Bruce Springsteen called on London to “be good to yourself and the ones you love” as he rolled back the years during a three-hour, energy-fuelled set in Hyde Park.
The US rocker, 73, ensured his debut at the British Summer Time (BST) on Thursday would be a performance for the fans as he spent a great deal of time interacting with members of the 65,000-strong crowd and offered up hits from across his six-decade career.
He kicked off his 29-song set alongside his famous E Street Band with an energetic rendition of No Surrender, which was met with rapturous applause from the masses and cries of his fans classic chant of an elongated “Bruce”.
Donning a simple black cuffed shirt and dark denim jeans, it appeared the New Jersey-born singer was keen to prove he still lived up to his nickname of “The Boss” as he moved through opening numbers Ghosts, Prove It All Night and Letter To You with barely breathing room for a “1,2,3,4”.
Not even a small stumble up the stage steps during his performance of Out In The Street could stop him as he powered through the song after taking a brief sit down.
The rocker and his backing band brought their rock ‘n’ roll attitude to covers of the Commodore’s Nightshift and Patti Smith Group’s Because The Night, a song he co-wrote.
Midway through the show, Springsteen recalled embarking on the “greatest adventure of his life” when he joined his first band in the mid-60s alongside George Theiss, who had hired the teenage guitarist into the Castiles.
He also reflected on sitting by Theiss bedside 50 years later days before he died from cancer, saying: “I realised his passing would leave me the last living member of that first small band of guys who got together in that little house.
“Death is like you’re standing on the railroads tracks with an oncoming train bearing down upon you, but it brings a certain clarity of thought and a purpose and a meaning…
“Death’s final and lasting gift to all of us is an expanded vision of this life, of how important it is to seize the day whenever you can.”
He dedicated Last Man Standing to his late bandmate, adding: “George passed away and shortly after I wrote this song and it’s just about the passions you follow as kids, not knowing where they’re going to lead you and how at 15 its all hellos and later on there’s a lot more hard goodbyes.
“So be good to yourself and the ones that you love and to this world that we live in.”
As a dazzling sunset beat down on the Great Oak stage, the group hyped up the crowd again with dynamic renditions of Wrecking Ball, The Rising and Badlands.
They closed out their main set with hit Thunder Road from his 1975 breakthrough album Born to Run, before launching into their extended encore with the title track of their 1984 seventh studio album Born In The USA.
Moving between Bobby Jean and Dancing In The Dark, Springsteen ripped open his shirt, which was welcomed with screams throughout the crowd.
The rocker ended the show with a stripped-back moment as he stood alone, only accompanied by his guitar and harmonica, to perform an acoustic rendition of I’ll See You In My Dreams.
Before striking up the chords, he joked: “We’re just getting warmed up” and then added: “Thank you London for a beautiful night”.
Springsteen superfan Claire Titmuss from Southend-on-Sea, who has seen the singer more than 80 times, hailed him as a “total professional”, adding: “There was nothing in that show that was not 100%. It is a polished show”.
The 61-year-old is attending 19 dates of this particular international tour which she feels is a “full-circle” type show as it moves from “the start to now 50 years of the E Street Band – the whole of his career”.
Among the sea of fans were tennis star Roger Federer and musician Peter Gabriel.
Springsteen was supported by a host of acts including Frank Turner And The Sleeping Souls who delivered an emotionally-driven set while US country band The Chicks, originally named The Dixie Chicks, warmed up the crowd.
The final weekend of BST will be closed out with a trio of US stars as Friday will see Billy Joel take to the stage with Springsteen returning for a second performance on Saturday and Lana Del Rey closing out the festival on Sunday.