No support acts. No interludes. No encore. Just an epic three and a half hours of The Boss – all delivered with the same energy and sincerity that made his name in the 70s.
How a man of 62 can keep impressing like this is beyond us, as even some of the crowd flagged during the set’s middle. But Bruce’s seamless mix between old classics and fresh material, between painful ballads and rip-roaring crowd-pleasers, kept even the seated audience on their feet for most of the show.
Opening on Badlands, the timeless epic of an idealised escape from the mundane existence of 'workin’ in the fields' or 'workin’ ‘neath the wheel' in a dead-end town, both Bruce and the E Street Band proved that they still have the fire to sing about making something of yourself, despite having already done it for the last forty years.
And even his newer material came to life on stage, as Wrecking Ball demonstrated a vitality and maddening frustration at the world that hasn’t been heard in his most recent releases.
That’s not to include material from The Rising however (often referred to as his 9/11 album), which still managed to pack in the all the pain from its first release – though this time due to its references to the sad loss of the E Street band’s saxophonist Clarence Clemons last year.
The anguished lyric 'are you missing anybody?' from My City Of Ruins took on a whole new meaning, combining pictures of Clarence on stage along with solos from his very own nephew Jake (which received rapturous applause from the audience. And if that didn’t put a lump in the throat, then the song's moving refrain 'rise up' should have done the trick. Powerful stuff indeed.
Of course, it wouldn’t have been a Springsteen gig if he hadn’t have played the classics – though admittedly there are too many to squeeze in – even with three and a half hours.
But in the live setting, with Bruce dripping with sweat and exhausted, with the Etihad stadium full to the brim and every man, woman and child on their feet blasting the lyrics to Born to Run and Dancing in the Dark at the top of their voices, it soon became clear why they call him The Boss.*
*Even if this isn’t why they call him The Boss…