"Good evening, South Africa!" Bruce Springsteen said after taking the stage in front of 10,000 screaming South African fans at Cape Town's Bellville Velodrome. "So glad to be in your beautiful city!" With that, the E Street Band launched into a rollicking cover of the Special A.K.A.'s "Free Nelson Mandela," kicking off their 2014 High Hopes tour in a country that Springsteen has never previously played.
This was the first of a three-night stand at the small arena, and Springsteen noted it looked very similar to his longtime rehearsal spot in Asbury Park, New Jersey. "I travelled 8,000 fuckin' miles to play at the Asbury Park Convention Hall!" he said early in the night.
Beyond the opening song, the show was similar to the most recent leg of Springsteen's Wrecking Ball tour, with one big difference: Tom Morello — who plays on eight tracks on High Hopes — was onstage all night, trading licks with Nils Lofgren and Steve Van Zandt, and, at one point, joining in on the vocals of "The Ghost of Tom Joad." Perhaps because many in the crowd had never seen Springsteen before, the show centered around standards like "Badlands," "Because the Night" and "Born to Run."
But there were some unique touches: Springsteen added a reference to the deaths of scores of South African miners at the hands of security forces in 2012 to the list of tragedies cited in the Wrecking Ball track "We Are Alive." He also played the spiritual High Hopes anthem "Heaven's Wall" in front of a proper audience for the first time.
Springsteen & the E Street Band are two doing more shows in Cape Town before heading over to FNB stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday night. From there they travel to Australia and New Zealand. No American dates are known beyond a stop at Jazz Fest in May, though it seems quite likely that the tour will hit America at some point before it ends.
Additional reporting by Willim Welsyn
Here is the complete Cape Town set list:
"Free Nelson Mandela"
"Death to My Hometown"
"Out in the Street
"Spirit in the Night"
"Pay Me My Money Down"
"American Skin (41 Shots)"
"Because the Night"
"Shackled and Drawn"
"Waitin' on a Sunny Day"
"The Ghost of Tom Joad"
"Land of Hope and Dreams"
* * *
"We Are Alive"
"Born in the U.S.A."
"Born to Run"
"Dancing in the Dark"
"Tenth Avenue Freeze-out"
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