Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band performing for British Summer Time at Hyde Park London on Thursday 6th July 2023

Review by Kevin Cooper

At 73 years of age, Bruce Springsteen has no intention of slowing down as he performed the first of two shows at London’s Hyde Park on Thursday night, and from the moment the first members of his band walked out on to the stage until the moment he walked off stage three hours later, he had the crowd firmly in his hand.

With organisers moving the start time to 7pm, there was no danger of falling foul of Westminster Council’s strict curfew, and every minute was needed as he launched into No Surrender, the first song from a twenty-eight song set list. There is no doubting that Springsteen shows are the stuff of legendary epic musical marathons and with a whole rock and roll lifetime to cover, he and the E Street Band rattled through the songs with barely a breath between them.

Ghosts and Prove It All Night got the crowd energised before the title track from his 2020 album Letter To You was a wistful, mid tempo reflection of the passing of time, and was the first downbeat moment of the evening as he crooned through the lyrics.

There was a swinging fifteen minute rendition of Kitty’s Back which saw the band excel and with Jake Clemons filling his legendary Uncle Clarence’s formidable boots on saxophone, the E Street Band remained a powerhouse, attacking a punchy Because The Night and party rocker Mary’s Place.

Playing most of the set from centre stage, he regularly engaged with the audience by wandering down to the front row to clasp hands and gift harmonicas and plectrums to a lucky few. Still able to reach the high notes, Springsteen made light work of The River and The Promised Land and in a quieter moment he told the crowd that he had written the very emotional Last Man Standing after the death of George Theiss, who had been the only other surviving member of his first band The Castiles, and then delivered an acoustic version with an outstanding contribution from Barry Danielian on trumpet.

Finishing his main set with Badlands and Thunder Road from his 1975 album, Born To Run, he still had gas in his tank for a final, full tilt, flat out encore and then some. With a euphoric crowd screaming with delight, they were back on stage for Born In The USA and Born To Run which had the crowd fist pumping and singing along, and although Bobby Jean may have been written as a farewell song for Steven Van Zandt after the guitarist briefly left the band in the 80’s, throughout the song the two of them clowned around, clearly showing that they are great friends.

Glory Days was followed by the biggest hit of the night, Dancing In The Dark and after its euphoric climax Springsteen returned to the stage solo and finished with an acoustic rendition of 2020’s I’ll See You In My Dreams.

Looking as though he could have gone on for another three hours, fortunately he had exhausted this appreciative audience, many of whom had joined the queue for tickets for his second show to watch Springsteen and his band do it all over again.