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BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN
O2 Arena, London, 19 December 2007

Over 30 years of success has earned Bruce Springsteen the right to follow his instincts and do as he pleases. In recent years he has toured the introspective Devils and Dust release by himself, then dipped into traditional American folk music for the Seeger sessions project, but for my own more mainstream tastes, nothing beats him rocking out with the E Street band and a first trip to the O2 Arena to see them do the solitary date of a European tour was something I couldn't resist.

Radio Nowhere was an opening declaration of intent, just as on the excellent Magic album, with a huge cheer the moment Clarence Clemons stepped forward to deliver his first sax solo. Throughout the set numbers from Magic- nine in all- nestled comfortably along a varied selection of older songs- from the majesty of Promised Land and Racing in the Street, to the odd surprise such as Because the Night with a great extended solo from Nils Lofgren, to a generous selection from The Rising, including Lonesome Day with Suzie Tyrell's fiddling giving it a country feel and Waiting on a Sunny Day.

This all-American legend also laid into the Bush Administration, explaining that the song Magic was not about magic but deceit, but the politics was never allowed to dominate the sheer joie de vivre and warm heartedness of the E Street band's rich sound and ensemble playing. A stirring The Rising and Last to Die and Long Walk Home, two of the more anthemic tracks from Magic, warmed the crowd up until they reached fever pitch during Badlands- with the band giving everything and Bruce's face contorted with emotion and energy, an abiding memory of the gig was the crowd singing the melody line long after the band had left the stage.

The encores did not disappoint either with Girls in their Summer Clothes and Jungleland leading into Born to Run, which despite having played thousands of times before, Bruce and the band managed to invest with a real hunger and passion and feed off the audience's ecstatic reaction. Dancing in the Dark sounded rejuvenated with the fiddle again prominent, and This American Land from the Seeger sessions had all 20,000 singing along to lyrics helpfully displayed on the video screens. Being Christmas, they also had to don Santa hats and send the crowd on their way with Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

OK, so there was no Thunder Road or The River and they played a 'mere' 2 hours, but the full Springsteen experience is still one of the ultimate rock n roll highs and not to be missed on his stadium tour next summer.

Review by Andy Nathan


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