Bruce Springsteen’s anthemic sound is made for the live arena, and it’s here where he comes to life. ‘The Boss’ has played some monumental shows throughout his career which have had genuine cultural importance, and he’s also put in the hard yards to become a master of his craft.
“I grew up in a golden age for rock bands,” Springsteen once said. “Back in 1967, if the beach club wanted to hire a band, they had to hire teenagers. And so you played the Elks Club, the firemen’s fairs, high schools, bowling alleys, pizza parlours; you played every place where they could move chairs and create a dance floor on Saturday night. And you played hundreds of those shows.”
He added: “The level of craft that we bring to live shows is a result of playing a thousand nights before I signed a record contract. When I see young bands, I tell them, you’ve got to learn how to play live. It’s still important, and it’s an experience that cannot yet be simulated.”
Before Springsteen had an ounce of fame, he already had enough experience of performing under his belt, which made when the time came, he was ready to attack the bigger stages.
His hunger to perform has never waned, and Springsteen gives his all every time he steps foot onto the stage. However, some of his concerts have been more important than others, and below we remember the times he proved he was ‘The Boss’.
Bruce Springsteen’s six greatest performances
His first trip to the United Kingdom
Bruce Springsteen’s debut performance on British soil at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1975 was a moment for the history books. He was on a hot streak after releasing Born To Run, and it was finally time for him to come to England.
They immediately took the New Jersey native to their hearts, and it was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. One of those people in attendance who was inspired by the concert was Joe Strummer, who soon formed The Clash after seeing ‘The Boss’. His then-bandmate in the 101ers, Clive Timperley, told Uncut: “Joe went from strength to strength as a frontman, especially after he saw Bruce Springsteen at the Hammersmith Odeon in November.”
Thankfully, Springsteen’s legendary performance at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, New Jersey, from 1978 is now readily available to listen to, but, for decades, fans had to settle for bootlegs. Additionally, for many, this is the best he’s ever sounded.
The show was fairly intimate for ‘The Boss’ back then. He’d just headlined Madison Square Garden for the first time and outgrown the theatre circuit. It was extra special when Springsteen returned home for a three-night residency, and from all reports, it was a biblical experience.
A Night for Vietnam Veterans
Bruce Springsteen has always carried immense guilt for dodging the Army and serving his country in the Vietnam War. It was the inspiration behind his track, ‘Born In The U.S.A.’, and three years before the release of his hit song, he played a special show in Los Angeles for veterans of the war in 1981.
It took place at the Memorial Sports Arena in Los Angeles and featured a heartbreaking segment from disabled veteran Bob Muller. Springsteen delivered a lengthy trademark set which included a particularly emotional moment when he covered Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Who’ll Stop the Rain’.
Springsteen comes home
By 1984, Springsteen had been a superstar for almost a decade. Although he’d been around the world many times, there is no place like home. His show at the Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey, was a celebratory moment as the messiah made his return.
He’d released Born In The U.S.A. earlier that same summer, and there wasn’t a bigger name in rock music. Despite going on to enjoy global superstardom, he was still a New Jersey boy in his heart. The crowd gave their local hero an electric reception and told him how much they valued him.
Bringing down the Berlin Wall
In July 1988, Bruce Springsteen played a historic show in front of 300,000 fans in East Berlin while millions more tuned into the performance on television. “I’m not here for any government,” he told the crowd in German. “I’ve come to play rock ‘n’ roll for you in the hope that one day all the barriers will be torn down.”
While it wasn’t the sole reason the wall was eventually toppled, it played a role in sparking the uprising, and Springsteen played a part in something much more significant than himself. Years later, he looked back on the concert and said: “Once in a while […] you play a show that ends up staying inside of you, living with you for the rest of your life. East Berlin in 1988 was certainly one of them.”
Before playing Glastonbury in 2009, Springsteen had never performed at a festival, and he made his debut at Worthy Farm in spectacular style. He performed one of his all-time classic sets and stayed on stage for over three hours, which overran the curfew, but the crowd had no complaints.
He immediately made himself a Glastonbury legend, and it remains one of the most iconic sets in the history of the Somerset festival. Springsteen had proved himself as an icon by this point, but nobody could question his legacy after stealing the show at the world’s most prestigious festival.