A Real Showstopper

While Bob Dylan is revered as an American poet, fellow US wordsmith Bruce Springsteen is often overlooked and ranked as “uncool”, perhaps because of his frequently tongue-in-cheek patriotism or his gritty rock exterior, but this weekend he has definitely proved himself to be one of the best performers out there.

The crowd packed in Hyde Park’s sold out festival space erupt into a sea of thunderous applause the minute The Boss steps on stage to perform ‘London Calling’; an epic opener if ever there was one. Taking epic swings at his guitar The Boss looks on top form, he disappears into the crowd within the first 3 songs, lapping up the London spirit and gesturing to the onstage camera to give those stuck several thousand people back a chance to join in the party via the big screens.

The setlist is a fabulous mix of upbeat tunes that give a party atmosphere, new tracks and classics. While the previous night’s Glastonbury performance may have contained a greater number of classic Springsteen tracks, tonight is all about the fans. Springsteen dives into the audience and collects various signs with requests on, before returning on stage and presenting them to the cameras before launching into the tunes, thus the fabulous, ‘Trapped’ and ‘Racing In The Streets’ make their way into the set. The greatest surprise is perhaps how warm the reception to the brand new tracks from this year’s album, ‘Working On A Dream’ is; the title track causes the crowd to transform into a sea of hands while brooding anthem ‘Outlaw Pete’ sees The Boss don a cowboy hat at his narrative peak.

Springsteen’s greatest talent is turning a field full of strangers into a unified audience, he has the power and rhetoric of a preacher as he hollers that the E Street Band are here to build a house of love, hope and sexual healing, amongst other things. At 60 he may stumble on the steps back upto the stage several times, joking that he needs an escalator, but he’s as sprightly as anyone on stage today and the 3 hour performance shows that his stamina and vocal strength are hardly diminished. Young pretender Brian Fallon of Gaslight Anthem joins Springsteen on stage for an epic version of ‘No Surrender’, the young singer looks entirely comfortable infront of the packed arena and he and Bruce fool around like old school buddies. Another less well-rehearsed guest vocal comes from a child in the audience who is riding on his parents’ shoulders and therefore offered the mic as Bruce prowls the crowd during, ‘Waitin’ On A Sunny Day’; it’s one of those moments that makes everyone smile, especially as the boy actually joins in.

The varied setlist is impressive, throwing in tunes like ‘Radio Nowhere’, ‘Youngstown’ and ‘Hard Times’. ‘Born To Run’ of course gets the crowd screaming their loudest as the sun begins to set over the park and the stage lights splash vivid colours over the sea of dancing bodies. ‘Jungleland’ also gets an intense reception with lighters raised and a great saxophone solo rocking the crowd and reminding us of the strength of Bruce’s band, who have just as much character and stage presence as the man himself. Hats off to a team of spectacular performers who are most certainly making The Boss cool again.