Monday, February 20, 2017

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band: Hope Estate, Hunter Valley 18 February 2017

From our guest reviewer, the Non-Venerable Bede.

Catching the Rover Coach from Thornton, I chatted with the local Novocastrians about their expectations for the concert. There were first timers and one or two seasoned Brucenics. Some were annoyed that chairs had been banned and wanted to talk about the legalities of the last minute regulation change.
The 40 minute drive through wine country was a relaxed way to get to the show, although all the time keeping an eye on the cumulus build up on the horizon. The day before had seen a violent lightning storm bringing heavy rain, and the prospect of a repeat in the Hope Estate open air venue was causing some trepidation.
Our friendly bus driver gave us tips on finding the bus at shows’ end. Better to be prepared after having “turped up”, he advised.

As we arrived, Deisel was belting out his set list ahead of schedule….maybe the organisers were worried about an afternoon storm. And so they should have been! Hail and rain descended before Jet’s show and kept the 11,000 crowd crouching under makeshift cover for about 20 minutes. The rain came again after Jet – this time a short encore. As we approached 7 pm, the assembled took their seats or positions in the GA areas. It was wet underfoot but not diabolical.
The clock ticked to 7:30 pm and still no Bruce. A cloud build up to the south-west kept the threat of another storm front of mind, but all that was blown away by the time Bruce and the E Street Band emerged at about 7:40 pm.
A hat tip to the Hunter Valley and the storm and Bruce led the way with Who’ll Stop The Rain, the band crashing in for the second verse to provide an appropriately contextual opener. Then Badlands – a ripping and fresh version that signalled tonight’s set list would have a different feel to the previous Tuesday in Brisbane.
This was a concert for the outdoors, for the fun and sheer joy of it. This was a celebration – the last show in Australia for 2017 – and a distinctly relaxed Bruce was going to make the most of it. Crowd sing-alongs followed with Out in the Street and Waiting On A Sunny Day after a sign request had brought a relic with the cover of I Fought The Law – Bruce instructing the band “in the key of G!”.

Mary’s Place was a welcome return with its Van Morrison-like punch and swing. It was the pre-cursor to the very rare None But The Brave – a throwback to the early 80s and the style Bruce adopted with the soaring ballads of that time and reminiscent for this listener of the work of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.
Then came Wrecking Ball. I love this song live. It has a determination and punch that makes it a live special. It led the crowd into the darker portion of the set which seems to have occupied most of Bruce’s concerts this time around. Death to My Hometown, The River, Youngstown, The Promised Land. Then back into the light with the joys of Working on the Highway, Glory Days and Darlington County.

Two other centrepieces – Because the Night and The Rising – shone for their artistry and sheer musical force. There was a nice touch with a young man, Bill, joining Bruce on stage to sing and play No Surrender, dedicated to his father in New Jersey. Bruce donned an Akubra hat for some of the encores – it looked good on him, with a harking back to some of The Ghost of Tom Joad-era photos.

The encores proceeded apace like a wound up ‘57 Chevy hurtling down the highway, the highlights being Shout (recalling the great Johnny O’Keefe) and Bobby Jean - now transformed into a fond farewell to the crowd.

And the crowd, they cheered for more:

Heard the singers playin', 
How we cheered for more.
The crowd had rushed together, 
Tryin' to keep warm.
Still the rain kept pourin', 
Fallin' on my ears.
And I wonder, 
Still I wonder 
Who'll stop the rain?

Well, Bruce did. And he farewelled us with a beautiful Thunder Road, replete with a lyrical misstep (“ a vision, she crosses….”). But it didn’t matter. Nothing else mattered. Here are a man and his band who continue to fuel a musician/listener love affair that just seems to get stronger and provide us with a chance to experience the rush moment that’s worth living for.

Who’ll Stop The Rain
Out in the Street
I Fought The Law
Jole Blon
Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
I’m Goin’ Down
Hungry Heart
Mary’s Place
None But the Brave
Wrecking Ball
You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
Death to My Hometown
The River
The Promised Land
Working on the Highway
Glory Days
Darlington County
Because the Night
The Rising
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)

No Surrender
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Bobby Jean
Thunder Road

Friday, February 17, 2017

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Brisbane Entertainment Centre 16 February 2017

The train out to Boondall hadn't quite reached Fortitude Valley when I looked out to the right and realised that the basement of a building just over there must have housed Brisbane’s legendary Red Orb disco back in the sixties.
Back when The Purple Hearts were Brisbane's answer to the Rolling Stones and The Pretty Things.
That got me thinking.
I'd noted somewhere along the line that Little Steven’s Underground Garage radio show had gone out from the Hard Rock Cafe at Surfers Paradise on Wednesday. 
Subsequent online checking revealed that it goes to air on a Sunday, so at the time of writing that there is no way to check the actual details, but the thought process went like this:
There is every possibility the contents would include something with a direct link to Brisbane. 
The Saints, possibly. 
 Or The Purple Hearts, if Mr Van Zandt wanted something a tad more obscure.
There were, I think, three Purple Hearts singles, one of which (You Can't Sit Down) had been part of the E Street Band repertoire. 
A quick heck on BRUCEfanatic revealed it had been played relatively recently, twice in 2012 and three times in 2009, out of a total of 30 appearances in setlist stretching back as far as 1975.
I floated the theory past The Rug Man, who’d slotted himself into the seat behind mine on a reasonably packed commuter service. He conceded it that was a possibility but would not go any further than that.
Which is wise, because with Bruce you go to expect the unexpected.
What you get, though, under the label of unexpected, is the unanticipated result of the thought processes of someone who is writing (or rather, improvising) a spur of the moment agenda within fixed parameters with which the rest of the world is, unsurprisingly, not entirely au fait.
So, needless to say, You Can't Sit Down failed to get a guernsey.
And, at the last city show of the Australian leg of this tour, you might expect something like the tour's greatest hits, a setlist starting with New York City Serenade that wound up with the regular features.
That would probably do if the sole object of the exercise was to send twelve or thousand fans out into the night around 10:45 with the echoes of the de rigueur encore echoing in their ears.
In between those semi-compulsory elements is where you expect to find the odd surprise. 
Under those circumstances, you might anticipate a collection of numbers drawn from the set lists of the previous eight shows. 
Sort of like, hey folks these are the ones that we dug playing as surprises this time around.
But, of course, you don't get that either. 
What you do get is a situation where the official set list had Hughesy adding five numbers to the song matrix, which now contains 119 selections played over 16 shows. 
We’ll be back to that point and related matters even at the post-tour wash up that will be posted after I return to the physical, rather than the metaphorical, Little House of Concrete.
So, five new additions and a surprise, non-sign request version of Jole Blon, which might have turned up and set list twice last year but still hardly counts as standard fare.
And you can throw in, on top of that, a version of Growing Up which may not have been exactly the way it seemed at the moment. 
On the surface, it looked relatively straightforward. 
There's a kid in the audience with a sign about skipping school asking whether he can get up onstage and play guitar on Growing Up
Bruce supposedly spots it, gives things a moment’s consideration, puts a what do you guys reckon? to the audience, receives the required approval, and the teenage kid gets his moment in the rock'n' roll spotlight.
Like the rendition of Brown Eyed Girl in Adelaide, the whole thing goes off with the smoothness that might suggest to a cynic the whole thing was staged, but who cares?
It was a great little vignette that added an intriguing dimension to another outstanding show, the kind of stuff people will use in years to come to tag Brisbane #2 2017.
Brisbane #1 was, of course, the night he played all those special songs for Valentine’s Day.
This one will be the night when he got that kid up to play guitar on Growing Up.
And why not? 
It looks cool, worked better than you might expect it to, and gave everyone in the audience oodles of warm fuzzies.
But as I made my way out of Central Station on the way back to the hotel, I ran across the Rug Man again. 
He had a distinct impression that the whole thing was staged.
I was sitting way too far away to have picked it up, unless, of course, I happened to spot it on one of the big screens, but Rug Man reckoned the kid was wearing a wire.
If it was true, it meant he had an in-ear connection to the sound monitors, so he could hear how things sounded. That, in turn, meant he must have been given it at some point before he clambered onto the stage.
But, of course, we'll probably never know. 
There may well be some confidentiality agreement that would preclude the kid going out and divulging the details.
It away, it reminded me of stories about The Man in Black, a semi-legendary figure from, I think, 1999 tour. 
This guy was apparently dispatched to find dedicated fans sitting up in the nosebleeds and offer them el primo, much better, seats.
That happened for a while and then seemed to stop as if the practice lost the desired effect as the stories started to circulate.
Now, there is no way I will ever know for sure, not being someone who is going to take large chunks out of the day to go through the arcade rituals associated with Bruce’s pit procedure.
But it seems fairly obvious that either Bruce himself or some dedicated underling reconnoitres the queue around the time the wristbands are handed out.
We've had several references to different countries represented in the pit tonight, a rapid-fire recitation of nationalities that needs data from somewhere if it's not reasonably well-founded guesswork.
So it might have gone down something like this. 
The kid, along with his sign, is lined up along with everyone else for the GA lottery. 
Bruce or his representative spots the sign, with its reference to skipping school. 
Well, that bit has to be true. 
He's a school-age kid, and it is well and truly within school hours. 
Whoever it is sidled over on the quiet, asks if the kid would really like it to happen, and things are set up from there. 
They're called it even be a little mini rehearsal during the soundcheck, just to get a better idea of whether this thing is likely to fly.
But who knows? 
And, in a way, who cares?
Unless, of course, you're a fan with a burning ambition for something or other seeking a way to achieve it. In that case, I hope Hughesy’s unfounded speculation hasn't spoiled it for anyone.
But there is no reason why my hypothetical postulation should spoil it. 
Because a couple of things seem to be self-evident.
For a start, these things only happen once in a while, and they only happen when the opportunity presents itself.
Second, if they are going to happen at all, it will be because Bruce has decided it's a good idea.
Third, once the opportunity has presented itself after Bruce and company decide it's a good idea, and it's prearranged, and there's a rehearsal required, tha will provide a mixture of a safety net and a get out clause. 
Running through the idea in private, or at the sound check, gives everyone involve the opportunity to say, Sorry, this hasn't quite worked out the way we thought it would.
And, after that, if the participants need to be wired into the sound system, that's going to make it all sound better.
But although in Brisbane show #2, 2017 may go down in Bruce mythology as the kid on stage to play the guitar and sing on Growing Up show, that wasn't main, or, indeed, the only highlight.
Once the audience had received the now customary Serenade, the next mini bracket of four songs, the spot where Bruce is wont to slot in an obscurity or two, got four of them. 
Working on a Dream was a pleasant surprise, Roll  of the Dice was another one, and Long Time Coming had been.
It had been coming, in fact, for two-and-a-half years, a long time for a solar significant enough to be included on Chapter and Verse, and, just before it, Jole Blon went within a whisker of making Hughesy's night.
And, after Growing Up, we got that little mini bracket of crowd pleasers. 
Out on the Street, No Surrender, Hungry Heart and Mary's Place were there, more than likely, to tick a few boxes and make sure the crowd went home having heard a few of their favourites.
But then we were back with the semi-obscurities. 
If Fire didn't make my night, it was only because we'd already had Jole Blon
After that, Follow That Dream was a bonus as we segued into the sequence of career highlights and show-stoppers that bring you to the point where the house lights are up, the asterisks appear in the set list, and you realise you've landed right slap bang in the encore.
Jungleland may have got an airing in Perth and Sydney and at Hanging Rock, but there was allegedly someone in the pit who'd been to many shows without hearing it. 
That was probably true, but even if it wasn't the selection worked brilliantly as a lead into a close to stock standard encore bracket.
And a full band Thunder Road was an almost perfect way out of it.

New York City Serenade (with strings)
Working on a Dream
Roll of the Dice
Jole Blon
Long Time Coming
Growin' Up
Out in the Street
No Surrender
Hungry Heart
Mary's Place
Follow That Dream
The River
American Skin (41 Shots)
The Promised Land
Downbound Train
I'm on Fire 
Because the Night
She's the One
* * *
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
Thunder Road

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Brisbane Entertainment Centre 14 February 2017

Well, after all, it was Valentine's Day.
And Bruce was quite insistent about the need to send flowers at the beginning of a Back in Your Arms that underlines how willing Springsteen and company are to shake things up and, effectively, fly by the seat of their pants.
They don't do it all the time, of course.
A glance down last night’s twenty-six song set list will reveal plenty of what you might term the usual suspects.
Anyone who had been following the way things have unfolded over the nine shows to date would have spotted the music stands and anticipated the starter.
And, at the end of the regular set, five-sixths of the encore good reasonably be described as pretty standard fare, more or less what your common or garden Springsteen fan expects.
They are, after all, the vast majority of the crowd in a sold-out venue, and if they’ve splashed out a couple hundred dollars for a ticket and fronted the merch booth you drop a couple of multiples of $50 on T-shirts and such oh good businessmen will ensure that they go home happy.
So they get the encore, with its Dancing in the Dark set piece, which is another prime example of a savvy performer who knows what works. It's the sort of thing that ensures the pit continues to be a source of primal energy that helps drive what goes down onstage.
And, just under halfway through the main set, you know you're going to get Hungry Heart, and the associated bit of crowd surfing if the conformation of the venue permits.
On the way into the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, around the entrances to the pit, you'll see signs informing attendees that crowd surfing is strictly prohibited is that offenders will be rejected. Probably unceremoniously.
But those sanctions only apply to lesser mortals.
Glancing at the seat in the details on my ticket, I had figured Row AC on the floor would have to be around twenty-nine back from the front.
That would equate, pretty much, to where I was sitting for the two Sydney shows and leave vision dependent on the goodwill of those in front of me.
When I arrived, I found that I was actually three rows back and maybe four seats across from the platform Bruce departs from for his crowd surfing exploits.

The seat on my right was occupied by the non-Venerable Bede, a long-time fan whose Bruce obsession that goes back to Born to Run, but hadn't been able to catch any of the earlier shows on the tour.
On that basis, what might expect a detailed discussion of how things had panned out over seven shows, I that, but was told, was a no no.
He had deliberately avoided the details of the tour to date, then wanted to be surprised by the setlist as it unfolded. It was an attitude I found difficult to comprehend, knowing that after New York City Serenade, which would either open or slot in around number seven, there were four or five almost inevitable no-brainers (Hungry Heart, Youngstown, Because the Night, The Rising, and Badlands) in the main set, and the encores were more or less obvious if you took any time at all to consider such matters.
And, on his right, there was a woman who'd gone to school in Proserpine a couple of years behind the inimitable Staggster, who I just happened to be interacting with on Facebook. It's a small world, and it continues to shrink.
The seat to my left remained unoccupied throughout, which may or may not have been related to an interesting snippet that emerged when one of the seats in the row in front of us was occupied by a gentleman with an American accent and an inclination to chat.
Since most of the row was unoccupied at that point, Hughesy, ex-Prossy Lady and the non-Venerable One were the obvious candidates.
And it seemed our new friend Leon, who had a ticket for Thursday but not, initially, one for tonight had rocked up to the venue an hour ago, asked whether anything was available and landed a single seat in a prime position.
On that basis, one might assume the seat of my left remained unoccupied because no one had turned up and asked.
At least I hope that was the explanation.
Given what was to come, you wouldn't want someone to have missed out through illness or misfortune.
So the lights went down, Professor Bittan appeared on the screens, the libraries tinkled and we were serenaded once again. New York City Serenade continues to sparkle as a sublime opener, a glass of prime bubbles to go with the canapes, but your average punter wouldn’t have anticipated what came next.
But that's not quite right either.
Your average Bruce familiar punter would have expected surprises and would still have been surprised by what eventuated.
BRUCEfanatic reports that Lucky Town had not been played since 2005, while Janey Don't You Lose Heart has been played once in 2015 and 2013, and twice in 2009 after multiple airings in 2008.
You could hardly describe either as an obvious candidate.
Rendezvous and Be True had turned up in tandem in Sydney but the real surprise and, for me, the highlight of the show (and possibly the whole tour) came after Bruce grabbed a sign advocating Back in Your Arms. 
What followed underlined just how many risks Bruce and company are willing to take they are in the mood to be adventurous.
Lesser mortals might not even have attempted it, though one note it has turned up from time to time. More adventurous souls may have embarked on it and ground to an embarrassed halt when things went awry.
Bruce, on the other hand, admitted that things had gone wrong, enlisted Mr. Lofgren to help bring it all back together, and brought the whole thing to a climactic conclusion.
It was the sort of performance that makes you wish Bruce’s official website would release selected video footage along with the audio recordings of most shows. Back in Your Arms would be an obvious candidate for that sort of treatment, but in the absence of an official source, the semi-inevitable YouTube footage will have to do, assuming somebody has the wherewithal to post it.
Better Days was another sign request, and while, thereafter, the foot stayed down while things kept motoring, your average optimistic punter would probably not have been expecting too many further surprises.
So we got Leap of Faith for the first time since two inclusions in 2014 and the encore kicked off with Secret Garden, which had a play count of just four since a debut at Madison Square Garden in 2000.
It was that sort of night.
And, for Hughesy, a further highlight came with a Candy's Room that roared and soared, burning with the passion that it deserved.
If I had my way, it would appear, on average, in every second or third set list.
And that's about all that needs to be said except to note that the Nils Lofgren solos in Youngstown and Because the Night had me wishing that an electric Ghost of Tom Joad would find its way back into the equation with Nils handed the guitar shredding duties formerly assigned to Tom Morello.
So that was it.
Eight down, one to go, and I doubt you would have found too many dissatisfied customers on the way out.

New York City Serenade (with strings)
Lucky Town
Janey Don't You Lose Heart
Be True
Back in Your Arms
Better Days
The Ties That Bind
Out in the Street
Hungry Heart
Wrecking Ball
Leap of Faith
The River
Candy's Room
She's the One
Because the Night
The Rising 
* * *
Secret Garden
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
Bobby Jean 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Sydney, Thursday 9 February 2017

The train was on its way out of the station when I consulted the iPhone and noted that the time was 11:01.
On that basis, I’d been right when I'd remarked to the male half of the duo who had claimed the seats beside me that I thought the show had been a little short.
For once, I had an accurate note of the starting time (7:47), and the most recent time check during the concert, around 10:20 had been just over the two-and-a-half-hour mark.
From there, Bruce has surprised a few people with an acoustic Thunder Road, after that the venue had started to empty,  I'd made my way to the station, and we’d had a bit of a wait before things got moving.
So it seems fair to say but the interval between the gospel number coming over the public address and the train's departure was comfortably over fourteen minutes.
Consequently, it seems safe to assume that the concert room comfortably short of three hours.
I did not, however, raise the point because people might think I was confusing quantity with quality.
As far as shows go, this was one of the best, despite the odd distraction in the neighbour department.
A seat on the floor at the back of section D had me more or less across the way from where I’d been sitting on Tuesday, but this time the view to the front remained clear.

When I arrived, I found a couple two seats away on my right. Preshow discussion revealed he was either an American or had stayed there long enough to add an American inflection to his accent.
And he was Deadhead, with a concert count roughly equivalent to Hughesy’s tally of Springsteen shows.
But it was his first time for Bruce.
She was less inclined to chat, but I suspect she was Australian, which probably explained why her other half was in the country.
The seats on my left were taken by an Indian couple who were unsure about the visual side of things, being at the back of the floor and all. They were also new to the Bruce live experience.
He was, however, big Rolling Stones fan, and seemed to rate Bruce alongside Mick Jagger as far as reputations about live performances were concerned.
They both remained seated throughout the show, with his better half occasionally getting to her feet for a brief look at things that weren't coming up on the video screens.
And it was well into Lonesome Day when the two seats on my immediate right were occupied by two large gentlemen bearing beer and a liberal supply of sideways conversation which may not have been Bruce related.
In between regular resupply runs, they remained on their feet for much of the show which, in turn, raised issues for me as far as standing was concerned.
I could've spent much of the concert on my feet, but that, in turn, would've blocked Mrs. India’s view of the three screens.
Seated, she was never going to see much of the stage.
But, not to put too fine a point on it, I was very much the worse for wear and quite happy to remain seated for most of the show.
It had been very hot during the day and I would probably have been better off making my visit to the Australian National Maritime Museum yesterday rather than today.
Weather permitting, of course.
But it didn't, so I did, and paid the price during the night.
There were frequent yawns through the twenty-seven song set and encore, but they nothing to do with boredom.
How can you get bored in a Springsteen show that adds three numbers to your song matrix, includes Rosalita, and it is completely devoid of kids being hauled on stage to sing a verse of Waiting on a Sunny Day?
Sure, we had the regulation crowd surf during Hungry Heart and the inevitable selection of dancers from the pit at the end of Dancing in the Dark.
But they’re probably inevitable and are all part of the show.
Equally inevitable, it seems, is Shout, and tonight confirmed notions about its value in the set list.
No Shout, would probably have meant no Bobby Jean and quite possibly no acoustic Thunder Road to finish it off.
Running through the setlist itself, New York City Serenade sparkled the way it always does.
I just wish Bruce would find somewhere else to use those strings.
From there, the four-song, up-tempo salvo got everything moving before things dropped back a notch with Spirit in the Night, played with the usual infectious groove.
Out in the Street lead nicely into the night's second set piece (that's assuming you count the opener as the first) while Death to my Hometown slotted in around where it fits best
Adam Raised a Cain was a sign request, probably a definite one since it hadn't been played it since Berlin in June last year.
The River, Youngstown and The Promised Land could be rated among the usual suspects
Throwing in Rendezvous and Be True shook things up a little before the rising crescendo that reached its peak with a boisterous Rosalita.
With the house lights on but no other indication that it was encore time if Born to Run was predictable, the Detroit Medley wasn’t.
But, boy did it fit!
The Dancing in the Dark routine depends largely on the calibre of the dancers Bruce hauls out of the pit and this bunch was better than average.
And, from there, things almost proceeded by numbers.
Until, of course, the acoustic Thunder Road that should have had people who'd made their way out of the venue while the band was taking their curtain call kicking themselves.
Hughesy is cagier.
While I’ll start making my way towards the exit, there's no way I'm going to leave until that the gospel number comes across the PA.
At that point, you can be reasonably assured that the show is over.

New York City Serenade (with strings) 
Lonesome Day
The Ties That Bind
No Surrender
My Love Will Not Let You Down
Spirit in the Night
Out in the Street
Hungry Heart
Death to My Hometown
Adam Raised a Cain
The River
The Promised Land
Be True
Working on the Highway
Because the Night
The Rising
* * * 
Born to Run
Detroit Medley
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
Bobby Jean
Thunder Road (acoustic)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Sydney, Tuesday 7 February 2017

If you're inclined to be superstitious, you might be inclined to approach Springsteen show #13 with a degree of trepidation.
On the other hand, experience over the previous twelve suggests that you're not likely to get a show you would rate too far below excellent in terms of performance.
Some are more stellar than others, but even when things don't quite click you can be reasonably confident of a good time.
Of course, experience also shows that the enjoyment of the performance can be affected by your environment, particularly those around you.
And, at the start, things did not particularly good. My seat was on the floor in Section E, well back on the end of Row 22.
Alarm bells started ringing when the bloke on the right-hand side of the bald-headed gentleman in front of me remarked that he could stand all night because there was no one behind him.
But I can't help thinking he had one eye pointed in my direction, waiting to see if there was any response.
Hughesy, of course, was diplomatic.
There's always a wait and see approach, and if things panned out so that I had to spend three hours on my feet, I'd be spending three hours of my feet.
That's not a problem, complaints can be passed forward to the gentleman in front.
In any case, the video screens at Qudos are very well elevated, and if you don't always need to be able to see the stage to enjoy the concert vibe.
But it helps.
Anyway, the gentleman in probably made his intentions quite clear by spending the ten minutes before the show actually started on his feet.
As The Professor hit the keyboards, I thought he was going to remain on his feet through New York City Serenade, but sanity prevailed, and those behind me got to see the whole of the stage for the first number.
That, however, was never going to last and as the keyboard duo strapped on the accordions for American Land he rose to its feet and that stayed there for the duration.
For my part, I went with the flow, standing with those around me stood and resuming the seat when I realised they had done so.
The easiest way to avoid minor irritations is to lose yourself in the flow of the concert and ignore anything on the periphery.
Even when the periphery includes an ignorant bastard standing to slap bang in front of you.
Mind you, there was a point what I nearly tapped him on the shoulder.
A particular section of the bank of lights above the stage had a nasty habit of shining right in my eyes. If Inconsiderate Standing Dude would be so kind as to move about ten centimetres to his left this would no longer be a problem.
Of course, I didn’t.
My teeth are not particularly good, but I would prefer to keep them attached to my gums rather than having them repositioned at the back of my throat.
Losing yourself in the flow of the concert isn't particularly difficult.
Not when American Land flows almost straight into The Ties That Bind, which in turn segues into No Surrender and Out in the Street.
And at this point, we return to a suspicion expressed previously.
The last couple of shows seem to have seen the return of the sign request, but I'm not sure that everything is the way it seems on the surface.
There have not been too many genuine obscurities selected.
After Out in the Street, Bruce plucked aside advocating My Love Will Not Let You Down out of the audience.
Half a dozen songs into the set is probably a reasonably natural niche for this minor classic, and I suspect it could have been lurking there in the set list all along.
Straight afterwards, Bruce grabbed another sign referring to a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack.
Right in the slot where one would expect to find Hungry Heart and the associated piece of crowd-surfing back to the stage.
But I'm not suggesting that it's all preplanned.
The next sign, the third alleged sign request in succession, was for Long Tall Sally, and curiosity about the spontaneity factor saw the consult the iPhone and the BRUCEfanatic app, which is revealed 11 performances with the most recent in Milan in 2013.
And that was the first time the song had been played since August 1989.
I think you can count that one as a genuine that sign request.
It took a minute or two to get things set up for the song, just like it did for Joel Blon at the first show in Melbourne last time around, but the band roared through it in fine style. One can't help suspecting there's some arrangement combining a database and electronic prompts to remind those on stage of lyrics and chords and the like.
But that was really the only surprise in the three-hour set.
I could have sworn I had experienced American Skin (41 Shots) in concert before, although it didn't appear in the song matrix until I added it earlier this morning.
You couldn't really count Candy's Room as a surprise either, although Bruce doesn't play it as often as I'd like.
Personally, I'd have it in the set list ahead of Downbound Train, I’m On Fire, or any of those crowd favourites from Born in the USA.
But then, as stated before, I'm not the person who has spent $300 to see Bruce for the first time.
On the other hand, Bruce, old buddy, old pal, next time you've got a setlist with more than two of those Born in the USA workhorses, drop one of them answer in the Candy's Room in its place.
As long as you're not dropping My Home Town.
Scan through the set list below and you'll see She’s The One straight after Candy, around the same slot it occupied when it turned up in Adelaide.
Somewhere over the last week or so, I saw that given as a sign request, is what prompted suspicions about the current practice regarding sign requests.
Here, it sat nicely as a worthy but slightly less played, inclusion among the what could really be described as the usual suspects.
The blurry line between the main set and to the encore continues, with the house lights not coming up until after Jungleland.
And from there, the run home might have been predictable but underlines the valuable spot occupied by Shout. Bruce, I suspected at the time, couldn't have gone straight from Tenth Avenue Freezeout into Bobby Jean, and further investigation through BRUCEfanatic reveals that sequence has never happened.

New York City Serenade
American Land
The Ties That Bind
No Surrender
Out in the Street
My Love Will Not Let You Down
Hungry Heart
Long Tall Sally
Wrecking Ball
Darkness on the Edge of Town
American Skin (41 Shots)
The Promised Land
Mary's Place
Candy's Room
She's the One
Downbound Train 
I'm on Fire
Because the Night
The Rising
Thunder Road
* * *
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
Bobby Jean

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Melbourne, Saturday 4 February 2017

With 27 songs in the set list for the fifth show of this nine concert cross-country extravaganza, you would have to say that the halfway point for the whole thing comes around song number 14.
That, as it turns out, was Death to my Hometown, which turns out to be appropriate given the political comment that underpins much of the song selection.
Scan down the set list and there are plenty of obvious examples from the opening American Land scattered through the set. And there are plenty more where the comment can be inferred although it has not been explicitly stated.
And halfway through the nine show run is a handy point to stop and consider some of the themes that have emerged across five shows in three cities over eleven days.
It has been a solid batch of prime, no frills Springsteen, delivered by the core, nine-piece E Street Band.
No Tom Morello means no electric Ghost of Tom Joad, and it probably explains the absence of a couple of other numbers the featured prominently over the previous two tours.
Some will have missed the horn section and the backing singers who added light and shade and brought the possibility of jazz, New Orleans and gospel elements into the mix.
So we're unlikely to see an Apollo Medley, Pay Me My Money Down, Shackled and Drawn or We Are Alive.
The reduced numbers are fairly obvious when the band lines out across the stage for American Land and Death to my Hometown.
The sixteen or seventeen-piece ensemble stretched out right across the stage, complete with sousaphone.
This time around, with Max Weinberg stuck behind the drum kit the remaining eight don't fill the space in quite the same way but they rock just as hard, possibly harder.
Fire in the belly tends to do that, and there's no shortage of fire in the belly.
And show number five underlined the variations and random nature of the concert experience.
This time, seated on the shady side of the stadium on the end of a row, the neighbour factor turned out much better, even though I only had neighbours on one side.
Having tracked down the big black self-propelled wheelchair, and paid my respects to the Queen of all Tramps, I was in my seat for most of Diesel’s opening set, and all of Jet.
The row of seats to my left remained mostly vacant except for a couple in the middle, and fill gradually until an older couple arrived to claim the fourth and fifth seats. Those arrangements were adjusted when a younger woman arrived bearing beer. The bloke moved into the third seat in the row and explained that She Who Had Arrived With Beer was their stepdaughter, who had shouted Mum and Dad their concert tickets.
She had also bought the first round.
I don't have a stepdaughter and am never likely to acquire one, but should one materialise, I'll have one just like that thank you very much.
Mum and Dad, as it turned out, were from an unspecified part of Tasmania and had frequently crossed Bass Strait to catch concerts in Melbourne.
They'd also seen Leonard Cohen in Hobart, which provided an excuse to discuss three-hour concerts in general.
And Bruce in particular.
Dad was an obvious fan, had been before, and understood certain people’s motivation for attending a run of nine shows.
He was also a diplomatic family man and carried on separate conversations with Mum and Daughter and his itinerant not quite neighbour.
Around twenty minutes before the show was likely to start, the vacant seat was occupied, and I had  someone else to talk to.
The indigenous bloke in the seat in front of me joined in as his female companion got caught up in an across the aisle conversation with two girls who could well have been relatives.
Or people with a significant number of mutual acquaintances.
You don't need to eavesdrop to figure out that sort of thing. Snippets like She's getting married in April allow you to draw fairly obvious conclusions.
Then the neighbour appointed out the band in procession from the dressing rooms to the backstage
Area, and a minute or two later we were on.
I'd already pointed out the music stands, stage left of Max’s drum kit, but as the two keyboard players donned accordions and headed for the front of the stage it was obvious where we were starting from.
Lonesome Day was another addition to the song matrix, and if anyone needs convincing about the depth of Bruce’s unreleased back catalogue I would point them straight towards My Love Will Not Let You Down.
Out in the Street rocked the way it should, and while they may have been planning to play Sherry Darling all along, there was a sign in the audience, a request to dance beside the drum kit, and an excuse to make things look like the sign that was responsible.
Personally, I could have done without Hungry Heart and Glory Days, but I'm not someone who has just shelled out $300 to see Bruce for the first time.
This Hard Land was a sign request and one for the hard-core fans while New York City Serenade with the strings worked, as it has done every time.
The problem comes with those two words: every time.
The 78 intro to Prove It All Night seemed to be another sign request and it went down just fine up where I was sitting. It was good to get Trapped again, as was the case with Cadillac Ranch and My City of Ruins, but the rest of the main set was, I thought, an exercise in covering the bases and keeping the mainstream fans happy.
That was probably the case when Waitin' on a Sunny Day made its reappearance, though one suspects a certain amount of dissent from a certain senior East Streeter about its place in the set at all.
Or maybe he was just kidding around.
But the crowd loves it, so I guess it stays.
The other thing that has been reasonably interesting has been the slow and continuing evolution of Shout, first played (according to BRUCEfanatic) in Clarence Clemons’ New Jersey nightclub back in 1982.
A look at the numbers played in seventeen appearances at the venue reveals a predominance if old rock and R&B numbers. The old Isley Brothers rave-up would appear to be right at home in the setting.
Then, again according to the app, it was played once in the States in 2012, around eighteen times across Europe, South America and South Africa in 2013 and made its Australian debut in Perth around three years ago.
Since then it has gone on to become a regular feature in the encore, with the play count, according to BRUCEfanatic around the 116 mark.
So it turns up frequently these days, and without checking too closely, it usually slots in straight after The E Street Shuffle.
As anyone who has attended a show recently will know, The E Street Shuffle, with its visual tribute to Clarence Clemens and Danny Federici, slots in towards the very end of the encore.
But it can't really end the encore.
It needs something after it.
One option, which I seem to recall from 2014, is to wrap things up with a solo acoustic number, a gentle wind down from what has gone before.
Alternatively, follow E Street with another rocker and you have a possibility of finishing with another. Rosalita, for example.
Or, as we've seen recently Twist and Shout.
And that is where Shout fits in.
It can close the show, and send everybody on their way home in a positive frame of mind, or it can wind the crowd up a little further for another frenetic finale.
For Australian audiences, it can also be seen as a nod towards legendary Australia rocker Johnny O’Keefe.
That, at least, was how I read it the first couple of times.
Actually, it almost seemed like a throwaway, something tacked on to the end to better things out a little longer. Or maybe, I just wasn't paying enough attention.
What has be obvious in the last couple of shows is that the shelf is evolving. The evolution of a have started earlier, and in fact, it probably did. But the developments took some time to register, and they're not going to be obvious on a recording because a lot of the evolution lies in the visual schtick that has come to be part of the package.
It is, I guess, a fairly natural process that Bruce has been employing throughout his career.
He adds something to the onstage performance, usually as a spur of the moment thing, and if it works he tries it again.
Maybe it works really well, ad then goes on to become something of a trademark, associated with that song.
A show that has evolved over 40 years will contain any number of examples of that sort of thing, and they are probably littered all the way through any given set list.
And the process is probably happening all the time.
But it's interesting to register what's happening and observe the development.
One final point.
If you're going to register that sort of thing, you need to be watching.
Not heading back towards the bar to buy another round.
I've always found the need to head off, several times, in the middle of a show for another round of overpriced blues in plastic cups be mystifying. I
 like to drink as much as any given next man, and certainly more than most.
I'm not going to leave my $300 seat for a drink while Bruce or any other artist I've paid big bucks to see is playing.
But, from my seat on the end of the row, I was surprised by the number of people who will.
Hang on. Let's refine that.
I'm not going to leave my $300 seat for a drink while Bruce or any other artist I've paid big bucks to see is playing. Unless there is absolutely top shelf liquor involved.
Penfold's Grange in a plastic cup might be sacrilegious, but it would tempt me to leave my seat.
During Waitin' on a Sunny Day.
While the kid's onstage.

American Land
Lonesome Day
My Love Will Not Let You Down
Out in the Street
Sherry Darling
Hungry Heart
Glory Days
This Hard Land
New York City Serenade (with strings)
Prove It All Night ('78 intro)
Cover Me
Death to My Hometown
My City of Ruins
Cadillac Ranch
I'm Goin' Down
Waitin' on a Sunny Day
Because the Night
Thunder Road
* * *
Born to Run
Seven Nights to Rock
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
Twist and Shout 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Melbourne, Thursday 2 February 2017

I walked out of AAMI Stadium, after what was probably the least enjoyable of my ten Springsteen shows to date reflecting on the neighbours, the luck of the draw and daylight saving.
In the states where it applies daylight saving it is not, of course, a consideration when the concert you are attending is an indoor venue.
Once you are inside your indoor venue, the sun becomes immaterial. Nothing it does can affect your enjoyment of the show.
Here, we were through an opening number that had, according to the BRUCEfanatic app, never been played before, American Land, and into The Ties That Bind when I posted the photograph above on Facebook with the comment: “That sun’s a real bugger.”
And it was.
Even after it had sunk below the level of the scalloped roof on the western side of the stadium it was still an issue.
And there were people up towards the nose bleeds above me who would've had those issues for much longer.
Order of the first things I did when I got back to base was to check the ticket for Saturday night. Thursdays entry point was Gate Two, on the eastern side.
On Saturday, it is Gate Seven, so that should not be an issue.
But that's the luck of the draw.
Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you. What you lose on the roundabout you make up for on the hurdy-gurdy.
It's all part of life’s rich pageant.
And then there are the neighbours.
For a start, it's nice to have them.
Chatting to those around you help to deal with the preshow adrenaline, which, of course, is one of the reasons why I do it.
But you can't talk to them if they're not there.
Admittedly I had arrived early and had taken a look around for the big black self-propelled wheelchair that would have contained one of the leading the identities all the Bruces Place mailing list.
Cheryl has been dubbed the mother of all tramps by another leading participant, and I wanted to catch up with her and see how she was going with her quest for access to the E Street Lounge.
But big black self-propelled wheelchairs were in short supply, so after an initial reconnaissance, I adjourned to the eastern veranda, where the Richmond bar was dispensing $12 plastic cups of Wild Yak.
It was far too early to take a seat in the sun, but there were seats in the shade near the beer booth, so I paid for a Yak and sat down.
When it was empty, I took the plastic cup across to a convenient wheelie bin, which gave a couple of concertgoers a chance to grab seats where I had been sitting. I
 headed back, working on the principle that I had bought the semi-obligatory beer and was reasonably entitled to sit for a while longer before I resumed the reconnaissance.
Apologies ensued, and I ended up on the edge of the bench chatting to a couple from Port Fairy who were about to experience their first Springsteen show.
Interesting folks, who would have been good neighbours when the show started.
So we turned awhile, I completed another circuit of the stadium, and with a continuing absence of wheelchairs of any description, I figured it was time to find my seat.
A dull roar outside indicated that the reformed Jet had hit the stage, so while there was a definite case for locating the seat, it might not have been time to actually occupy it.
But it would be handy to know where it was.
That was the point where I discovered I was actually on the wrong level.
Proceeding upstairs, I made a couple of interesting discoveries.
For a start, my seat was in the very back row of a narrow section, and issues with glare made it impossible to see anything that was happening onstage or any close-up detail on the big screens.
And It was hot.
On the other hand, when I ascended the stairs I had found myself in a large, enclosed and air-conditioned space. With seating, a bar at one end, and another in the middle.
There could well have been a third at the other end of the room, but I did not need to go that far to investigate.
After what may have been five minutes and certainly felt like it that was probably much shorter it was obvious that inside was the place to be.
I shelled out for another Wild Yak, found a seat and sat out the rest of the opening set.
I could even see the big screen is through the window.
While Jeff rocked really righteously, unfamiliarity with the material meant that I found their set fairly a nondescript and rather formulaic exercise.
What's it was done, I waited for awhile on the off chance but the row I could see through the window might start to fill.
Bladder considerations meant I was disinclined to shell out another $12 for a third Wild Yak so eventually I bit the bullet and headed out into the late afternoon sun.
At that point, despite word that Bruce was due on stage around 7:15, my section of the venue what's very sparsely populated.
It took a while to fill.
When neighbours finally arrived, the seats on my left were occupied by a chubby couple all the indeterminate sexuality although one was undoubtedly female.
They arrived bearing copious quantities of food drink, which they consumed slowly throughout Bruce’s set, in between canoodling, air punches, assorted yee-hahs, and frequent stand-up and boogie episodes that usually seemed to end up in canoodle mode.
Not that I was watching, you understand.
But it was the sort of annoying distraction that diverts your attention away from what's going down on stage.
The seat on my right initially remained occupied, and it was well into the set, possibly around No Surrender before I realised that there was someone there.
And while the left side neighbours were extrovertedly distracting, the right side had a black-clad dude who would've stood around six feet five in the old money who seemed to spend the entire two-plus hours dispassionately watching what was going down on stage with his arms folded.
Taking all those factors into consideration, it is probably no wonder that I'd have to describe my concert experience as a sub-optimal although there was nothing wrong with the performance.
One could not help suspecting that the opening Don’t Hang Up was a late inclusion in the setlist since the music stands were there again.
New York City Serenade, complete with the obligatory swing section, worked almost as well as light and shade in between Wrecking Ball and Atlantic City as it did as an opener in Perth and Adelaide, though there was a bus of conversation around me that probably wouldn’t have been there at the start of the show.
A set with plenty of crowd favourites from the Born In The USA album could be described that's relatively unexciting but provided plenty of opportunities for the shapely girl with the attractive derriere to get up and shake it.
Fortunately, she left a clear window between herself and the stage from where I was sitting. The view may not have been as unobstructed from the seat of my right.
Maybe that's why black-clad dude was so obviously unimpressed.

Don't Hang Up (solo acoustic)
American Land
The Ties That Bind
No Surrender
Two Hearts 
The Promised Land
Glory Days
Hungry Heart
Wrecking Ball
New York City Serenade
Atlantic City
Johnny 99 
Murder Incorporated
Death to My Hometown
The River
Mary's Place 
Darlington County
Working on the Highway 
I'm on Fire
Because the Night
The Rising
Land of Hope and Dreams
* * *
Long Walk Home (solo acoustic)
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
Twist and Shout