Standing in the rank-smelling mud in the rain, next to three aesthetically-challenged half-naked individuals yelling at the tops of their tuneless voices, it was impossible not to feel a) joy and b) privilege at being in the presence of Bruce Springsteen and the E. Street Band.
Unlike the many thousands of people who weren't actually there, though quite understandably like to claim to have been, I did really see Bruce first in 1975 at the Hammersmith Odeon, and for me it remains the ne plus ultra of rock and roll performance, (probably because at 17 'Born to Run' meant EVERYTHING). Subsequent gigs have never matched that, and why should they have? I have seen Bruce all over the place, including Milton Keynes, at Wembley, at the Emirates, and indeed the last time at Hyde Park. Each time is a sort of echo of that moment in 1975, and I shed a tear for the passing of the boy I once was. Occasionally I have wondered whether I deserve to hear, say, 'Badlands' sung live right in front of me.
I don't know why, but last night was special too. The show opened with a piano- accompanied 'Thunder Road' that justified the expense of the ticket all on its own. It is an immense song. (Anyone interested should read Nick Hornby's chapter on it in '31 Songs'.) Tom Morello, of Rage Against the Machine, accompanied on three or foru songs, pretty effectively on 'Death to my Hometown', but fiercely, magically, on 'The Ghost of Tom Joad'. It was a bonus to have a moment of outstanding musicianship.
'Spirit in the Night' swung wonderfully, and after a plaintive acoustic 'Empty Sky' the show kicked into non-stop high energy bossdom until 'The River', which had me weeping all over again. It was followed by 'Joad' and then 'The Rising' with the massed thousands nah-nah-nahing like so many military wives.
There was a spoken intro to 'We Are Alive', most of which I couldn't hear because of people talking and laughing, but I think it was a classic Bruce homily involving walking with his mother and sister in a local cemetery...
By now the curfew time had passed, but the band played on - 'Born in the USA' (apparently the entire crowd had been born in the USA), 'Born to Run' ("in an everlasting KISS"), 'Glory Days' ("in the wink of a young girl's eye"), 'Dancing in the Dark' (he brought on stage a girl who'd been holding a card reading 'I'll be your Courtney Cox') and then, suddenly, amazingly, there was Paul McCartney and they were singing 'I Saw Her Standing There'. "I've been waiting 50 years for this", said Bruce. 'Twist and Shout' followed. My 18 year old son remarked that you could sing the chorus for ever and it would never grow dull.
And then Westminster Council turned the sound off. Must have been the greatest moment of his life for the jobsworth responsible for pulling the plug on Sir Paul McCartney and The Boss.
Stupendous gig. Three hours and twenty minutes of pure fandom. Oh yes, I've still got it.
PS If you don't believe me, read neil McCormick, here.