Another year, another She Street Band concert! Last year in October it was at the Scala in King’s Cross. This time it was at the Clapham Grand in south-west London. First time I’d been there and I liked the place. Another old theatre/cinema that is doing the business as a concert and club venue.
For those of you who don’t know, the She Street Band are an all-woman outfit who play the songs of Bruce Springsteen. And they do so joyously. It’s the next best thing to Bruce himself. Some people think Bruce Springsteen’s music is boys’ music. I can see why – the lyrics are nearly all from the perspective of men. But the She Street band prove that the music itself is for everyone. Music of hope, music of despair, music of defiance, music of celebration. Rooted in rock’n’roll, in soul, in folk, in the music of America.
The band was formed by bassist Judy Orsborn in 2016. They are from America, the UK, Ireland and Sweden. The vocals are shared around, Judy included. There’s another bassist who steps in for her at times when she is singing. Rhythm guitarist Mara Daniele takes the lead vocal on a lot of the songs, especially the earlier ones – the great first four albums. Last time I saw her, at the Scala, she had blonde-red hair; this time it was jet black. She often has a smile, always a joie de vivre, as she sings, like she knows she is singing some of the greatest songs ever written. And that is the thing about the She Street Band: it is a total celebration.
The core of the set, as before, was from what I think of as the second phase of Bruce’s great albums: “The River” and “Born in the USA”. And they are mostly the uptempo songs, although one of the delights in this set was when the keyboard player Lynn Roberts took centre stage for “Stolen Car” from “The River”, a beautiful and sad ballad which I have always loved. Another song which bucked the trend of rockers was “Tougher than the Rest”, which opened their second set. All the band, save for the lead guitarist – Isabell Lysell, I think – stood at the front and sang an acapella version, with just that low key strumming in support.
My memory is a bit fuzzy already about which songs were in the first set and which were in the second. But for those of you who like your Bruce Springsteen, these were all the songs played, as far as I can recall: Growin’ Up – Rosalita – 10th Avenue Freeze Out – Thunder Road – Born to Run – Because the Night – Badlands – Prove It All Night – Darkness on the Edge of Town – Out on the Street – Sherry Darling – Stolen Car – Two Hearts – The River – Hungry Heart – Glory Days – Bobby Jean – Cover Me – I’m on Fire – Dancing in the Dark – Tougher Than the Rest. What a set list!
“Sherry Darling” opened proceedings, and allowed saxophonist Yasmin Ogilvie a moment in the spotlight. She had a few of course. The best? Maybe “Thunder Road”. Memories of the big man, Clarence Clemons.
The whole show was a celebration, but the last four took it to another level. “Dancing in the Dark” and “Badlands” to end the second set; and then, for an encore, “Bobby Jean” and, of course, “Born to Run”. Like I said earlier, the next best thing to Bruce himself. If you love the music of Bruce Springsteen you should catch this band. It is an uplifting experience!