Two days before seeing Bruce Springsteen at Wembley I declared to a fellow fan “If they open with Land of Hope and Dreams, I will cry”.
So when the first few notes blasted out across Wembley Stadium on Saturday, I knew I was in for one of the most spectacular concerts I would ever see.
But the fun began long before that. I’ve been restless for months now thinking about this first date of my Springsteen Season. Since suffering the Bruce Blues last year I’ve been waiting for this moment, watching set lists from other shows as they’ve taken place across Europe, impatiently waiting for my turn to come.
On the Friday night I met up with some fellow Springsteen fans, people with a passion and commitment like my own, who have traveled from across the world to various live dates. When other people say I’m crazy spending so much time, money and energy on one band, it’s good to know that there’s fellow ‘Bruce Buds’ understand that it’s a non-negotiable commitment. You just make it work.
The next day I headed down to Wembley with a spring in my step and a knot in my stomach in anticipation of the concert ahead.
We stood in the sun, wind and rain (mainly wind and rain to be honest) and waited. The pit queue was tedious at times, cold, claustrophobic, but made manageable by the people I met. That’s the thing about Bruce’s music – regardless of age, language or other interests, you still all speak the same language.
I went through my normal pit queue routine – no food or drink, although there was the odd biscuit. I even avoided a ‘divine burger’ in fear it would make be too thirsty, but I was informed by other fans that they were surprisingly good.
After a long slog of waiting, we were let into the stadium, a scrum and a scramble, but we just about managed to secure a good spot on the second row on the left hand side. The stadium filled and anticipation grew. I chatted with other burger loving fans while we waited for the band to appear.
I was tired, achy and thirsty, but when the band strode out and opened with Land Of Hope And Dreams, I thought to myself how the long wait is always worth it. The relief at being back in Springsteen Season.
It’s strange that you can just about narrow down your ‘wish list’ for a concert to five songs, then hear none of them performed, but it will still be one of the best setlists you’ll see. Radio Nowhere blasting out to a stadium of 71,000 before several sign requests were scooped up by Bruce (of course in the excitement of the morning I’d forgotten mine, potentially losing any chance of hearing Talk To Me, ever). Rosalita was performed seamlessly (when I’d last seen the band in April 2012 Jake had come in too early – much to Bruce’s amusement) and our Danish neighbours for the evening had their wish granted with This Hard Land.
Lost In The Flood silenced the entire stadium and gave me shivers down my spine in a way no other live performance ever has.
Next for something even more special – Darkness on The Edge of Town in full, an album that Springsteen says defines the band. Emotions were high as the crowd took it all in, with a beautiful Racing In The Street and a Prove It All Night which blew me away.
Later was one of the liveliest versions of Shackled and Drawn I’ve seen, the band lined up across the front of the stage, side stepping with a coolness that only the E Street Band could pull off (although I will of course try).
I then did my hip in dancing too enthusiastically to Pay Me My Money Down. I’m pretty sure there were a fair few others who did the same.
I was then overwhelmed by the kindness of the Danish family standing in front of me, three sons and their dad from the Carlsberg factory, who let me have their spot on the barrier for the rest of the encore, allowing me an uninterrupted view of Born To Run, Bobby Jean, Dancing In The Dark, Tenth Avenue Freeze Out and Twist and Shout (the whole song too).
The stunning closing with Thunder Road reminded me that Bruce can grab all the signs he likes, down beer in the crowd, slide across the stage or jump on pianos, but sometimes all he ever needs is a harmonica and an acoustic guitar.
After it ended the same Danes shook our hands and thanked us for a great concert. It was their final date of the tour and I recognised the all too familiar look on their faces as they acknowledged it was their last concert, with a Springsteen-less summer looming ahead. I felt their pain, even more so knowing I’d be suffering the same reality in six weeks. I won’t forget their kind gesture for a long time.
Until then, I’ve got some incredible memories and I’m heaving a huge sigh of relief that there’s plenty more to come. Coventry, Rome, Hard Rocking Calling in London, Belfast and Leeds – Burgers and Bruce is touring for a little while longer yet.
For a more professional, although burgerless, take on Springsteen at Wembley, check out The Bruce Springsteen website, The Guardian review, The Telegraph or Backstreets.