In what may be the dumbest enforcement of a curfew in rock and roll history, organizers of a Bruce Springsteen concert in London literally pulled the plug on the show during an encore featuring special guest Paul McCartney.
“I gotta tell you, I’ve been trying to do this for 50 years,” Springsteen told the crowd of 76,000 while introducing McCartney. The pair–backed by the E Street Band and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello–launched into the Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There.”
But Springsteen had already exceeded the three-hour time limit set by London’s Westminster Council for the Hyde Park concert, according to the BBC. The sound was cut off at approximately 10:40 p.m. local time as the Springsteen and McCartney performed “Twist and Shout.”
“It made for a slightly bizarre, anti-climactic end to what had been a fantastic show,” the BBC said. “The band obviously couldn’t tell from on stage that the sound had been shut off.”
During the band’s second song with McCartney, “a drably dressed man with sensible hair could be seen waving frantically at the back of the stage, indicating the rock legends’ time was drawing to a close,” CNN reported. “The sound suddenly dampened, and went quiet. At first, the Boss didn’t seem to notice. He attempted to address the crowd, apparently unaware that they couldn’t hear him. But as it became clear that there was no amplification, he and lead guitarist Stevie Van Zandt played what looked to be a brief a cappella goodnight for the benefit of the front rows, shrugged, and left the stage.”
After the show, Van Zandt slammed the decision.
“Seriously, when did England become a police state?” Van Zandt wrote on Twitter. “Is there just too much fun in the world? We would have been off by 11 if we’d done one more. On a Saturday night! Who were we disturbing?”
“Springsteen and McCartney,” Richard James, a reporter for London’s Metro, tweeted. “Only in Britain could a local council pull the plug on the greatest artists of the last 50 years giving it all.”
“Ashamed to be British right now,” Stephen Merchant, an actor and comedian, wrote.
On Sunday, the city council and concert organizers released separate statements, scrambling to deflect criticism.
“Concert organizers, not the council, ended last night’s concert in Hyde Park to comply with their license,” the city council said in a statement on Sunday. “Licenses are granted until certain times to protect residents in the area from noise late at night.”
“It was unfortunate that the three hour plus performance by Bruce Springsteen was stopped right at the very end but the curfew is laid down by the authorities in the interest of the public’s health and safety,” the organizers said. “Road closures around Hard Park are put in place at specific times to make sure everyone can exit the area in a safety.”
This is not the first time London’s ridiculous curfews have hampered a major public event. Earlier this month at Wimbledon, an 11 p.m. curfew threatened to halt Andy Murray’s quarterfinal match, but tournament officials allowed the match to spill a few minutes over.
After the match, Murray–who won–said: “I would have been happy to spot any fine the club may get as long as we could finish the match.”
Springsteen, it seemed, was never given that option.
“It sounds to me like an excessively efficacious decision,” London mayor Boris Johnson told a London radio station Sunday. “You won’t get that during the Olympics. If they’d have called me, my answer would have been for them to jam in the name of the Lord!”