Bruce Springsteen at Hyde Park was an epic musical 3 hour marathon which left us all exhausted, exhilarated, uplifted and thoroughly satisfied. Just watching his vigorous physical performance is exhausting.
You can’t take your eyes off him and he doesn’t stop moving. His incredible energy, vitality and urgency means that he has single handedly changed what 73 looks like these days – he’s a Grandfather ffs and it’s a hard act to follow for us all. He even managed to make an arthritic thumb and a painful wrist look sexy in two black splints. I doubt I was the only one who had more than one fleeting thought of what it would be like to have sex with him (sorry Patti)….I don’t even mind that I think it might kill me. When “Dancing In The Dark” came on I seriously considered crowd surfing my way to the front and shouting “PICK ME” for my very own Courtney Cox moment.
He’s a modern day poet, representing the great American novel in his huge anthems of hopes and dreams. He manages to cut through the fabric of life to get to all those gritty, raw life lessons in love and loss – he’s a musical John Steinbeck telling stories about blue collar America. But he doesn’t just have the words, he has the wonderfully husky, gravelly voice, the work ethic and the ability to hold his audience in the palm of his hand. That makes him a Maestro.
From the moment he appeared on the Great Oak stage, carrying his beaten up yellow guitar (bang on time at 7pm – Lana Del Ray needs to take note and better not start her set late again) to rapturous applause and “Bruuuuuuuce” from 65,000 of his most avid fans, he didn’t waste a second. One song segued into the next without even stopping to catch a breath, to ensure that he got through his massive set list of 29 songs. Insane. In a nod to London he was wearing a pair of red DM’s, with his trademark jeans and black top (with poppers for easy access so that he could bare his well defined pecs to us later in the show….hang on a minute, I just have to go and lie down).
He wiggled his bum (quick lie down required again) and was playful with his band – especially with Steve Van Zandt, the Pirates of The Caribbean lookalike who’s managed to sustain two careers in his lifetime – they had a lot of fun, coming close up to the cameras and making funny faces and made reference to the gig he played there in 2012 when his set was cut whilst he was playing with Paul McCartney “It’s time to go home, they’re going to pull the f*cking plug again”….”f*ck em” said Steve and on they played right up to curfew time.
I was there with my brother, a super fan who knew all the words to every song and cried his way through quite a few of them. He was really happy with the set list, despite his favourite song “Jungleland” not appearing. I didn’t know all the songs, but he brought out many of his old trusty bangers and some from “The River” which is the album I know best. He also sang the Commodores “Night Shift” with the accompanying amazing voice of one of his band members and Patti Smith’s “Because The Night” which I LOVE. We both felt we were witnessing something very special, given the rumours about him retiring after this tour. Not sure it’s going to happen though, he clearly loves being on stage and giving it his all and maybe that’s the elixir of age defying life for him and the reason he looks so bloody young.
He certainly knows how to take us on an emotional rollercoaster of a ride and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many grown men cry. He interspersed his uplifting songs with some deeply sad songs. He’s like an alchemist, distilling the notion of the American dream and making it feel real. As we all sang along to “Born In The USA”, his anti-Vietnam War anthem, he swooped us up and took us along for the ride. He told us the story of his first band “The Castiles” and the death of his friend George Theiss from lung cancer before singing “Last Man Standing” with raw feeling. He reminded us to “be good to yourself and the ones that you love and this world that we live in” and to “seize the day.” He strutted his stuff and engaged with the audience, holding hands and stopping for photos – even giving a young girl his harmonica and a few others, a plectrum. He conducted his E Street band with a generosity and warmth and they are clearly at their peak – the entire performance as a team was utter perfection. He gave his band members solo moments – Max Weinberg (Michael Douglas’s doppelgänger) was incredible on drums and he belted out “You’ve just seen the heart stopping, pants dropping, hard rocking, booty-shaking, love-making, earth-quaking, Viagra taking, death-defying, legendary E Street band.” We also watched a video montage of his old friend Clarence Clemons whilst his nephew Jake proudly filled his legendary boots on saxophone and he finished the show with a solo “I’ll See You In My Dreams”….pretty sure I’m going to be seeing him in mine. It was heartwarming to feel the love emanating on stage.
The weather was glorious and Hyde Park looked wonderful as the sun slowly slipped away, gilding the stage in a beautiful light. The sun blinded him at one point and once again, I considered forcing my way to the front to give him my sunglasses. As we happily hobbled slowly back home wondering how on earth he was going to be able to do it again the day after tomorrow, I mulled over who would replace The Boss when he finally lays down his guitar. There is no one with a force of personality and talent like him and I was very happy I was there.
Here’s the set list if anyone is interested (28 on there, I must have missed one):-
Prove It All Night
Letter to You
The Promised Land
Out In The Street
Working On The Highway
Last Man Standing
Because The Night
She’s The One
Born in the USA
Born To Run
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze Out
I’ll See You in My Dreams