Bruce Springsteen Newcastle City Hall 11th May 1981

Bruce Springsteen Newcastle City Hall 11th May 1981
bruce81progThis was Springsteen’s first real UK tour, his first visit six years earlier being limited to two concerts in London. The Newcastle gig sold out quickly and was the opening night of the UK leg of a European tour to promote Bruce’s new album “The River”. Although the ticket says 31st March, the gig was actually on the 11th May – the whole tour was rescheduled after Bruce fell ill (thanks Kevin). It was an epic concert. Bruce tore the City Hall apart; this is one of the best shows I have ever witnessed in the City Hall, or anywhere else for that matter. We had tickets pretty close to the front, really close to Bruce. The concert was a marathon and a demonstration of exactly how to play rock’n’roll; pure, with passion, honest, joyous. Bruce made it look so easy, so natural, and you just knew that he was enjoying the gig as much as we were. He started with the coolest cover of Elvis “Follow that Dream”. Bruce has a knack of choosing less than obvious tunes to cover, wearing his influences on his sleeve, and making them his own, while retaining the feel and soul of the original. Everything was just right that night, Bruce’s performance, the tightness of the E Street band, the crowd reaction. There was a telepathy between Springsteen, the band and the audience, that brought us all together in an unforgettable experience. At one point Bob Smeaton, who sang in local band White Heat at the time and was sitting down front, jumped up on stage. He was soon escorted back to his seat by the bouncers. brucetix81
A totally amazing concert. Just writing about it brings back so many strong memories of the energy and power we all experienced in the City Hall that night.
Setlist: Follow That Dream, Prove It All Night, Out in the Street, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Darkness on the Edge of Town, Independence Day, Who’ll Stop the Rain, Two Hearts, The Promised Land, This Land Is Your Land, The River, Badlands, Thunder Road, Cadillac Ranch, Sherry Darling, Hungry Heart, Because the Night, You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch), Wreck on the Highway, Racing in the Street, Backstreets, Candy’s Room, Ramrod, Point Blank, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight).
Encore: Born to Run , Detroit Medley , Rockin’ All Over the World


9 responses to this post.

  1. The gig was actually on the 11th May – the whole tour was rescheduled after Bruce fell ill. I was living in Manchester by this time and had already got tickets for London and Birmingham shows when Bruce announced the shows in smaller venues. I just knew I had to be at the City Hall so I wrote a cheque for 2 tickets and posted it.

    As luck would have it I phoned my mum shortly afterwards and was telling her about the gig and she said she’d heard about a postal strike in Manchester. Sure enough on the way home that night all the letterboxes had been sealed and my application for Newcastle was in one of them! Luckily my mum was the sort of person who would drop everything, write a cheque and post off an application for me! My cheque was returned several weeks later marked sorry sold out.

    So I now had tickets for 3 gigs and I told myself that the Apollo was out of the question………until after a boozy night out I staggered out of the Cypress Tavern in Manchester and asked my friend to lend me a fiver. Before I knew where I was I was outside the Apollo looking at a huge queue. As I walked along it someone went psst. A complete stranger then suggested I’d like to join him in the queue near the front. It turned out he’d just arrived and had taken advantage of the fact that no one was sitting in the exit door leaving a gap in the queue – I guess he figured if there was two of us no one would complain!

    SO then disaster happened! The tour was postponed and the gigs were rescheduled very close to my exams. Newcastle was the first night of the tour so I was definitely going to that. That night when I arrived at the City Hall there was a sign in the door saying no cameras. The City Hall was usually relaxed about this so I figured there was going to be hassle so I took my camera back to the car – a decision I would come to regret. We had tickets up on the balcony on the left hand side. I remember being jealous of the people in the stalls when Springsteen jumped off the stage and down into the aisle!

    The show was fantastic as you say – I seem to recall reading that Bruce once said it was one of the best shows he’d ever done.

    I can’t remember if it was the next night or the night after that I saw him again in Manchester but I had a ticket that was in about the 6th row right on the aisle. That night when he jumped down into the audience he came and pulled the guy behind me out of his seat and climbed up to sing from there. The chair was wobbly and about 3 of us had to hold him up there! Brilliant!

    I also saw him at the NEC in Birmingham on this tour but after the City Hall and the Apollo it just wasn’t the same. I sold the London tickets in a futile attempt to pass my exams! Still that’s what re-sits were invented for!


    • Posted by vintagerock on July 29, 2014 at 11:25 am

      Hi Kevin Thanks so much for your excellent detailed account. Your memory is much better than mine, and your account of the Manchester concert is great; sounds fun. I’d forgotten about the gig being put back. I also had tickets for the Birmingham show before the small gigs were added; my friend and his girlfriend took them and went to that gig. I’ll change the date on my account. Thanks again. Cheers Peter


  2. Great memories, guys! I was lucky enough to see all those shows and a handful on the continent – my story is at this link:


  3. Memories. I saw him in Newcastle and it was the best gig ever. Iive seen him since at Villa park and London but nothing compares. I was in the stalls and remember him playing for what seemed like 4 hours. A the end he opened the side doors so that fans on the street outside who couldnt get tickets could see and hear him. legend a lasting memory.


  4. Posted by Steve brown on December 11, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    Sent off a blank cheque on the oof chance got 2 six pound tickets outside was offered a hundred quid saw gig great


  5. I also saw him at this Newcastle City hall gig. My friend Jeff was in Newcastle and I seem to remember an additional 60 tickets or 200 tickets went on sale only allowing 2 tickets per person. He got 3 tickets courtesy of a guy in the que who only needed one. We were two rows from the front, it was amazing when Bruce came out, I will never forget it. He was so close to us, jumped down from the stage amazing night. A few weeks later we saw him again at Wembly (empire pool, Areana ?) We were at the front there too but the Newcastle City Hall gig was amazing.

    I saw Free at Sunderland Empire 14FEB1971 and this Springsteen gig had the same amazing atmosphere and feeling as the Free gig…. happy times.


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