@ Sunderland Stadium Of Light, June 21 2012

Everyone, whether consciously or not, has a ‘bucket list’. A list of artists that are a must see before you kick the bucket as it were. ‘The Boss’ is likely to feature on most rock fans’ wish list and, if he’s not, after this performance he really should be.

A seemingly evergreen Springsteen and his E Street Band, took to the stadium stage he has become so accustomed to over the years with no support acts, no flashy wristbands and no frills required: testimony to a true blue-collar artist that doesn’t know the meaning of the term ‘slowing down’.

Now 62 years of age and he can still pull a three hour show off with very little in the way of breaks. 

Kicking off with Badlands may have been an apt title for the thousands of Geordies travelling to Wearside for a night out in the rain. But any dubiousness about travelling over the Tyne was blown away within minutes, as the stadium was rocking from start to finish.

Mercifully the weather cleared up and the crowd responded perfectly to the notion of no warm up act. It certainly wasn’t needed. Even with a huge back catalogue of favourites, Bruce crammed in plenty from newest effort Wrecking Ball including a moving rendition of the title track and the Gaelic sounding Death To My Hometown.

It would be near impossible to break down and review every song on display, as the encore alone spanned seven tracks.

The stage, barely standing a few feet above crowd level, played home to some dazzling  performances from a multitude of musicians. Steven van Zandt and Nils Lofgren providing some stupendous guitar solos (Murder Incorporated a particular highlight) but it would be impossible to pick a weak link from any of the 15-plus band members on show. From backing vocals to drums, keyboards to trumpets, every noise pouring into the stadium was purposefully and masterfully executed.

Threatening to steal the limelight, though, was the late ‘Big Man’ Clarence Clemons’ nephew, Jake Clemons. More than adequately filling in on saxophone, it was a treat to hear. He may have some way to go to try and rival his uncle but, boy, did he give it a go.

Even at the wrong side of 60, ‘The Boss’ knows how to dictate the pace of a show. Running into the crowd or playing the harmonica, everything is so deliberately timed it’s hard not to be impressed.

The majority of the crowd can probably still remember 1985’s St James’s Park gig such was the  average age of those in attendance. No painted banners required here – just hastily scrawled track titles on whatever bits of cardboard could be found proved adequate to ensure Brucey played almost everyone’s favourites.

The encore seemed to cram in most of the huge hits and set up a grandstand finish with Thunder Road, Born To Run, Glory Days and Dancing In The Dark all met with rapturous applause and thunderous sing a longs.

Conspicuous by its absence was Born In The USA, much to the chargin of some in attendance. But after a night of gospel, rock ‘n’ roll, preaching blues and a whole load of more genres, it’s difficult to complain about one or two songs not making the cut.

It suddenly becomes a lot clearer how the New Jersey native can play for nearly four hours at a time. Even if he isn’t at the top of your list, no-one will give you better value for money. No-one will mix guitar riffs, sax appeal and harmonicas quite like this.

And no-one can dispute just who is ‘The Boss’ …

Andy Spoors

Picture courtesy of John Burrows at ishootgigs