Bruce Springsteen, Hyde Park, review: At 73, The Boss’s energy still never lets up

It’s hard to say what was better: the songs, Bruce himself or the absolutely impeccable vibe of the audience

From the moment the first members of his band walked out to the moment Bruce Springsteen wandered off stage three hours later, he had the Hyde Park crowd in the palm of his hand. Not a second of the set was wasted: by the time he left we all wanted more.

It was impossible not to grin almost all the way through. It’s hard to say what was better: the songs, Bruce himself or simply the absolutely impeccable vibe of an audience who were all completely thrilled to be there with him. The band rattled through songs with barely a breath between them, Springsteen himself giving every syllable his all.

He played most of the set from centre stage but frequently wandered down to the front row to clasp hands with audience members and gift harmonicas and plectrums to a lucky few: his smile was so wide when he spent time with the crowd, often turning to face his band, that you got the impression that Bruce Springsteen would love to attend a Bruce Springsteen show.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 06: Bruce Springsteen (L) and Steven Van Zandt of the E Street Band perform at BST Hyde Park Festival 2023 at Hyde Park on July 06, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Matthew Baker/Getty Images)
Springsteen with a piratical Steve Van Zandt of The E Street Band (Photo: Matthew Baker/Getty)

He very obviously adores playing with The E Street Band, who were dressed like a bunch of dads going out for a meal on holiday. His energy didn’t let up – every syllable he sang felt real and true, his one eyebrow raised as he hit gravelly low notes and angelic high ones. This is a man who loves what he does. Every so often he would call out to specific band members to join in, and none more so than Steve Van Zandt, dressed in his piratical best.

It was heartwarming to see two men express their friendship so affectionately and openly, and that same energy carried out into the crowd, where men reached out to their hero like teenage girls. At one point, someone stuck a red trilby on his head and he gamely wore it, cocked cheekily, and incorporated it into “Darlington County” before popping it back on someone’s head.

Springsteen doesn’t offer his audience much chat and the only time he spent talking directly to us was during the introduction to “Last Man Standing”, as he told the story of his first ever band and the fact that he is now the only surviving member. Though I know he has told this story many times over on this tour, it felt new and real, his emotions as sharp and cutting as the day he wrote the song.

Every note of this set felt heartfelt. I believe Bruce Springsteen when he relives these songs night after night: he always means it. It’s why tears flowed during “My Hometown” and “The River”, nestled mid-set but as affecting as if they were the last song you heard alive.

The first two hours – what an odd thing to say about a show – were riveting even if you weren’t as familiar with the songs as the diehards who grew up with Springsteen in the Seventies and beyond. But the euphoria peaked in the final third when we were battered with “Born In The USA”, “Born To Run”, “Glory Days” and “Dancing In The Dark” in quick succession. There were tears, hugs, grins, fists in the air and dancing as the sun faded behind the crowd.

This was a master at work, but it didn’t feel like work. It felt as much as a treat for Bruce Springsteen and his band as it was for the hordes in Hyde Park. Three hours is a long time but it passed in a flash: I would do it all again tonight.

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