Wednesday, 13 September 2023

BST Hyde Park 2023 - Bruce Springsteen

After 3 concerts this year, (all of them open air festivals), it was time for my first trip and concert abroad after almost 4 years. And it was also an open air festival. One year ago Bruce Springsteen announced his two dates at Hyde Park. One on a Thursday and one on the following Thursday. I bought tickets for both wondering who would play on the Friday between those two. And sure enough later that year it was announced that it was going to be Billy Joel. That was it! The icing on the cake! I had made a mental connection between those two artists back in 1978 when Billy Joel's "52nd Street" and Bruce Springsteen's "Darkness On The Edge Of Town" were advertised side by side on the back cover of a Greek music magazine called "Pop & Rock". I had seen Bruce Springsteen both times he had played Hyde Park before but these were both part of the Hard Rock Calling Festival. This time it was BST Hyde Park. The major difference was that this time, there was a Golden Circle area, for which I did not manage to get tickets even though I had a presale code. So as a small consolation I got the early entrance to the General Admission area in order to avoid overcrowding when the doors would open. Another major difference was that there were not going to be paper tickets available. There weren't any at the Hard Rock Calling festival as well, but you could print them off the internet. This time there were only going to be available on a specific mobile app. What I realized then was that although I had a smartphone, its operating system version did not support the app. I would need to buy a new phone by the following summer as well. I had contacted the organizers and had made sure that I would be able to go in without the app, by going to the box office on the day of the concert and showing my receipts, but one week before the concert a new Sony Xperia model was released and I bought that!

I had chosen a hotel near New Oxford Street, which meant that I could walk to and from the park every day thus saving a lot of money on public transport which is quite expensive now in London. So on Thursday, my first BST Hyde Park day I was at the park at the designated time of 1 o'clock and promptly got in. There was a small queue that I had to join, but that started moving quickly as soon as the gates were opened. My first stop was the merchandise stand. I just wanted to buy a Bruce Springsteen official t-shirt (and a Billy Joel one the following day). And then I had enough time to find a good spot before the gates opened for the regular ticket holders at 2 o'clock. Well, I figured that a good spot would be at the barrier between our area and the golden circle, but it took me until the 3rd day to get it right. I didn't stand at the barrier but very close to it thinking I had a good view which I did at first but this was partially blocked by the time Bruce got on stage, not by the people in front of me, but by the people at the back of the golden circle instead. I even had enough space to lie down and conserve my energy seeing as it was quite a hot day for London.

The first artist to come up on stage was Frank Turner. I knew about him from some of my Bruce friends on Facebook who were raving about him, and when he started playing I soon realized why. Not your typical "Americana" artist that Uncut magazine gets excited about. He was really energetic with more up-tempo songs.

The next act were The Chicks. This mostly all-female band were exactly what I was expecting, typical country rock, but that didn't stop me from enjoying myself. And then I realized that they were in fact The Dixie Chicks who had changed their name to just Chicks!

Finally, after only two opening acts (and we all know why there were only two) and seven years of waiting it was time for my 14th Bruce Springsteen concert. Now, the first 30 minutes was a warm up period. You see, I didn't quite know what to expect or if I would enjoy myself (yeah, right... as if!). It all had to do with the gossip on social media about how this tour was different, he was no longer taking requests from the crowd, he wasn't changing the setlists anymore and so on... (Well, as far as the last one was concerned I would find out on Saturday). On top of that, I hadn't followed the setlists and the videos from the tour on social media during the tour as I used to do on previous ones. I thought I would concentrate on work during the year and then, when the time for my first concert came, I would party. And the thing is, we have to accept the fact that Bruce is older now (he's in his seventies) and cannot do all the things he used to do. But the fact is that on every tour Bruce's setlists always had a certain format with songs that would always be played (for example "Lonesome Day" and the really rocky version of "Johnny 99" in 2009 and "Spirit In The Night" in 2012) and then he would fit in the requests and the changes somewhere among these. This time it was "Ghosts" from "Letter To You" early on (but not the first song) with "Kitty's Back" and "Mary's Place" towards the middle of the main set. Only "Nightshift" from his soul covers album, (a song with a particular meaning for me, though). Then, an almost solo interlude with storytelling about his early band and "Last Man Standing" progressing into "Backstreets". And finally "Badlands" towards the end, not at the beginning of the set as it was expected on other tours. I particularly liked this last bit. "Badlands" is one of Bruce's anthems and one should have to wait to hear it, like "Born To Run" for example. (Although I understand that by playing it at the beginning helps to get the crowd going). And it would all end with a second encore featuring a solo performance of "I'll See You In My Dreams". Well, my "warm up" period ended around the time when the first notes of "Out In The Street" (the sixth song of the set) started playing. That was when I thought "Yeah, he's back... I'm back) and started enjoying myself (and haven't stopped since!). During the first encore Bruce remembered what had happened at his last gig in Hyde Park back in 2012 and asked Stevie if they were going to pull the plug again. Stevie responded not by saying "stuff them!" as the BBC had reported but "f**k them!" instead. And then he proceeded to play "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out", the song he was prevented from playing eleven years ago.


After it was over and when I finally managed to get out of the park (not an easy thing to do with all the restrictions that were in place) I started walking towards the hotel. The first thing I noticed, just outside the park was an unofficial t-shirt listing only the Hyde Park dates and the support bands. I made a mental note to find one of these on Saturday. Then I turned right on Oxford Street, occasionally stopping for refreshments or food to eat back in my room. Central London was vibrant as usual even on  a Thursday night. It helps of course that concerts in Britain end while public transport is still working...


01. I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous
02. The Next Storm
03. Photosynthesis
04. Recovery
05. I Am Disappeared
06. Haven't Been Doing So Well
07. Get Better
08. Be More Kind
09. The Way I Tend To Be
10. If Ever I Stray
11. I Still Believe
12. Four Simple Words

01. Sin Wagon
02. Gaslighter
03. Julianna Calm Down
04. Landslide
05. Sleep At Night
06. Ready To Run
07. Wide Open Spaces
08. Cowboy Take Me Away
09. Travelin' Soldier
10. White Trash Wedding
11. Daddy Lessons / Long Time Gone
12. March March
13. Not Ready To Make Nice
14. Goodbye Earl

01. No Surrender
02. Ghosts
03. Prove It All Night
04. Letter To You
05. The Promised Land
06. Out In The Street
07. Darlington County
08. Working On The Highway
09. Kitty's Back
10. Nightshift
11. Mary's Place
12. My Hometown
13. The River
14. Last Man Standing
15. Backstreets
16. Because The Night
17. She's The One
18. Wrecking Ball
19. The Rising
20. Badlands
21. Thunder Road
22. Born In The U.S.A.
23. Born To Run
24. Bobby Jean
25. Glory Days
26. Dancing In The Dark
27. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Encore 2:
28. I'll See You In My Dreams

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