On November 18, 1975, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played their first ever concert outside of America. The Hammersmith Odeon London ’75 show marked the beginning of a near 40-year love affair between Bruce and the United Kingdom. From the moment he stepped onto stage as a young 26-year-old and played to London, for the first time, the introduction to “Thunder Road,” Springsteen captivated the British audience.
Thirty-eight years later, they emerged onto the stage of Wembley Stadium, for the first time since 1988. As the E Street Band walked out, the crowd erupted with a roar. Tonight, Bruce would create light out of Darkness.
“Land of Hope and Dreams” opened the show, setting the widescreen tone of the evening. A rarity followed: “Jackson Cage,” which had the crowd rocking nearly as hard as the band. “Radio Nowhere” maintained the energy before a gorgeous rendition of “Save My Love” from The Promise. Taking more request signs, Springsteen pulled up “Cadillac Ranch” but quipped that it was “too easy” and swapped it for “Rosalita.” The physical energy then transferred to emotional energy as Springsteen and the band played “This Hard Land.”
Requests continued with “Lost in the Flood.” The now-40-year-old song is a rare and emotionally captivating performance. Bruce sang with conviction, and as the tale of the “ragamuffin drummer” unfolded on stage, this concert already felt like one for the history books. After Bruce returned to a “Hungry Heart” sign, and Wembley swayed to another River classic, Springsteen offered the crowd a choice: he could either “continue playing requests,” or he could play the whole of Darkness on the Edge of Town.
Bruce thanked London for many years of love and support, to rapturous applause, before jumping straight into the heart of what many fans would call his greatest album. Indeed, Springsteen himself acknowledged that Darkness defines the work of the E Street Band before rocking the stadium to the beat of “Badlands.” Since the three Swedish album shows of last month, Bruce has treated audiences across Europe to full-album performances. Many fans anticipated Born in the U.S.A. at Wembley, but as Bruce tore into “Adam Raised a Cain” before then singing his hauntingly beautiful vocal intro to “Something in the Night,” it was hard to imagine a fan wishing for anything else.
One of his most moving songs of all, “Racing in the Street” was a highlight of Wembley’s show. Picking up where Bruce’s words stopped, Roy Bittan’s piano was staggeringly beautiful and masterfully constructed. As Roy played his own “‘Jungleland’ sax solo,” always slightly different, Bruce stood back in the darkness of his stage with the E Street Band, looking out into an entranced crowd.
Concluding Darkness on the Edge of Town with its title track, Bruce brought some fun to Wembley with “Shackled and Drawn,” followed by “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day.” The main set ended with “Light of Day” before the encore began with a dance-til-you-drop “Pay Me My Money Down.” “Born to Run” led into “Bobby Jean” while the crowd swayed and sang together. “Dancing in the Dark” saw two lucky fans on stage, one to dance with Stevie, and the other a Mum whose children “paid” Bruce $1 for the dance.
As the E Street Band left the stage following “Twist and Shout,” which Bruce remarked might have them cut off à la London 2012, he paused with his back to the audience. Now alone on stage, Bruce took an acoustic guitar and harmonica, returned to his microphone, and — breaking his curfew — told London “we love ya” before ending the night with the song that he opened with, 38 years before.
“Sit tight, take hold, Thunder Road…”
— Connor Kirkpatrick, Backstreets.com
Bruce lends his voice to agit8 , the new campaign launched by Bono’s ONE organization. Agit8 is a music-based campaign that uses the greatest protest songs of all time to promote the fight against extreme poverty. Check out the video below of Bruce performing a special version of “The Promised Land” at Camden Lock in North London for the campaign!
Tickets go on sale today in most countries for the highly anticipated worldwide cinema broadcast of Springsteen & I on July 22. (Tickets will go on sale in the US next Friday, June 14.) Movie theaters in over 50 countries around the globe will broadcast this unique music documentary and collective filmmaking experience, created for the fans, by the fans, which includes some of Bruce’s most loved songs and previously unseen performances.
New countries and screenings will be added to the release over the following weeks so fans should make sure to check springsteenandi.com for regular updates.
To celebrate the release of the film, fans around the world were given the chance to star in the official documentary poster by submitting a picture of themselves with their first Springsteen album. More than 350 fans were chosen to appear on the official film poster that will be used around the globe. View a full, interactive version of the poster now at springsteenandi.com/poster to get a closer look at the images making up the poster and find out if yours made it!
Who do you love more, your mom or your dad? What is the best Bruce concert you’ve seen? Unanswerable questions. But chances are that if you’ve seen Springsteen play Milan’s San Siro Stadium, it’s a show that has to be in the running. 1985, 2003, 2008, 2012… every single show here has been special in its own way. And this year’s is no exception.
“Since I was a kid, I’ve played quite a few places… but this one is special,” says an emotional Springsteen at the end of San Siro 2013. “You are special. I keep you in my heart every time.” This is not rock cliché — he really means it. You can tell just from the facts: a mammoth set at 34 songs, three-and-a-quarter hours, with rarities, premieres, hits, and even a full album. And you can tell it from his face.
The first Italian concert of the year with no acoustic pre-show starts early, at 8:15. As Bruce takes the stage, the sight is breathtaking: The historical stadium, home of soccer teams Milan and Inter, is packed with 60,000 people. The second and third rings of the venue have white, red and green signs that form a gigantic dedication: “Our love is real.” Bruce remains speechless for a full minute.
When the show begins, it already feels like an encore: not only because the opening song (“Land of Hope and Dreams”) is one that usually comes near the end, but because of the energy and the audience participation. Going into “My Love Will Not Let You Down” and “Out in the Street,” the whole thing already feels like a party, with the entire stadium chanting.
As request time comes, the real surprises begin. The choices are party songs: “American Land” and “Long Tall Sally,” played for the first time by the E Street Band. After a welcome “Loose Ends” (“This is Stevie’s favorite!”) the standard sequence is cut to just two songs, “Wrecking Ball” and “Death to My Hometown.” No “We Take Care of Our Own” and no “Spirit in the Night.” Bruce doesn’t need them tonight. His voice is in perfect shape, and his face appears continuously astonished by audience. A couple more songs — a wonderful “Atlantic City” and an intense “The River,” with Bruce leading the audience back into a reprise — and then comes what almost every die-hard fan had been talking about and hoping for, if they didn’t exactly know it was coming. Remembering his history at San Siro, Bruce announces that in honor of that historical 1985 concert — his first time in Italy, back on the Born in the U.S.A. World Tour — he’s going to play Born in the U.S.A. start to finish.
Playing a full album is a choice sometimes debated among fans. But the fact is that Born in the U.S.A. fits the evening perfectly, from the bombastic beginning of the title track to the emotional closing of “My Hometown,” with so many fast songs in between. A fun “Working on the Highway” and a wonderful “I’m Goin’ Down” (with a fantastic electric guitar intro) are the highlights of the sequence, along with Jake’s perfect renditions of the solos in “Bobby Jean” and “Dancing in the Dark.” Bruce and the band cut a rug with many different ladies as “Dancing” stretches out.
The rest of the main set is like a greatest hits collection, ending with “Hungry Heart.” And then the encore takes the energy and intensity to a higher level, if possible. The acoustic segment many fans had hoped for in the afternoon comes as an encore intro, with a bit of “This Land is Your Land” that segues into Wrecking Ball’s “We Are Alive,” (played very rarely this year) as the band joins in. After the trifecta of “Born to Run,”
“Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” and “Twist and Shout” that often closes the show, Bruce just wants to keep going. So does the audience, dancing on the soccer field. The screens show him calling out some chords changes, and the E Street Band goes into the Isley Brothers’ “Shout” — a perfect companion to “Twist and Shout,” as Springsteen directs the moves of the audience. It’s a perfect way to end the evening as well. Only, we still aren’t quite finished. As in Naples, Bruce ushers the band off and, by himself, sings “Thunder Road” with just his acoustic guitar, a moving ending to a wonderful night.
I’ve seen Springsteen in San Siro all five times. 1985 was the first rock concert of my life. All were memorable, especially the rain-soaked 2003 show. What I saw tonight rivaled any of them for emotion, intensity, energy, passion and fun. This was one of the best concerts of my life: pure rock music, Bruce at his best.