You know that one band you love because you grew up listening to them? That’s Bruce Springsteen for me. My parents have always listened to them and even went to his only concert in East Germany in 1988 with 300,000 people when I was just two (now you know how old I am, big deal) – officially making them the coolest parents for eternity in my book. That’s three hundred thousand people – insanity! I’d kill to be part of a gig like that today. Before this year’s tour I had seen Bruce three times (I think) – once in Wembley in 2013, which ended up being the topic for my dissertation, earning me a distinction for Master’s. “Do what you love” they say.
It’s 12pm noon and we are ready to queue at Wembley Stadium. To no surprise we are not the first. Besides the Golden Circle-pit-roll call crew, there’s some more fans queuing already. We park our butts on the south ramp in the middle of the summer sun above Wembley. It’s a hot day, it’ll be a long one. But: anything for Bruce!
Doors open at 4pm and show is set to start at 6pm. No support. No support needed. We get a pretty good spot, three rows behind the pit. By 6.30pm Wembley Stadium is filled with roughly 75,000 people. Let’s see if the acoustics are better than last time. Bruce walks on stage without the E Street Band. Tonight’s opener: Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street? with Bruce on the piano in front of a sold out Wembley Stadium. Very few can accomplish what he has done: total silence in a major stadium and all we can hear is his voice and the piano.
Next up the E Street Band join the stage. A band without whom Springsteen would only be half as much fun, let’s all be honest here. The set list is packed full of old and new songs, one from every album almost. Some sweet rarities like Seeds, Johnny 99 or American Skin. As the first notes to Hungry Heart echo through Wembley’s speakers we all know what to do. The entire stadium sings the first verse – no help needed from The Boss.
As per usual, Bruce picks up a few sign requests. Among one of them is I’ll Work For Your Love – one of my all time favorites and one, according to Bruce, which doesn’t often get requested. But tonight there’s three or four signs for this song. Wembley, I love you. One of the best things that can happen to you at a Springsteen show is the man picking a song he either hasn’t played live often or not in a long time – hence needs to figure out the chords, words and tune. It’s never not funny, cute and totally heart warming. Bruce picks up his guitar, tries to figure out the right tuning and realizes on the first line of the song that it’s too low. “This is going to be perfect” he says after finding the right tune and requesting a new harmonica. “Man this is gonna be good, this is gonna be worth all that time.” – and boy it was.
Patti Scialfa (Bruce’s wife) was part of the gang for this show as well. A sign requested Tougher Than The Rest – the most beautiful and honest love song ever written if you ask me. Bruce noted that the signs aren’t quite as creative as they used to be, but this one was (it had sparklign fairy lights after all): “This is a good sign!”. The chords kick off and half way through Patti joins Bruce on the mic after a very adorable motion from The Boss. watching them perform this songs gives you all the feels and all the relationship goals. If you ever date a guy who looks at you the way Bruce looks at Patti – marry him!
Jungleland and Tenth Avenue Freezeout also made the list much to my excitement. A tribute to the late Clarence Clemons is always heart-wrenching and heart-warming at the same time. Watching Jake play the sax and fill those big big shoes in the E Street Band is a proud moment for all E Street fans. Also not to be missed of the set list are Born To Run and Dancing In The Dark with the compulsory fan dance. This time: a dude dressed as Courtney Cox with a sign that read something along the lines of “would you dance with a bearded Courtney Cox?”. Brilliant!
To finish off what was an epic show at London’s home of football Bruce plays Thunder Road – solo with just his guitar, finish as he started. If you ask me, Thunder Road live acoustic in a stadium is a religious experience. If this doesn’t make your heart jump and give you goosebumps you are dead inside. Words cannot describe the sheer beauty of this song sang by Bruce and backing vocals by a loud tens-of-thousands crowd echoing off walls and roof of Wembley Stadium.
One thing is for sure, among other things, Springsteen has one of the closest knit fan bases there is. These guys look out for each other, these guys camp together, roll call together, buy tickets together – generally share every part of the experience together. It’s an older generation Frank Turner Army. It’s family.
It’s a healing experience. Whether you go to 20 gigs a year or this is your only one for 2016, whether it is your first or 25th Bruce Springsteen concert – the experience is the same. You feel whole, healed, happy. It’s free therapy, if you want. It makes you forget about your worries for a day, but not just that it leaves you with a feeling of happiness that you can’t get from anything else. And yet, knowing that this part is now over, leaves a gaping hole in your heart, needing, wanting more Springsteen live. And wanting it now. And forever.
See you further on up the road, Bruce!