This was my first Springsteen gig since the Tunnel of Love Express tour show at Wembley Stadium in June 1988. The 2013 show started around 20 minutes later than advertised, with Land Of Hope And Dreams, from the 2012 Wrecking Ball album. A natural opener, with it’s anthemic chorus, the sound in the stadium was quite muddy for the first few numbers, but soon settled down.
Jackson Cage was sadly one of only two tracks from The River featured in the show, and was followed by Radio Nowhere from the recent Magic album.
From early on in the set, Bruce was constantly running to the front of the stage, and picking set-list request banners from the enthusiastic crowd, and showing the banners to band members so they knew what to play next. The E Street band members never get the chance to phone in their gigs!
Save my Love, one of the key tracks from The Promise (the Darkness on the Edge of Town companion album) was up next, and a hint to what was to follow shortly in the mammoth set. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) was played quite early on in the set, and is always a highlight of Bruce gigs. I am sure Rosalita is responsible for turning on a lot of UK fans to Springsteen’s music, via the clip shown on the Old Grey Whistle Test back in 1979.
Lost In The Flood echoed around the full to capacity stadium, a powerful song from Springsteen’s debut album, and the first time the song has been performed live in the UK since 1975.
The moving Wrecking Ball and Death To My Hometown from the latest album picked up the tempo, before Bruce dropped the biggest Boss-bomb of the evening. Asking the crowd if they wanted to stick with more requests, or let him play the whole of the Darkness on the Edge of Town album. This is my favourite Springsteen album, and luckily the crowd roared their approval at the second option.
The next 40 minutes or so was the highlight of the show for me, transporting me back in time to when I was a teenager listening to this classic album on cassette. Badlands got the entire stadium raising their hands in time to the music.
Something in the Night was stunning live, with the vocals as powerful as they were back in the days when FM was the preferred frequency of music lovers. The short, frantic Candy’s Room is one of my favourite songs of all time, and I was so glad I was here to finally here this song live and in the flesh.
Prove it all Night has stood the test of time, and sounds as fresh now as it did back in 1978. Featuring highly visual guitar theatrics from Nils Lofgren, the album playback (in order) ended with the title track from Darkness on the Edge of Town. This was apparently the first time that Springsteen has played a whole album in this way in the UK, and while it may have slowed down the set for the more casual fans, it was a treat for long-term Springsteen followers.
The whole stadium were back on their feet for the remainder of the gig. Wrecking Ball’s Shackled And Drawn got the crowd dancing and signing along. I’m sure the beer being thrown down people’s necks also helped. After commenting on the end of the world rain witnessed in London in the early afternoon, it was maybe tempting fate to play Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, but thankfully The Boss kept the rain away.
The title track from 2002’s The Rising is a powerful live song, and fitted well in the running order before set closer Light of Day (a song recorded by Joan Jett in 1987).
Bruce explained that “30 seconds from now, everybody in this place is gonna be dancing” and Pay Me My Money Down followed by Born to Run certainly got the remaining bums off the seats.
A rarely mentioned track from Born in the USA, Bobby Jean, sounded much better live than it’s recorded version (I hope remastered versions of Springsteen’s older albums, including Born in the USA, is on the menu at some point soon).
Dancing in the Dark signalled the now customary invitation to dance with The Boss. On this occasion, Bruce took an audience members Mum up on stage to dance with him (gratefully accepting a dollar bill stuck to the banner requesting the dance as payment) and a younger girl to bash away at a thankfully not plugged in guitar.
Born to Run‘s horn driven Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, along with a Rocky referencing dance from Springsteen, included a poignant tribute to two departed E Street Band members, saxophonist Clarence Clemons (the Big Man) and organ / accordion player Danny Federici. The final song with the band was the cover of Twist And Shout that was famously cut short at Hyde Park. The E Street Band left the stage as Springsteen performed a curfew ignoring solo version of Thunder Road.
The 2013 Springsteen show was much more enjoyable than the two Wembley gigs I saw in the 80’s on the Born in the USA and Tunnel of Love tours. The show is so well paced, with something for diehard fans as well as the more casual audience. I know it’s a much repeated statement, but Bruce and the E Street Band have got to be the hardest working band in recent history, with setlists torn up mid-set and no two shows being the same.
If you get the chance to catch Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band on this tour, you really should take that chance while they are still performing. Nothing lasts forever.
Setlist in full:
Land Of Hope And Dreams
Save My Love
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
This Hard Land
Lost In The Flood
Death To My Hometown
Adam Raised A Cain
Something In The Night
Racing In The Street
The Promised Land
Streets Of Fire
Prove It All Night
Darkness On The Edge Of Town
Shackled And Drawn
Waitin’ On A Sunny Day
Light Of Day
Pay Me My Money Down
Born To Run
Dancing In The Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Twist And Shout
Thunder Road (solo acoustic)
Buy the Wrecking ball deluxe edition on Amazon UK
Buy The Promise – The Darkness On The Edge Of Town Story (3 Cd+3 Dvd boxset)
Buy London Calling: Live in Hyde Park [Blu-ray]