July 1, 2013

Notes from the road: Hard Rock Calling

Unlike 2012, Bruce Springsteen’s performance at Hard Rock Calling (this time held in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park) was held on a warm, bright and sunny day — with full sound and power from start to finish. Following opening acts including local talent as well as the Zac Brown Band, the Alabama Shakes and the Black Crowes, the E Street Band greeted the crowd with “Shackled and Drawn.”

The stage was a standard large festival stage, with no side runways or front platforms as is common to the usual Springsteen stage, but the crew had constructed one lone narrow runway from center stage down to the main barrier. Bruce would use the runway as much as he could, making forays out to collect signs for “Johnny 99” and “Reason to Believe.”

Following “Death to My Hometown,” Bruce noted that the band had played several shows in the country recently, and that at two of them — Wembley Stadium and Coventry — they had performed two albums in their entirety: Darkness on the Edge of Town and Born to Run, respectively. And that this evening they would be adding Born in the U.S.A. — also played the previous evening in Paris — to that list. As the title track boomed out of the speakers, the audience cheered their loud approval of this announcement.

Tonight’s performance was notable for some fun Springsteen and Van Zandt hijinks during “Glory Days,” resulting in the exhortation, “C’mon, girls, we want to hear you —that’s the sound we’re working for!” before moving back to the top of the stage for the exaggerated butt-shaking routine normally a highlight (depending on your point of view) of that particular number.

For “Dancing in the Dark,” there were two notable guests: Bruce’s mother Adele, brought out to be the lucky lady who got to dance with Bruce, and his sister Pam, who was given an acoustic guitar to strum for the last bridge before the final “Hey, baby!” refrain.

At the end of the main set, Springsteen would make one final journey down to the crowd to retrieve a last sign. Holding it up, he said, “I tried to write everything I knew about life up until now in this song; I still find things in it. It is my great story about rock ‘n’ roll and the hand life deals to us in general,” and he displayed the sign to the crowd: “Jungleland.”

During the encore, Zac Brown joined the E Street Band for “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out.” At the very end, after Bruce had escorted each member off stage and had returned with an acoustic guitar and a microphone, he commented on how a tattoo he had seen in the audience was “Worth a spontaneous number… I run into people with tattoos all over
the place. That’s just lovely. I’m of the pre-tattoo generation, but I greatly enjoy them on others.” With that explanation, he began a solo acoustic performance of “My Lucky Day” (from 2009’s Working on a Dream album) to close the show.

— Glenn Radecki and Caryn Rose, Backstreets.com