Few fans are quite as devoted as Springsteen’s. The booming sound emanating from the 71,000-strong crowd gathered at Wembley Stadium to see The Boss - the first time he played the venue (now in its new incarnation) for 25 years - is the familiar guttural chant of “Bruce” reserved only for one of the kings of Americana.
And what a reward these fans received. Beginning with "Land of Hope and Dreams", it was a night that few Springsteen die-hards will ever forget. Running down to the crowd, with a grin plastered across his age-defying 63-year-old face, Springsteen gathered up requests written on signs held up by the front rows, which led to such rarities as "Save My Love" and "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)", all performed with trademark command and vocal passion, though the best of the mammoth three-and-half-hour set was yet to come.
With little ceremony, Springsteen announced that he and the E Street Band – including Steve Van Zandt, his best friend from all the way back to the beginnings of the New Jersey rock scene, and the man who dubbed him ‘The Boss’ - would perform a complete rendition of the 1978 album Darkness on the Edge of Town, an inarguable classic from rock music’s back catalogue and one that he describes as remaining “at the centre of who we are”. With touching sincerity, he adds: “We always want to do something different for you.”
From "Badlands" to the album’s final track and namesake, the performance is a thing of real and rare brilliance, leaving the crowd silently awed and euphoric in equal measure throughout it.
An entertainer to the last, "Dancing in the Dark" sees Springsteen invite two women up onto the stage (the latter of whom’s child appeared to be waving a sign reading ‘dance with my mum for a dollar’), and he achieves that rare thing of making such banter funny and touching.
The rendition of "Twist and Shout" builds on this sense of Springsteen’s dedication to making sure his fans enjoy themselves (and proves a point - it was the song that saw the plug pulled at that Hyde Park gig), but it grates – it feels unnecessary for an artist who does not need gimmicks. This is only underlined with a magical stripped-back rendition of "Thunder Road", yet another delight for a crowd that already believed he just couldn’t get any better.