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Bruce Springsteen

Bruce-Springsteen-2

The Wild, The Innocent & The Heart-Stopping, Pants-Dropping, House-Rocking, Earth-Quaking, Booty-Shaking, Viagra-Taking, Love-Making, Le-gen-dary E–Street–Band! 

Right there inside, behind the giant doors, a dizzyingly recognisable voice was taking The E-Street Band through a soundcheck.

A score of print, radio and television personnel waited in a hallway for the nod to walk into Bruce Springsteen’s inner sanctum. Through the doors we could hear This Is Your Sword and Frankie Fell In Love, two songs from the new High Hopes album (which has since achieved Gold status in Australia).

The nod came. We could go in. By this time The Boss was taking the band through Dream Baby Dream, a cover of the old Suicide song from 1979 which also features on the aforementioned LP. It sounded grand and gentle at once; quite beautiful. But The Boss was unsure…

“It feels like something’s breaking up the flow,” he said, before enunciating to saxophonist Jake Clemons (nephew of the late, great Clarence), holding a big bass drum. “Duh duh duh, on the brushes… maybe some towels on it? Let’s try it one more time.”

Springsteen turns to the media pack. “You know, you’ve stumbled into an actual rehearsal,” noting that this was not simply yet another soundcheck. They ran through it one more time and we stood in the presence of all kinds of greatness.

Even so, it was close but no cigar.

“Alright,” Springsteen said by way of declaring a break. “Further study… further study.

“Come on up,” he said to us, invitingly. “How can I help?”

Last week Bruce Springsteen opened his sold-out Australian tour with the first of three shows at the Perth Arena, less than a year after his 2013 Wrecking Ball tour of the East Coast. It is unheard-of business in this day and age of low record sales and concert/festival market over-crowding. That this is achieved by a man in his fifth decade of a performing career, seemingly returning because he simply had a nice time 11 months ago, is nothing short of phenomenal.

Of course, this was his first time in Perth, a significance lost on no one.

In that time the evergreen New Jersey rocker’s popularity has skyrocketed once again, not only in Australia but globally, with the loveletter documentary, Springsteen & I, and a revealing authorised biography, Bruce, penned by writer, Peter Ames Carlin, opening the door more than ever into his work, heart and mind.

Not that he’s feeling over-exposed. “I kind of do what I want and people get to say what they want about me,” he said, taking a seat on a foldback speaker at the front of the Perth Arena stage. “It sort of comes with the work that I do.

“Generally, my press agent tries to keep me out of the newspapers,” he laughed. “On a scale of 1-10 what usually gets out there about me is so much less than the amount of information that people are spewing onto the internet, about so many things. So it’s not as though it’s a full-scale publicity blitz. I don’t even notice it, to be honest with you.”

This tour sees the return of long-time foil, guitarist, ‘Little’ Steven Van Zandt, absent from last year’s visit due to filming commitments. His replacement, Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello – Springsteen’s ‘muse’ for the High Hopes album – also returns for this jaunt.

Springsteen promised the usual amount of surprises in his setlist – which he subsequently made more than good on in his three Perth shows –  including a version of The Saints’ Just Like Fire Would.

Pondering what other Australian artists he could potentially cover, Springsteen was curious when X-Press suggested former Perth band, The Triffids.

“The Triffids you say? What’s the song called? Wide Open Road? Can somebody please write that down?”

As Friday and Saturday night’s shows ended, Wide Open Road played over the PA system. It’s a mark of the man that he can himself be such a musical icon yet take on board a song so strong in Perth history and tip his hat to it and us. Hopefully it may even find its way into his East Coast shows.

Of course, the man with such classic songs as Born To Run, The River, Dancing In The Dark, Badlands, Hungry Heart and many more doesn’t really need to consider covers, but even his iconic talents are tinged with an endearing modesty.

“I never thought of myself as an interpretative singer,” he said. “I didn’t quite have the feel like Rod Stewart or Ray Charles. ‘Singer’ singers. I made myself sing. I make a sound that sounds like singing (laughs). It’s communicating, as I call it.”

 

THE SHOWS

 

Wednesday, February 5 – It said 7.30pm on the ticket and people wanted 7.30pm.  By 8pm last Wednesday they were excited beyond belief when the houselights finally went down. A silhouetted Springsteen could be seen at the microphone stand. There was something to say first…

‘It’s great to be in the most remote-est place on earth. We’ve travelled thousands of fucking miles to prove that one-and-one does not make two. The E-Street Band and the good people of Perth… the two of us are about to make three. It’s a magic trick, but it’s not a trick. I’ve had my vegemite sandwich and all I need to know is… are you ready?’

That they were and then some. Before we knew it a triple threat from the new album had the show already on the highway – Frankie Fell In Love, High Hopes and The Saints’ cover that The Boss has already made his own, Just Like Fire Would.

But just when it seemed that it was all about the new, the stuff of legend made itself known, with Badlands, Hungry Heart and The E Street Shuffle, vintage songs that had the crowd singing word-for-word, seemingly whether they were a Springsteen aficionado or not.

The man himself gave his band room to move and be stars as well, graciously and often. Little Steven Van Zandt, back with his New Jersey pal, shared the mic with The Boss and was huge in terms of stage presence. Tom Morello duetted on The Ghost Of Tom Joad, ending with a blistering solo that left the audience nothing less than spellbound (and still seems to amaze the band itself). Nils Lofgren darts about the stage the whole time, but his guitar solo on Because The Night was a showstopper in itself.

He also shared it with the audience; from the little girl who helped him sing Waiting On A Sunny Day (young James from Cottesloe, whom he met on the beach, would do the same on Friday), to the girls he christened ‘Stevie’s Angels’ taking the stage for a shimmy, to the moment in Dancing In The Dark where a lucky girl – and in one case, guy – would be invited up for a dance, echoing that now iconic 1984 film-clip with Courtney Cox.

Springsteen, however, can’t help but shine, The River being soulful case in point. Taking a request for the 1973 track, For You, he sat alone at the piano, rendering a big song small, yet no less epic. There’s big heart in them there tunes, as Born To Run would typify, and Wednesday’s closer, a lone, acoustic version of Thunder Road would exemplify.

For anyone thinking that Friday and Saturday would simply be minor variations on a theme, you’ve got a hell of a lot to learn about rock’n’roll.

While Night 1 started with a new album blast, Night 2 kicked off with a vintage onslaught of Badlands, Out In The Street, Sherry Darling and Two Hearts. Concert lynchpins such as Death To My Hometown, Shackled And Drawn, The Rising, Hungry Heart, Born To Run, Dancing In The Dark and Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out were joined by Light Of Day, Girls In Their Summer Clothes, a band version of Atlantic City, the good-time call of Rosalita and The Beatles’ Twist And Shout.

Saturday’s concert made waves around the world as the final show tore off the blocks with AC/DC’s Highway To Hell, a salute to Bon Scott and to WA. The concert staples were on this occasion sidled with Adam Raised A Cain, Spirit In The Night, Wrecking Ball, No Surrender, Bobby Jean, Downbound Train, Radio Nowhere, The Promise, American Land and an emotionally moving Terry’s Song.

Over three nights Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band played 83 songs, with 56 individual songs within (thanks ‘Bruce Springsteen Perth’ Facebook page). In the midst of all these, he crowd-surfed from the back of the standing area to the stage, ran ragged around the Arena high-fiving and shaking hands all the way, whilst singing his heart out and playing guitar like a demon for over three hours each night. The man knows that he makes people feel special and is nothing less than generous with it.

When Paul McCartney wrote When I’m 64 he clearly didn’t have The Boss in mind. For that is Springsteen’s age, yet his hunger for (and devotion to) performing renders it nothing more than a number.

Not that numbers don’t matter. After all, last week at the Perth Arena Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band made one and one equal three. On three occasions. It’s a magic trick, but it’s not a trick…

 

BOB GORDON

One Comment

  1. Nicola Dark says:

    Hi Bob. It was my son, James, who sang on stage with Bruce on Fri. night, and I wondered if you, or a colleague, took any photos of this amazing occasion! I have been a mega fan for nearly 30 years, been to 7 countries, 3 continents and countless shows to see Bruce! I have also spent hours and hours hanging around hotels, arenas, stadiums, etc. to meet him! Finally, a dream come true! Please let me know if there are any photos.
    Thanks.
    Nicola.

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