There’s a reason 76 thousand people turned up to Hyde Park in this, the most miserable of summers, and that reason is the man, the legend, Bruce Springsteen. After a tense 30 minute wait (in which time we managed to sardine ourselves between a very jolly man yelling ‘Bruuuuuuuce’ at random intervals and an extremely short couple trying to swap saliva as if it were life-force) The Boss rocks up wearing his signature jeans and waistcoat combo with serious swagger and no pomp or fanfare whatsoever. This guy just commands attention on his own.
Dropping the lights to a single beam, Bruce breathes into the mic “This is the first song I played when my feet touched British soil” and opens with an absolutely epic acoustic rendition of super-hit ‘Thunder Road’ which honestly, nearly brought a tear to my eye. Straight into ‘Badlands’ and pushing on through ‘We Take Care of Our Own’ (plagued by a temporary fit of poor sound, which is overridden by the thousands of chorus voices) Springers already has us enthralled. ‘Wrecking Ball’ is punchy and the Bill & Ted style guitar wind-milling shows us that the 62 year old rocker is anything but past it. Bruce welcomes on stage friend Tom Morello (of Rage Against The Machine fame) “and his furniture” for ‘Death to My Hometown’ and ‘My City of Ruins’ heralded by sage words “It’s about the things that leave you, it’s about the things that never leave you, the things you remember for the rest of your life. This is for my old faces in the crowd.” Bruce walks off the stage and into the clamouring arms of his fans, even putting one lucky (?!) punter in a friendly headlock.
As Bruce sings a little thought along the lines of “Who’s in the house tonight? Are your legs hurting, and your ears hurting and your sexual organs… stimulated? It’s in the smallprint of your ticket…” he stands up against the crowd barrier with a security guard hanging onto the back of his pants for dear life, at serious risk of de-kegging the rockstar. Back up on the stage steps, he takes time for a little recline next to E Street saxophonist Jake Clemons as they duet, and are then joined by the great John Fogerty, who played the main stage previously.
A wavering sign in the crowd attracts the attention of Springsteen, a fan who has been following him around the world repeatedly requesting the little played song ‘Take Them As They Come’ gets his wish as Bruce shouts “Tonight you’re gonna hear this damn thing, It’s your song buddy”. As the skies begin to cloud over and darken, aptly named ‘Because The Night’ brings on a few drops of rain and an extreme case of tone-deaf karaoke from the girl a little way behind us. No dear, dogs in Hounslow can hear you, but Bruce can’t. Guitar slung nonchalantly across his back, bopping an inflatable Mr. Blobby back into the crowd, Bruce asks security guards to drag a small boy out onto the stage with him to sing ‘Waitin’ on a Sunny Day’ with him. That lad’s life has hit its peak, what else will ever be as good, I ask you? Following this lighthearted act, ‘The River’ sends the thousands strong throng into complete awed silence, the like of which is rarely witnessed in the music world, and there is something entirely mesmerising about his gravelly voice soaring out across the silhouetted faces of all these people.
Morello re-joins the group for ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’ and blasts out a face-melting solo with insane harmonics, after which Bruce drops ‘Born In The USA’ and fan favourite ‘Born To Run’. ‘Glory Days’ sees Bruce and E Street’s Steve Van Zandt shaking their asses to the crowd at the top of the steps and the incredible ‘Dancing In The Dark’ is cue for Bruce to grab a young lady from the crowd and pick her up for a spot of dancing… er… in the dark. She may never marry after that!
Bruce needs no intermission, no encore, the man is a veritable machine. How many other musicians do you know who can pull a 3 hour set without a break, let alone one who’s been gigging for as long? To cap off an already celebratory show, who should turn up but pal and UK rock-legend Sir Paul McCartney. Yes that’s right, Sir Paul McCartney. This unbelievable occurrence sees more than a few around me rubbing their eyes in astonishment as they do Beatles hit ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and a cover of The Isley Brothers’ ‘Twist and Shout’ before finishing up with a jumping cheese-tastic ‘La Bamba’.
Okay, so you might have already heard a fair amount of bitching about the plug-pulling incident, but here’s my take. It was only 5 minutes of La Bamba – funny but not great by any stretch of the imagination, it’s the song played by crap DJ’s at weddings, right? It’s a shame that Bruce didn’t get to say his goodbyes (heck, he didn’t even know the sound was off for a while) but the man gave us unadulterated power and polished rock n roll for over 3 outstanding hours. Despite various celebs tweeting about the ‘incident’ (even Boris Johnson weighed in) this shouldn’t be the final word on what was otherwise an utterly astounding set. Springsteen has one hundred percent earned his title of The Boss and this is just a tidbit of news on the back of one of the best shows ever to grace Hyde Park.