How Newcastle Town Hall was rocked by electrifying Bruce Springsteen show 40 years ago

It was early May 1981, and the top three songs on the UK Singles Chart were not notable highlights of the popular music genre.

Neither Adam and the Ants’ Stand And Deliver, Starsound’s Stars On 45, nor Bucks Fizz’s Making Your Mind Up were classics by any means.

40 years ago this week, however, real music was being offered at Newcastle Town Hall, which has been cradled to its foundations by the raw energy and endless passion of an aspiring superstar, Bruce. Springsteen.

The 31-year-old New Jersey product had been slow to break through in Britain. Indeed, the Town Hall concert on Monday May 11, 1981 was his first on these coasts since two performances at London’s Hammersmith Odeon in 1975.

The concert would create a lasting impression. Years later, then venue manager Peter Brennan told The Chronicle: “I have been here for 30 years and this is still the best concert we have had at the hotel to this day. city. Nothing has matched it.

“Some got close but there was nothing quite as good. I have to watch the concert and marvel at the man.

Springsteen was in the middle of a massive US, European and UK tour to support his latest album The River.

Newcastle’s original date of March 11 had been postponed due to the star’s exhaustion. His manager John Landau told the UK press: “He just suffers from various ailments that can arise on a grueling tour.”

The singer was completely reinvigorated by the time he stepped out to town hall.

Backed by his formidable E Street Band – featuring Clarence Clemons (saxophone), Max Weinberg (drums) and Steve Van Zandt (guitar) – Springsteen has torn up a classic set list over two sets.

With a cover of Elvis Presley, Follow That Dream, the American singer has delivered numbers such as Hungry Heart, Darkness On The Edge Of Town, Thunder Road and Born To Run and with remarkable energy.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Newcastle City Hall, May 11, 1981

Tim McGuinness was a 21-year-old English student at Newcastle Polytechnic when he saw the show and managed to snap some pictures.

He recalls: “I wasn’t really a big fan at the time – and I had only really heard Born To Run, but I ended up with a ticket.

“It was a fantastic, incredible show, and I immediately became a huge fan. The atmosphere was electric with the audience singing all the songs. It remains one of the best concerts I have attended.

“In addition to filling the town hall, there were about 300 people outside, next to the hall, listening to the show.

“He did a Woody Guthrie song, This Land is Your Land, towards the end of the first set and preamble it by talking about when the band was playing in Memphis in 1977 and how, after the show, he crossed the wall to become Graceland to try and see Elvis.

“Referring to Elvis near the end of his life, I remember Springsteen saying ‘the song is about living free and not having to die in a fancy mansion with a lot of nothing flowing through your veins.’

It was a triumphant show and one that the star would later cite as one of the top three shows on the sprawling 140-date tour 1980-1981.

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Coming out of Newcastle, Springsteen and the E Street Band performed on other UK dates in Manchester, Edinburgh, Birmingham and London, before ending the tour with a series of arena performances in the US.

When he then returned to the region in 1985 on the Born In The USA tour, playing two huge outdoor concerts in St James’ Park, Bruce Springsteen was arguably the greatest rock star on the planet.

Check out our Memory Lane local history website, which is full of archival photographs and features an easy-to-use image colorizer.

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