By Angus MacSwan
LONDON (Reuters) - An epic Bruce Springsteen concert in London's Hyde Park ended on Saturday with organisers pulling the plug with the singer and ex-Beatle Paul McCartney still on stage and playing at full throttle after more than three hours of music.
Springsteen had danced and worked the crowd with the energy of a man of half his 62 years, running through most of his classics before being joined by McCartney to rip through the Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There" and "Twist and Shout".
The pair were still singing for 65,000 rained-soaked but rapturous fans when the organisers turned off the microphones in line with an agreed 10.30 p.m. curfew.
The Hard Rock Calling festival was the New Jersey native's 45th show in a 67-date tour of North America and Europe tied to "Wrecking Ball", a new album full of angry songs about corporate greed and the plight of ordinary working men and women.
Unlike on other dates, when he has introduced new songs such as "Jack of All Trades" and "Shackled and Drawn" with commentaries on the economic crisis, he avoided political polemics for the most part in a city that has been rocked by a new round of banking scandals in the past month. The focus was on having a giant street party.
Springsteen opened with "Thunder Road", standing alone at the microphone accompanied only by pianist Roy Bittan. It was, he noted, the first song he had played in his debut appearance in London at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1975.
He followed that with "Badlands", the crowd singing along word for word and its apt refrain of "poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king, and a king ain't satisfied 'til he rules everything". With "City of Ruins", he paid tribute to lost friends, notably Clarence Clemons, his longtime comrade in arms, saxophone player and stage foil, who died last year.
This was the E Street Band's first tour since then but Clarence's nephew Jake has stepped into his big shoes admirably.
A BEATLE AND THE BOSS
With a repetoire of the depth of Springsteen's, the hits are not necessarily the highlights. The relatively obscure "Johnny 99" became a rollicking romp with New Orleans style horns.
Several of the new songs are raucous Irish jigs with stinging lyics - "send the robber barons straight to hell, the greedy thieves who came around and ate the flesh of everything they found" he sang on "Death to my Hometown".
He also paid tribute to folk singer Woody Guthrie on the 100th anniversary of his birth, with "the Ghost of Tom Joad", a dustbowl ballad named for John Steinbeck's hero. Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine added searing guitar.
Another star guest, former Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman John Fogerty joined him for "Promised Land". The crowd, standing ankle-deep in mud as the rain lashed down, sang along to "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" then listened in hushed mood to a mournful "The River", his ballad of youth's crushed dreams.
The show climaxed with "Born in the USA" - the title track of the 1984 album that catapaulted him to superstardom, his anthem "Born to Run", and "Dancing in the Dark" before McCartney walked on.
"I've waited 50 years for this," Springsteen shouted.
Despite being a multi-millionaire, Springsteen has stuck to his image as champion of the underdog as well as master of ceremonies at the most exuberant of rock'n' roll parties. He never fails to give value for money - his show in Madrid on June 17 was the longest he has ever played, clocking in at 3 hours and 48 minutes. And he is still winning new fans.
"I'm a new convert," said Anna, a 25-year-old nurse from High Wycombe, as the crowd streamed away. "My dad was into him so I used to think he was uncool. I came with my dad tonight and now I see what all the fuss is about it."
(Reporting by Angus MacSwan; Editing by Patrick Graham)