Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band in Melbourne

Posted on February 6, 2017

By Brian Wise.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND

THURSDAY FEBRUARY 2 & SATURDAY FEBRUARY 4, 2017 – AAMI STADIUM, MELBOURNE

It is a tale of two quite different concerts: one politically charged, the other a rock ‘n’ roll party. The contrast could not have been more striking.

On Thursday evening Bruce Springsteen opened the show almost sheepishly saying, “We stand before you……embarrassed Americans tonight… We’re gonna use this to send a letter back home.” He was referring to a phone call between the new US President Donald Trump and Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (referred to by the White House Press Secretary as Mr Trumble). Allegedly, Trump decided to hang up on the PM after a terse 25-minute chat.

As a comment on this event Springsteen went straight into a version of the 1962 hit ‘Don’t Hang Up’ by The Orlons. Until now the Australian shows had started with the reflective ‘New York City Serenade.’ Suddenly, it recalled the night fourteen years ago when Springsteen appeared at the Docklands Stadium after George W. Bush had order the invasion of Iraq.

Less than a month ago, Springsteen had performed at the White House for President Obama’s staff and in last year’s election campaign he had campaigned for Hillary Clinton. Now he had to watch the fallout from afar, as he had also done more than a decade ago.

Politics was obviously heavily on the mind of The Boss, especially Trump’s immigrant ban of a few days earlier, because the second song was ‘American Land,’ a song about the role of immigrants in American society. This was followed by ‘The Ties That Bind.’ (You could also read something into other songs that featured, including ‘Death To My Hometown’ and ‘Land of Hope and Dreams’).

Later, after mentioning the Feed Melbourne collection outside and the 21 nationalities at the stadium (“Those Italians follow me wherever I go!’”), Springsteen introduced an acoustic version of ‘Long Walk Home’ by saying, “I wrote this during the Bush administration, guess it still applies.”

About forty-five minutes into the set the pace had slowed with what was the highlight of the evening, ‘New York City Serenade’, featuring a specially recruited local string section. It was perfect timing after the intensity of the show’s start. Even then, there were still 19 songs to go! ‘Atlantic City,’ which followed was a nice surprise and gave people the chance to join in.

After ‘The River’ Springsteen paused before singing ‘Mary’s Place’ and pondered, “Shit is fucked up,” then repeated the line as if he had realised the gravity of what was happening in his home country and was powerless to do anything. (In Perth he had noted that the ‘resistance starts here’). You got the sense that he was wondering just how political the show should actually be. It will be really interesting to see the reaction he gets back in the USA when he tours there this year. The one song he hasn’t played so far is ‘Born In The USA’ and I wonder if that will continue. 

Soon afterwards the other highlight arrived with ‘Because The Night’, the co-write with Patti Smith, which featured Nils Lofgren’s great slide solo and a crowd sing-along. Followed by fiery bracket of ‘The Rising’, ‘Badlands’ and ‘Land of Hope and Dreams’ it was a potent reminder of just how powerful some of Springsteen’s songs can be.

The evening stretched out to a few minutes shy of three hours and included a frenetic version of ‘Born To Run’ after which ‘Dancing In The Dark’ gave Springsteen the chance to involve the audience by inviting some of them onstage. The most notable audience member chosen had held up a sign that read ‘Dance With This Nasty Woman/Love Trumps Hate’). Springsteen’s direct connection with his audience remains remarkable and a hallmark of his shows.

The following song, ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze Out’, included a tribute on the screen to the late Clarence Clemons (as nephew Jake watched on) and Danny Federici and was a reminder not only of the longevity of the band but also of Springsteen’s connection with his musicians as well as the audience.

The show closed on an upbeat note with the Isley Brothers’ ‘Shout’ and ‘Twist & Shout’ amid protestations from Springsteen that he couldn’t go on as Steve Van Zandt draped a black cape around him (a la James Brown) emblazoned with ‘The Boss’ in large white letters.

What had started on Thursday as a sombre evening ended in a celebration but on Saturday night it was pretty much party central for the whole night.

While the show began with ‘American Land’ there was no other political comment, as if that song signified everything that Springsteen wanted to say and that any further explanation was superfluous. This was Springsteen and band in party mode, seizing the chance to put serious matters aside for just a while.

While on Thursday it had taken four or five songs to sort out the sound on Saturday it was perfect from the very start of the show – at least from where I was sitting (ironic given that I was further back in the arena in a seat that cost one-third of the cost of Thursday show!).

This evening Springsteen seemed intent on casting off the shadow of Thursday. ‘Hungry Heart’ came early in the set and gave everyone a chance to singalong – in fact it gave the audience a chance to start the song as Springsteen conducted them.

‘New York City’ was again splendid but was followed this time by ‘Prove It All Night’ and a cover of Jimmy Cliff’s ‘Trapped’ followed by ‘Youngstown’ and ‘Cover Me.’ While ‘Death To My Hometown’ and ‘My City of Ruins’ brought back the political references they were performed without comment. ‘Waiting On A Sunny Day’ upped to optimistic sides of things after a few false starts while Springsteen and Van Zandt figured out the chords after Bruce explained that they hadn’t played it for a while. The inclusion of Moon Mullican’s ‘Seven Nights To Rock’ in the encore was a very nice touch.

As Springsteen protested that he was too old and tired to continue after ‘Shout’, the cape emerged again and again there was the finale of ‘Twist & Shout’. At just on two and three quarter hours and 27 songs the show was the shortest of the tour so far but perhaps the most focused.

Someone remarked that this was in their Top 10 Springsteen concerts of all time, which was an interesting observation because I had thought the angst-ridden Thursday night show was more appealing to me despite its more ragged nature. Of course, everyone talks about their top Springsteen shows as a separate category to all other concerts. It’s like this: you know how there is no such thing as a bad beer it’s just that some are just better than others? Well, Springsteen always gives 110% so you know you are always going to get a great show it’s just that some just might be greater than others! 

Remaining Bruce Springsteen & E Street Band dates:

February 7 & 8, Sydney, Qudos Arena

February 11 – Mt Macedon, Hanging Rock

February 14 &16 – Brisbane, Entertainment Centre

February 18 – Hunter Valley, Hope Estate

February 21 – Christchurch, AMI Stadium

February 25 – Auckland, Mt Smart

SET LIST THURSDAY FEBRUARY 2

  1. Don’t Hang Up (The Orlons)
  2. American Land
  3. The Ties That Bind
  4. No Surrender
  5. Two Hearts
  6. The Promised Land
  7. Glory Days
  8. Hungry Heart
  9. Wrecking Ball
  10. New York City Serenade
  11. Atlantic City
  12. Johnny 99
  13. Murder Incorporated
  14. Death to My Hometown
  15. The River
  16. Mary’s Place
  17. Darlington County
  18. Working on the Highway
  19. I’m on Fire
  20. Because the Night
  21. The Rising
  22. Badlands
  23. Land of Hope and Dreams

Encore:

  1. Long Walk Home (acoustic)
  2. Born to Run
  3. Dancing In The Dark
  4. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
  5. Shout (The Isley Brothers)
  6. Twist and Shout (The Top Notes)

SET LIST SATURDAY FEBRUARY 4, 2017

  1. American Land
  2. Lonesome Day
  3. My Love Will Not Let You Down
  4. Out in the Street
  5. Sherry Darling 
  6. Hungry Heart
  7. Glory Days
  8. This Hard Land 
  9. New York City Serenade 
  10. Prove It All Night 
  11. Trapped (Jimmy Cliff)
  12. Youngstown
  13. Cover Me
  14. Death to My Hometown
  15. My City of Ruins
  16. Cadillac Ranch 
  17. I’m Goin’ Down
  18. Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
  19. Because the Night 
  20. Badlands
  21. Thunder Road

Encore:

  1. Born to Run
  2. Seven Nights to Rock (Moon Mullican)
  3. Dancing in the Dark
  4. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
  5. Shout (The Isley Brothers)
  6. Twist and Shout

 

 

About Brian Wise