Bruce Springsteen at Glastonbury 2009
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band put on a show so good it's quasi-religious ? for nigh on three hours, Pilton becomes the Promised Land.
The Guardian , 2009-06-28
By Dafydd Goff
Who: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Where and when: Pyramid stage, Saturday, 10pm
Dress code: Tonight Bruce is the Man in Black, with more than a dash of Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer. He's also wearing dark blue Levi's and tall boots ("The kind you never want to wear again"). Plus, with his gold earrings, and bandmates Steve Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren sporting black bandanas, there is a hint of the piratical.
Who's watching: More than half the state of Nebraska, judging from the immense, rippling sea of arms and the forest of flags. There are older fans who've been with him from the beginning, stuck with him through his late-80s slump to witness his current rejuvenation. And there are younger fans who first encountered the spirit of his music channelled through bands such as Arcade Fire, the Killers and Gaslight Anthem.
What happened: He's sold out stadiums across the world, played the Superbowl, opened for Obama during his presidential campaign. Now, the Boss faces his toughest challenge yet: to "rock the house", or in this case, the field, at Glastonbury. He does, of course. Springsteen is perhaps the finest practitioner of gig-as-religious-event, a huge communion between performer and audience. His ability to render such vast spaces intimate is unrivalled, effortlessly bridging the gap between band and audience ? sometimes strutting down to the front and making brief attempts at crowd-surfing. It's an orchestrated routine, certainly, but it's hard to deny the Boss's sheer passion and conviction.
The mood tonight is largely jubilant; his anthemic songs suggesting Bruce has finally shaken off his Bush administration hangover. However, it's not all arms-aloft chorusing ? the recession is ever present in his set. During the encore he plays Hard Times, a folk song from 1855, delivered with a sense of defiance.
It's exhilarating to watch Springsteen power through a set that, at nearly three hours long, is way past the curfew. However, unlike NERD on Friday, nobody dares pull the plug ? he's the Boss, for God's sake.
High point: Hard to say, there were so many. But taking requests for Because the Night, being joined by the singer from Gaslight Anthem for No Surrender, and playing American Land, based on an Irish folk song, are especially memorable. The latter if only to see saxophonist Clarence Clemens playing a tin whistle.
Low point: The only time when Springsteen addresses the crowd at length, he adopts the demeanour of an evangelical preacher. It's a self-conscious routine, as if to deflect accusations of sermonising, but it feels a bit hammy and contrived.
In a tweet: The Boss transforms Pilton into the Promised Land with songs of labour and love, faith and freedom.