From the second that the first note of 'Badlands' echoed around the Malieveld Bruce Springsteen had 67,500 people under his spell, and he kept them there for three-and-a-half hours.
The weather men had threatened rain. There was even talk of a thunderstorm. So stocked up with ponchos, plastic bin bags and rain coats thousands made their way to The Hague. In the end the weather gods smiled down on us and the only thing that dropped from the sky was beer; Springsteen even has the weather gods under his spell it would seem. Blue skies, sunshine, and even a little bit of pre-summer warmth as the Malieveld filled up with excited Springsteen fans.
The Stereophonics warmed the crowd up further before heading off thirty or fourty minutes before Bruce was due on stage. The Welsh band apparently left a bit of a mess on stage, which took 30 minutes of vacuuming to clean up: or perhaps Springsteen is partial to a spotless stage... either way the stage was clean and set for a fantastic evening.
Just one minute after the scheduled time (afspraak is afspraak if you are in the Netherlands!), the E Street Band made their way onto the stage and Springsteen bounded on after them, with his trademark powerful start of "1,2,3,4"as Badlands blasted out of the (at times dodgy) sound system. And Bruce kept bounding - for hours on end, without interruption, in a way no other 66 year old music star could do.
He got in amongst the crowd, he used the full width of the stage and, as he always does, he pulled surprises out of the hat to delight the crowd, to make sure his audience knows that every show he does is unique. There are no two Springsteen concerts the same.
For the European leg of this tour he has abandoned sticking rigidly to his The River set list and he's thrown in something new everywhere he's played. In Manchester he played Santa Claus is Coming to Town, at the request of a Santa Claus clad fan. He took requests on the Malieveld too and The Hague was treated to a very special performance of Tom Waits' song 'Jersey Girl' on the request from a fan from Jersey (that's Jersey and not New Jersey) and From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come) - both songs a first on this River tour. And special it was indeed.
Springsteen handed the reins over to the 67, 500 strong crowd to belt out 'Hungry Heart'. From 'Death to My Hometown' Springsteen launched into 'The River' with his harmonica, causing a few goosebumps in the audience, and tears in the eyes of at least one grown man around me. 'The River' is my favourite Springsteen song, so this was the absolute highlight of the concert for me - I would have gone home contented at that point. But there was much, much more to come.
From 'The River' Springsteen and the E Street Band moved to 'Racing in the Street', another 'The River tour' first. We listened to 'Waiting on a Sunny Day' (one young girl was invited up on stage to sing with Bruce, much to the crowd's delight - and for her trouble she got the gift of Bruce's plectrum), I'm on Fire, Because the Night, The Rising, Thunder Road and Land of Hope and Dreams.
And then the encore. Bruce rocked. The E Street Band rocked. There were girls plucked from the crowd who rocked. The crowd rocked. The Malieveld rocked.
I'm sure the whole of The Hague could hear nearly 70,000 people telling the world they were 'Born to Run'.
Tenth Avenue Freeze Out was played with a wonderful tribute to the 'Big Man' Clarence Clemons and The Isley Brother's 'Shout' closed the evening out. Almost. The E Street Band left the stage to rapturous applause but Mr Springsteen came back for one last song: an acoustic version of This Hard Land. It was an impressive end to an amazing show.
This wasn't my first Springsteen concert (and hopefully it wasn't my last either; I don't believe the rumours). I was 15 years old when I saw Bruce live for the first time in Sheffield in 1988. I went with my parents, then not a particularly huge Springsteen fan, but my brother and I had been subjected to a lot of his music at home and my parents had bought two extra tickets so we could tag along. From that concert on I was hooked too.
I have seen him a number of times since, here in the Netherlands and back in England. When we heard he was coming to The Hague my husband and I were one of the many thousands and thousands who waited in online ticket queues to be able to be there last Tuesday night. My husband got two tickets, and then had the option to get more - so he got an extra ticket. That ticket was for my dad, the one who nearly thirty years ago bought me my first Springsteen show ticket. Favour returned. He flew over from England to stand on the Malieveld with us.
Thanks Dad for introducing me to the only man I would happily stand 6 hours on a muddy field for at the ripe old age of 43........... I hope I get to pass Springsteen on to my children. I hope that they one day share the idea that if real life was one long Springsteen concert the world would be one damn happy place to live in.
The Boss left his mark on The Hague. He closed the phenomenal show out with calls of 'dank je wel'. "Nou Bruce, jij ook bedankt hoor!"