In this Sunday's Star Ledger there was an article called For a pair of giants, still a lot of magic in the twilight which profiled Bruce Springsteen's latest tour and the end of his Giants Stadium shows. The article was of course well written, but what surprised me the most was the following section:
Springsteen is still a stadium-level attraction in Europe: He just completed a successful stadium tour there. But in the States, he mostly plays arenas. On the leg of his tour that begins tonight and ends Aug. 30, in Milwaukee, he has booked only one other Giants Stadium-sized venue: Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., Aug. 2.The Giants Stadium concerts, with a capacity of 55,000 per night, did not sell out immediately -- a rarity for home-state Springsteen shows -- and there may be empty seats at some of them.That doesn't mean he can't play a Jersey stadium again. But he may think twice about it.
Bruce having trouble with selling out stadium shows in the US but not in Europe doesn't surprise me at all. This stadium run is the first one where I didn't actually have tickets for. I called in to get tickets the day they went on sale, but I got lower levels that weren't close to the stage so I tossed them back in. While Europe still packs them in, the audience in the US has become fickle. It just isn't one thing but a series of blows to the US fan base.
- Springsteen has always been an artist where you wanted to be close to him. In his early days he only played small venues and in fact after opening for Chicago he swore off big arenas (he swore off only for a few years). Sitting in the 300 section at Giants Stadium watching him on the big screen while some drunk spills beer on your girlfriend isn't so much fun any more.
- The audience according to quantcast skews older, with kids, and is more affluent so obviously they can afford the ticket prices which is still very reasonable. When you go to Springsteen concerts however, there are more kids with their parents in the audience. I'm of course one of them, but when you take your family it adds up in price and again you don't want the drunk around your kids. Europe's audience based on videos skew younger.
- The US fan base has taken a beating from his music since Tunnel of Love with The Rising and possibly Magic as the only ones that really deliver the sound the US fan base wants. Ghost of Tom Joad, Devils and Dust, and Seeger Sessions are perfect examples of what the US fan base doesn't want. Europe on the other hand loves this crap. While the US base shrinks from years of non-rock CDs, the European base grows.
- Bruce has been very political especially since about 2003. This doesn't sit well with the very educated, affluent, older fan base who can think and reason for themselves. I was listening to a bootleg from The Rising Tour's Atlantic City show where Bruce decided to explain a line from Empty Sky to the audience. He basically calls fans psychopaths that believe an eye for eye means going to war. That basically alienated a percentage of his base, although they probably didn't actually hear those words (I was there). However, quickly on those heels comes his endorsement of John Kerry, Vote for Change tour, political emails, Seeger Sessions tour, Devils and Dust and finally Magic. While Bruce could care less about the size of his audience, these are shots to a large part of the fan base that are just weary of the political messages. One person thought the reason I didn't have a ticket is because of my work for the GOP and McCain.
- You can't be a rock star and release 3 out of your last 5 studio albums as folk music. Bruce's US fan base was not built on folk music.
- As of late Bruce seems to have a love-hate relationship especially with his Jersey fans. This started on the Ghost of Tom Joad tour which was nicknamed the "shut the f up" tour because his fan base wanted him to rock out which he didn't and only allowed clapping at certain points during the tour. This style continued in Devils and Dust when in a Continental Arena show Bruce thought fans were heckling him about playing "quietly" when in fact the sound went out in their section and they tried to notify arena staff unsuccessfully so they shouted down to Bruce (I witnessed this).
I'm planning on still trying to score 4 tickets because this leg of the Magic Tour like all recent Springsteen tours has now turned into a Greatest Hits show and I promised my daughter that she would see the E Street Band once. My son Jacob has already seen Bruce and the E Street Band 3 times. However, we American fans shouldn't be surprised that Bruce can't sell out three nights in Giants Stadium any more. He's lost a lot of his US fan base over the years and they probably aren't coming back.