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

35 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


    • Posted by Claire on January 13, 2021 at 11:43 am

      Hi, I also had the privilege of being at the City Hall, Newcastle for that memorable concert, and it still remains the best ever. Unlike you though, I must have smuggled in my Kodak instamatic and taken a couple of pictures- I was also in the left balcony – wonder if you’re one of the heads in front of me???!


    • Posted by Nev on May 11, 2021 at 2:58 pm

      40 years ago today and still the greatest concert I’ve ever seen. Had John Mills sitting to the left of me and Bob Smeaton singing Hungry heart to the left .


  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.


  6. Posted by Dave. on February 29, 2020 at 1:32 pm

    Yes and Free at the City Hall was amazing!


  7. Ah what a gig, me and my cousin Trevor were near the back of the hall downstairs, but even a little further back from the action it was absolutely electric, in my opinion this was Springsteen at his live peak, I’d been a fan since I was at school when Born to Run came out and weird to think now but it seemed like he might never actually make it to the UK, those gigs in London in 75 aside. His live shows were already legendary by 81 and he did not disappoint, I remember one of the two girls in front of us burst into tears during Thunder Road, it was that kind of show! I didn’t see Boss again until me and our Trev went to Earls Court in 99 to see him on the E Street reunion tour, I missed the NUFC gig in 85 as I was on holiday abroad!


    • Posted by vintagerock on June 24, 2020 at 2:38 pm

      Hi Craig

      A great night which I will remember forever, as I will the Hammersmith concert on the Born to Run tour

      Happy happy days Peter


      • Ah I’ll bet that was amazing Peter, I remember those shows being reviewed in either the Melody Maker or the NME and wishing I could’ve gone, but at 15 and living in Hebburn I couldn’t jump on a train to London, mores the pity! I’m devouring these pages mate, its bringing back so many memories, been in poor health this year and stuck in the house like the rest of humanity, so its been a lovely diversion!

      • Posted by vintagerock on June 24, 2020 at 8:04 pm

        Hi Craig

        I had only heard Born to Run and everything else was new to me but I had the feeling I will seeing something special that night

        Pleased you like reading about my concert memories

        Best wishes Peter

  8. Posted by KJM on August 16, 2020 at 9:00 pm

    Great gig, we knew people at Windows in the Central Arcade who gave us advance notice, we sent cheques for £5:50 ( more than average gig price then) but the City Hall sent them back as the price had changed to £6:00, quick turnaround and tickets were secured.Also explains the felt tip amendment on the tickets. First time a band played so late (stage manager was a fan) Bruce was singing whilst standing on the back of my girlfriends seat in the stalls. One of the best gigs ever, he mentioned it at St. James Park ( calling it the Town Hall).


  9. Posted by Graham. on January 13, 2021 at 2:50 pm

    Evidently. Springsteen was quoted as saying the city hall gig was in the top 5 of his of all time. That is saying something.
    Unfortunately wasn’t there.


    • Posted by vintagerock on January 13, 2021 at 3:23 pm

      I believe that Graham. It was a great night. But for me seeing him at Hammersmith on his 1st UK concert was much much better. He was much more ramshackle, raw and passionate. I found it a very emotional experience, but maybe it was because it was the 1st time I saw him and it felt so special. To me every Springsteen concert is different, some much more special than others. He has a way of connecting with the audience, and an authenticity, which few other artists do. Happy days Peter


      • Posted by Graham. on January 13, 2021 at 3:33 pm

        Peter. I was lucky to see him twice. Amnesty international at Wembley. If I can recollect, Tracy chapman, Peter gabriel. Also some other occasion at Bramhall lane Sheffield.
        I used to travel from my home to the Mayfair and city hall. I lived in Darlington, could then get a late train back home. Saw zeppelin, Bowie and Rory at the city hall.
        Mind you I think Free was my favourite gig. They had to cancel half way through due to Paul Kossoff out of it. Unfortuanely drugs.They returned and blew the place apart. I think I commented on that gig under a previous post under Free,
        Was not the Hammersmith gig put on cd. I’m sure I’ve got it among my stuff?

      • Posted by vintagerock on January 13, 2021 at 3:54 pm

        Sounds like we were at some of the same gigs Graham; including the Free gigs. Yes I have the Hammersmith gig on DVD and watching it brings back happy memories. Over time I have probably built the importance of that gig up in my mind and that has influenced and coloured my memories. Nostalgia is a funny thing. It almost feels that at the time I didn’t realise what I was seeing. Happy days and thanks for your comments and sharing your own memories Graham Best wishes Peter

      • Posted by Graham. on January 13, 2021 at 4:03 pm

        It could have been the same free gig. I remember vividly Rogers throwing the Mike stand over his head, like it was yesterday. They were fantastic and oh so young.
        My ex partner lived In Middlesbrough. She told me Rodgers lived in a pretty rough area of town when he was young, from a big family. Amazing stuff they were doing as I say so young. I’m

        Great gigs.
        Peter, Did you see the who at the odeon in Newcastle? Stage gear, smashed to hell half way through. Townsend kicked off due to tape from quadraphenia being messed up.
        I slept out in the cold for them tickets.

      • Posted by vintagerock on January 13, 2021 at 6:05 pm

        Hi Graham yes I saw The Who at the Odeon twice. The gig you refer to is the Quadrophenia tour; yes I also queued outside the Queens, as I recall, for tickets. A crazy night with ridiculous behaviour by Townsend. Happy days Peter

      • Posted by Graham. on January 13, 2021 at 6:51 pm

        That’s right. You got it. Couldn’t believe it! Like a war zone on the stage. Curtains being ruffled and shouting!

        That’s for verifying that.

      • Posted by vintagerock on January 13, 2021 at 9:17 pm

        Hi Graham. Happy days. Where did the time go? Cheers Peter

      • Posted by Graham on January 13, 2021 at 9:31 pm

        Yes. Halcyon days then. Thanks for your reply’s. Peter. Yes it was great. We were so lucky to see so many great bands then.

  10. If I could time travel to any gig, I think it would be this one! My dad went and always said it was best gig he ever saw. Springsteen records used to play around the house all the time, particularly born to run and darkness. I missed the st James’ park gig because we were in Spain on hols, another regret! Did finally get to see him at the city hall when he did his solo acoustic tour in 96 which was really beautiful and intimate, and then – officially the best gig I’ve ever been seen (probably, maybe) – with the e street band on the reunion tour in 99 in Manchester, stunning. The sessions band tour gig in London was great as well, and seen the band a fair few times since then but yeah nothing for me comes close to Manchester arena 1999, incredible night. Except of course city hall 1981 I’m guessing!


    • Posted by vintagerock on March 18, 2022 at 12:24 pm

      Yes it was a pretty special night Connor. But not as special as when I saw him at Hammersmith on his first UK date. Bruce is always great. Happy days Peter


  11. Posted by Michael Bushell on November 3, 2022 at 8:47 pm

    The best thing about the gig was Bruce didn’t want to stop, the management had opened all the exits and switched on the auditorium lights and Bruce kept on playing. Finally he announced the management says if l don’t stop now l can’t come back. By this time the buses had stopped, l only had enough money for a taxi half way home, walked the rest. Fantastic night.


  12. Become a legend this gig, I think the boss has said one of the best the band ever played, which is something indeed. I’m from Hebburn originally but was working and living in Edinburgh at the time so saw him on this tour at the Playhouse, I recall he opened with Run through the jungle by CCR, the things that stick, anyway it was a great gig. I saw him again once more with the band in Manchester when the E Street reformed, again superb, he still had it, wish I’d seem him more but its a pricey hobby no?…


    • Posted by vintagerock on December 5, 2022 at 12:29 pm

      Hi Peter yes it was a great concert. Tickets for concerts just go up and up in price. When I 1st saw Bruce at Hammersmith Odeon the face value of the ticket was £1. Similarly the 1st time I saw the Stones the face value was 15 shillings (75p). Still these are in some way life experiences that we can never capture again. Their like may never be seen again. Catch them when you can! Best wishes Peter


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