Live Review: From Asbury Park to Villa Park – Springsteen wows sell out Birmingham​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ crowd

Bruce Springsteen performing at Villa Park, Birmingham, on Friday, June 16, 2023. Photo by David Jackson.Bruce Springsteen performing at Villa Park, Birmingham, on Friday, June 16, 2023. Photo by David Jackson.
Bruce Springsteen performing at Villa Park, Birmingham, on Friday, June 16, 2023. Photo by David Jackson.
On stage for nearly three hours, The Boss and The E-Street Band played a 28-song career spanning set at Villa Park on Friday night.

Bruce Springsteen has provided much of the soundtrack to my life. The smalltown broken hero and ultimate storyteller has acted as an anchor, right-sized me in storms and provided lyrical guidance when I was most adrift.

I'm not the only one. From the very first opening notes of No Surrender (from 1984's Born to Run), the adoration between the 50,000 strong Villa Park crowd to Bruce and his E Street Band is incredible.

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This was the soundtrack to a thousand first kisses, first dances, broken hearts and a million other moments shared between Bruce and his fans alone.

Bruce Springsteen performing at Villa Park, Birmingham, on Friday, June 16, 2023. Photo by David Jackson.Bruce Springsteen performing at Villa Park, Birmingham, on Friday, June 16, 2023. Photo by David Jackson.
Bruce Springsteen performing at Villa Park, Birmingham, on Friday, June 16, 2023. Photo by David Jackson.

Sleeves rolled up and veins pumping, Bruce began by roaring through hits from his five decades in music, including the Promised Land, Out in the Streets and Candy's Room.

After Mary's Place (from 2002's The Rising), his voice became husky for a raw performance of My Hometown which gave the crowd an opportunity to stretch their lungs by singing back to him.

Next came The River - an emotional and intimate tale of young love and life choices - which had its world tour debut, a fantastic gift to the Birmingham crowd.

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73 year old Bruce's mood then turned reflective, as he faced the audience to reminisce about life, and death.

Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt performing at Villa Park, Birmingham, on Friday, June 16, 2023. Photo by David Jackson.Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt performing at Villa Park, Birmingham, on Friday, June 16, 2023. Photo by David Jackson.
Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt performing at Villa Park, Birmingham, on Friday, June 16, 2023. Photo by David Jackson.

A man who appears to be coming to terms with his own mortality, he dedicated Last Man Standing to fallen former band mate George Theiss, from his very first band The Castilles.

Bruce is now the last surviving member of that rock 'n' roll group of hopefuls who formed back in 1964. "Death has a way of clearing the mind", he told the crowd.

"It gives you appreciation for every day you are alive."

Backstreets was next, a further glimpse into Bruce's youth and where his musical journey began - a tale of endless summers, long car journeys and reckless abandon.

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Jake Clemons and Bruce Springsteen performing at Villa Park, Birmingham, on Friday, June 16, 2023. Photo by David Jackson.Jake Clemons and Bruce Springsteen performing at Villa Park, Birmingham, on Friday, June 16, 2023. Photo by David Jackson.
Jake Clemons and Bruce Springsteen performing at Villa Park, Birmingham, on Friday, June 16, 2023. Photo by David Jackson.

"Terry you swore we'd live forever”, he seemed to whisper, before the song closed.

The mood changed again with Bruce and the E-Street troope ramping things up with Because the Night, She's the One, Wrecking Ball, the Rising and Badlands.

For a stadium show it was an intimate performance and the love felt between E Street bandmates mates was evident to see.

Joking and laughing, hugging and supporting each other, the band are a solid unit - the banter between Bruce and guitarist Steve Van Zandt was a genuine pleasure to watch, as is the love between Bruce and Jake Clemons, who ably takes on his late uncle Clarence's role as saxophonist.

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Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt performing at Villa Park, Birmingham, on Friday, June 16, 2023. Photo by David Jackson.Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt performing at Villa Park, Birmingham, on Friday, June 16, 2023. Photo by David Jackson.
Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt performing at Villa Park, Birmingham, on Friday, June 16, 2023. Photo by David Jackson.

For Thunder Road - the iconic, hopeful number which tells of a better life waiting just over the horizon - Bruce let the adoring audience lead a word-perfect, truly beautiful rendition, leaving Bruce with nothing to do but strum on his guitar and smile.

For five amazing minutes Villa Park was transported 3,300 miles away to Bruce's spiritual home of Asbury Park.

Now in full on party mode, the stadium lights came up for the encore, with Born in the USA and Glory Days exploding onto the stage, before the evening slowly winded down with an acoustic rendition of I'll See You in My Dreams, just Bruce and his memories, and his harmonica, in the spotlight.

It is evident that his 50 years in music have passed in the blink of an eye and Bruce is now a man coming to terms with his age and looking backwards as much as forwards.

"Death is not the end," Bruce told the audience.

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He's right, of course, as music - and memories - live forever.

A gallery of photos from Friday night’s gig at Villa Park are available here.

Bruce Springsteen played:

No Surrender

Ghosts

Prove It All Night

Letter to You

The Promised Land

Out in the Street

Candy's Room

Kitty's Back

Nightshift

Mary's Place

The E Street Shuffle

My Hometown

The River

Last Man Standing

Backstreets

Because the Night

She's the One

Wrecking Ball

The Rising

Badlands

Thunder Road

Encore:

Born in the U.S.A.

Born to Run

Bobby Jean

Glory Days

Dancing in the Dark

Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

I'll See You in My Dreams

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