Bruce Springsteen might or might not have known that ex-Beatle Paul McCartney has a uniquely unhappy record of performing when London's Metropolitan Police are about. After the plug was pulled on Springsteen’s Hyde Park show at 10:43 p.m. last Saturday, Steve Van Zandt, Springsteen's sideman & E Street band guitarist angrily tweeted, “When did England become a police state?”
Well, Steve, the answer to that question, in McCartney's world, is January 1969. On that fateful day, the police stopped the Beatles last ever, impromptu live performance on the rooftop of their London HQ, Apple.
Maybe the Boss had not checked film of the Beatles’ last ever live performance.
Burly Met plods silenced the Fabs. After McCartney had finished singing “Get Back,” the Beatles trooped gloomily back into their Apple HQ never to be seen live again.
When the Boss welcomed McCartney to the Hyde Park stage on Saturday night, it came as a genuine surprise to the sell-out crowd of 80,000. We roared our appreciation as Springsteen declared, “I’ve waited 50 years for this!”
It is possible the two plotted this most welcome surprise for us all when they ate together in Cecconi’s earlier in the week.
The Boss had been in classic form for just over three hours when Macca showed up. The extended Springsteen family heart beat at the core of this historic gig. It was the first time Springsteen had played London without legendary saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who passed away a year ago. Bruce wrote in the show’s program, “Clarence doesn’t leave the E Street Band when he dies. He leaves when we die.”
Who could better fill the Big Man’s massive shoes on saxophone than his brilliant nephew, Jake? He blew like a good ‘un on Saturday night.
And who better to accompany the Boss on “Dancing in the Dark” than his pretty, 20-year-old daughter, Jessica? She had debuted on stage in Paris last week.
Mum Patti Scialfa beamed proudly as Dad carried their daughter in his arms.
The Boss describes his 2012 Wrecking Ball album as “the most despairing, confrontational, and musically turbulent I have ever made.” The showman Springsteen effortlessly blended the title track and the single “We Take Care of Our Own” into the show’s opening. A personal highlight was “My City in Ruins,” Springsteen’s response to 9/11 from The Rising album. Eighty thousand fists and voices joined Springsteen’s call to “rise up” in London.
Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello, who had earlier played a solo set as the Nightwatchman, electrified another of the show’s highlights, “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” with a quite extraordinary guitar solo that amazed all.
As the iconic “Born in the USA,” “Born to Run,” “Dancing in the Dark,” and “Glory Days” came and went, my mate Mark, a Springsteen fan with more than 20 Boss concerts under his belt, and myself began to wonder what was planned for the finale as the heavens opened.
McCartney's unheralded appearance—he simply wandered on stage with his trademark Hoffner bass—was the spectacular answer. Macca seemed to invigorate the Boss and his E Street band. When the Boss announced a fellow music legend had joined him, the crowd exploded with a warmth that must have thrilled even an ex-Beatle.
They ripped through extended versions of the Beatles classics “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Twist and Shout,” which dipped into “La Bamba,” before someone from Live Nation (the concert festival’s organizer) pulled the plug at 10:43 p.m.
Live Nation later cited health and safety gobbledegook in its defense. It is a pity London Mayor Boris Johnson was not in Hyde Park. “If they had asked me, I would have said, ‘Jam in the name of the Lord,’” he told U.K. media Sunday.
For the record, Steve Van Zandt, it was not the Met what done it this time!
On Monday the London Daily Telegraph reported that an onsite Westminster Council official had “‘reminded’ the event's organizers about the curfew.”
The license obtained by Live Nation, the concert’s organizers, had expired at 10:30 p.m. It appears that two days into their 3-day Hard Rock Calling Festival, they were unwilling to risk sanction by over-running.
Didn’t they know the Boss always over-runs?! Only rock and roll, Westminster Council, but we like it!