‘Everything live music should be’ – Bruce Springsteen at Wembley

 

To be perfectly honest, it is really difficult for me to write a review or put into words my experience of seeing Bruce Springsteen live for the first time. I had never been so excited for a gig in my entire life and standing on the pitch at Wembley Stadium last Sunday in the rare English heat, it all felt a little surreal.

From 6pm, the anticipation in the stadium hit fever pitch and then, almost unexpectedly, Springsteen just walked on stage, alone, no fuss. He sat at the piano and played ‘Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?’ and the crowd were silent. So much so that a minute or so in, Springsteen paused and looked out at the audience, as if to say ‘are you still there?’ and everyone cheered. Everyone was so entranced in the simplicity and sudden intimacy of a 90,000 capacity gig that it even seemed to surprise the main man himself. I felt the tingly sensation in my eyes that I was about to cry and told myself to toughen up. I had to get through another 3.5 hours without mascara running down my face, after all.

The E Street Band then joined Springsteen with the exploding ‘Seeds’ and they did not stop until Springsteen closed with an acoustic version of ‘Thunder Road’ over 3 hours later. I had never seen anything like it before in my life. The amount of pure talent and musicianship on stage blew my mind, let alone the fact that Springsteen is now 66 years old.

This was part of The River Tour, and although Springsteen played only a selection of songs from the album, I thought the setlist was perfect. I was praying that he would play something from the Tunnel of Love era and when he took up a sign request of playing ‘Tougher Than The Rest’ with wife Patti, I was so happy. Another sign request for ‘I’ll Work For Your Love’, rather refreshingly, took Springsteen a few minutes to work out the right pitch and chords. He joked that it would be worth it eventually, and it was beautiful. Other set highlights included ‘Candy’s Room’, ‘Spirit in the Night’ (which featured Springsteen downing a pint) and ‘American Skin’. He also played ‘Jungleland’, which I was delighted about, and again, almost reduced me to tears.

IMG_5459
My favourite shot of the night – Springsteen and The E Street Band take their bow at Wembley Stadium, 5/6/16.

Although I only truly discovered Springsteen’s music in the past few years, and still have a lot left to discover, his music has resonated with me in a way that no other artist or band ever has. I knew seeing him live was going to be a special night, but it was more than that. It was almost therapeutic. Springsteen and the E Street Band showcased everything that live music should be – loud, honest, spontaneous and heartfelt. It was just one man and his incredible band playing and singing their hearts out. There were no fancy costumes, crazy light displays or epic stage design. There didn’t need to be. From the people in the front row of the pitch singing every word, to drummer Max Weinberg sweating over the cymbals, everyone was united in their love of music.

Springsteen seems to have that rare blend of being arguably the best live performer of all time but also being just a relatable guy who you could sit and have a beer with. His songs resonate with me and millions of others because of their honesty and emotion. Whether he is singing about unrequited love or commentating on American gun violence, Springsteen makes you really think about the world and your place in it. Seeing him live was undoubtedly an overwhelming experience, but it was by no means a fleeting moment or a night that you quickly move on from. I woke up the next morning feeling excited about it and I keep thinking back to it and wanting to relive it because, let’s face it, you may forget what people do or say, but you never forget how they make you feel.

Setlist:

  1. Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?
  2. Seeds
  3. Johnny 99
  4. Wrecking Ball
  5. The Ties That Bind
  6. Sherry Darling
  7. Hungry Heart
  8. No Surrender
  9. Be True
  10. Candy’s Room
  11. She’s The One
  12. My City of Ruins
  13. I’ll Work For Your Love
  14. Spirit in the Night
  15. Out in the Street
  16. You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
  17. Death to My Hometown
  18. American Skin (41 Shots)
  19. The River
  20. The Promised Land
  21. Darlington County
  22. Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
  23. Tougher Than the Rest
  24. Because The Night
  25. The Rising
  26. Badlands
  27. Jungleland
  28. Born to Run
  29. Dancing in the Dark
  30. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
  31. Shout
  32. Bobby Jean
  33. Thunder Road – acoustic

 

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