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Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - Hyde Park, London, 6/6/2023

  by Richard Lewis

published: 30 / 8 / 2023

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - Hyde Park, London, 6/6/2023

“Bruuuuuuce”. The sound starts a shade before 7pm and becomes even louder as the lights on the Great Oak Stage illuminate. A muggy, slightly overcast early evening in London and a long sold out Hyde Park is playing host to what has become a summer ritual held every few years. Over fifty years since his debut LP and roughly the same number since he first visited the UK, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are back in Blighty. One by one the E Street Band assemble, almost twenty in number before the focal point of the “Bruuuuuuce” chant strides onstage. A scarcely believably 73 years old, despite looking 20 years younger and playing concerts with an energy level that would put rockers half his age to shame, The Boss bellows a count in and the enormous band takes flight. That said, the take-off is slightly bumpy. With the volume levels not quite high enough the opening double hit of tracks don’t supply the vertical ascent many in the crowd were expecting. A stomp through ‘No Surrender’ and a troika of cuts from ‘Darkness On the Edge of Town’ including the title track along with an increase in volume provide an audience sating corrective however. Despite the near endless string of gigs undertaken since the late 1960s, Springsteen’s voice is in remarkable shape. Backed by surely one of the longest surviving line ups in music other than The Stones, Max Weinberg’s drum work retains its stadium rattling power, his rhythm section partner bassist Gary Tallent tracing his way back to the very start of Springsteen’s career. Rhythm guitarist Steve Van Zandt remains Springsteen’s foil onstage. Swapping jokes, clowning for the camera and sharing the microphone, the pair lend the show the laidback atmosphere of friends playing in a bar, not a multi-million dollar enterprise who play in front of tens of thousands each night. A stadium fixture on almost every tour he has undertaken since the zeitgeist grabbing Born In the USA jaunt in 1985, Springsteen’s stage set up is impressively pared down. Aside from the enormous screens that broadcast images of the players, much of the audience rapport is generated by the man himself. Pacing the front row, singing lyrics face to face with super fans, handing out plectrums to kids on shoulders, and generally getting far, far closer to the audience than any other A list rock star you could name, the energy level increases each time he descends the steps from the stage. Similar to treasured influence John Steinbeck, and other titles in the Great American Novel canon, the reward with Springsteen’s shows is the cumulative effect, a three-hour marathon as opposed to a ninety-minute, mid-distance run. The mid-section of the show sees some sections of the vast crowd start to fidget slightly as the attention amongst those who came wanting to hear a run through the hits starts to wander. ‘Kitty’s Back’ from second album ‘The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle’ is stretched out into double figures, affording a sizeable portion of the audience the opportunity to visit the loo. One irate punter stood nearby meanwhile not unreasonably tells a particularly chatty group to shut the fuck up during a recollection by the singer about a late friend he formed his first band with. Conserving extra reserves of energy for the final stretch, the encore section is an absolute masterstroke. Delivered with every ounce of heart bursting passion as it was in 1975, ‘Born To Run’ is simply breathtaking. An extended audience response led rendition of ‘Glory Days’ showcases enormo-capcity shows at their absolute best, a huge communal celebration. Diving into a blistering brass-assisted rendition of ‘Dancing In the Dark’, the MTV classic garners the biggest cheer of the night. Live favourite ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out’ pays tribute to late E Street band members saxophonist Clarence Clemons and keyboardist Danny Federici, as monochrome images of the pair appear on the screens, as current sax player Jake Clemons, a worthy successor to his uncle takes a spotlit turn. For the final stretch a punked up rampage through ‘Twist And Shout’ buoyed by Beatles-esque audience harmonies avoids the ignominious fate of the 2009 rendition when, the presence of Paul McCartney notwithstanding, the plug was pulled on the group due to overrunning the curfew. It comes almost as a surprise when Springsteen reappears to play ‘I’ll See You In My Dreams’, on solo acoustic last, as the group still seem to have enough left in the tank for another two hours. A restatement of principles in front of a long sold-out crowd, well into pensionable age as he might be, you wouldn’t bet against Springsteen continuing well into the next decade on this form.

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Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - Hyde Park, London, 6/6/2023

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - Hyde Park, London, 6/6/2023

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - Hyde Park, London, 6/6/2023

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American icon Bruce Springsteen shows zero signs of slowing down on a lengthy, wide-ranging set at Hyde Park for British Summer Time. Richard Lewis reviews



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