"Who needs 75 degrees and sunny?" asked Bruce Springsteen as he bounded into Sunderland football ground in the rain last night, looking almost distastefully tanned and fit for a man in his 63rd year. “This is what I want in Sunderland.”
There must have been 40,000 soggy people in the stadium who begged to differ, but then again you don’t argue with the Boss.
Still, there had been moments before the concert when it had seemed as if the fog would make it all but impossible for anyone beyond the golden circle to see the stage. In the end, the weather abated and Bruce rocked for close to three hours to an adoring crowd.
Mixed in with classic tracks such as “Born to Run”, “The River” and “Thunder Road” were a healthy number from Springsteen’s latest album Wrecking Ball, which, like Born in the USA and The Rising, has come close to encapsulating the spirit of contemporary America, if not the Western world.
Despite selling in excess of 120 million records and collecting more than 20 Grammies, Springsteen remains a credible figure in the eyes of his fans.
Sure, he is probably as cushioned as any other mega-bucks rock star with a back catalogue stretching back four decades.
But his latest work offers a heartfelt indictment of capitalism’s current failings and the hard times it is bringing on both sides of the Atlantic to those required to work for a living. Tracks such as “We Take Care of Our Own”, “Jack of All Trades” and particularly “Death to my Hometown” stand up against anything in his repertoire.
Here, on the site of the former Wearmouth colliery where 2,000 men once hewed coal before it closed, his fables of shattered communities, blue-collar angst and shut-down factories have particula rresonance. Springsteen offers extraordinary value to his diehard fans.
A virtuoso performer he scuttles about the runaways like a man 40 years younger. The 14-piece E Street Band is formidable.
Springsteen has said he will not support anyone in this year’s US presidential race.
Artists have to be “canaries in the mine”, he said. It is an admirable idea but the world – and Barack Obama – need him now.