Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band played Wembley Stadium on 15 June 2013. I was fortunate enough to be there. Fortunate because it turned out to be the best concert I have ever witnessed.
In being so it takes over from Bruce at Wembley Arena in 1981, which has always been the concert I have held up as the benchmark.
The reason why the concert I saw last night trumped 1981 was because Bruce and the band did something completely unexpected. They played the whole of “Darkness On The Edge Of Town” in sequence, in the middle of the set. The whole of the greatest album of all time, its only rival, “Born To Run”.
I couldn’t believe it. A great concert already, and then Bruce said, almost casually, we are going to play “Darkness On The Edge Of Town” from start to finish.
The greatest album of all time. In its entirety.
Moments before, I’d asked my friend Dave how he was enjoying it. He turned to me and said, great, but he hasn’t played anything from “Darkness”. As if in response…
I couldn’t believe it. But it was actually happening. For me it was it was the best possible moment in rock’n'roll history. My rock’n'roll history.
Badlands – Adam Raised A Cain – Something In The Night – Candy’s Room – Racing In The Street – The Promised Land – Factory – Streets Of Fire – Prove It All Night – Darkness On The Edge Of Town.
I sang, I cried – “Racing In The Streets” was impossible not to blub to – I punched the air, and so did most people around me. Not all though – with some of the less well-known tracks, I think the people who had discovered Bruce later than ’78, maybe with “Born In The USA” in 1984, were a bit lost. Or not interested. I just couldn’t believe anyone could go out to buy a beer during “Racing In The Street”. Or “Something In The Night”, as the tension in that song mounted, ready to explode. But you know, some did.
But I, like so many people around me – including a bunch of Swedes, good people, just in front – was in total celebration mode. Have I ever sung so much at a concert? I don’t think so. Like those dogs on main street…
The best ever. Really.
What about before and after?
The concert started with ‘Land Of Hope And Dreams”, one of the new anthems, from “Wrecking Ball. This train… Then “Jackson Cage” from “The River”, and ‘Radio Nowhere” a great rocker from “Magic”. After “Save My Love” (which I didn’t really know) we launched into “Rosalita”. One of the great, sprawling Bruce songs, from his early days, “The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle. Usually encore material; here song five.
I was thinking, most of these songs would be encores for anyone else. Such a rich source of material. So many anthems.
There was something happening…
We went through great versions of ‘This Hard Land”, “Lost In The Flood” (from the first album, “Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ’), “Wrecking Ball” and “Death To My Hometown’ from the latest album and then the celebration of “Hungry Heart” from ‘The River”, with crowd singing most of the lyrics.
It was going so well and then it got exponentially better.
The whole of “Darkness On The Edge Of Town”.
There aren’t many moments like this. When some of the greatest music of all time, that means more to you than anything else, is played right there, right now, by the band and the man. In sequence, so that everything about the album makes sense. All your memories distilled. It was a dream come true. I mean, really, did I ever expect Bruce to play my favourite album of all time, from start to finish? “Badlands” maybe, perhaps “The Promised Land”. Maybe even “Racing In The Streets” if we were really lucky. But all ten songs? All in one go?
And then there was more. Though how do you follow the whole of “Darkness On The Edge Of Town”?
Well, Bruce started with a rousing version of “Shackled and Drawn” from the new album. It made its raucous mark. Not intimidated by what went before. “Waiting On A Sunny Day” was completely joyous, with a lovely intervention by one of Bruce’s children at the end. “Born To Run” was just “Born To Run” and “Dancing In The Dark” was predictably wonderful, with Bruce, as ever, dancing with some women from the audience. A massive celebration.
With “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” in the encore, we had a heartfelt tribute to sadly departed members of the band, Danny Federici and the Big Man, Clarence Clemons, the king of the saxophone. Clarence has been replaced by his nephew, Jake, a huge ask. The boy has answered the call brilliantly. The new Big Man.
And then, the finale: “Twist and Shout”, recalling the notorious power cut when he played it with Paul McCartney at Hyde Park last year. Good time rock’n'roll. Bruce celebrating his roots, as always.
The end, we thought, and then, maybe not.
Bruce returned, alone, with his acoustic guitar. ‘Thunder Road”. Yes, ‘Thunder Road”. As if playing the whole of “Darkness On THe Edge Of Town” wasn’t enough, he then went and played ‘Thunder Road”, maybe his greatest ever song, to finish. Just him and his guitar and a 70,000 voice choir.
The screen door slams, Mary’s dress waves…
In 1981, Bruce sang an encore of Elvis Presley’s ‘”I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You”, with a voice so hoarse that it sounded like the most heartfelt song ever sung. When he sang “Thunder Road”, solo, tonight, it came close to that moment.
So, 15 June, 2013. Wembley Stadium. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
The best concert ever.