Bruce Springsteen, O2 Arena, London

O2 Arena, London

The following correction was printed in the Guardian's Corrections and clarifications column, Friday December 21 2007

Danny Federici was not on stage with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the O2 Arena in London this week, as we said in the article below. Federici is having treatment for melanoma and his place was taken by Charlie Giordano. This has been corrected.

Many years ago, in the first flush of his early fame, Bruce Springsteen pledged never to play the arenas that were the playground of the gods of rock.

That promise eventually went up in smoke, an inevitable casualty of his worldwide success, and last night he arrived in London to try on the latest, most luxurious of megadomes for size.

The O2 Arena has been getting some good publicity from those impressed by its padded seats and polite attendants. But it remains about as far away as you can get from the clubs on the New Jersey shore where the young Springsteen and his E Street Band cut their teeth. This is a place where there are separate entrances for the VIP Club Lounge, Suite Holders and a Fast Track, presumably reserved for the hedge fund managers making the trip from Canary Wharf.

The rest of the 20,000 or so present last night were made to endure lengthy queues for admission, as well as for the lavatories. How much simpler life seemed when Springsteen arrived in London for the first time in 1975 and blew the roof off Hammersmith Odeon, the perfect venue for his music.

But all it took last night was a single shout of "C'mon, Steve!" and the giant white whale beached on the Greenwich peninsula was instantly shrunk to manageable proportions. As the introductory sound of a fairground calliope died away and Springsteen uttered that call to arms in the direction of Miami Steve Van Zandt, his lieutenant, the killer guitar riff of the opening track from his new album seemed to dispel all anxieties.

With last year's Seeger Sessions concerts, which grew out of an album of folk songs performed with an ad hoc band of mandolinists, violinists and trombonists, Springsteen appeared to be surprising himself as well as his audiences with the vigour of music that evoked skiffle and New Orleans jazz. To judge by last night's concert that experience has helped to refresh his entire approach.

Radio Nowhere, the opener, was followed in a headlong rush by No Surrender and The Night, the adrenaline already flowing through the hall as the band's signature sounds: Max Weinberg's imperious drumming, Roy Bittan's stately piano arpeggios, Charlie Giordano's heart-piercing Hammond organ and Clarence Clemons's warm saxophone, appeared.

The best of the new songs continued to be juxtaposed with old favourites, never more effectively than when Racing in the Street, from 1978, preceded Devil's Arcade, his finest in several years. Both are haunted requiems for different kinds of innocence: the former mourns the end of a carefree America; the latter catches a profound sadness at large in a world reshaped by George Bush.

It would have been interesting to know what the Fast Trackers made of the two short speeches in which Springsteen expressed his disgust at "rendition wiretapping and no habeas corpus - all changes that were thought impossible".

Those sentiments seemed entirely of a piece with songs such as The Promised Land, Badlands and Long Walk Home, songs of faith and freedom.


Richard Williams

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Bruce Springsteen, Manchester Arena

Manchester Arena

Dave Simpson

08, May, 2006 @10:26 AM

Bruce Springsteen, Emirates Stadium, London

, Emirates Stadium, London

Ian Gittins

01, Jun, 2008 @11:03 PM

Article image
CD: Bruce Springsteen, Magic


Richard Williams

27, Sep, 2007 @11:09 PM

Bruce Springsteen, Royal Albert Hall, London

Royal Albert Hall, London

Caroline Sullivan

30, May, 2005 @10:58 PM

Article image
In praise of … Bruce Springsteen | Editorial

Editorial: His appeal is bound up in his ability to mesh political lyrics with mass appeal melodies


21, Oct, 2012 @11:23 PM

Bruce Springsteen, Crystal Palace Athletics Ground, London

Crystal Palace Athletics Ground, London

Alexis Petridis

28, May, 2003 @1:20 PM

Article image
Bruce Springsteen, Wembley Arena, London

Wembley Arena, London

Adam Sweeting

29, Oct, 2002 @11:43 AM

Article image
CD: Bruce Springsteen, The Essential

(disc 3) 2 stars (1 and 2) (Columbia)

Adam Sweeting

28, Nov, 2003 @2:21 AM

Article image
Infomania: Bruce Springsteen

Fact-checking the famous

Johnny Dee

03, Mar, 2012 @12:05 AM

Article image
Bruce Springsteen: High Hopes – review
A contrast to 2012's Wrecking Ball, Springsteen's 18th studio album is a ragbag collection of old material and covers, but lovingly assembled, finds Ian Gittins

Ian Gittins

09, Jan, 2014 @9:45 PM