Hard Rock Calling: Born to over-run – Bruce Springsteen breaks curfew with historic marathon set
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band need little introduction and are already a regular fixture of the fledgling Hard Rock Calling weekender festival, having headlined back in 2009. The crowd in Hyde Park yesterday were just recovering from a rare appearance by the sun (the first of many surprise guests this evening), when the Boss strolled on stage and delivered his “love letter” to London: a piano-only rendition of Thunder Road, echoing Springsteen’s first ever UK shows back in 1975.
It was the first of several memorable moments over the course of this mammoth set. Among the newer material – Wrecking Ball in particular proved to be a stirring addition to the canon – and old classics like Badlands and Because The Night, there were numerous guest appearances from artists also on the bill. John Fogerty, who had earlier delivered a great warm-up set of Creedence Clearwater Revival classics and duetted with Bruce on Rocking All Over The World, came on to sing The Promised Land, while Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello was on hand to add a scorching, atonal solo over the brooding folk of The Ghost Of Tom Joad – incredibly, it not only worked, but resulted in one of the highlights of the set, dedicated to Woody Guthrie on his 100th birthday.
The real magic occurred when Springsteen turned his attention to the crowd: fervently preaching the gospel on My City In Ruins and Land Of Hope And Dreams, advancing on the front row with saxophonist Jake Clemons (nephew of sadly-missed founder member Clarence) during Spirit In The Night, and getting a remarkably relaxed child up on stage to sing the a cappella chorus to Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, which helped block out the first real downpour of the night. Taking his cue from signs held up by the audience, he indulged one lucky fan by playing Take ‘Em As They Come (an obscure yet spirited B-side from The River) after he requested it at multiple shows, and even got a girl to join him for a waltz on Dancing In The Dark à la Courtney Cox.
As the show ticked over the three-hour mark, the hits started to come thick and fast. A quick-fire run-through of Born In The USA, Born To Run and Glory Days finally got the static crowd going, and teed up the most prestigious guest appearance of the lot: Sir Paul McCartney ambled on, guitar in hand, to duet with Bruce on I Saw Her Standing There and Twist And Shout, as fireworks erupted over the stage. As the set ran over the allotted time, officials pulled the plug on the band, leading to a slightly confused finale, but it couldn’t spoil an utterly triumphant return to Hyde Park from the Boss.