As the sun dips the appearance of Bruce Springsteen is delayed. But this is “The Boss” and the waiting is as exciting as an on-schedule performance. He eventually emerges in a blue shirt and black waistcoat with a thick black band gripped around his forearm and a genuine flash of smile that rewards the patience. There is a momentary surge as the fans, polite by nature but uncontrollably eager, crowd in to get a clear view. This is no easy feat.
‘Real Man’ opens the set, the smile barely leaving Springsteen’s face. Whispers of “legend, legend” flitter through the prolonged applause as the formidably poised band lead the melody, allowing Springsteen to strut to the front of an extension on the stage and smile approvingly down at the crowd. The integral “la la la’s” are used to communicate, encouraging sing-backs and conclude with guitarist Steve Van Zandt’s confirmative “La” and a strong nod of the head.
Springsteen sings with determination and force in ‘We Take Care of Our Own’, later merging with ‘Wrecking Ball’ whilst chanting “So bring – your wrecking ball, Let’s see what you’ve got!” Challenge is raised by the brass band piping up in war-like fashion and the gentle but powerful cry of the violin eases the song back to the vocals. Emphasis and underlying chuckle on “muddy parking lots” stir applause among the muddied crowd who are no doubt escaping the reality of tomorrows bid for escape. The welcome reassurance of “and hard times go” are mirrored by flags swaying high above the field. Drums roll triumphantly into darker ‘Wabash Cannon Ball’ in steady pressure build as Springsteen, Van Zandt, Patti Scialfa, Garry Tallent, Soozie Tyreel, assume positions armed with their instruments in a line of defence. The music canters the crowd in a vigourous bounce until the band make a sharp retreat.
Backed by a gentler intro Springsteen jokes “I left my wellies at Glastonbury!”. His amusement at the festival news is clear and as ‘Blood Red Circle’ begins the cameras pan the audience who are bathed in golden sunshine, some held on shoulders others waving in time to the music – the epitome of a perfect festival. The tempo builds and now occupying the protruding podium Springsteen sings “take me higher” – he swings between talking his lyrics and singing his conversation – “Is there a red-head in the house?” repeating this as the cameras scan the crowd for red-heads. The E-Street band are then introduced and given a short solo spot.
‘Lonesome Day’ tints the arena with momentary sadness followed by the mild optimism of ‘Waitin’ on a Sunny Day’ as the giant ferris wheel at the centre of the arena gleams bright against backdrop of encroaching night and the trombone projects into the cooling air. The crowd begin to shuffle, dancing with one another and Springsteen lowers himself to the pit, offering his microphone to a member of the audience who sings the entire chorus – he is clearly thoroughly enjoying the performance, grinning widely at the camera, still holding close some private excitement – “Sing it!” he hollers as the screens show the view from back stage, Springsteen turning to the lenses with delight.
‘Out in the Street’ plays coupled with ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’. Indeed, darkness has set in opening a new chapter in the set as picnic and sun-bathing spots become dance circles and a fully fledged Springsteen party has formed behind the light control box. As a new social group forms of anyone in the mood to dance with arms out-right, swooping like aeroplanes, others swerve in and out of umbrellas spiked into the ground – it’s seems unlikely they will be used now regardless of what the weather has in store – many are in a state of complete abandon throughout sing-back ‘uh oh oh, yeah yeah yea!’
‘Land of Hope and Dreams’ concludes with ongoing echos of “this train” and Springsteen gets chatty. “What a beautiful British day!” he exclaims, followed by “I was on a beach yesterday!” judging by his tan that seems likely, but a world away from the 50 shades of mud we are sinking in. ‘We are Alive’ mellows the vibe as “our spirits raise and carry the fire” is repeated hypnotically. There is a flash of dazzling light from the stage and cowboy hats bob up and down as ‘Born in the USA’ is met with Union Jacks and American flags – incidentally England have lost the match on penalties which possibly prevented the hi-jacking of lyrics had a win been announced. “Baby we were born to run” has people between swaying and dancing. As the saxophone solo kicks in awe strikes and Jake Clemons, nephew of the late and beloved Clarence is given the limelight.
The intro ‘Glory Days’ ironically sees Springsteen take a brief moment to re-compose – he doesn’t look much like that’s necessary but his cool exterior is betrayed when cameras fail to pan the audience and he exaggerates wide waves towards the crowd. Giving up with a roaring laugh he lets pounding drum rolls reverberate through him, palms up moving back and forth intermittently as if beating on a pane of glass, guitar swinging low at his hips – this man’s energy has no limits. ‘Dancing in the Dark’ is timed perfectly under a crescent moon, disturbed only by a reality check when a member of audience jokes “dancing in the rain”. A woman in a white cat hat is lifted onto the podium to dance this one out for the duration of the song, it’s hard to tell who’s enjoying it more as she playfully puts the hat on Springsteen’s head and he carries her in his arms, apparently reluctant to release her.
Playing ‘Lucky Town’ arms high in sharp wave strokes are mimicked by the crowd as the focus falls on the piano. “You have just seen the Legendary E…Street…Band!” Springsteen booms. The applause eventually begins to wane and Springsteen laughs – “They told me there would be fireworks, they lied!” There is a pause before “A little folk song for y’all” – ‘Twist and Shout’ has everyone on their toes twisting their hips, simultaneously bouncing and although the cat’s already out of the bag the explosions from behind the backstage in a flurry of pink, blue and gold causes a freeze across the crowds whilst the band cooly picks up the tempo. “Shake it up Baby” is layered repeatedly over the bangs as the party reaches a spectacular climax and neverending fireworks spark bigger and brighter across the field in explosive finale to a fantastically volatile weekend.
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