thu 29/02/2024

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, BST Hyde Park review - Saturday in the park with Bruce | reviews, news & interviews

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, BST Hyde Park review - Saturday in the park with Bruce

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, BST Hyde Park review - Saturday in the park with Bruce

Outsized E Street Band explores the Boss's huge catalogue

Veteran campaigners: Bruce Springsteen and Steve Van ZandtAll photos: Dave Hogan/Hogan Media

First things first. The support acts at events like this usually get completely overlooked, but it would be frankly criminal not to give a mention to a superb set by the Chicks.

They dropped the “Dixie” from their original name because of its now “problematic” political connotations, and their critical comments about Dubya Bush provoked a career-changing backlash, but they’ve bounced back feistier than ever.

Armed with an arsenal of instruments sure to bring joy to country music fans – dobro, pedal steel, fiddle, banjo, mandolin – they surged through a set of old favourites, including “Cowboy Take Me Away”, “Goodbye Earl” and an unbearably poignant “Travelin’ Soldier”. By contrast, “March March”, from their latest album Gaslighter, is a spiky political throw-down covering everything from racism, gun control and the environment. It ain’t like Hank did it, but maybe it would be if he were here today (pictured below, the Chicks).

The Boss hit the stage on the dot of the advertised 7pm start time, and part of the act was a running gag about how the authorities pulled the plug on him when he played in Hyde Park back in 2012. This was no way to treat a living legend, and it clearly rankled. Suck on that, Westminster council!

But here he was, surrounded by an expanded E Street Band which now includes 17 musicians, including a four-piece brass section (in addition to Jake Clemons on sax), three singers and a percussionist. It felt more like a travelling carnival than a rock’n’roll show, and was light years away from the E Streeters’ origins as the rockin’-est bar band in New Jersey.

But it does enable Springsteen to play a broad swathe of material from across the spectrum of his career, from the elaborate multi-part “Kitty’s Back” (from 1973) with its jazzy interludes of horns, organ, piano and tormented lead guitar from the leader, to a low-key finale of “I’ll See You In My Dreams” from a solo Bruce with acoustic guitar. However, trying to fashion a set list from a catalogue as massive as Springsteen’s must be a perpetual source of perplexity, and for the first hour or so of this performance the balance didn’t feel quite right.

An opening salvo of “My Love Will Not Let You Down” and the lumbering Irish jig of “Death to My Hometown” didn’t have the grab-you-by-the-throat impact that one might have expected. The pace accelerated noticeably with a blast through “Ghosts” (from Letter To You), with its ecstatic “I’m alive!” refrain, but a turgid “Darkness on the Edge of Town” sounded more like piles of scrap metal being fly-tipped just outside the city limits.

Matters reached a nadir with “Darlington County”, that notably lacklustre moment from Born in the USA. Why Bruce, why? The song hasn’t improved with age, though at least Steve Van Zandt (who might pass for a slightly deranged cousin of Keith Richards) added a wry touch by kicking it off with a facsimile of Keef’s intro to “Honky Tonk Women”. Bruce’s cover of the Commodores’ treacly “Nightshift” wasn’t the antidote we were looking for.

But lo! A rousing “Mary’s Place” seemed to be the trigger for the show to find its focus (and also for Max Weinberg’s bludgeoningly loud drums to be turned down a notch or two), and by the time Bruce launched into the epic surge of “Backstreets”, a fine showcase for Roy Bittan’s wonderfully evocative work on piano, the event was officially airborne. Suddenly, the band felt more engaged and the crowd responded with an additional dose of exuberance. A storming treatment of “Because the Night” set up a superb “She’s the One”, built on an irresistibly huge Bo Diddley beat. Then came “Wrecking Ball”, which is pretty good on disc but nothing like the way it sounded here.

A turbulent, absorbing “The Rising” prefaced a bull-in-a-china-shop version of “Badlands”, and then we were into the home straight with the evergreen “Born to Run”. A riotous “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” was accompanied by valedictory film clips of fallen E Street heroes Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici, while the final full-band performance of the night was a revved-up “Twist and Shout”, which in its own minimalist way tells the entire story of rock’n’roll.

The best Bruce show ever? No. Still pretty great though.

Comments

A review clearly written to trigger those reading it, and to go against every single other review saying how incredible it was.This is obviously written just for the sake of it What a load of tripe! I'd go as far to say you weren't even at the gig, and just looked at the setlist online. The crowd were electric from the first song, Bruce was milling around the crown handing out harmonica's and guitar picks to adoring fans having the time of their lives. Glad you don't write for any reputable sources...

So all reviews in all media (reputable or otherwise) should all say the same thing and share the same opinion? Brilliant idea! I can't imagine why nobody's thought of it before.

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