Pop: If you believe in rock'n'roll

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND

MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS ARENA

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & The E Street Band returned in triumph to the UK for the first time in almost a decade and a half when they played to a packed house at Manchester's Evening News Arena on Saturday. Performing a set that drew heavily on vintage material from the band's classic era - the period spanned by the albums Born to Run and Born in the USA - he seemed to be genuinely moved by the response, stopping several times to let the audience sing entire verses of songs such as "Hungry Heart" and "Thunder Road" for him.

Age does not seem to have withered Springsteen; indeed, he looked unnaturally fit for a man who will turn 50 this year, chunkier and more muscle-bound than most fans will remember, boasting something of James Caan's rugged appeal. Alongside him, the saxophonist "Big Man" Clarence Clemons seemed even bigger than ever, hugely elegant in tied-back dreadlocks and suit, while the tiny guitarist Nils Lofgren, by contrast, seems to have shrunk even further. Most of the band, in deference to encroaching maturity, opted for the casual-but-smart, suit-but-no-tie look preferred by ageing rockers - though the guitarist Miami Steve Van Zandt appeared as if cryogenically preserved since the Seventies in his bandanna, leather waistcoat and long red shirt. Springsteen himself managed to cover both sartorial angles, removing his suit jacket after a few numbers to reveal that what had appeared to be grey suit trousers were in fact made of some more durable, denim- like material; instantly, he was transformed from rough-diamond dinner- party guest to rugged roustabout, shooting from the hip with his battered old blond Telecaster.

The set opened with "My Love Will Not Let You Down" and "Prove it All Night", twin statements of faith which he proceeded to fulfil in a set only 10 minutes short of three hours long. The street-operatic splendour of the E Street Band remains undimmed even after more than a decade in mothballs, with the two keyboard players operating like Bruce's portable Spector Wall of Sound, studding the songs with majestic ostinatos and triumphant bells, while Springsteen works on a grittier level entirely. The dignity of labour remains his perennial theme, with "The Ghost of Tom Joad" and a new number called "Land of Hopes and Dreams" demonstrating that he can still turn out heart-piercing songs to rival such previous blue-collar sagas of disillusion as "The River".

Though stopping some way short of the exertions of his mid-Eighties stadium shows, Springsteen's stagecraft was impressive throughout, and particularly effective on "Out in the Streets", for which he strode the length of the enormous stage, saluting the audience, before counting in the song and executing a perfect tiptoe-drop while hanging on to his microphone stand. The song went on to become something of a demonstration of his R&B faith, as an extended call-and-response section incorporated elements of both The Impressions - Bruce essaying a creditable impression of Curtis Mayfield's falsetto - and Bobby Womack.

"The Ghost of Tom Joad" also demonstrated the flexibility of his band and material, expanding from a plain acoustic-guitar intro through the addition of double bass, accordion and gentle synthesiser washes, subtle accretions of sound that matched the song's swelling emotions.

The most significant change, however, was reserved for "Born in the USA", the song that marked the peak of Bruce Springsteen's mid-Eighties appeal.

Mortified when Ronald Reagan, among others, misconstrued it as a breast- beating nationalist anthem, he stopped performing the song for a while, but it's now returned to his set revamped as a solo slide-guitar blues number, dark, sullen and introspective. Stripped of its former band bombast, there's no possibility of its being interpreted as anything other than a Depression song; it's an extraordinary feat of de-imperialisation for an artist to inflict on his own work, but it testifies to Springsteen's commitment to his constituency. As he explains in the mock-revivalist- preacher section of "Light of Day", he continues to serve the "ministry of rock'n'roll", to raise the souls of the "downhearted, downcast and downsized", simply because "it's my job".

Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week