Playing Wembley like a Boss

On Sunday night Bruce Springsteen showed Wembley Stadium that at 66 years old there isn't just life left in the old dog -- there's new tricks too. Bruce walked on stage, alone, in front of over68,000fans, sat himself at the piano, and played a rarityfrom his first album, Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ.Less than an hour later he was in amongst the crowd, taking sign requests out of the hands of fans, playing obscure album tracks and keeping material fromThe Riverto only a half dozen songs. The crowd loved it and it was clear that Bruce and his bandwere revelling inthe familiar format of heartfelt ballads and bombastic hits.

But this isn't how it was supposed to be. The River Tour 2016 started with Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band performing the20 song, 84 minute 1980 double album in its entirety, followed by another dozen hits from the band's extensive back-catalogue. But, after 37 gigs across North America, Bruce declared in Brooklyn that this was the last time he would play the album from start to finish. Why? Well, like all great bigdouble albums, there's a perfectly trim single album inside, fighting to get out. And despite being a classic Springsteen release -- his highest charting at the time -- The River,unlike itsnowsexagenarian songwriter, is a little bit flabby.

Ironic then thatThe Riverwas Bruce's attempt at capturing his Live shows in the studio: a stream of tracks, tumbling from one to the next, one momenthitting the high rocks the nextsettling into deep pools of reflection.

But the truth is that in 36 years the artist has found many a tributary and his live show has evolved with the requirements of new songs and old age. Bruce still slams every chord, screams every note and means every word that he sings. His honesty is the most potent force in the stadium, connecting the E Street Band to the crowd through his passion for human rights and his determination for every single person, on stage and in the audience, to have the best night of their lives.

And in tearing up his tour plan,and returning to an evening of 43 years of Bruce, The Boss is more relaxed than ever. Clutching an audience signrequest forI'll Work for Your LoveSpringsteen showed his genuine delight in being asked to play what he thinks is "one of my best songs." It had been so long since he'd had the opportunity it took a full five minutes for Bruceto remember the chords and for that matter the key.

After starting the song five notes too low he asked for a different mouthorganand blasted through the request as if he played it every day. A true highlight of the night.

A true interactive experience

The moments of interaction with the crowd were as beguiling as ever: bringingnot one but four audience members on stage (a la Courtney Cox) forDancing in the Dark,fishinga young girl out of the pitto singWaiting for a Sunny Day, duetting with a Grandmother onDarlington County. The River andThunder Roadwere finishedwith a disarming falsetto, a softer side to his performance that shows a veteran rocker so comfortable in his work that he is still able to grow as a musician. After 3 1/2 hoursof playing he was soimpressedwith the audience's singing in his solo finalethatBrucetook a moment to tell themhow beautiful it was -- not as an over the top rock star, but as a folk singer in a small club, surrounded by friends and fellow musicians -- a smile breaking out and a simple "that's nice." Bruce Springsteen: The Boss of the most democratic show on tour and all the better for it.