After decades of rumors, false reports and countless people who swear they saw one, Bruce Springsteen has finally played a four-hour concert. It happened last night at Olympic Stadium in Helsinki, Finland, where Springsteen and the E Street Band wrapped up their summer tour of Europe with a marathon set clocking in at four hours and five minutes. In fact, the show was even longer if you count a five-song acoustic set Springsteen performed as the crowd came into the stadium.
We spoke with Steven Van Zandt last month about the extra-long sets on this tour, which had been creeping toward the four-hour mark for weeks. "I would not be the least bit surprised [if we broke the four-hour barrier]," the guitarist said. "Again, there's no planning this stuff. There's no way to predict it. And no one should be surprised if it happens. . . . We're not looking at the clock. We've been transported by that point to another time zone entirely."
The show last night featured a wide array of rare songs, starting with a cover of John Fogerty's "Rockin' All Over The World" and later running through "Back In Your Arms," "Be True," "Loose Ends," the Southside Johnny classic "I Don't Want To Go Home" and "Prove It All Night," which started with a long intro that was a regular part of the 1978 tour for Darkness On The Edge of Town.
At the second-to-last show of the tour, at Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg, Sweden, the band played "Jungleland" for the first time since the death of saxophonist Clarence Clemons. "We haven't rehearsed this," Springsteen said. "But this is for you and the Big Man." The famous sax solo was performed by Clarence's nephew, Jake Clemons. (See a video of it below.)
After a two-week break, the tour heads to American stadiums later this month. E Street Band guitarist Nils Lofgren recently spoke to Rolling Stone about the possibility of marathon sets at those shows. "I don't know if American audiences can take a three-and-a-half hour show," he said. "They're exhausted." A few days later, he walked those comments back on his website. "If I offended anyone, I apologize," Lofgren wrote. "Obviously these long shows should leave all audiences appropriately tired and exhilarated. I know we sure are. I'm sure all crowds will happily take as much as Bruce and E St can give, every night."
The group pauses for a month after a trio of shows at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium in late October, and will then play arenas in the U.S. and Canada through early December. It seems likely that the tour will continue into 2013, though it is possible that Steve Van Zandt will miss some of those shows if they clash with the filming of the second season of his television show Lilyhammer. "They're gonna try and bend things around as much as they can," Van Zandt recently told Rolling Stone. "And then, if they can't, if I gotta miss a few things, I'll miss a few things. We're gonna try not to, though."