When Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band visit BST Hyde Park it’s always the best ticket in town, and tonight’s three-hour spectacular is no different. The Chicks had taken to the stage earlier to welcome the sun and the growing audience numbers with a 10-strong band dispensing their particular brand of pop, rock, and bluegrass-tinged American country.
Never outgunned Springsteen’s 17-strong band filed on stage to rapturous applause. Almost a statement of intent, first song ‘No Surrender’ saw Springsteen commanding the stage with his trademark energy and magnetism, beaming with delight. In a short black sleeved shirt and denim jeans this American hero reaches the higher scales of his performance art when The E Street Band are behind him.
Beloved guitarist Steve Van Zandt and Springsteen double up on the mic early on with Jake Clemons, nephew of star member Clarence Clemons, formidable on sax.
Springsteen has a vast sea of songs to cherry pick and the well-worked setlist spanned his monumental career with ‘Letter to You’, ‘The Promised Land’ and ‘Darlington County’ all well received. Getting up close and personal with his fanbase numerous times Springsteen walked down to the front row shaking hands, taking selfies and wearing fan hats, the adulation with which he is held clear for all to see. Always smiling the 73 years young singer looked comfortable and happy throughout even giving away his harmonica to a young boy who no doubt will be recounting this story to his grandchildren one day.
In an emotionally charged speech he explained how he’d joined his first band in 1965, when he was 15, The Castilles. That lasted three years and in 2018 he was at the deathbed of vocalist George Theiss. ‘Last Man Standing’ was subsequently written as the only surviving member of that band. “When you’re young there are all hellos, later in life there are many hard goodbyes” Springsteen explained.
‘Because The Night’ written with Patti Smith was welcomed with glee after which a full band bow ensues but we all knew only two and a half hours is too early for Springsteen. The monumental couplet of ‘Born in the USA’, with a seismic bass that reverberated through you, and ‘Born To Run’ followed. But it was ‘Glory Days’ that gave me the shivers head to foot. Nostalgia was in the air, Springsteen milking every line for what it was worth. With unrelenting pace ‘Dancing In The Dark’ was greeted like a surprise visit from your favourite uncle you hadn’t seen in years, the musical celebration reaching its climax.
Referencing the time in 2012 when Springsteen and Paul McCartney had the power pulled on them mid-song after exceeding their curfew in this very place, he turns to his guitarist warning “I’m telling ya Steve it’s time to get home, I’m telling you, they’ll pull the plug again… f**k’em!” Before continuing smiling faces all around.
Now striding the stage like a lion hunting its prey, the further into the set we go the more energy he has. The E Street Band demonstrated their incredible musicianship and their undeniable chemistry. Ok he’s married to one, but that doesn’t necessarily work in your favour all the time. It’s been 50 years since this formula was first tested, and it still works. There was also a touching visual tribute to Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici on the huge screens. As the night drew to a close, Springsteen congratulated each member of the band individually as they left the stage before leaving us with a solo acoustic version of ‘I’ll See You in My Dreams’ released in 2021 and written for record executive Michael Gudinski.
A masterclass in showmanship Springsteen is a living legend who still has more to give but certainly nothing left to prove. Stunning.
Prove It All Night
Letter to You
The Promised Land
Out in the Street
Working on the Highway
Nightshift (Commodores cover)
Last Man Standing (acoustic with Barry Danielian on trumpet)
Because the Night
She’s the One
Born in the U.S.A.
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
I’ll See You in My Dreams