Belfast Telegraph

Listen: Bruce Springsteen picks Belfast gig for new live album

By Ivan Little

An old Belfast concert by Bruce Springsteen is now born to run...and run.

For the live recording of the Boss's first-ever gig in Northern Ireland has been released as an album - almost 20 years after the sell-out show took place.

And Springsteen's record company bosses are confident the new album will be a massive seller for Christmas.

The show at the King's Hall in Belfast was part of a worldwide solo acoustic tour by the Boss in the mid-90s.

Fans say the evergreen Springsteen, who is now 68, would have had dozens of recordings to choose from.

"The fact that he picked the Belfast concert to put out on the market is a big compliment to the audience who turned up that night and didn't shout and scream the house down," said one fan.

Springsteen and his E-Street Band had played several times in the Republic including his iconic Slane Castle gig in front of 90,000 fans in 1985.

But he had never ventured north until March 19, 1996 when he brought his tour to support his acoustic album The Ghost of Tom Joad to Belfast.

And one of the first things he did on arrival in the city was to ask the late promoter Jim Aiken to organise a tour for him of Belfast's troubled spots.

Springsteen gave an interview for Ulster Television before the gig and spoke of how he had been fascinated by the Troubles visit.

"We drove up the Falls and down the Shankill," he said, adding that the murals had intrigued him.

He said he had found the visit intense but he was never frightened.

He also said that he was looking forward to playing acoustic gigs in Ireland where traditional Irish music sean-nos singers performed without the accompaniment of musicians.

Springsteen had already played 50 shows in his Tom Joad tour before Belfast.

He added that he had been enjoying his intimate gigs in front of just a few thousand fans instead of the massive concert arenas where audiences were so huge.

As he came on stage at the King's Hall to deafening cheers from his fans, Springsteen made an unusual plea to them… for a bit of hush.

He said the show was all about the music which was "real quiet". Springsteen added: "So I really need your help in getting that kind of silence."

He went on to give the audience a bit of advice for people near them who didn't stay quiet: "Politely, with a smile on your face, ask them to…shut the f*** up."

Springsteen's acoustic set took many of his die-hard fans by surprise.

There was disappointment for anyone who'd expected him to play his upbeat rock classics like Born to Run and he also performed pared back versions of songs like Born in the USA and Bobby Jean.

Springsteen entertained the fans with humorous anecdotes and introductions to his songs and afterwards he said the people of Belfast were among the friendliest he'd ever encountered.

He wished the people here "peaceful lives".

The new album which is available from Springsteen's website contains a total of 24 songs including the haunting Streets of Philadelphia which won Springsteen an Oscar for best original song from a movie, Philadelphia.

Notes which accompany the new Belfast album release say the King's Hall show captured the spirit and soul of the Joad tour brilliantly.

The writer adds: "Belfast, with its compelling contrast of stark music and challenging narratives offset by Bruce's often funny, always candid storytelling, presents the Joad tour in pure form."

After the concert Springsteen was spotted having a meal with Bono and the Edge from U2 in a restaurant on Belfast's Stranmillis Road before he was driven to Dublin for another concert the following night.

Springsteen, whose mother-in-law came from Belfast, returned to the King's Hall complex with his E Street Band in July 2013 for an outdoor gig in front of 25,000 fans.

His last visit to Ireland came back in 2016 with two sold-out gigs in Dublin's Croke Park during The River Tour.

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