sun 08/12/2019

DVD: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, London Calling, Live in Hyde Park | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, London Calling, Live in Hyde Park

DVD: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, London Calling, Live in Hyde Park

Bruce and the E Street Band retrace their history in 30 songs over two DVDs

Bruce Springsteen, 60 years old and still playing those three-hour shows

One of those deathless Sopranos moments is where Christopher Moltisanti turns up late at the Bada Bing club for a meeting with Silvio Dante and Tony Soprano, and they ask him what kept him. “The highway was jammed with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive,” Christopher retorts, quoting Bruce Springsteen’s New Jersey anthem “Born to Run”. Nobody would know this better than Silvio, since he was played by Springsteen’s E Street Band sidekick Steve Van Zandt.

No other rock act has ever quite matched Springsteen’s feat of bringing his home-town roots and his personal background into the lives of millions of fans worldwide. Thus, even though this double DVD set catches the so-called “Boss” and the E Street Band in action in the vastnesses of London’s Hyde Park at the Hard Rock Calling festival last summer, it still feels as if the 45,000 people in the audience have all known him from the good old days at the Stone Pony club in Asbury Park.

Naturally, Springsteen’s Everyman persona has always been sustained by some old-fashioned sleight of hand and a dollop of hucksterism. A crafty little crowd-pleasing trick he plays here is to go down to the walkway in front of the heaving Hyde Park crowd and collect placards with song titles on them from the fans. Then he takes them back onstage, and when he plays one of the songs, he puts the relevant card up on the monitors where everyone can see it. The songs were probably already in the set list, but it lends a little of that human touch.

Otherwise, this marathon performance (three hours of songs spread over two discs) showcases all the familiar strengths of the E Street Band and their tireless leader, still huffing and wheezing and sweating through his performance like a steam locomotive about to explode. Like a veteran automobile that takes a few miles to warm up, the E Streeters take a song or two to hit their stride – in the opening version of The Clash’s “London Calling” the band lumber along as if they’re chained to the stage, and Bruce and Van Zandt can’t seem to remember the words – but by the time they’ve crashed out of the far end of “Night” and into the thundering rockabilly of “She’s the One”, they’re bubbling away at optimum operating temperature.

With a catalogue as huge as Springsteen’s you’re never going to get everything you want, though there can’t have been many Boss gigs in the last 30 years when he didn’t play either “Thunder Road” or “Backstreets”, but hotspots here include a brilliant “Johnny 99”, converted from its skeletal origins on Nebraska into a rowdy roadhouse rocker, a stupendous version of Jimmy Cliff’s “Trapped”, an exuberant “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day”, and a flashback to “Racing in the Street” which is a jolting reminder of how bleak and desolate Springsteen’s songwriting can be (Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt, pictured below)

Bruce__Steve“Racing…” is one of many showcases for Roy Bittan’s exemplary work at the keyboards (he’s equally peerless on “Jungleland”, “Bobby Jean”, “Promised Land” and several more), though sometimes you feel the band contains almost too much expertise. With Springsteen helping himself to many of the big guitar solos, co-guitarists Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren can feel under-employed, though Van Zandt gets his moments in the spotlight during “Jungleland”, “Hard Times” and a bonus take of “The River” from 2009’s Glastonbury, while Lofgren rotates between dobro, lap-steel and slide guitar. Extra musical colours are ladled on by fiddler Soozie Tyrell and organist/ accordionist Charlie Giordano, the latter replacing deceased E Street veteran Danny Federici.

Springsteen is now 60, but it’s encouraging that some of the strongest performances here are of some of his most recent songs. “Outlaw Pete” is a fable of the Old West filtered through a prism of Ennio Morricone, while the band keep it terse and muscular for “Radio Nowhere”. An added bonus is “Wreckin’ Ball”, a song Springsteen wrote for the band’s farewell performances at Giants Stadium in New Jersey last year, the final rock shows at the venue before its demolition. The stadium was a regular Springsteen haunt, and he has made sure it will live on in E Street mythology.

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters