I went to see Bruce Springsteen in the pouring rain in Sunderland and the world is a better place

-Credit: (Image: Newcastle Chronicle)
-Credit: (Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

The rain came down vertically, horizontally, diagonally, relentlessly; at times in sheets of water pouring from the sky.

But nobody in the Stadium of Light cared, because there is nobody like Bruce Springsteen.

He is captivating, mesmerising to watch; he exudes leadership both of the crowd and his ensemble. He’s fully in command at all times, with an audience of all ages hanging on his every word.

He regularly ventures down into the front row and allows fans to touch him, pat him on the back and take photos - one woman burst into tears, overcome with the emotion of hugging her idol.

Read more:

She wasn't the only one who got a bit tearful: I cried three times last night, at end of The River, the crescendo of Backstreets and the opening chords of my favourite song in the world, Thunder Road. At no point during a three-hour set in endless rain did I want it to end.

That said, I have never been at a concert in worse weather conditions, and I’d have left any concert other than Bruce’s in rain like that. It speaks to the brilliant entertainers that Springsteen and the majestic E Street Band are that the crowd was jumping for joy throughout their performance. Remember that cringe line in Four Weddings and a Funeral where Andie MacDowell says “is it still raining? I hadn’t noticed.” Bruce Springsteen made 50,000 people feel like that last night.

There was a frustrating 15 minutes at the delayed start where you could feel the crowd getting agitated and uncomfortable, though. Bruce is always on time but tonight he was 30 minutes late - as it turns out, delaying the start to allow fans to arrive whose travel had been disrupted by the appalling weather. But for a moment it looked like stadium staff were going to postpone the gig: Max’s drum kit kept having its cover taken off and put back on, while another man swept waves of rain water off the front of the stage with a broom. Were the band going to manage? Was it just too wet?

And then there they were, opening with Waitin’ on a Sunny Day in a genius move that got everyone laughing and singing. From there on in, it was sheer joy, the moments between the terrific rollercoaster of hits punctuated by the crowd baying “Bruuuuce! Bruuuce!”

Bruce’s anthems are always thousands-strong singalongs. As well as glorious Backstreets, No Surrender, The Promised Land, Hungry Heart, Wrecking Ball and Born to Run were all highlight moments that delivered that famous E Street Band sound, soaring guitars, piano, sax and harmonica all melding into a magnificent whole.

Badlands really stood out, the crowd absolutely belting it out and everyone grinning. But in between these feelgood rock powerhouses are moments to remind you that Bruce is a poetic social commentator as well as a rock star. The River was one such moment, Atlantic City another but Racing in the Street was truly unforgettable and silenced the crowd.

Bruce’s artistry, words and music and that of the E Street Band are inspiring to watch - and last night’s three-hour set was, more than anything, life-affirming, not least because Bruce speaks movingly during this tour about mortality, friendship and the importance of living for now.

This was the seventh time I’ve been lucky enough to watch this incredible band perform. I’ve taken from this latest experience (and last year’s gigs in Edinburgh and London, although there was something extra special about last night) a deeper understanding of the connection the band have - they were clearly having a ball and the respect, rapport and affection they have built over five decades is very moving.

As the great man says, show a little faith, there's magic in the night - and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band certainly cast a spell on Sunderland.