We knew the drill. Get there early. Queue up. Get in the pit. See Bruce. Profess your undying love for the man to all that will listen. All good. Seemed straightforward enough. Usually works. Alas complacency and the size of the venue led us to not get in the pit this time. Gutting. Despite this we were only a few back from the pit barrier and centre stage...it would have to do. To be fair this was my ninth Bruce gig (and first outside of Ireland) and for five of those I had managed to get in the pit. Not too bad. Every Bruce fan has a number. For most artists seeing them nine times would be impressive. Not so Springsteen. There are more than a few here in triple digits. Quite unbelievable unless you have ever seen a Springsteen show. One just is never enough.
Wembley is a striking venue full of history. Many a legendary gig has been played here not to mention the odd football game or two. By now I am pretty familiar with it as this was my thirteenth time seeing a show here...yet I have never really felt the love. There are far better stadiums to see gigs at. The view isn’t always great, the sound can swirl and getting out is a big pain. The sound was fine from where we were tonight but there have been a few bad reports from some fans in other parts of the stadium. Wembley does look good though (that’s important right?) and seeing the full stadium up on the big screen certainly sent a tingle or two down the spine.
As we waited for the show to begin the Mrs isn’t happy. She already knows she won't see anything. To make matters worse some tall, scotch egg eating, loud mouth, bald guy next to us is on the phone to his mate. He seems to be telling him that he is stood on a raised cable cover so giving himself an extra three inches in height. Mrs Rock looks over and mutters something about concert wankers. She then grumpily turns back to look at the middle of the back of the guy in front of her. The joys of being 5 foot 5.
At 6.20 Bruce walked on stage, sat at the piano and started into Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street? a tour debut and song I have never heard live before. A cool opening despite some seriously dodgy whistling at the end (seriously Bruce I could do better...although my wife would disagree. There is a strict no whistling rule in our house). The E Street Band join the Boss on stage and go straight into Seeds followed by Johnny 99. All was good in the world.
For these stadium shows the playing the River album in full has been ditched in favour of a more varied set list. There is still a healthy six songs from that album with The Ties That Bind starting off a three song section including Sherry Darling and finishing with Hungry Heart.
The E Street is of course used to playing songs from their extensive catalogue but even so the sign requests must fill them with a little bit of fear. Will Springsteen pick a song they can’t remember? I guess that will never happen as there have already been around a 100 different songs played on the tour this year. Incredible. No Surrender, Be True (a River session song that Bruce apparently always regretted not putting on the album) and Candy’s Room are the first requests played.
She’s the One and the quite brilliant My City in Ruins are next, followed by another tour debut, I’ll Work for Your Love (another sign request, this time from 2007’s Magic album). Spirit in the Night is the second song from Springsteen’s debut album (released in 1973) and still feels incredibly fresh.
Out in The Street and You Can Look (But Better Not Touch) are always crowd pleasers. Death to My Hometown is the second song from Wrecking Ball (after the title track was played earlier) and is a song that will hopefully stick around for years to come. The spine tingling American Skin is great to hear as is the title song of this tour, The River. Promised Land and Darlington County are next, the latter sees Bruce sitting next to an ‘older’ member of the audience at the front row who sings along in full voice. Marvellous to see.
From the older spectrum of fans to the youngest, Bruce really does appeal to all ages. Waiting’ on a Sunny Day though gets a mixed reception from hardcore Springsteen fans...in fact they downright hate it. For me, and I think most in the venue here, the song is uplifting and yes easy to sing a long with. I admit though the ‘pick a child from the crowd’ thing is a little tired, yet it is always fun to see the lucky kid nervously wait for their big moment and then belt out the chorus. Never fails to raise a smile.
Tougher Than the Rest is the only song from the Tunnel of Love record (an underrated album it seems) played here and is yet another sign request. Because the Night (including obligatory outstanding guitar solo from Nils Lofgren), The Rising (title track from the first Bruce album I played to death), and Badlands (how can you not raise your hands) round out the main set.
The Born to Run album may only be 8 tracks long but every single one of those is a classic and three of them are played in the encore here. Jungleland is first up. That along with Tenth Avenue Freeze Out really should be staples in every set. It is always nice to see the nod to Danny Federici and the big man, Clarence Clemons, during the latter song. These days ofcourse it is his nephew, the uber cool Jake Clemons, on sax. He looks like he has always been part of the band. He really is doing his uncle proud.
Sandwiched in between those tracks are Born to Run and Dancing in the Dark. Bruce, as is now customary, gets a few fans on stage to dance with the band. This is always fun and a big shout out to the bearded ‘Courtney Cox’ and the lady who really didn't want to leave the stage...she was ushered off but not before hugging every one of the band with Stevie getting a little extra attention. Think he even looked a little embarrassed.
Shout gets the hands in the air (and my feet moving) before Bobby Jean finishes the show, the band take their bows and off they go. Rather worryingly Patti has a tear in the eye...surely this won’t be their last visit will it? Bruce does though say ‘we’ll be seeing you’...so that’s good right? Right? We have no need to worry do we? Right?
Bruce lingers at the back of the stage before walking to the front to sing a solo acoustic Thunder Road. Truly bloody magnificent.
In total there are eleven studio albums featured tonight not to mention covers, B sides and outtakes. An incredible amount of material covered. No one can ever argue that Springsteen doesn’t give his all. Next time though I’ll be seeing him at a different venue. Roll on my tenth show.
Ticket Price: £85.00