Bruce Springsteen – Stadium of Light – 21/6/2012

Posted on June 26, 2012

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It’s been twenty seven years since Bruce Springsteen, The boss, has visited the North East of England but, despite the ever present threat of rain in Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, it soon became clear from the opening salvo of Badlands that the weather would have no jurisdiction over the mood at the Stadium of Light tonight. This was The Boss’s night, and he and the “heart-stopping, pants-dropping, house-rocking, earth-quaking, booty-shaking, Viagra-taking, love-making E! Street! Band!” were here to make sure you enjoyed it.

Judging by the rapturous cheering and grabbing that greeted him whenever he took to the barriers, every cheer when the young Clemons picked up a solo or the stadium grade roars of “Bruuuuuuuce” in between songs, it’s safe to say that it’s mission accomplished for Springsteen and his band.

Amongst his fans, Springsteen is arguably just as well known for his gut wrenching tales street level despair and dashed dreams as he is for his stadium blitzing rock songs but this was a night in celebration of good old fashioned rock and roll and good times more than anything else, a fact clearly represented across the majority of the setlist. Aside from a heart-stopping ariring for The River and a poignant My City of Ruins (well, it was poingnant until everybody spotted the girl removing her t-shirt on camera. As Bruce noted “there’s just some things you can’t compete with.), the 28 strong set list was mostly a veritable feast of emotionally charged rock and roll, with The Boss himself grinning from ear to ear with each strum of his guitar on the likes of Promised Land and a full band version of Nebraska’s Johny 99. And if he wasn’t standing playing he spent the rest of his time either running the length of the barriers, shaking his arse with guitarist Steve Van Zandt at the end of Glory Days, or mashing his head against the piano at the crescendo of a storming cover of Seven Nights to Rock. For all the emotional impact of his songs, Springsteen can be a big, daft showman on the stage and the night is all the better for it.

On the flip side, there’s also lot of soul present, and songs like Shackled and Drawn, Land of Hope and Dreams (both from Wrecking Ball) and 2002’s The Rising transforming the assembled crowd into something more akin to a congregation, with The Boss shouting and hollering the joys of his music like a preacher. At times it’s like a gospel service with music in the place of God, but things hit an emotional peak during a silent video tribute to legendary saxophonist Clarence Clemons in the middle of Tenth Avenue Freezeout being followed by a searing sax solo from his nephew and new band member, Jake Clemons.

The thing is, that with a legendary performer like Springsteen, and a long awaited show like this, it’s incredibly easy for me to slip into hyperbol so I apologise in advance, but I sincerely doubt there can be any better musical moment than hearing THAT swelling harmonica intro singnalling the start of Thunder Road. Arguably one of the best songs ever written, it is certainly never a certainty live (see the Hyde Park Calling 09 DVD) and to not only hear it, but to have it followed by Born To Run was a truly chest burstingly magnificent moment in an evening full of highlights.

With amazing songs and flawless performances all round, not to mention a connection and a sense of fun that reached everyone in the cavernous stadium this was a show from from a man and his band who, nearly forty years after they started out, are still showing everyone else just how it should be done. Don’t leave it so long in between visists next time eh, Bruce?

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