spending the fourth with the boss

With July 4th festivities, work duties, rehearsals and the like all concluded, I devoted the holiday’s late evening hours bridging American and British cultures in true Independence Day fashion by giving a spin to the new Bruce Springsteen concert DVD, London Calling.

Recorded just over a year ago (June 28, 2009, to be exact) at London’s Hyde Park before a sea of fans as seemingly tireless as Springsteen, the two disc, three hour set confirms again that The Boss’ onstage energy is every bit as solemn, arresting and combustible now that he has entered his 60s as it was during the early glory days of the E Street Band that are now over three decades behind us.

I’ve seen Springsteen with the E Streeters maybe 15 times since 1976. Every new addition to that list has never been less than astounding. In short, not even a veteran fan can fully grasp the extent of The Boss’ performance bravado until he witnesses it again. That’s exactly the impression London Calling evokes.

Springsteen stakes his turf within the DVD’s first few songs. First, an appropriately ragged show-opening cover of The Clash’s London Calling plays directly to the fans, who call out the tune’s “I live by the river” chorus as if the song were one of The Boss’ own hits. The tune slides immediately into Badlands, switching one anthemic gem out for another.

The E Streeters ignite the punctuated groove of She’s the One only minutes later, allowing Springsteen to summon the spirit of Bo Diddley as wildly, vividly and solemnly as they did with the ghost of The Clash’s Joe Strummer a few songs earlier.

And so it went, with Springsteen and the crowd working as one. The fans sang along with Outlaw Pete, one of only two songs offered from 2009’s Working on a Dream album, as if it were a monster hit. They held tough with The Boss as he churned out Seeds and Youngstown, decade-old laments for hard working times that bear a severe new topicality. They listened attentively at summery romance deflated during Racing in the Street. And they cheered like maniacs as Clarence Clemons blew his saxophone mightily into an English sunset during Jungleland.

There was only the merest suggestion that the years might be catching up with Springsteen. And he chose to make the most of it. The jubilant chorus of Out in the Street called for The Boss to race across ramps that led him directly into the stadium sized crowd. But after scaling a mighty bank of steps to return to the stage, he appeared understandably winded.

“I need a (expletive) elevator. I’m (expletive) 60!” And with that The Boss buckled down and rocked like a madman for another 2 ½ hours.

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