Follow That Dream – Springsteen at Wembley Arena
This review is by a good friend of mine John Joyce from Newcastle. He was so moved by Bruce Springsteen’s show at Wembley last week he sent me the following in an email. It struck a chord with me…and I felt his words needed sharing….
Follow that Dream
There was a sense that there was going to be ‘something in the night’ at Wembley, on Saturday just gone. Yes, it was a Saturday night – a night special to Bruce, as well as all of us, the fans. But, there was something else going on as the show started to open out. What was it? I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, as I tried to come to terms with the opening few songs he played.
It was as if he had come out of the blocks almost too fast. Land Of Hope And Dreams, as an opener (more of this later), which actually set the scene – you’ll find out why. Then a fairly rare Jackson Cage, followed straight into Radio Nowhere. You felt breathless with the tempo. How can he keep this pace up, when you know you’ve still got some 3 hours to go?
Requests were being taken left, right and centre. We got another treat with another rare song, Save My Love, which slowed things down a tad, but, then, with what seemed a bizarre choice at this stage of the proceedings, another request and it’s Rosalita. At this point, he was even saying to the audience that some of the requests were just a little too easy, as Cadillac Ranch was discarded onto the floor of the stage and never played. Amazing. And I love Cadillac Ranch. This evening he just wanted to be challenged, and we got to find out why.
What followed was then a quartet of real touch hitting songs, This Hard Land (“and the only sound at night’s the wind slammin’ the back porch door”), Lost In The Flood, and wished for earlier in the day, like you do (“and everybody’s wrecked on Main Street through drinking unholy blood”), Wrecking Ball (“and hard times come and hard times go, and hard times come and hard times go, and hard times come and hard times go”), and finally Death To My Hometown (“and sing it hard and sing it well, send the robber barons straight to hell”). Powerful stuff.
Can’t take much more of that, so we get a real crowd pleaser in Hungry Heart and the whole stadium is singing the opening verse as Bruce knows they will.
This is when that ‘something’ happens. “I can continue to take requests all night”, he shouts out, “or I can do all of the Darkness On The Edge Of Town record?” Before we know it, Badlands is being blown away and the whole album comes to life in front of your very eyes. A stunning gesture highlighted for me by a quite emotional Racing In The Street. I’ve never heard, or seen, 70000 people (or however many were there) at a rock concert so still. Never had I thought I would hear this album played in such a way. We had dream of it and there had been signs, as we’d had Born In The U.S.A. played full, as well as Born To Run, both played recently in Italy. So, we had joked about what he might manage to do at Wembley. But, really?
How can you top that? Well, of course, it’s Saturday night, so we just partied to all of the following great get up off your feet songs – and dance as best you can in a feet or so of space, or stick your arm up (or both arms, if you’re feeling really loose) and point your fingers to the sky, like you do, or shake your hips, or jump up and down to Shackled And Drawn, Waitin’ On A Sunny Day (we’re still waitin’), The Rising, the ultra rare Light Of Day (complete with the Land Of A Thousand Dances chorus, “na, nana, na, nah, nanna, na, na, nanna, nah, nanna, na, nannah, na, nah” and so on), Pay Me My Money Down (a full band ensemble out up front and there’s nearly 20 of them), Born To Run, Bobbie Jean (I love this song, some people don’t, I know), Dancing In The Dark (by which time we are), Tenth Avenue Freeze Out (and there’s Danny and Clarence back on stage again, OMG) and, finally to a Twist And Shout (which this year is unplugged, unlike Hyde Park last year).
But, it’s not finally. The band disappear backstage and back comes Bruce with acoustic guitar in hand and proceeds to play Thunder Road, solo, the song that he opened with on his first ever concert appearance in the UK in Hammersmith, back in 1975. It’s a sensational end and a circle is complete.
Follow That Dream is an Elvis song that Bruce has played in concert a few number of times since 1981, which was the year I first saw him in concert in Birmingham. Bruce followed his dreams to Gracelands once. I’ve followed Bruce’s dream ever since 1978, when I was first played the Darkness On The Edge Of Town LP, by friends who know who they are, thank you John and Janice.
And if you search the Bruce Springsteen official website for ‘dream’, you’ll get 83 hits. Here’s 11 of them, and, yes, they’re all from Saturday’s show –
“Dreams will not be thwarted, this train, faith will be rewarded” – yes, it’s Saturday night’s opener, Land Of Hope And Dreams
“Baby, there’ nights when I dream of a better world, but I wake up so downhearted girl” – Saturday’s 2nd song in, Jackson Cage
“Well if you can’t make it stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive if you can, and meet me in a dream of this hard land” – Saturday’s 6th song, This Hard Land
“You better listen to me baby, talk about a dream try to make it real” – Badlands, the Darkness opener
“Adam raised a Cain, lost but not forgotten, from the dark heart of a dream” – Adam Raised A Cain, the second of the Darkness songs
“She sits on the porch of her daddy’s house, but all her pretty dreams are torn” – Racing In The Street, Saturday’s great song
“Blow away the dreams that tear you apart, blow away the dreams that break your heart” – The Promised Land, the original opener to side 2 of the Darkness album
“But if dreams came true, oh wouldn’t it be nice, but this ain’t no dream, we’re living through tonight” – so true, Prove It All Night, Saturday’s penultimate song from the Darkness collection, and tonight featuring a wonderful Nils Lofgren guitar solo at its centerpiece
“I’ll be on that hill, with everything I got, lives on that line where dreams are found and lost” – Darkness On The Edge Of Town, Saturday’s climax in that marvelous album slot
“A dream of life comes to me, like a catfish dancin’ on the end of the line”, “Sky of fullness, sky of blessed life, a dream of life” – Saturday’s 23rd song (yes 23rd of 31 songs in total), The Rising
and “Wendy let me in, I wanna be your friend, I want to guard your dreams and visions” – the song that launched a thousand songs, Born To Run.
So, what does this tell us? Well, he did have a dream, that he followed and which, to a huge, huge degree must have come true. It’s an amazing story. For the rest of us, we’ve also had dreams, some have come true, some have not. But for me, In Wembley, of all places (thank you Newcastle United), on a damp, breezy, summer Saturday evening, a dream did, in fact, come true.
As Bruce’s final positive statement of the night, “It’s a town full of losers, but I’m pulling out of here to win”, hits through and carries you home.