The first band we saw were Lady Antebellum who sufficiently entertained the crowd with their blend of angsty-soft-country-pop-rock, despite frontman Charles Kelley freely admitting they knew no one was really there to see them, but to wait patiently for the Boss. But nonetheless I was impressed by them. The songs were a little samey, but they were enjoyable to listen to.
Next on the bill was the grandfather of rock and roll: John Fogarty, the legend of the blues rock and swamp rock of the early sixties. First glimpse of The Boss came as he introduced what he described as one of his music inspirations and excitement swept through the crowd. Fogarty’s set was one of highs and lows. When he played hits such as “Proud Mary” and “Pretty Woman” we were having a grand old time, however some obscure stuff with improvisation was a little hard to take. But at the end our Bruce came on and they sang “Rocking All Over the World” together which was a brilliant moment for the crowd.
Then there was a rather long wait before “Bruuuuuuuuce” (as the fans call him at gigs) the man himself made his appearance to the adoring crowd. He began very simply with a beautiful stripped back version of ‘Thunder Road’, with just a piano accompaniment, which was a perfect start to the show. The one thing I must say about The Boss is that he comes across as the nicest guy ever known to man or woman. His interaction with the crowd went above and beyond the normal performance of a gig this size. It was touching how appreciative he seemed to the fans and it gave the gig an almost intimate feel, odd for being one of 80 000 in the crowd. The music was, of course, fantastic. He has been playing with the E Street Band since 1972 and it shows. All the musicians worked so well altogether. There was one particularly special moment: He pulled a sign from the crowd, written by a fan desperate to hear an obscure track and had been to 6 previous Springsteen gigs and not heard it. So they played it for him as if they had played it everyday for years.
They played a brilliant mixture of songs with special appearances from Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine fame) who played with them for a few tracks inlcuding ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad” which was played as a tribute to Woody Guthrie (folk/protest pioneer most famous for ‘This Land is Your Land) whose centenary it would have been that day, and another team up with John Fogarty. Personal highlight (if I have to pick one, the whole thing was fantastic) for me was probably ‘Dancing in the Dark’ – even though it was accompanied with ultimate pangs of jealousy as he picked out a girl from the crowd to dance with him. That girl was not me (I will not be ashamed to say I fancy the pants off Bruce Springsteen). There were also some lovely moments involving the sax player, nephew of the late Clarence Clemons, after whose death many questioned the continued touring success of Springsteen and the E Street Band as they are far more than just his backing band. So much happened that was so, so brilliant – there is simply not enough time or space to say it all here. His ability to mix the upbeat, jump-around tracks with the beautifully poignant (like ‘Jack of All Trades’, from the latest album) made it an almost perfect set.
Of course I must mention the appearance of Sir Paul McCartney, who joined him to play “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Twist and Shout”, which accompanied by fireworks made a brilliant finale. The gig was controversially cut short by the organisers as Bruuuuuce had played for almost three and half hours (which considering he and much of the band are in their 60s is really quite astounding) and therefore past the 10.30 curfew. This was a real shame since it had been such a wonderful, wonderful night and it just had not ended quite right. Despite this, I learnt The Boss is called that for a reason, and I suspect that was the best gig I will see for a very long time, since I do believe that both he and the wonderful E Street Band belong to that elite group of musicians that can be classed as legendary. And if I do ever see him again, I WILL be the girl he picks out of the crowd to Dance in the Dark with!