With punters still streaming into the arena, the solitary figure of Bruce Springsteen wanders onstage to treat the faithful, some of whom have queued for days to be at the front, to a delicate piano solo rendition of early favourite For You.
The Ricoh quickly fills with latecomers, as does the stage with the weathered E Street Band, who tear into Something In The Night as Bruce straps on the first of a fleet of Fenders.
They’re just limbering up; they have an entire classic album – The River – to get through.
When they finally break into opener The Ties That Bind the place erupts, and on second track Sherry Darling Springsteen ditches the guitar and skips across the stage like someone a quarter of his age to serenade his adoring public, many of whom brandish cardboard signs with requests scrawled on them.
He selects an obscurity – Save My Love – and there’s a noticeable lull, but it’s quickly followed by the first of many mega hits, Hungry Heart, during which he goes walkabout in the crowd and emerges with a small, star-struck child to sing along with.
Midway through the set, the band take a detour into Death To My Hometown from the punchier recent LP Wrecking Ball, followed by a raging Murder Incorporated, and it’s a welcome break from some of The River’s dated filler tracks.
In fact, after a stirring rendition of the title track and Drive All Night, The River Tour meanders on a different course entirely, opting for boisterous 80s numbers Working On The Highway and Darlington County to rouse the troops further.
Throughout, The Boss commands the stage like, well, a boss, nonchalantly swapping guitars, flirting with the crowd and switching from carefree goofiness to passionate, raging sincerity, sometimes in the same bar.
His rapport with the E Street Band is virtually psychic, particularly with burly, bouncing saxophonist Jake Clemons and guitarist and hoodlum character actor Steve Van Zandt, with whom he grunts out several sweet, if rather painful, vocal duets.
On the home stretch, stone cold classics like Because The Night, Born In The USA and Born To Run are dutifully reeled off for the Ricoh to go bananas over, before The Boss hauls three lucky fans onto the stage to jig about with him for Dancing In The Dark.
“Do you have anything left, Coventry?” bellows Bruce, and the eager affirmative response is rewarded with a barnstorming cover of The Isleys Brothers’ Shout with more fake endings than The Lord Of The Rings.
For a final encore it ends as it begins, with a Brucey bonus – The Boss playing a solo version of Thunder Road on his acoustic guitar to a rapt, packed, yet near-silent stadium.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played:
Something in the Night
Prove It All Night
My Love Will Not Let You Down
The Ties That Bind
No Surrender (Sign Request)
Save My Love (Tour Debut, Sign Request)
Out in the Street
Crush on You
You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
Death to My Hometown
Drive All Night
The Promised Land
Working on the Highway
Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
Because the Night (Patti Smith Group cover)
Travelin’ Band (Creedence Clearwater Revival cover) (Sign Request)
Born in the U.S.A.
Born to Run
Seven Nights to Rock (Moon Mullican cover)
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Shout (The Isley Brothers cover)
Thunder Road (Solo Acoustic)