Born to run and run

The Telegraph, 2003-05-27, by: David Cheal
David Cheal reviews Bruce Springsteen at the Crystal Palace National Sports Stadium
There are good gigs, there are great gigs, and there are Bruce Springsteen gigs. Whenever I witness one of Bruce's live appearances, everything else I've ever seen seems like the work of rank amateurs; all other shows pale into insignificance compared with the epic, dramatic, operatic performances of this extraordinary man.
The boss: Springsteen

In the first of two outdoor shows in south London, as always, he gave everything he had, leading his fantastic E Street Band on a three-hour voyage through joy, pain, fun and sheer exuberance. Most bands will hold back a bit during the show and then pull out the stops and give something special during the encore section; for Bruce, every song is like an encore.

And it's worth taking a moment to celebrate the extraordinary sound that he and his band create. They make it look so effortless, swaggering around the stage with their bandanas and big sideburns, wizened, grizzled and pockmarked (except for Bruce's backing vocalist, guitarist and wife Patti Scialfa, of course), but they make a beautiful noise - rich, warm, utterly cohesive and so solid you almost feel you can reach out and touch it. I'm sure there are many musicians around who are technically superior to this lot, but, when it comes to ensemble playing, to creating a whole that's greater than the sum of its parts, these guys are the best.

So what sticks in the memory from this night, apart from the whole darned thing? Well, a lot of the new material, in fact, especially the gloriously uplifting Waitin' on a Sunny Day, the chilling Into the Fire, and an effervescent Mary's Place, which seems to have replaced Glory Days as Bruce's big singalong moment. Of the old tunes, I'd pick out a remorselessly passionate My Love Will Not Let You Down, the incomparably romantic Thunder Road, a sweeping, swooping Jungleland and, of course (and I think I'm running out of big adjectives here), a heroic Born to Run, which, though he must have performed it thousands of times, was sung and played with utter conviction.

And that, I guess, is the big secret behind Bruce's enduring appeal: he doesn't look as though he means every word he's singing and every note he's playing - he really does mean every word he's singing and every note he's playing.

It comes directly from his heart, and he has the biggest, openest, burstingest heart in rock music.

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2003-05-26 Crystal Palace National Sports Arena, London, England