Bruce Blog

The Almanac’s favourite performer, Bruce Springsteen, is half-way through his second tour of Australia in 12 months.  This time he has taken in Perth and Adelaide that were left off his earlier tours in 1985 (Born in the USA); 1997 (solo for Ghost of Tom Joad); 2003 (The Rising); and 2013 (Wrecking Ball).

The Avenging Eagle and I took in his Perth show last Friday night at the new Arena (home of the soon to be NBL-winning Perth Wildcats).  Going in I had 2 thoughts in mind:

Why do I love Springsteen so much?

Is 2 shows in a year too much and will familiarity reduce the impact?

AE and I had flown to Melbourne to see the 2003 show (at Etihad) and 2013 (at Rod Laver Arena).  I have only seen a few acts 3 or more times in my life – Jackson Browne, Emmylou Harris and Paul Kelly.  And they were mostly 10 years apart (minimum 5 years).  First in their bloom; then prime and recently in their enduring maturity.

I kept telling myself that Bruce is 64yo so there may not be many more opportunities to see him in Australia, but I wondered if I was tipping over into obsessive fandom.

I looked at the Set List and rave reviews from the first Australian gig on Wednesday night.  It was like a greatest hits package plus the most outgoing songs from the recent High Hopes and Wrecking Ball albums.  How do you top that?

Bruce’s answer was simple and obvious – if ignored by me.  Do something completely different.

When you have 17 original albums dating back 40 years you have a catalogue of 269 recorded songs.  Friday in Perth was going to be angry Bruce; oddities Bruce; howling Bruce; ‘Rage against the Dying of the Light’ Bruce.  Some thoughts:

How had I never heard “Just like Fire Would” by Brisbane’s Saints until Bruce resurrected it with amazing horns added?  I knew their stuttering “(I’m) Stranded” that took The Who and added some contempt and venom, so the Sex Pistols had something to copy.  But where had “Fire Would” got lost in 80’s FM radio?  I checked out the original on You Tube and the melody and chord changes were always compelling if understandably less polished.  It’s better than “Friday on my Mind.”  Long may it enrich Chris Bailey’s superannuation and launch a thousand Skyworks soundtracks.

The opening 30 minutes was a tear through angry, lesser known tracks from early albums.  But he got me when the volume went down for fan request/signs songs – “Girls in their Summer Clothes” from Magic made into a poignant acoustic waltz followed by a similar treatment for the rare “Save my Love” from the Darkness at the Edge of Town outtakes.

He captures your heart and then tears it out with an electrified “Atlantic City” (from the acoustic Nebraska) and blood curdling versions of “Youngstown” and “Murder Incorporated”.  I am beaten into submission and mesmerised in wonder.

Bruce is sort of like Stevie J or Nat Fyfe.  Just when you think you have seen all the ways he will dazzle and beat you, he pulls another one out of the bag.  Except he doesn’t miss from straight in front on the big stage.

The rest of the concert is a sublime, intoxicating blur.  “Pay me my Money Down” is a New Orleans Mardi Gras stomp that parades most of the band around the Arena concourse, complete with multi-coloured parasols.  Crying, heaving, dancing then laughing.

Bruce is a singer, and a songwriter and a rock star.  But on stage he seems as much a choreographer; a movie director or a band leader like Basie or Ellington – shifting up and down his big band’s tempo with a wave or a nod.

Toward the end the lights go up and the staged drama becomes a unified footy crowd cheering a big win on a Sunny Day in September.  There are no Bruce/Patti duos to tug the heartstrings on this tour.  So his main foil is Little Steven reprising his mug shots from The Sopranos and Lilyhammer.  Bruce juts out his jaw and Stevie rolls his eyes and they are 12yo’s emulating Moe and Curly from The Three Stooges.

Raging against the dying of the light.  Reliving the joys of youth to push back the diminishing future we all share in late middle age.

The Isley Brothers/Beatles “Twist and Shout” is shaken up as it was with Sir Paul at Wembley last year.  We are all 12yo now and nothing can hurt us.  I gaze down to the lower concourse where the line of disabled wheelchairs are being twisted and shouted by delirious carers and their reborn occupants.

Moments to hold onto.  When there is no yesterday and no tomorrow.  Tonight we all have wings and angels looking over us.  The E Street Band vacates the stage, and just when we think we are going home there are 2 solo closers.  “I’ll Work for your Love” is down tempoed from Magic.  It’s a song like “If I Should Fall Behind” that has personal significance for AE and I from the times when we lowered our sails to wait out the gales and reefs of marriage.  Hands that were clapping joyously moments ago are now clasped tight and moist.

“Thunder Road’ is the final final closer and “Mary’s dress waves” for the thousandth time. And she is just as I remember her on the porch in our early summer meetings.

Bliss.

The majesty and power of the songs make analysis feeble.  But I answer my questions with the thought that Bruce is the 16yo boy who never gave in to the implausibility of his dreams.  He heard Orbison and Elvis and James Brown and Merseyside in his head and in his ears; and believed there was a montage that he could create where one and one made five.

And he has.  And he never stopped trying.  And working.  Or gave into the easy fame and the soft options.

So now one and one make ten; and he’s working on twelve.

Bruce is a coach and inspiration, as much as he is a breathtaking entertainer and creative force.  As a famous coach said – in rock and roll “just don’t think; DO”.

Let us know your experience of the Springsteen tour and the impact his life and music has on you.

Comments

  1. Yvette Wroby says:

    Amen Peter. Saw him last year in Melbourne, and in New York for a benefit for servicemen, and listened to his latest album driving along New York State just recently. He is a genius, soulful and good for all our collective hearts and souls.

    Good report

    xx

    Yvette

  2. Andrew Starkie says:

    Peter, I only came to Bruce in recent years. Born in the USA was right in the middle of my teens and it suffered from overkill and saturation, where nearly every song was relesed as a single, which put me off and I’m sure made bruce very uncomfortable. It was a complete money grab for his record company. A few years ago I realised I lacked Beach Boys and Bruce in my collection, so bought his greatest hits (another grab) and later Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town. They’ve been playing nonstop in my car for the last 12 months. They are mesmerizing. Thunder Road and Junglelands are the best Rock songs ever written in my book. He’s a wordsmith first of all and the imagery in both songs is simply beautiful. He gives me goosebumps. I also read bios on musicians becaue i’m intrigued by their backstories and what inspires them. Like boxers, the arts produces tragedy and triumph and dripping humanity. Like characters from the pages of Shakespeare. Read Marc Bolan’s bio on Bruce, it’s quite brilliant if a bit too detailed. The author likes to show the reader just how knowledgable he is and how many concerts he’s been to. Last March at Rod Laver, I sat back row, directly in front of the band. Couldn’t have been further away if I sat on the bank of the Yarra, yet it was still personal. 18 mins and 2 songs in it was the best concert I’d ever seen, and I’ve seen alot. Bruce’s love of his art and respect for his audience are communicated so clearly. And there are no bells and whistles; no fireworks, no frills, no bullshit. Acts who need to distract audiences with a sound and light show are lacking in my book. With Bruce, it’s just Just R&R. Him, band, audience. So honest, genuine and raw. Three hours sped by. The crowd could have kept going and I sense Bruce could’ve as well. In contrast, two hours of Bon Jovi is enough,exhausting, and I love Bon Jovi. I’m off to AAMI tomorrow night in the expected rain. I too quietly fear it may be too much, but a group of school mates are going and I’m sure Bruce won’t let us down. He respects what he does – and us – too much. Spending the night with the boys will be enough. I hope we get Thunder Road, sadly missing last time. That’s the thing about Bruce, so many people I know who are going tomorrow night, saw him last time. My bro in law went to three shows last time and is doing the same this tour. It’s because Bruce keeps changing, evolving while keeping true to his R&R roots. Every show is different.

    Screen door slams, ,Mary’s dress sways – simply beautiful.

  3. ‘Born In The USA’ constantly cops what I think is an unwarranted whack. While it may have little to recommend to the ‘indie purist’ who never really moved on from ‘Nebraska’, it demonstrates the breadth of Springsteen’s talent. Listen to “Dancing in the Dark” again. This is when Springsteen’s melodic gift was at its peak.

  4. Oh, Andrew. After all that “sways”? What sort of Mary you hang in out with, man? How does she dance across the porch in your world? Like a Titian?
    I went in 85 and 03 and last year and will be going again on Sunday. Which reminds me of R.P.McMurphy when he was trying to prove he was the in insanest man in the asylum and told the other contestant, Harding, he was so crazy he’d voted for Eisenhower. To which Harding replied, “I voted for him twice.” To which RPM replied, “I’m so crazy I’m going to vote for him again next year.”
    I’m also driving across to Adelaide to see the Stones, not because I think they’ll still be THE STONES. But because they were, and I’ll be seeing them with my daughters who love them. (Well, it was either that or grow up in the street.)
    Bruce sitting on the front of the stage in 85 at the show grounds telling a story about going to Gracelands after Elvis had died is never to be forgotten. He’d been on the cover of both Time and Newsweek simultaneously, but the guy on the gate didn’t read those mags and wouldn’t let him into the Kingdom.

  5. David Remnick’s profile of Bruce from the New Yorker “Bruce Springsteen at 62″ is a great read for someone wanting to better understand his influences, ethic and history without reading a full bio. You can read it at:
    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/07/30/120730fa_fact_remnick?currentPage=all

  6. Andrew Starkie says:

    Remnick’s article is great. Comprehensive.

  7. I’m with you, Litza.
    I had been a “Born in the USA”-denier for years. But last year, prior to
    seeing him at Hanging Rock, I gave it a spin. I had forgotten just how
    good the quality of the songs are on that album.

    Also with you, Andrew:
    The first couple of lines of “Thunder Road” are some of the best in
    all of pop music.

  8. sean gorman says:

    The Sat night concert opened with Highway to Hell. The Boss PB is clearly a Freo man!!! Next number 1 Ticket holder in keeping with the Eskimo Joes

  9. Andrew Starkie says:

    Driving into Darlington County I saw the glory of the coming of the Lord!

  10. And wouldn’t you know it, he performed the entire Born In The USA album……

  11. Andrew Starkie says:

    Spent 3hrs, 20 minutes waiting for Thunder Road and when it finally arrived, The Boss was so tired he got half way through and nearly fell asleep. oh well, still worth the wait.

    Loved I’m on Fire, Smokie.

  12. As a 10 Year old Born to Run and Elton John.s Madmant Across the Water became engrained in my head. Still there 43 years later and both high on the playlist rotation

  13. Andrew Starkie says:

    Madman is great, Tony. Love Elton, have seen him a few times and like Boss, it’s all about him and his piano and audience.

  14. Thanks PB, he is all of that and more.

    AS, if you haven’t read Born to Run by Dave Marsh, it’s a really good look at Bruce (from an insider). Last night Thunder Road was one of the highlights. I love how he sang it so intimately and yet allowed the crowd to join in at certain moments. Very touching. To hear Seeds and Jole Blon live was worth the ticket. But hearing BITUSA made the night so special. I agree with Litza, it is an important album. What makes it even more impressive is the amount of social commentary and humour he wrapped into toe tapping tunes. I’m still buzzing. And about to get ready and do it all over again tonight. Woohoo!

  15. Andrew Starkie says:

    Rick, 4 hours?

  16. Close to, about 3.45 I think. Brilliant. Backstreets was probably my highlight across the two nights. But I’m splitting hairs. There were so many highlights. So much joy, so much goodwill. So much guitar!

  17. Andrew Starkie says:

    Great to hear. Was in REadings Carlton today and picked up The River. It’s on in the car.

  18. “High Hopes” was sensational. Wanted to hear “Radio Nowhere” (which he didn’t play on Saturday night), but ya can’t have everything.

  19. Sunday night: 3hrs & 45mins (8pm – 11:45pm). Exhausting for all.
    A brilliant band of musicians and singers.
    Born To Run album from start to finish.
    A great great show.

  20. Litza, Starks, Smokie, Trucker etc:
    I had a similar reaction to Born in the USA when it came out in the 80’s. I think the title song just sounded too much American triumphalist – even though I soon enough found out that was not the intent of the lyrics. It is one of those songs where I could never understand the words until I heard the steel guitar solo version.
    The video with Courtney Cox for Dancing in the Dark all seemed a bit too Hollywood for Bruce even though it was always an impossibly catchy song.
    I had ridden the Bruce wave since buying the vinyl of The Wild, The Innocent in the 70’s. He was one of line of new Dylan’s in that era – Steve Forbert, Elliot Murphy, Mink Deville – were all supposed to have some aspect of the Zimmer Man – but Bruce is the only one that stuck.
    He was supposed to be dark and mysterious like Bob – so anthemic rock songs and cool girls didn’t fit with my image of Good Bruce.
    Funnily enough I retained that prejudice until I bought the ‘deluxe’ version of High Hopes with the BITUSA concert DVD attached. I just start it at track 3 – Darlington County, Working on the Highway – later No Surrender, Bobby Jean (I think I was just title prejudiced by the similarity to Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean – which I have always hated). Go figure.
    Made me play all the albums from start to finish. I am often guilty of playing the hits collections from Essentials. Hearing “Meeting Across the River” from BTR gave me chills – and for some reason I hadn’t played the whole album for ages and had forgotten it.
    “Working on a Dream” is the only one that I could not find any value in. “Magic” is underrated – lots of good stuff – not just Radio Nowhere. Loved hearing acoustic versions of ‘Work for your Love’ and ‘Girls in their Summerclothes’ in Perth.
    I have some now ex-friends who bagged the Melbourne Sunday concert to me. I would give anything to have heard the Saturday night concert with the complete BITUSA included. You lucky buggers.

  21. Andrew Starkie says:

    Smokie, BTR from start to finish. I’m jealous. JUngleland would’ve had me in tears.

  22. Re Bruce and under-rated – look no further than ‘Tunnel of Love’

  23. DBalassone says:

    Wow! This is what I call a Bruce love-in. I’m a fan from a distance and have always loved “Thunder Road”, “Atlantic City” and a few others, but reading this great thread, makes me realise there’s quite a few more songs that I have to check out. Litza, I remember when Tunnel of Love came out – it was like he was trying to destroy the distorted image from BITUSA. I always liked the single from that time “Brilliant Disguise” – thought it was a slick piece of work. Btw has anyone else noticed that Bruce is always there for inductions, tribute concerts, etc. He never misses them – e.g. inducting Dylan, CCR and Jackson Browne, singing with Zevon on his last album or performing at that great Roy Orbison concert just before he the Big O passed on. He also sings back up on a cracking John Fogerty version of the Everly Brothers (RIP Phil) classic “When Will I Be Loved” from Fogerty’s Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again album. No disrespect to the boss, but geez Fogerty is in great form on that track, both vocally and with his guitar. I think Bruce once said about CCR: “They weren’t the hippest band in the world, just the best”. Very nice words from the Boss. I like how he goes into bat for others.

  24. Saturday at the Melbourne soccer ground (I refuse to use its brand name) was my fourth Springsteen concert. I saw him in 85 at the Showgrounds, at Docklands in 03 and last year at Hanging Rock. In 85 I was living and working in Warrnambool. I left work at lunchtime and drove to the Showgrounds for the concert, stayed at a friend’s place at Ascot Vale and was back at work in Warrnambool after lunch the next day. Ironically after I returned to Melbourne a few years later I bought a house in Ascot Vale and have lived less than ten minutes walk from the Showgrounds and in 25 years there has not been a single concert that I wanted to see at the Showgrounds.

    All Bruce’s concerts are great and Hanging Rock was a wonderful backdrop but I think last Saturday at the soccer ground was the best I have seen. Others on this thread have already listed most of the highlights although I should point out that the E Street band gets better and better. Adding Tom Morello to Steve van Zandt and Nils Lofgren has got to create one of the most impressive band of guitars in rock music. Max Weinberg’s drumming is brilliant. I miss Clarence Clemons on sax but his nephew, Jake, has improved massively since he was here last year and is getting closer to filling the Big Man’s shoes.

    My one regret is that in four concerts I have yet to see The Boss sing Racing in the Streets from the Darkness at the Edge of Town Album. Racing in the Streets is not as significant in Bruce’s work as Born to Run, Born in the USA, Dancing in The Dark, The Rising or We Take Care of Our Own but it is the most brilliant piece of story telling. In a few verses and choruses Bruce tells a story of drag racers and a love affair that some authors could not convey as well in a hundred pages. You could make the same comment about Bruce’s story telling in The River or Highway Patrolman (which Sean Penn turned into a movie). Racing in the Streets just happens to my favourite and I live in hopes of seeing Bruce perform it sometime before he retires or I die.

  25. DB, you know Bruce cowrote Warren Zevon’s song Jeannie Needs a Shooter (which was based on a Bruce original) in the late 70s, early 80s?

    DN, I agree, these shows have been brucesational. I’ve just had a text from a friend who saw the Sydney show tonight (Incl. Friday on my Mind, INXS’ Don’t Change and the Darkness album) and reckons it is the tightest and most intense performance Bruce and the E Streeters have done. How does he keep lifting, keep giving, keep improving?

  26. Sorry DN, in my last post I mentioned that Bruce played Darkness tonight without acknowledging that therefore he played Racing. I’m with you, it’s a standout of his storytelling songs. And I’m as far removed from cars and, well cars as you could be. But there is something universal in a story about two people trying desparately to hang on to the reason they found each other in the first place, while trying to forge ahead with the thing that fires their own dreams. Lines like “all her pretty dreams are torn” pull at my heart (and tear ducts) even after 1000 listens.

  27. I saw Bruce three times in Perth. I left disappointed that I hadn’t bought tickets for Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney and the Hunter Valley.

    Nightly highlight was Tom Morello’s Tom Joad solo.

    Personal highlight was hearing Youngstown live for the first time in the Friday show.

  28. Amen Brother Les.
    Like Roadrunner and Coyote it must be time for our Annual Bruce Truce Day.

  29. I know the song well RK. From the Bad Luck Streak at Dancing School album. My recollection is that Bruce had the title scribbled in his song notebook which Zevon read and liked…and thus WZ went ahead and wrote the song to fit the title.

  30. Bruce had a fully formed song in the late 70s. Zevon took the title and wrote a bit of a song. Bruce helped him finish it. Point being, they knew each other and admired each others work for decades. As you say in your post, and from the all too short conversations we have had at Almanac functions, there are quite a few more songs (albums) to check out. You won’t be disappointed.

  31. DBalassone says:

    Peter B, Rick K, et al, stumbled on this link on the expectingrain site and thought you might be interested:

    http://boss.mcgill.ca/index

    publication accepting pieces about Bruce & his culturual impact. “You’ve been with the professors and they’ve all liked your looks.”

  32. Rick Kane says:

    Hi DB

    Thanks for this link, something to mull over.

    Cheers

Add Comment Register

Leave a Comment

*