I've read a few reviews of the recent Springsteen shows including our very own CJ's glowing report last December and I don't really have much to add. I find no reason whatsoever for this show not to receive the same 5 star rating, as to criticize The Boss in any way for what he does on stage is gross ingratitude for the most giving and awe-inspiring performer in rock today. "So we're the first to play here huh?" asks the man as he surveys the impressive vista of The Emirates Stadium that spans out before his eyes, "well, we're gonna test its structure tonight." And that was no word of a lie as had the Gunners won anything this season their glorious stadium would not have seen adoration on such a scale as it did last night.
The set list, from what I can remember, wasn't a million miles from the O2 show, drawing at least 50% from albums of the last six years particularly the latest release Magic and The Rising but when the big tunes came they approached like giant waves and more than filled the stadium. The first of these waves came in the form of a much altered Atlantic City. Creeping in with quietly brooding subtlety this version showed the classic in all its bare bones and made every hair stand to attention.
Springsteen generously made countless jaunts into and around the face of the crowd shaking hands with as many people as was humanly possible with the composure of one greeting old friends. On several occasions, as if taken with the euphoria himself, he would fall to his knees with his back to the crowd and use their grabbing hands as a welcome support. During these crowd-outings, demanding to see the hundreds of request banners that the fans held aloft he would take his pick delivering them all to the drummers feet where from there his tremendous E Street accompaniment demonstrated their ability to turn on a dime and play whatever banner their Boss held up.
And play they did. The relentless display of energy and enthusiasm not to mention an inexhaustible back catalogue to choose from wipes every concert I've ever seen off my musical memory map. Before the crowd had time to show its gratitude and as his last note was still ringing out into the void in front of him, Bruce would race to the back of the stage to swap guitars and with a frantic "One, Two, Three, Four" the next card would be dealt. This went on in groups of about 4 or 5 songs for nearly 3 hours and this large-than-life front man showed no sign of tiring.
But the best was saved for last as an extended rendition of Badlands dovetailed unbelievably into back-to-back classics in the form of Thunder Road, Born To Run and Glory Days. It was like I was choosing the set list in my head and they were obeying me like some weird Jedi mind trick. There was many a mic-off with the impressive Miami Steve whose six-string prowess was also matched by his vocal abilities. Clarence Clemon's saxophone was tremendous and the whirling dervish antics of guitarist Nils Lofgren in the closing moments of Because The Night was something to behold. Ending with American Land from The Seeger Sessions the whole ensemble came to the front for a finale that threatened never to finish. It would be impossible for anyone with a heart still beating not to leave a Springsteen show physically exhausted but mentally buoyant from this unrivaled outpouring of energy, talent, passion and the long lost art of rock showmanship. There's no tricks, no gimmicks and no bullshit here - just a man playing like his life depended on it and judging by the smile that frequently adorned his face he's doing it as much for himself as he is for the thousands of outstretched arms before him.