Bruce Springsteen and Catalonia, a shared love

  • The Boss performs today and Sunday at the Lluís Companys Olympic Stadium accompanied by the legendary E Street Band.

Martí Estruch Axmacher
27.04.2023 - 21:40

The last time Bruce Springsteen performed in Catalonia was on May 14, 2016, and on that occasion, he started the concert with a loud “Hola Barcelona, hola Catalunya!” that made the Camp Nou vibrate. A few years earlier, in July 2008, he had done it with a “Hola Barcelona, com esteu?” also at Camp Nou, while in 2006, he warned the audience at the Palau Olímpic de Badalona in Catalan: “Aquesta nit ens divertirem!” (We’ll have fun tonight!). In August 1988, at his second concert in Barcelona, he greeted the 80,000 spectators at Camp Nou in the manner of Catalan President-in-exile Josep Tarradellas: “Hola, Barcelona! Ja sóc aquí!” (Hello, Barcelona! I’m here!). And he bid them farewell, saying “Us estimo!” (I love you!).

What formula will the Boss use to greet attendees at the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys today? We’ll know in a few hours, but Springsteen is one of the few rock stars who has shown continuous and to some extent surprising respect towards the Catalan language. Moreover, he doesn’t just limit himself to the initial greeting, but always presents a song from his repertoire in Catalan. In 2012, for example, with a very correct accent, he surprised the audience at the Estadi Lluís Companys with these words: “A Amèrica hem tingut temps dolents, la gent ha perdut la feina i les cases, però a Catalunya ha estat encara pitjor, per això dediquem aquesta cançó als indignats i als qui lluiten a Catalunya!” (In America, we’ve had tough times, people have lost their jobs and homes, but in Catalonia it’s been even worse, so we dedicate this song to the indignant and those fighting in Catalonia!). The song was “Jack Of All Trades.”

Obviously, the idyll between the Boss and Catalonia goes far beyond this respect for the language of the country, but it’s one more element that makes him endearing to a part of his fans. A lot has been written about this supposed love between Springsteen and Catalonia, or Barcelona to be more precise, but there are many indications that confirm it. The latest was on Wednesday when, shortly after landing in the city from New Jersey, he said without hesitation, “Barcelona is the best, always.” It can’t just be a coincidence that he has chosen the Catalan capital as the starting point for his European tour, as he did in 1999 when he reunited with the E Street Band.


Many point out that the Boss’s first concert in Barcelona more than four decades ago marked his relationship with the city forever. On April 21, 1981, the Palau Municipal d’Esports was not filled to capacity. Tickets cost 900 pesetas, a little less than 6 euros. For the 7,000 attendees, the three hours of electric discharge from Springsteen and his inseparable E Street Band were something never seen before, of an intensity unknown until then. Towards the end of the concert, Springsteen said to the audience, “From now on, I carry you in my heart.”

Filmmaker Manuel Huerga, who was there and has not missed any of the 20 concerts that the Boss has performed in Catalan lands since then, explained it again the other day during the inauguration of the exhibition of photographs of this concert that can be seen these days at the Palau Robert. They are the portraits that Francesc Fàbregas took, the photographer hired by the CBS record label to immortalize the night and distribute the images to the rest of the media. Only he was able to take the official photographs, in a time when obviously there were not thousands of mobile phones that would capture images and videos that night at Lluís Companys. It should be noted that Huerga did record part of the concert with a camera from his seat and the 10 songs, including The River, that are on his YouTube channel are a historical document.

In 1981, Springsteen was 31 years old and now he is 73. That’s why he never does two concerts in two consecutive days anymore, but leaves a day in between to recover. He has performed 18 times in Barcelona, 2 in Badalona, 1 in Valencia and 1 in Benidorm. His concerts have always been long, around three hours long, and the release of energy has always been one of the singer’s trademarks. Springsteen is one of those who gives everything on stage and empties himself. “Want more? I have no more” I remember hearing him say, this time in English, and visibly exhausted at the end of a concert at the Camp Nou.

What can we expect from tonight’s concert and Sunday’s? Both concerts, as we said, are the premiere of the European tour, after 28 concerts in the United States that serve to anticipate what might happen in Barcelona. However, it should be noted that Springsteen likes to introduce changes to the repertoire and never does two concerts the same. In addition, in the United States he has only played in closed venues, while now he will do some concerts outdoors, such as those in Barcelona, which have a different sound.

Obama and Spielberg

As usual, tickets for both concerts sold out in a matter of hours. The fact that they are the first European concerts and the only concerts he will perform on the Peninsula will attract an audience from other places. And also some celebrities. Among others, it seems that the former president of the United States, Barack Obama, and his wife Michelle, and the filmmaker Steven Spielberg and his wife Kate Capshaw will be there. Obama and Springsteen have been friends for years and have even published a book together based on a podcast they did talking about politics and everyday life issues.

We also know who will accompany him on stage as part of one of the most legendary rock bands, the E Street Band. The current members are Roy Bittan (piano, synthesizer); Nils Lofgren (guitar, vocals); Garry Tallent (bass); Stevie Van Zandt (guitar, vocals); Max Weinberg (drums); Soozie Tyrell (violin, guitar, vocals); Jake Clemons (saxophone), nephew and substitute for the great Clarence Clemons, who died in 2011; and Charlie Giordano (keyboards). The mystery lies more in Patti Scialfa, a vocalist, guitarist and the Boss’s partner, who is in Barcelona but has appeared intermittently in American concerts. Among the songs that will almost certainly be played are Dancing in The Dark, Born To Run, Rosalita and Glory Days. No Surrender, which is suitable for political readings of all kinds, could very well be the opening song, while I’ll See You in My Dreams, in acoustic format, has all the numbers to close the concert.

The historic concert promoter Gay Mercader, who brought Bruce Springsteen to Barcelona in 1981 and is bringing him back now, often speaks of the power and intensity of the Boss, whom he defines as a “hurricane on stage.” Today and Sunday we will be able to verify this again. And we will be able to see if the love story between the city and the North American musician, only comparable to that of another artistic idol from those parts, Woody Allen, remains. The Catalan public will surely respond as they always have. In fact, the most devoted fans have been queuing for days to be at the front. And if Springsteen sings “now you can’t break the ties that bind”, they will smile and think that no, these ties are forever.


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