showed that the Cure can still deliver three hours of dark anthems laced with snappy hits regardless of who is backing him.
“Are we missing anybody?”, Springsteen asked repeatedly during a soulful rendition of “Spirit in the Night,” setting off a call-and-response interaction with the 82,500-strong crowd. “I can hear him tonight in your voices,” he said.
Later in the set, during “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” Springsteen and his group suddenly stopped and remained motionless and silent as video screens played images from Clemons’s 40-year career alongside them.
First, “the Boss” introduced the “legendary, history- making, Viagra-taking E Street Band.” They tore into a three- hour performance with fury and joie-de-vivre in “No Surrender” and “Badlands.”
Wearing blue jeans, a dark-blue fitted shirt with rolled-up sleeves and a black vest, the 62-year-old singer sweated as he ran repeatedly off stage and into the crowd.
Newer songs such as “We Take Care of Our Own” and “Wrecking Ball” were received warmly, as the audience accepted Springsteen’s challenge to “bring it on,” which he delivered after climbing on top of the piano. The encore took in “Born in the U.S.A.,” “Born to Run,” “Glory Days” and “Dancing in the Dark.”
Members of the hip-hop group the Roots joined during “The E Street Shuffle” and a raucous closer, “Twist and Shout.”
Northern Europe’s biggest festival has a relaxed atmosphere with a gathering of stars and cutting-edge artists.
Bon Iver attracted the biggest crowd outside of the main stage with a trance-inducing indie-folk set. U.S. rapper Mac Miller showed hints of psychedelia and potential to become the next Eminem.
Jack White, who brought two bands on tour, picked the all- female lineup, giving the all-men version the day off. The five women wore airy white dresses and provided a solid musical background for his forays into blues, R&B and rock.
White wore a black suit, white boots and white hat. An intense version of “Carolina Drama” from his Raconteurs days was followed by his biggest hit, the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.” It sounded like a soccer chant when the crowd continued to sing it long after the show was over.
The Cure seamlessly shifted from brooding to playful to angry in a set laden with favorites such as “Just Like Heaven,” “One Hundred Years” and “Friday I’m in Love.”
With original Cure guitarist Porl Thompson once again out of the lineup, ex-David Bowie guitarist Reeves Gabrels acquitted himself well.
Frontman Smith sang about getting old without sounding like he was anywhere near being ready “to retire, grow a beard and start writing film music,” as he had once contemplated. His band is as fresh as ever.
For more information, see http://www.roskilde-festival.dk/.
Ratings: **** for Springsteen, ***½ White, *** the Cure.
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Mediocre (No stars) Poor
(Gelu Sulugiuc writes for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
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