Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Adelaide, Monday 30 January 2017

Chatting to the neighbours during the interval between when you take your seat and the start of the show continues to bring out interesting bits and pieces.
As I took my seat high up to the right of the stage, there seemed to be an array of seven or eight objects that may well have been music stands over on the other side of Mighty Max’s drum kit.
I'd already exchanged pleasantries with the youngish bloke on my way, and, working on the principle but his eyesight was probably better than mine, asked him if you could see anything over there, and, If he could, what do he reckoned they might be.
He wasn't sure at first.
And, a while later, he was convinced they were. and, in between, the discussion brought forth a couple of interesting points.
I'd explained that the presence of music stands suggested a string section, which in turn suggested in New York Serenade as the opening number.
Predictable questions about whether I'd been to Perth and where else I was bound on the tour elicited my now well-polished account of the day when the tour was announced.
I’d headed for the other end of The Little House of Concrete,  expecting that the news would form the basis for continuing negotiations.
Of course, The Supervisor’s response (So, of course, you’re going) might have rendered ongoing negotiation unnecessary, but it definitely produces interesting reactions when the exchange is recounted to third parties.
Here, the bloke on my right turned to his missus with a did you hear that?
The response from his better half (though one might question the better under the circumstances) was interesting.
The duo are Adelaide-based and would be doing three shows this tour.
But her response, not to put too fine a point on it, was along the lines of I can’t stand him. But I love my husband, so I go.
The odd glance across that way during the show suggested someone with a toothache.
And she’s going to both shows in Melbourne.
Love is, indeed, a strange affliction.
Equally interesting was the opinion from the unaccompanied woman who claimed the seat of my left. She was a definite fan who, for previous shows in Adelaide, had been seated behind the stage.
She reported the view from there was good, Bruce and company gave them plenty of attention, and there was room to dance.
They were cheaper, too.
But they’d sold out quickly, So she had landed where she was.
Equally interesting were the developments in the song count on Hughesy's matrix.
Depending on whether you count a full band rendition of The Promised Land and a solo acoustic version as separate entries in the song matrix (I do, they fit into completely different and almost diametrically opposed vibes) the song count either reached or passed the hundred at this show in Adelaide.
Passed means you count Darkness On The Edge Of Town as two separate entities depending on whether Eddie Vedder was on stage. I used to but, in hindsight, the presence of someone other than Bruce roaring a verse into a microphone and adding that one more voice to the chorus doesn't materially change the timbre of the performance.
Adjustments to the matrix will be made shortly but the key point here is that account has cracked the ton.
I had a suspicion it might when American Land followed the now routine opening New York Serenade. The odds shortened when the band roared through an impassioned Trapped.
Both songs were pointedly dedicated to those detained under the new American president’s trumped up border security grandstanding.
Bruce's introduction to American Land is worth citing (as reported in Backstreets):
Tonight we want to add our voices to the thousands of Americans who are protesting at airports around our country the Muslim Ban and the detention of foreign nationals and refugees. America is a nation of immigrants, and we find this anti-democratic and fundamentally un-American. This is an immigrant song!
But that, along with the pointed introduction to Trapped, were the only two overt political references that I've picked up over three nights.
There have been, of course, plenty of less direct ones.
The other two new additions emphasise points already made elsewhere.
One, The Ties That Bind, was yet another indication of the depth and breadth of the catalogue of Springsteen can draw on. He's probably played it a number of times in Australia, but not at a show I've attended.
The same t\point applied when he opened the encore with a moving, almost heartrending rendition all if I Should Fall Behind.
That song, back in the 1999 tours, featured repeatedly in an entirely different setting.
At that point, it was a statement of communal East Street solidarity with each of the lead personalities (Patti Scalfia, Little Steven, Nils Lofgren and Clarence Clemons) taking a verse and chorus on their own, and each was delivered with a slightly different intonation.
I know, because I've heard the bootleg tapes.
The Adelaide rendition came with a pointed dedication.
So that made two additions that could hardly be described as surprising.
Unexpected, perhaps, but not as a complete surprise.
Which brings us to another inclusion in the matrix, a cover of Van Morrison's Brown Eyed Girl.
This one underlines the you never know what you're going to get side of Bruce fandom.
The story goes something like this: sometime during Darlington County, or possibly earlier in the piece, Bruce spots a cluster of people in fancy dress.
There also seems to have been a sign involved. And the whole thing links to a 1950s sitcom called The Honeymooners.
The long and short of it was that the group ended up on stage, mid-set, with one of them taking over the piano stool from Prof Roy Bittan. What ensued (you'll find video here) might not have been one of the all-time musical highlights, but it certainly provided an element of light relief in the middle of a performance that returned to regulation mode with blistering performances of Murder Incorporated and Death To My Hometown.
Earlier, the now regulation opener had been followed by a crisp bracket of songs that had not featured in the two previous shows but underlined the political theme, Land of Hope and Dreams and an incendiary Trapped.
From there,  we got what amounted to a greatest hits/ semi-obvious suspects mini-set (Spirit in the Night, Glory Days, Hungry Heart) and a return to earlier themes with Wrecking Ball and Youngstown. Something in the Night was semi-sombre, Darlington County rocked along nicely, and the light relief that came with Brown Eyed Girl contrasted nicely with the impassioned duo that followed.
But the absolute highlight, for Yours Truly was a magnificently moody Racing in the Streets.
The main set finished with a series of knockout blows: Because the Night, which I am rapidly coming to consider one of Bruce's all time greatest songs; a She's the One that might have been prompted by signs in the pit; and semi-obligatory readings of The Rising, Badlands and Thunder Road.
The almost direct segue from the main set into the encore wasn't as obvious this time around as the house lights went down, the band left the stage and Bruce delivered the aforementioned stark reading of If I Should Fall Behind.
everyone returned for the regulation run home through Born to Run, Dancing in the Dark, the obligatory 10th Avenue Freezeout, Shout, and, finally, Rosalita.
It was, not to put to find a point on it, a fine show for the aficionado and, almost certainly, a sign of more good things to come.

New York City Serenade
American Land
The Ties That Bind
No Surrender
Land of Hope and Dreams
Spirit in the Night
Glory Days
Hungry Heart
Wrecking Ball
Something in the Night
Darlington County
Brown Eyed Girl
Murder Incorporated
Death to My Hometown
Racing in the Street
Because the Night
She's the One
The Rising 
Thunder Road
* * *
If I Should Fall Behind (acoustic)
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out 

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