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Bruce Springsteen in Croke Park review: Blockbuster performance closes Irish tour on an emotion-filled evening

Bruce Springsteen turns the famous stadium into a field of dreams with an outpouring of love and devotion from 80,000 fans

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band

Croke Park, Dublin


Bruce Springsteen and Croke Park prove a match forged in stadium rock heaven as America’s blue-collar bard closes out his Irish tour with a blockbuster performance. Hurtling through a lifetime of hits, Springsteen turns the huge concrete bowl into a field of dreams while his audience repays his sweat and tears with an outpouring of love and devotion.

Croker and Bruce bring out the best of each other. One is an iconic structure that’s been around for decades, the other a sports complex on the north side of Dublin. But both loom over their immediate hinterland, the shadow cast by Springsteen seeming to grow longer and deeper as he proceeds through his 70s with a vigour that’s striking to witness up close.

The singer is, at 74, shockingly sprightly throughout an emotion-filled evening. Much has been written about his fitness routine: his one-meal-a-day regime, a strict rule against eating after 4pm. Whatever nutritional sorcery is at play, it works, and he leads the E Street Band through a full-throated and punchy show under blazing blue May skies.


If Springsteen is a maverick, he’s never been a one-man band. The gang’s all here at Croke Park on an evening that marks the one millionth ticket sold by Springsteen in Ireland, since his debut at Slane in 1985. Nils Lofgren and Steve Van Zandt are his two-man guitar army; the zinging saxophone fills are courtesy of Jake Clemons, nephew of Springsteen’s late comrade-in-arms Clarence Clemons.

He starts with a surprise – Lonesome Day, a brisk chugger from his 2002 return-to-form LP The Rising. There are lots of other Easter eggs for die-hards: a blistering Two Hearts from The River, a poignant Ghosts from 2020′s Letter To You, Darlington County from Born In the USA, with its epic sha-la-la refrain.

Springsteen is in good spirits. He rushes the barricades again and again, like a character from one of his songs chasing their dreams into the horizon. These interactions appear to bring him as much joy as the music.

At one point he singles out a young fan near the front and sings along with her. Later, he descends from the mountain once again and pops on a flatcap that makes him look like Cillian Murphy’s dad from Peaky Blinders.

Banter is at a minimum. “Good evening Dublin, we have come to rock you,” he says at the start. Springsteen also reveals the mayor of his hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, is in attendance.

It’s just over a year since Springsteen put in a Herculean shift across the river at the RDS. That gig was followed by a peptic ulcer diagnosis that forced him to cancel months of touring and which, at its worst, left Springsteen unable to sing.

While he has returned with striking vitality, the cold touch of mortality can nonetheless be felt at Croke Park “The grief that we feel is the price we pay for having loved well,” he says at one point. He circles back around to the theme of love and loss during the encore with a cover of The Pogues’ A Rainy Night in Soho – a tribute to the late Shane MacGowan.

Still, it isn’t the sadness that stands out as much as the sheer joy. The final run of songs, performed under the floodlights, is a landslide of nostalgia. Born To Run is a slaloming speed run through the American dream; he careens through Dancing In The Dark and it is a moment of unabashed celebration.

Then he plunges into a Godzilla-sized cover of Twist and Shout, as made famous by The Beatles. Approaching the midpoint of his seventies, Springsteen surely can’t have all that many more world tours left in him. But as 80,000 people join in on the chorus, it is hard not to feel the love between the singer and audience will live forever.

Ed Power

Ed Power

Ed Power, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about television and other cultural topics