In a couple of days we will see the release of London Calling: Live In Hyde Park – a two DVD set of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s set from last summer’s Hard Rock Calling festival.
This promises to be a really special release. Bruce and the band were on top form on a beautiful sunny day. A crowd of over 50,000 sung backing vocals. And the set list included fan favourites as well as some great cover versions.
How do I know? Well, as Max Boyce (google him!) used to say, “I know because I was there.” I got to Hyde Park at 7am that morning to take my place in the line. And it paid off: I secured a place on the barriers at the front, close to centre stage.
There were other bands on the line up. Jean Beauvoir and Micki Free, Gaslight Anthem, James Morrison and the Dave Matthews Band. And then … well, here’s my review, written that night.
At last the final stage changes were made and the familiar elements of the E Street Band’s set were in place. Roy’s piano, Charlie’s keyboards and the Big Man’s throne were all there.
Bruce and the band took to the stage shortly after 7pm and for the next three hours they owned Hyde Park, if not the whole of London town. Bruce doesn’t use support acts and this was the first time I had ever seen him play after other bands. Frankly everything that had gone before was made to look like amateur hour compared with the slick professionalism and excellent musicianship of the legendary E Street Band.
Springsteen as always blended old songs with new with his own inimitable brand of rock n roll star meets revivalist preacher, delivered with all the showmanship and stagecraft he has built up over his long career. His energetic playing, strong vocals and frequent forays down to the front of the crowd were nothing short of incredible for a man in his sixtieth year. The Boss was in charge and everyone knew it.
He opened up, appropriately enough, with a cover of the classic Clash track London Calling, moving seamlessly onto Badlands, a classic of his own. Already the atmosphere was electric, just two songs in, with the crowd pressing forward to get nearer to the stage and a forest of fists pumping as thousands sang along with every single word.
There is simply no finer spectacle in the world of rock music than Bruce and his band doing what they do best and performing at the very top of their game.
The set simply tore along at breakneck pace, with favourites from the back catalogue like She’s The One, Night and The Promised Land blended with Outlaw Pete and Working On A Dream from the most recent album.
Highlights for me were a beautiful, tender rendition of Racing In the Streets, an energetic Rosalita and Nils Lofgren’s incendiary guitar solo on Youngstown, which can only be called downright brilliant.
There were no real surprises on the set list, with most songs played having been on the regular rotation in recent shows. There were not even any rarities among the requests, which Bruce chose from the many signs he collected from the front of the audience, although Jungleland, one of my favourites, was the last to be selected. It isn’t so much a song as a full blown symphony and it was delivered with all of the considerable feeling and passion at Springsteen’s disposal.
The three hour set closed with Glory Days and Dancing In The Dark, both exuberantly performed to a crowd now whipped into a frenzy. Finally the band left the stage to rapturous applause from the breathless fifty thousand strong crowd, who all knew that they had just witnessed something very special.
I’ve seen Bruce live almost fifty times over the past 25 years or so, and this performance was up there as one of the very best shows I’ve seen.
The DVD should be something special. If it captures anything like the incredible atmosphere and electric performance that made the day so special it will be a must have.
And as a bonus there is also footage of a brilliant version of The River from Glastonbury and Bruce’s newest song, Wrecking Ball, from one of the final shows before the demolition of Giants Stadium in New Jersey.
Tuesday is the day this one hits the shops.