Who: The E Street Band and Bruce Springsteen Where and when: Saturday at 10 p.m. at the Pyramid stage
Tonight, Bruce is the Man in Black, with a touch of Joe Strummer and Johnny Cash. He also had on tall boots and a pair of dark blue Levi’s (“The kind you never want to wear again”). Additionally, there is a tinge of the pirates with his gold earrings and bandmates Steve Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren wearing black bandanas.
Who is watching: According to the vast, rippling sea of arms and the forest of flags, more than half of Nebraska. Older supporters who have supported him since the beginning remained with him through his late 1980s dip to see him through to the present. There are also younger admirers who become acquainted with his music’s vibe through groups like Arcade Fire, the Killers, and Gaslight Anthem.
What happened: He played the Super Bowl, sold out stadiums all over the world, and served as Obama’s opening act while the latter was running for president. The Boss’s current challenge is to “rock the house,” or in this case, the Glastonbury field. Of course, he does.
One of the best practitioners of the gig-as-religious event, a massive communion between performer and audience, is Springsteen. He seamlessly bridges the distance between band and audience, sometimes marching to the front and making sporadic efforts at crowd-surfing.
His ability to make such large arenas feel intimate is unmatched. Even though it’s a stage act, it’s difficult to discount the Boss’s unwavering enthusiasm and conviction.
Tonight’s atmosphere is generally upbeat, and Bruce’s anthemic tunes give the impression that he has finally recovered from his Bush period hangover. But his set doesn’t just feature arms-aloft chorusing; it also frequently mentions the recession. He performs the 1855 folk song Hard Times during the encore, delivering it with a spirit of defiance.
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Watching Springsteen tear through a concert that is nearly three hours long and way past the curfew is thrilling. He is the Boss, for God’s sake, therefore nobody dares pull the plug as they did with NERD on Friday.
Hard to pick one because there were so many. But performing American Land, a song based on an Irish folk song, taking requests for Because the Night, having the singer from Gaslight Anthem join you for No Surrender, and taking requests for Because the Night stands out. The latter, even just to witness tin whistle player Clarence Clemons perform.
Low point: Springsteen adopts the demeanor of an evangelical preacher for the one and only lengthy address to the crowd. It’s a self-conscious routine meant to stave off charges of preaching, but it comes off as hammy and artificial.
With songs about work and love, faith and freedom, The Boss turns Pilton into the Promised Land, according to a tweet.
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