Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Asses talk. Sydney rocks.

Bruce watches Tom Morello bring the Rage to E Street.
I finally figured it out. No, not the ending to my screenplay, or what makes people think adopting a wild animal is good for the animal.

No, I figured out why Aussie crowds are depriving themselves the joy of participating in a Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concert by, at the very least, standing up.

It's a 2-part speculation:
1) They don't have Born to Run in their DNA.
2) Many in attendance aren't fans of Bruce or the E Street Band.

Born to sit.
I delved a bit into speculation #2 in a previous post regarding paying customers vs fans. The crowd at last night's opening show in Sydney was heaps better than its predecessor in Brisbane. But there was still a huge element -- I'd guess no less than 50% -- that are clearly not fans. This photo of the 2 rows in front of me last night was taken during 'Born to Run'. Have you EVER seen anything like it? Look at the body language. It's inescapable. Many concertgoers have heard the name Bruce Springsteen or recall the hullabaloo around Born in the USA and instructed a spouse or offspring or minion to buy tickets. But they don't like the sound he produces or find the show distasteful or suffer from terrible gastrointestinal troubles that requires them to sit still for many hours at a time in a vast, public space.

There's nothing wrong with this, of course. It's a free country and all that. But it equates to having a taste for red wine, buying one of limited vintage at an exorbitant price, taking a sip, and tipping the bottle over in your sleep.

'Now you!'
The disinterest in Springsteen's signature anthem led me to speculation #1: The great majority of Aussies attending these shows didn't grow up with 'Born to Run', the song or album, in their lives. Or, in the case of younger fans, didn't have a parent or uncle or older brother who played it day and night from a car stereo or upstairs bedroom and unintentionally added it to the soundtrack of that fortunate youngster's life.

I noticed it first in Brisbane, when 'She's the One' created nary a ripple and 'Thunder Road' generated only polite applause. At every show I've ever attended any and all BTR songs were rapturously welcomed and devoured. For the great bulk of concertgoers here they're just another song they don't know .... and a chance to wonder, "when's he gonna get around to playing 'Born in the USA', anyway?"

Which brings us to criminally negligent Aussie radio, which I wrote about on the eve of the tour. Springsteen didn't exist in Australia until Born in the USA. True, his first appearance here wasn't until 1985, but for a nation that was listening to nothing but pop and rock sung by white people it's hard to imagine how Springsteen's working-class anthems weren't embraced until that silly video with Courtney Cox launched BITUSA like a red, white and blue scud missile. As I wrote about previously, Springsteen has been shunted to 'classic rock only' status here, and by far the most popular of the 3 or 4 songs that get airtime is BITUSA.

And he hasn't played it yet in Oz. How I love this man .....

Let's move on to what he did play on a cool Monday evening in Sydney.

Surfing Springsteen
'American Land' was the first-ever live Seeger Sessions song for me. Bruce introduced it as a late St Patrick's Day tune. As my dad turned 74 on the day, and his mother's parents made the trip from Ireland to Ellis Island many many moons ago, it was an outstanding start. Early, too, at least compared to Brisbane, 7:30 vs 8:00.

It's been mind-blowing thus far to see Springsteen squeezed between two of the world's greatest rock guitarists on this tour. He unleashed Nils and Tom in 'Prove It All Night' and 'Adam Raised a Cain', respectively. As the show would run only 2:40, I wonder if handing solo duties over to his sidemen was a signal Springsteen was conserving strength. He did the ol' one-handed nose-evacuation several times throughout the night. Allergies? Cold? Sinuses? Join the ex-pat Australian atmosphere victims list, Bruce.

I know 'Hungry Heart' provides levity and Bruce's crowd-surfing assures the crowd he means motherf*cking business but after the intensity of 'Wrecking Ball' and 'Death to My Hometown' it seems ... quaint. Repeated HH's over the years has worn away its specialness, which is why the foregoing of 'Glory Days' didn't bother me a bit.

'Are we missing anybody?'
From the roll call of 'My City of Ruins' to Bruce and Jake sharing a spotlight during an old-school 'Spirit in the Night' to an almighty blizzard of percussion (and Morello playing guitar with his teeth) throughout 'High Hopes' to a bone-rattling 'Youngstown' to a "holy shit he's NOT really playing this" moment with the high-hat intro of 'Candy's Room' to more Big Beat virtuosity from Max during 'She's The One' ... it was one of those shows that might not overwhelm on paper but that generated wave after wave of intensity, lifting fannies off seats one by one, until ....

She ... has fancy clothes and diamond rings ...
'Pay Me My Money Down'. Bruce used to work on cars so he knows broken things have fixes. A crowd that won't get out of their seats? Preface a song by telling them they're about to hear a voice. That voice will be their ass, telling them to get up. The Seeger Sessions album came and went in this country like a high-altitude cloud but the joy of 'Pay Me My Money Down' proved irresistible to many. I've avoided discussing my seats for this show because they were upstairs and I had to fist-pump and gesticulate sitting down but I was able to do so without taking a swan dive onto the floor below by drinking many cold beers, quickly, at the show's start. Anyway ... a woman in the row in front of me popped out of her seat just after Springsteen's ass speech and started dancing in the vestibule beside our section. I immediately did the same. The Allphones Arena employee assigned to our vestibule watched us like a carnival ride attendant waiting for a pair of kids to get the hell off her ride but was kind enough to let the song finish before asking us to return to our seats. I grabbed her by the shoulders and said thanks. She flashed a relieved smile.

'Pay Me My Money Down' allowed some fans to understand that standing and dancing is part of the price of admission but up in Section 64 I went back to pounding my feet on the ground and apologising to the two women behind me whenever the urge struck to stand and clap and fist-pump and scream to the rafters BAD -- LANDS or THE HIGHWAY'S JAMMED WITH BROKEN HEROES or SATURDAY SUNDAY EVERYBODY ROCKS.

It was that kinda night.
'We'll be back Wednesday with another spec-TAC-ular.'

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