The last time The Boss performed in Gothenborg, Sweden, he rocked the stadium to the ground. Literally. During the show, the stadium experienced structural damage due to the crazed fans’ excited reaction to one of Springsteen’s more popular songs, and the city was forced to erect a new one. Enter Ullevi.
Calling Ullevi Stadium “big” is like calling the Pope religious. It’s bigger than big – it’s ginormous, for lack of a better word. It fits over 120,000 people, and unlike many other massive venues, it spans out as opposed to up. The perimeter of the place has got to be about a mile long; the general standing area is the size of two or three football fields. And Ullevi has two levels. The energy is palpable.
When you’re there, it’s easy to feel like a tiny baby fish swimming around in an ocean of awesomeness. (The architectural design also facilitates such an aquatic feeling; the structure is white and intentionally wave-like.) It’s easy to get lost both physically and in thought as you bear witness to a scene like none you’ve ever witnessed before and are unwittingly induced into a state of pondering the deeper meanings of life and – forgive my hyperbole (although I totally mean it) – feeling closer to god or something like it.
Back to Bruce. The internationally famous musician and his equally famous E Street Brand finished up their European Wrecking Ball tour in the Nordic countries – a decision I completely understand after witnessing and being pulled into the insanity of the Swedish fans. I’ve been to about 25 Springsteen shows in my life, and no one – not even the Jersey fans – compares.
The Swedes are obsessed in a way that could be confused with idolatry. (A few hours before the Saturday concert, a mass of fans swarmed the exterior of the Elite Hotel where Bruce and the band were staying and waited for hours just to catch a quick glimpse of The Boss as he got into the private car that was to transport him to the arena. Police officers controlled the scene, paparazzi and media covered it all, and fans drooled – myself included.)
Now, Gothenborg is a small city. It might actually be better described as a large urban town. But that weekend, what it lacked in size it made up for in enthusiasm.
Bruce took over the town. Days and even weeks leading up to the weekend of Bruce’s arrival, every single newspaper’s front page was dedicated to The Boss; store windows were decorated with Springsteen and the E Street Band posters and
photos; streets were littered with concert announcements; many restaurants were closed because owners planned to be at the show; bars had Bruce events for those who weren’t lucky enough to get tickets (it had been sold out pretty much since it went on sale months before); locals walked around in Bruce t-shirts and hats, and interactions between people boiled down to “How excited are you for tonight?”
From just a few hours in town, I knew to expect two of the best Springsteen concerts I’d ever been to. And that’s precisely what happened – the two most incredible shows, from the set lists to the fan experience to the overall spirit that emanated at the stadium. But afterward, a tiny part of me couldn’t help but wish I’d never went – because now nothing will ever compare.
Trust me – I am open to being proven wrong. But what I experienced at Ullevi legitimately blew my mind… I just don’t think any concert could ever hold a candle…