The night Bruce played “Darkness on the Edge of Town”.

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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.

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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?

Unbelievable….

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.

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About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love outside work: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. And anything else that I happen to think is worth writing about!
This entry was posted in Music - concerts, lists, reflections and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to The night Bruce played “Darkness on the Edge of Town”.

  1. dc says:

    awesome- and the great thing about youtube is you can watch a lot of it all over again.
    there’s got to be a good chance he’ll do the whole of born to run at the olympic park on his next trip to london – whaddyareckon? can you see the future of rock n’roll?

  2. As it is The Boss puts on a show and a half, this sounds like it was at least a show and three quarters!

  3. It was a night to remember

  4. The Blubber in Row 11 says:

    Well, thanks, John. I finally caught up with your excellent piece. As a fellow-blubber just five seats along from you, I can only agree with everything you say – including your comment that it felt like the best concert, ever. My previous top three had been Springsteen (1981, London), Springsteen (1984, New Jersey) and, um, let me see, Springsteen (1992, Wembley), but this one went straight to the top of the pile.

    Why? It was partly the “Darkness” element, for sure. But something more. There is a quality to this guy, and his music, that makes you FEEL it more than with anyone else. He gets right into your soul. And I think as we get older, the emotional resonance of the songs becomes more and more profound and moving: he’s simply telling us what it’s like to grow older (if not necessarily wiser), and what is happening to the people that we once were.

    In The Guardian, Michael Hann said this: “It (Darkness) is undoubtedly one of rock’s most profound and ambiguous albums, and its performance is a triumph. As the coda of “Racing in the Street” ebbs and flows across the 71,000 people in the stadium, the silence is absolute, as if everyone has their own shattered dream tro remember.” Well put, I think. An astonishing evening.

  5. It sounds fabulous! The Boss has edge!

  6. DyingNote says:

    To paraphrase a Pink Floyd song, wish I was there. Oh, man!

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