Boss bests Brummies – Springsteen at Villa Park


From Astbury Park to Villa Park’s been a 50 year journey for veteran rocker, Bruce Springsteen, but as a lively pensioner remarked to me after the gig “you wouldn’t think he’s 73”. Like Jagger, Springsteen is not slowing down.

There are few to match him,;- to me – only Nick Cave.  Cave is exploring a different relationship with his audience. Springsteen’s here for fun and for memories, Cave explores grief. To me , they are the two top rock and roll singers playing today

In a three and a half hour set, the Boss reprised material from 1973’s The E Street Shuffle to the soulful Nightshift recently released and  the set’s only cover.

Highlights included a big band version of Kitty’s Back , a searing Because the Night and a triumphal “Mary’s Place –  in which his question “how can you be broken hearted?” was answered by a packed house. Of course you couldn’t be anything but 100% with the boss.

A few of the old standards, sounded a little jaded, Born in the USA has not worn well and Back Streets was a little too much an elegy for early days. But for the most part, the show stayed the right side of mawkishness. buoyed by the band, now numbering twenty or so – including a large horn section.

The River was played straight, it dominated the first half of the show in tone and style and was delivered word perfectly by most of the 50,000 in the stadium.

The heart of the show is the twinning of “Wrecking Ball” and “the Rising” which along with “She’s the One” cranked up the energy for the greats that follow. Badlands, Born to Run and Thunder Road were as awesome as I’ve seen them played.

Springsteen ended the show with a solo number , (as did Gretchen Peters at her farewell gig earlier in May).  There is a special feeling for American vets who have been supported over careers by British fans and the “human touch” came out in “I’ll see you in my Dreams”.

The outstanding feature of the evening was the sustained energy. Getting (mostly) pensioners to stand for 3+ hours and keep them hooked takes “sustainability”, Bruce should be added to your portfolio now – as he roars as he leaves – this show is Viagratic!

The advantages of a balmy night and a beautiful day may have seen a few lucky punters taking in a double helping of Bazball and Brooce. If they did, then they can put their feet up – it isn’t going to get much better for them than Friday 16th September.

Villa Park is great once you get inside but was showing teething trouble hosting this event in the evening. We were late in and even later out and many  had to walk back the 3 miles to the City Centre, rather than stand for more hours for busses, the catering simply wasn’t up to the quality of the show.

But who cares, this was one of those Springsteen nights we’ve come to expect but half expect never to see again.

We made the trip up from London, not least to get some Brummy joy. I’m seeing the boss again early next month and it will be interesting to see if he can raise the same participation in Hyde Park,

Though we got back to London closer to morning than midnight, I doubt we will see a better set. If you can get a Springsteen ticket, buy now – the boss is still at his peak.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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