For a band whose first gig only took place earlier this year, indie rock newcomers Picture Parlour have clearly made enough of an impact to be given the pleasure of opening the Rainbow stage and getting the music under way. The quartet, fronted by Liverpudlian Katherine Parlour, have stirred up a lot of interest on the back of their live shows. Securing this spot having only released one single to date, ‘Norwegian Wood’ (an original, not the obvious cover), confirms the buzz around the band. It’s a wise decision that they choose that song to begin proceedings. Over the next 30 minutes they deliver a confident, well executed set that went down well with the crowd whose numbers swelled during their set.
It is no easy task opening for probably the greatest live act around but Frank Turner takes it all in his stride. “All of our previous shows have been a warm up for this moment” declared Turner, as he and the Sleeping Souls kicked off the Great Oak stage on a warm and sunny afternoon in Hyde Park. They began with ‘I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous’ and closed out forty odd minutes later with ‘Four Simple Words’, by which time their matching white shirts were sweat-drenched. Their relentless touring schedule is clearly paying dividends as this was a tight but energetic set that kept the crowd engaged from start to finish, proving they are just at home on a much larger stage as they were at KK’s Steel Mill earlier this year.
Playing their first shows here since 2016, Natalie Maines, Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire AKA The Chicks, mixed up old favourites with songs from 2020’s comeback album Gaslighter. Smooth vocal harmonies were much in evidence, particularly on the delicate cover of Stevie Nicks’ ‘Landslide’ and ‘Wide Open Spaces’. Although pigeonholed in the pop country genre The Chicks are about more than just simple love songs, and Maines has never been afraid to speak her mind no matter what the consequences to their record sales. A long way from their Nashville heyday, murder ballad ‘Goodbye Earl’ offered a thought provoking final statement.
The last time Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band were at Hyde Park, way back in 2012, Westminster Council famously pulled the plug during a curfew breaking encore with Paul McCartney. Perhaps leaving nothing to chance, the Boss and his band took the stage at 7 ‘o’ clock precisely and proceeded to deliver a 28 song, three hour, set that moved through much of his career over the past half a century. Anyone who has been following the tour this year will know that the sign requests and spontaneous set list changes have largely disappeared, along with the knee slides and back bending acrobatics. This is a different show to the one Springsteen has delivered in the past; the narrative preparing both the artist and audience for a time when the E Street Band will no longer be around, but still making sure everyone has a damn good party as they move towards the last lap.
A defiant ‘No Surrender’ set the pace and, as always, the band made it all look so extraordinarily easy. At 72 years of age drummer Max Weinberg is simply incredible and, despite ageing fingers on the huge video screens, Nils Lofgren, Steve Van Zandt, Roy Bittan and Garry Tallent still play with fire in their bellies and the energy of youth. The first hour passes by in a blur, newer songs ‘Ghosts’ and ‘Letter to You’ alternating with old favourites ‘The Promised Land’, ‘Darlington County’ and ‘Working on the Highway’. After such a rousing start going back to 1973 and the jazz inflected ‘Kitty’s Back’ was something of a misstep, and after decades of responding to the vibe of his audience it is surprising that Springsteen has kept it as an ever present in the show. Thankfully, it proved a momentary dip in an otherwise perfect night.
Also largely absent this time around are the stories; perhaps having said all he had to say during the Broadway shows Springsteen said little to the crowd until the introduction to ‘Last Man Standing’. Here, he recalled being invited to join his first band and the recent passing of his last remaining band mate from his teenage years. Even in a venue as large as Hyde Park, the message still resonated. Followed by the dramatic ‘Backstreets’ it made for a striking one-two of emotional intimacy and powerful energy.
By the time they reach the encore, ‘Born in the USA’, ‘Born to Run’, ‘Glory Days’ etc, Hyde Park is in a state of euphoria that few other live artists can even come close to emulating. In this post-Covid era of touring, no one is invited on stage to dance along with the Boss or Jake Clemons during ‘Dancing in the Dark’, although he does engage heavily with the front rows during ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze Out’, complete with video tribute to Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici. After the E Street band depart, he is left alone on stage; playing us out with ‘I’ll See You in My Dreams’, a sentimental nod to both the past and the future. Tellingly, there was no more ‘We’ll be seeing ya’ as he took his final bow. After years of priding himself on putting on the best possible show every single night, Springsteen recognises although they will probably be back, nothing is certain any more. But whatever the future holds, it has been one hell of a ride.
Prove It All Night
Letter to You
The Promised Land
Out in the Street
Working on the Highway
Last Man Standing
Because the Night
She’s the One
Born in the U.S.A.
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
I’ll See You in My Dreams