Music review: Bruce Springsteen's Hard Rock Calling show was a three-hour masterclass in rock


Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London

Last summer when Bruce Springsteen played Hard Rock Calling at Hyde Park the curfew police pulled the plug on him halfway through a rather cringe-worthy version of "Twist and Shout" with Paul McCartney, the weather was dire and the battered ground resembled a quagmire of mid-1990s Glastonbury proportions.

This year at a new venue in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park there was no Beatle, a later curfew and with the sun setting over the Olympic velodrome, the perfect opportunity for Springsteen to make amends with a three-hour power-drive through his back catalogue. Sadly the dusty and stone-filled venue failed to live up to the rose-tinted Olympic memories of the site and even the £600,000 “easigrass” surface (basically a fake lawn) failed to stop the place feeling like a bit of building site.

If Springsteen, 63, had noticed this he didn’t let on though as the ever-expanding E Street Band launched off with a smattering of tracks from his latest album, including a power-charged "Shackled and Drawn", before diving into his past for a sombre "Badlands" and bringing an orchestral feel to "Johnny 99".

At his recent Wembley gig the rocker played the entirety of Darkness on the Edge of Town. At the Olympic Park we were treated to the Born in the USA album in its entirety as he brought his 87-year-old mother on stage for "Dancing in the Dark" as well as his younger sister Pam on guitar. In true ageing-rocker style he even called out a young fan, hoisted her on his shoulders and handed her the microphone to join him in an uplifting "Waitin’ On A Sunny Day". This should have been cheesy and had us wincing but Springsteen is master of life-affirmation and knew exactly how to press the crowd’s buttons.

His three-hour masterclass in rock verged on hero worship at times, but that’s the brilliance of Springsteen. He may be a showman but he also has the human touch, the ability to create intimacy and put you at ease in his company, despite the 50,000 odd other fans dancing around you.

And as the light faded, the beer flowed and the crowd swayed, he called on us to feel it from our “sexual organs” before taking us closing his barnstorming journey through Springsteen’s America with an emotionally charged encore of "Jungleland", "Born to Run" and "American Land". He finished – without interruption this time – with "My Lucky Day". The venue might have been a let-down but the crowd seem to agree with his sentiment.

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