When my younger brother was born, the last of the parents’ children, my dad cunningly, premeditated to name him after his musical darling, signing his name with an addition to what he and my mother had discussed, ‘Bruce’. It is fair to say that my dad falls into the category of Springsteen super-fans, following him across cities and seas. He likes to say that I indulge him by accompanying, but the truth is that The Boss’s appeal spans generations, as shown by the crowd at Wembley on Saturday. “Like the police, the faces of the crowd just keep getting younger” he said to me.
When Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band took to the stage for their first London gig since the Hyde Park incident, roaring straight into ‘Land of Hope and Dreams’, the audience went wild. It was a hint at what was to come, a lavish night studded with classic tracks and blinding performances.
Following ‘Jackson’, and ‘Radio Nowhere’, fist pumping and fingers wiggling – in a fashion comically close to jazz hands – the crowd were eating out of the legend’s inimitable hand. Throwing any plans of a set list into the fire in true Springsteen style, just three songs in he approached the crowd and began collecting signs, playing requests. Scarcely played gems Save My Love and Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) echoed across north London as thousands of devoted onlookers sang back in emotional tumult.
After 130 dates ‘Wrecking Ball’, the powerful lead track of the newest album sounded like an early classic, Springsteen fervently manipulating his guitar and Roy Bittan hammering on the piano. One more request in the shape of Hungry Heart, the stadium was asked what they would prefer “We can keep taking requests, or we can play the entire Darkness on the Edge of Town record”, of course the crowd launched into hysteria at the prospect, and Badlands began the playback in all its glory.
Ten tracks that Springsteen’s reputation has built upon; ten of the most beloved tracks. From the soft organ played on Racing in The Street to Nils Lofgren’s incredible solo – performed on one foot, spinning, playing with his teeth – on Prove it All Night, the set was outstanding as is to be expected from such an accomplished family of musicians. The darkness of the album feels almost tangible in the lyrics, something of which I feel draws people to Springsteen in concert. There is a carnal reaction in hearing the songs live, and watching him run around the stage swinging his guitar onto his back to lean into an abyss of admirers, he may be The Boss but he is well aware of the people who put him there.
It has been said that there is a tendency for Bruce Springsteen fans to hold him in messianic regard, but it seems justifiable in so much as he gives the audience so much of himself. At a wonderful 63 years he takes to the stage in his customary black waistcoat and gives it his everything for as long as the electricity lasts, the energy he exudes fills stadiums and captures the excitement of thousands.
As the band played ‘Pay Me My Money Down’ and accordion playing Charles Giordano made his way across the stage to jam alongside Springsteen who lifted his guitar to strum along with Max Weinberg’s steady heart beat of the band. Leading the horn section forward into the crowd the energy of a festival was conjured. It is all in the magic of the E Street Band.
The inexhaustible love for hits ‘Born to Run’ and ‘Dancing in The Dark’ filled the summer air with elation, the sheer pleasure from the audience and band amalgamating as two women joined the stage to dance in the dark.
There was a paying respect to lost band-mates Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons in a poignant rendition of ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out’, perfectly executed by nephew of the pivotal lost sax player Jake. Top Notes cover ‘Twist and Shout’ was the closing track, “your ass is going to speak to your mind and tell it, SHAKE ME,” Springsteen proclaimed as the pitch unanimously burst into dancing.
As is tradition, the band bowed and Springsteen thanked each member, before returning to the stage solo, armed with guitar and harmonica, to play ‘Thunder Road’. Emotions ran high amongst a boozy crowd, over indulged yet ever wanting more.
There was still a feeling that Springsteen himself was not ready to leave as the cameras spanned the audience showing one last request: “I don’t want to go home.”