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Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, London Calling; Live in Hyde Park, (Columbia DVD, 2010).
Originally published August 1, 2010

           Springsteen begins the Hyde Park concert with such physical and physic intensity that his guitar could file charges for assault and battery. More than playing the Clash's "London Calling," he attacks it. Twenty-five songs and nearly three hours later, drenched in sweat, he is twirling his guitar over his shoulder. He has a lot to celebrate. He has pushed himself and his band, close to the breaking point (toward the end of the show, he smiles at Little Steven and asks, "Are we gonna make it?" and replies to his own question, "I think we're gonna make it."). I wonder if band members have dreams (nightmares?) where they hear Springsteen shouting out the count to begin yet another song at breakneck speed. Springsteen's show is exhilarating and empowering (think "No Surrender"), just plain fun (think "Out on the Street" and "Rosalita"), but also emotionally demanding and even dark (think of the woman in "Racing in the Streets" who stares, "with eyes that hate for just being born"). One can learn a lot about a great songwriter by paying attention to the songs on the set list he didn't write. In this case, Springsteen's most revealing choice is neither Jimmy Cliff's "Trapped" nor the Rascals' "Good Lovin" but Stephen Foster's "Hard Times Come Again No More," a song he emphasizes by making it his first encore. Springsteen is a great showman, but one senses that his identification with the working poor and the out of work is more than show. At one point in the concert he takes on the persona of an evangelist and comes close to sounding like a quack selling snake oil, when he talks about the healing power of rock and roll and the E-Street Band's sacred mission. That's Springsteen's over-the-top, rock and roll theatrics. Songs like "Seeds," "Youngstown," and Foster's "Hard Times" are straight from the heart, rock-solid reality. A show of only such songs would be nearly unbearable. But, one without them would be shallow and ultimately unsatisfying. This DVD beautifully captures the great emotional range and depth of Springsteen's songwriting and performing, and is perfectly complemented by the E-Street Band.

Dan Clendenin:

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