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Concert Review by Nick Morgan

Hyde Park, London
June 28th 2009

I know, Serge that like me, you abhor excess. The gross and grotesque over- consumption that seems to signal, even in times of recession, twenty-first century society. A “we want more” world, when quantity so often seems to be preferred over quality, where responsibility is abrogated in favour of thoughtless over-indulgence, with the consequences of obesity, ill-health and mental weakness.


And of course it’s always someone else’s fault ; accountability kept firmly at arm’s length by the perpetrators as they feed with frenzy at the trough of intemperance. But just once in a while, the architect of this gluttonous greed is so clearly apparent that culpability cannot be denied. Those heartless villains whose only thought is to fuel this culture of surfeit. Which is where Bruce Springsteen comes in. Who in their right mind needs a three hour concert? In case you don’t know, Bruce has come hot foot to Hyde Park Calling in London from Glastonbury, where his barnstorming Saturday night headline (only about two and a half hours) blew a hole in the curfew, earning the disapproval of the local authorities and a fine for the organisers.
Don’t get me wrong. This is a brilliant showboating performance, from the moment that the Boss and his indefatigable E Street Band take to the stage and break into the opening chords of ‘London’s calling’ (they opened Glastonbury with Joe Strummer’s ‘Coma girl’). If that wasn’t enough to win the hearts of the crowd (many of whom were showing predictable signs of a surfeit of beer by this time) it was followed by several quick jaunts from the stage to the crowd. Requests were collected and several played, and at one point, Springsteen stretched his arm as far as he could to hold his microphone to the lips of a young child held aloft by his father, who promptly sang a word-perfect chorus for the Boss. And of course, despite his brash braggadocio (displayed at its worst by an ill-judged tub-thumping appeal to the ‘power of love’) , he also displayed vulnerability, falling prone on the steps on one of his return journeys to the stage: “I’m sixty, man, get me a fucking elevator”. Quite where Mr Springsteen gets his energy from I don’t know, but the remarkable thing is that it was matched to every last degree by his band. Of course, long-time collaborators ‘Little’ Steven Van Zandt and Nils Logfren are to the fore; Logfren’s guitar playing, which is often overlooked, was particularly good. But the outstanding performance of the night, after the Boss himself, probably came from drummer Max Weinberg. He hardly stopped playing for the whole set, drumming out of one song and, as Springsteen changed guitar with a “One two three four”, drummed into the next.
So there’s not much wrong with the performance, it’s just too long. It’s like having those extra two or three drinks that you don’t need, or another bowl of chips or an extra portion of chocolate dessert. You know you don’t need it, you know you don’t want it, and as you do have more you lose the sense of appreciation and enjoyment of what went before.
Certainly with Bruce one of the problems is, not least because of the way the songs run into each other, that after a while you can easily get the sense that the songs all sound pretty much the same, and lose the impact they might have had. I’m sure the Bruce-addicted gourmands probably relished every one of the one hundred and eighty minutes. But we weren’t alone amongst the gourmets who chose to leave before the Boss crashed into his encore of Rosalita, Hard Times, Jungleland, American Land, Glory Days and Dancing In The Dark. It’s just too much, Bruce. It’s not responsible. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Listen: Bruce Springsteen on good old MySpace

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