LONDON (Reuters) – Bruce Springsteen treated his fans to a complete performance of “Born in the USA”, the 1984 album which shot him to global superstardom, as the centerpiece of a three-hour show in London on Sunday night.
The Boss and his E Street Band played the 12 songs in the same order as the original, kicking off with the Vietnam veteran’s lament of the title track and serving up rollicking versions of “Glory Days”, “No Surrender,” and other favorites.
The enormous success of “Born in the USA” raised Springsteen’s popularity and fortune when it was released, selling 30 million copies worldwide and making him one of the biggest acts of the era.
It also has a special place in Springsteen lore – when then U.S. President Ronald Reagan praised the title song as a patriotic anthem, he earned a public rebuke from Springsteen, who said he had misunderstood its message.
Three decades on, it still delighted the crowd at the Hard Rock Calling festival at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London, close to the venues of last year’s Olympic Games.
Nils Lofgren’s fiery guitar solo on “Cover Me” was a highlight of the set. For “Dancing in the Dark” – still a regular feature in his concerts – he brought out his mother Adele as his dancing partner.
Sunday’s show featured crowd-pleasers such as “Badlands” and “Born to Run” when the grey-clad Springsteen worked the crowd with an energy that belied his years.
He also played three songs from “Nebraska”, the mournful acoustic album which confounded fans when it was released in 1982. The E Street Horns changed the mood, turning the murder ballad “Johnny 99” into a New Orleans-style party.
The numbers from Springsteen’s latest album “Wrecking Ball” showed he is still writing great songs and bringing in a range of influences from Gospel to Irish jigs.
The show’s most poignant moment was the epic “Jungleland” from “Born to Run”. Springsteen sang the quieter passages to a hushed crowd and Jake Clemons, the nephew and replacement for the late E Street Band stalwart Clarence Clemons, raised the roof with an extended saxophone solo that would have made his uncle proud.
And nobody pulled the plug this time. At last year’s Hard Rock Calling, which took place in Hyde Park, the power was switched off by curfew-minded staff just as he and former Beatle Paul McCartney launched into “Twist and Shout”.
Now aged 63, Springsteen is in fine fettle. His reputation stands as arguably rock’s greatest performer and he still fills stadiums, arenas and parks to deliver his marathon shows.
He and the E Street Band are now into the second year of the “Wrecking Ball” tour, which has seen him go back and forth between Europe and North America and which ends in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on September 21.