Bruce Springsteen settles an old score in Hyde Park

Bruce Springsteen plays BST Hyde Park on 6 July 2022

Springsteen barely paused for breath in his three-hour, 28-song set

When Bruce Springsteen last played in Hyde Park, he overshot the curfew and had the power cut as he stood on stage with Paul McCartney playing a brace of Beatles covers.

It didn’t go down well.

Springsteen’s long-time guitarist Steve Van Zandt tweeted that he was “pissed” and asked “when did England become a police state?”; while then-London Mayor Boris Johnson criticised the move as “an excessively efficacious decision”.

A few days later, Springsteen took to the stage in Dublin, flipped a giant electric switch and announced: “Before we were so rudely interrupted…” before picking up where he left off, literally, with the final minute of Twist And Shout.

On Thursday night, he returned to Hyde Park – playing a different festival (BST), organised by a different promoter – and laid finally the ghost to rest.

He took to the stage early, just after 19:00 BST, and kept playing for three solid hours.

But 15 minutes before the end of the show, he started tapping his watch.

“I think it’s time to go home,” he told Van Zandt.

“I’m telling you, if we don’t go, they’re going to pull the plug on us again.”

Then, with a theatrical shrug, he screamed “stuff ’em” (or, to be completely accurate, a more explicit version of that phrase) and launched back into a blistering chorus of Glory Days.

Bruce Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt

Springsteen has been playing with the E Street Band for 50 years

Apart from that brief jibe, it was pretty much business as usual for Springsteen and the E Street Band. Not that they ever rest on their laurels. In fact, no living performer works harder than Springsteen to bridge the gap between the stage and the audience.

He opened the set with No Surrender and Ghosts, two songs that testify to the power of rock and roll, as though he was summoning the spirits of live music.

And from the off, he was untethered from the stage, running up and down the crowd barriers to pose for selfies, clasp people’s hands, hand out plectrums and read their signs. More than once, he turned around to watch the E Street Band (now celebrating their 50th anniversary) from the front, apparently as big a fan as the rest of us.

When he’s on the stage, all the big rock star moves come out: He thrusts his guitar into the sky, or stands legs askance punching the air, all while wearing jeans tighter than cling film.

Later, he sets up guitar duels with Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren, and rips open his shirt as he plays Dancing In The Dark. It would be clichéd if he didn’t deliver every moment with full-on, no-holds-barred passion.

“London is there anyone alive out there tonight?” he hollers, in a well-worn moment of stage patter. “‘Cos if you’re alive, then I’m alive. And that’s what we came here for.”

For the first hour and a half, the music never stops. As soon as Springsteen strikes the last chord of The Promised Land or Out In The Street, there’s a 1-2-3-4 and he powers into the next song.

There are wonderful, extended jams on Mary’s Place and Kitty’s Back, where the band, the horn section and the E Street Choir, get to show off their considerable might; and rousing singalongs to The River and Because The Night – a song Springsteen gave to Patti Smith in 1977 but has latterly reclaimed as his own.

The audience at BST Hyde Park

A sold-out crowd of 65,000 fans (including Roger Federer, Billy Joel, Bon Jovi and Peter Gabriel) chanted “Bruuuuuce” between every song

The 28-song set is largely culled from Springsteen’s biggest albums – Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town and Born in the USA – but while he focuses on the songs about buckling your seatbelt, turning up the radio and chasing the American dream, there’s a second, more sombre thread to the show.

Introducing Last Man Standing, he talks about forming his first band The Castiles, in the 1960s and how, 50 years later, he found himself at the deathbed of his guitarist George Theiss.

“He only had a few days left to live,” Springsteen recalled, as the crowd listened in hushed silence. “And I realised that his passing would leave me as the last living member of that band of guys that got together in that house so many years ago.

“Death brings a certain clarity of thought and of purpose and of meaning,” he continued. “Death’s final and lasting gift to all of us is an expanded vision of this life. Of how important it is to seize the day, whenever you can.”

He then dedicates the song Last Man Standing, from his 2020 album Letter To You, to George, playing alone on stage without the rest of his band.

Jake Clemons and Bruce Springsteen

The star was joined on stage by Jake Clemons, the son of original E Street Band star Clarence Clemons, who died in 2011

Memories like those permeate the show. He covers The Commodores’ Nightshift, a tribute to the late soul stars Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson, and flashes up pictures of departed E Street Band members Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons during Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.

And he ends the show alone again, strapping on an acoustic guitar to play I’ll See You In My Dreams, another song inspired by the loss of a friend, his voice almost a whisper as he conducts the crowd in the final chorus: “For death is not the end / And I’ll see you in my dreams.”

It’s a touching moment. A reminder of the transience of time, and the importance of keeping loved ones close.

With Springsteen about to turn 74, there’s a nagging feeling this could be the last chance to see Springsteen in full force.

And yet, he shows no signs of stopping… or even ageing. There are artists half his age who couldn’t pull off a show of this length and energy. We should savour every moment.


  • No Surrender

  • Ghosts

  • Prove It All Night

  • Letter To You

  • The Promised Land

  • Out in the Street

  • Darlington County

  • Working on the Highway

  • Kitty’s Back

  • Nightshift

  • Mary’s Place

  • My Hometown

  • The River

  • Last Man Standing

  • Backstreets

  • Because The Night

  • She’s The One

  • Wrecking Ball

  • The Rising

  • Badlands

  • Thunder Road


Bruce Springsteen plays a second night at the BST Hyde Park festival on Saturday, 8 July.

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