Review: Springsteen at his most exuberant

Bruce Springsteen at Hampden Park - stage scene''CAmera phone pic for web review
Bruce Springsteen at Hampden Park - stage scene''CAmera phone pic for web review
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Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

Hampden Park

*****

He asked who was in the house tonight.

The house was Hampden, the guests some 60,000 in number, and yet Springsteen turned this giant, charmless cavern into the most intimate, all-inclusive of settings thanks to the most exuberant performance I have ever seen him give.

Three hours and 25 minutes of solid rock ‘n’ roll - a set almost flawless in song choice, and packed with so many highlights even the most ardent Springsteen-phile would be hard picked to choose just one.

On a glorious summer’s night, he took off on a journey through his career which stopped off at just about every single album he’s ever made.

It may officially have been the ‘Wrecking Ball’ tour, but this gig drew on every facet of his long career from Asbury Park onward, and it was thrilling, uplifting and, at times, jaw-dropping. It was something extra special.

There was the thrill of hearing tracks from ‘way back - ‘The Ties That Bind’ a song I last heard him perform in the Playhouse, Edinburgh, in ‘81, an ultra rare rendition of the nigh-on 40-year old ‘E street Shuffle’ and a sparkling ‘Spirit In the Night’ - even in place of some of his greatest numbers such as ‘Racing In The Street; which didn’t get an airing.

Re-energised by an expanded E Street Band, Springsteen delved into the crowd time after time to collect cardboard signs bearing song requests and then chose one at random, giving his band a few seconds to get ready to become a human jukebox.

And then he reduced Hampden to virtual silence, and some tears, in tribute to the Big Man.

Two years to the day Clarence Clemons died, his presence was stronger than ever as Springsteen used ‘My City In Ruins’ to introduce his band one by one and then repeatedly call out ‘’is there anyone missing tonight?’’ Without ever mentioning his name. He didn’t need to.

The Big Man remains a towering part of an E Street Band that has been transformed and totally revived by the arrival of backing singers and a horns section which have added boundless fun to a show that always bristled with energy and power - witness Springsteen and Little Steven mugging for the camera, the band winding up the boss, and the shared utter joy of the music they played that transmitted in waves from the stage to the crowd and back again.

This was a truly mesmerising, compelling, astonishing, magnificent show; a 30-song set that left you breathless.

And even then he wasn’t done, returning for an encore of ‘Twist And Shout’ before stretching Lulu’s ‘Shout’ to a near 12-minute epic where every ‘‘one last time’’ was followed by another and another. The camera which caught the wry smile on the face of guitarist Nils Lofgren said it all - even he had no idea when this was gonna end. I suspect neither did Springsteen who, at the age of 63, performs with the energy levels of a man half his age.

When it did, he shook hands with every band member as they left the stage, went to depart, paused, strapped on his battered acoustic guitar for a final farewell - an acoustic, almost acapella ‘Thunder Road’ to complete a truly stunning set.

Exuberant and exhilarating.

A truly remarkable gig.