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Saturday, 14 July 2012


Bruce Springsteen was on stage with Paul McCartney, a Beatle! One of those moments you wait all your life for, and 100,000 of us were aware of it.

And then the organisers pulled the plug. The curfew at Hyde Park is 10.30pm, and as Bruce and Paul came to the end of a rousing rendition of "Twist and Shout," at 10.39pm, the sound faded out. They carried on singing, unaware that we were hearing nothing. It was an outrageous end to what, otherwise, was one of the greatest concerts I've ever seen.

It began with just Bruce, his harmonica, and Roy Bittan on the keyboard. They did a stripped down and hauntingly beautiful version of my favourite song, 'Thunder Road', just like how they played it the first time they were played in London, back in 1975. When the night begins with a rare version of your favourite song in the universe, you know you're in for a special night.

I'm on the train home as I write this, and I'm exhausted! I want to write a detailed review but my brain is forgetting all the information. I think it's because I'm satisfied. I'm complete. For one night only, everything is wonderful. The music exists and we're dancing in the dark and everything else is secondary.

John Fogerty was the support act. Not everyone knew who he was, but they paid attention. His distinct voice is a joy to hear-- and I've always wanted to hear 'Fortunate Son' and 'Have You Ever Seen The Rain?' live. He also did 'Bad Moon Rising', 'Pretty Woman' and 'Proud Mary'. Bruce joined him on stage for 'Rockin' All Over The World'. Fogerty was the perfect support act. 

Springsteen's new material isn't his best. The early part of the set was full of more recent tracks; 'Wrecking Ball', 'We Take Care of Our Own', 'Death to My Hometown'; they're not classics but they're good for warming you up, getting you into the zone.

'My City of Ruins' was a stand out. Part hymn, part celebration, part ode to Clarence Clemons, it resonated deeply. Bruce spoke about the people who are with us and the people who are no longer around. He was talking about Clarence and Danny Federici, but he was also talking about every member of the audience who was missing someone special. That's what people don't get about Springsteen gigs, how personal they are. They cut through to your core.

But I don't want it to sound depressing -- the gig was one big party. In years gone by, his gigs could be hard work if you weren't a die hard, it was like he wanted to nail the perfect setlist. Now he's fulfilling his own promise: he wants to nail the perfect house party.

He plays the hits. He plays the rarities that only 9 fans know about. He does covers. He does whatever it takes to bring it home. He went through a period of never playing 'Born in the USA', but tonight he went for it, and it was anthemic. And I know it's not meant to be, I know what the song is really about; but you can't help but feel the joy of screaming "I was born, in the USA!"

'Born to Run' was a highlight, but then it always is. There were other highlights, but my brain is struggling to recall the details. Great gigs aren't about the details, they're about the feelings.

Talking of feelings, I'm fucking pissed about them cutting the sound. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN WAS SINGING WITH A BEATLE! Seriously, is 10.39pm too late for a rock concert in the middle of a large field? Were the rich residents in their soundproof apartments a little unsettled? Were the pigeons lodging complaints? What the fuck? A Beatle is singing. 100,000 people are in their element. 

When Bruce introduced the guest, I thought I heard it wrong. "McCartney!?" It was him. Now, I wouldn't pay to see a McCartney gig. His voice is gone, and he makes 'Hey Jude' go on for about 9 hours. But to have him as a surprise guest: incredible. They dived straight into "I Saw Her Standing There". That was my favourite Beatles song when I was a teenager (when I was first getting into them).

So what else to say about the gig? I have to tell you about Jake Clemons, filling his Uncle's shoes on saxophone --- a remarkable talent, and you can see how much it means to him. Wonderful.

I also felt, in many ways, that the E Street Band felt unusually muted tonight. I only spotted Patti Scialfa on stage during one of the songs -- in recent years she's been a lot more present. And the unmistakable sound of Roy Bittan didn't sound as upfront and dominant as usual. Maybe it was just the sound levels (we were in the middle a hundred thousand people, many many many rows from the front). And the setlist didn't really feel like an E Street setlist -- maybe because the show was packed full of guest appearances (Tom Morello, John Fogerty, and of course, McCartney). I'm not complaining, it was a fantastic gig. Just didn't feel that unmistakable E Street Band sound as much as I usually do at their gigs.

To summarise; a fantastic night. The Boss was on fire! He was in a great mood, full of age-defying-energy, and his voice soared. This is rock n' roll at it's greatest. The E Street Band, as always, is changing; yet Springsteen manages to constantly evolve - wherever we are a year or five from now, Bruce will be there to show us how to get through it. 

*Correction. Patti Scialfa wasn't there. I was seeing things. That happens sometimes. I also thought I spotted Elvis during 'Badlands', but thought best not to mention it. 

Care to share?


  1. Bruce at Hyde Park. Color.Me.Jealous. So cool you got to go. Great review.

    I should mention I understand your feelings about the Roy Bittan piano not being as upfront as it used to. I think his sounds defines E Street, but when you have three (sometimes four, sometimes even five) guitars, well, it's unfortunately going to get a bit muted.

  2. I was seated near the front. Patti wasn't there and Bruce told us that at the beginning. I was lucky with my unobstructed view second time seeing Bruce first time Hyde Park '09. Some people have seen him 40+ times but I feel blessed to have been at this show one of the greatest according to Steve!

  3. You have managed to describe and indescribable night - thank you. Your words are a perfect reminder of a night I hope I will never ever forget.

  4. You're so right by saying "Great gigs aren't about the details, they're about the feelings". Even as a big fan there were songs that I didn't know but no matter as it was more like watching a production and he took us through a roller coaster of emotions. I'll be the first to admit that I was tearing up in City of Ruins. He's just brilliant to draw you right in.

    We stood for a solid 12 hours to make sure we were at the front. After being on the rails at his Glastonbury gig in 2009, I couldn't imagine seeing his gig from anywhere else in the crowd. We flew in all the way from South Africa for it and it was worth every penny. We also got to share the experience with some wonderful friends of ours who flew in from Doha.

    What a night, what an experience! Loved it!