Thursday, 28 March 2013

Gonna be a long walk home ...

Emotional finale of 'Jungleland' at emotional finale of Melbourne stand.
I'm a Springsteen snob. I know it. Not something I'm proud of, but that's how it is. Plenty of folks have seen two or three or four times the shows I have since my first in 1984 (I'm in the high 70s, I think) but my time as a homeowner in Asbury Park resulted in my lifelong appreciation of his music and performing genius morphing into a genuine admiration of him as a person. My friends were his friends in Asbury Park. I know better than most about his efforts to help schools, parks, businesses and organisations dedicated to the people of the town, and not the profiteers. 'My City of Ruins', a song written when the town was battling to 'rise up', still brings me to the point of tears. His recent disclosures about battling depression haven't been surprising, as anyone who's followed his musical journey would have guessed his 'darkness' was more than metaphorical years ago. It frames his life's work in a slightly different context, and makes it more relatable to my own.

Right. You're thinking this an inappropriately serious way to begin a blog post about last night's Melbourne finale, a 27-song set with more 'Holy shit!' moments than any of the previous seven shows on this Aussie tour combined. Just bear with me.

So here's this Springsteen snob watching fellow fans clutch and tear and pull at the man's shirt, pants, boots and every exposed appendage whenever he leans into the crowd. My first night in GA -- second night in Sydney -- delivered him over my head during his nightly crowd-surfing madness. I was more excited at that moment for my wife, who'd never experienced anything like it and uncharacteristically bragged 'I touched his bum!' immediately afterward.

The GA routine (3X) in Melbourne provided ample free time for Springsteen tragics to discuss, well, I'll let you guess the subject, and one of my more predictable exhortations involved the weirdness of people who need to touch Bruce physically. I wondered what caused this urge, leaving unsaid a self-satisfaction with myself for not needing to do so.

I've been pretty relaxed about GA, not overly concerned about lining up early. I'm 6'4", guaranteeing a clear view of the stage and the unsheathed loathing of people behind me. But yesterday, strangely enough at my wife's suggestion, I joined her on her morning train commute but instead of journeying to a steel and glass palace of capitalism in the CBD I got off at Richmond station and made the 15-minute walk to Rod Laver Arena, where Ted from Toms River gave me #101.
10:00am roll call.
Dutifully attended the 10, 1 and 4 o'clock lineups, and secured an excellent spot to the right of the notch that juts from the stage, just in front of Tom Morello.

The show was like a spare drawer, songs from many eras, one tour premiere ('Better Days') and feverish performances of old and new classics. Bruce came to the notch several times and I moved with the crowd's surge to be within touching distance. I didn't. Then it was time for 'Born to Run'. I knew the routine: Bruce holds his Telecaster in front of him and fans pound on the strings and fret board. He came to the notch, the crowd surged, he held his guitar out ...

And I reached up and touched his guitar.

And felt real f*cking good afterwards.

I have been chastened, and shall never judge touchy-feely fans again. We're not so different after all.

Two Magic songs started the night: 'Long Walk Home' and 'Radio Nowhere'. Those of us in Oz have waited a long time to hear them live. We were not disappointed.

The night's first request.

I've got clear memories of the '99 reunion tour when Nils, Bruce and Steven would send shock waves of guitar over the crowd near the end of  'My Love ...' In 2013, in Australia, it's Nils, Bruce and Tom Morello. An equally indelible memory.  

Despite it falling outside the E Street Band-era pantheon, Lucky Town remains one of my favourite Springsteen albums. The band sounded too good for it to have been a spontaneous sign request, but I couldn't care less about 'why' it was played. The 'how' blew all suspicions to bits.

Tom with his foot on the literal and figurative pedal during 'We Take Care of Our Own'.

Garry W Tallent, the Tennessee Terror, only remaining member of the original E Street Band, feels the spirit during another tremendous 'Death to My Hometown'.
Wearing a grin that can only come from the hands of several hundred people treating you like a sack of rice. 'Out in the Street' heralded last night's group grope.

'Lost in the Flood', preceded by 'Factory'. Intense. Feedback at the end of 'Flood' forced Bruce to break 'character' and stomp on a pedal but for those of us who grew up with the song, a notable minority in the Aussie crowd, it was an exceptionally early and generous Christmas present. 

With 'High Hopes, 'Youngstown' and 'Ghost of Tom Joad' in the setlist, Bruce seemed to acknowledge Tom Morello's final arena show with the E Street Band. (Hanging Rock is an outdoor ampitheatre in the middle of nowhere). On a sidenote, I'm writing this blog post listening to The Nightwatchman's 'The Fabled City'. Highly recommended.
I was shocked to hear Bruce call out 'Bus stop!' so soon after 'Lost in the Flood', but it's clear he enjoys using an old song to show off the muscle of this 2013 band. Here, Max mimics the sound of percussionist Everett Bradley.
For the second time on this tour I was confronted with the bizarre scenario of hearing a song I love with a tinge of regret. This photo shows Bruce performing a powerful 'Candy's Room'. Nothing at all wrong with that ... unless it could have been a photo of him playing 'Incident on 57th Street', which for the second time was voted down by a nitwit Australian crowd who wouldn't pick a life-changing Wild & the Innocent track if it was served with a lifetime of meat pies.
The great Nils Lofgren tears the guts out of 'Youngstown'.
After a 'Murder Inc' that damn near blew the roof off Melbourne's biggest tennis shed, Bruce gave his now customary 'speaking ass' spiel before luring bums outta seats with another brilliant 'Pay Me My Money Down'.
Coercing a gentle riff from Charles Giordano's accordian.
Um. OK.
After playing 'I'm Goin' Down' for a pair of twin girls who Bruce called his 'stalkers', the band tore into another spine-tingling 'Shackled and Drawn'. For me it was an example of the power of now over nostalgia -- of course 'I'm Goin' Down' sounded great but it lacked conviction. This band was built for Wrecking Ball. Each night's performance of 'Shackled and Drawn' has been a highlight.
That guitar pick no doubt ended up in the hands of a lucky fan.
'I'm sick and tired of you setting me up, yeah ...'
'I'm Goin' Down' is such a quintessential mid-80s stadium staple, a time that solidified the place of Bruce and the Big Man in rock and roll lore, it was once unimaginable that Springsteen could play it after Clarence's passing. Not any more.
Boss time.
If you've seen the Wrecking Ball tour, you'll recognise the 'Shackled and Drawn' ass shake.
The gorgeous Cindy Mizelle, resident of Norwood, NJ, a town I came to know during my 'f*cking Dumont' years. A sublime addition to the E Street Band.
'Waitin' on a Sunny Day' drives many of the tragics nuts, but it's always fun to watch Bruce work a crowd and make people smile.
Last night's junior soloist was a trooper.
'Can't see nothing in front of me ...'
The Nightwatchman at the start of his now legendary 'Ghost of Tom Joad' solo.
A roaring 'Badlands' closed a fascinating main set.
Our entertainers for the evening.
Tom took the 'Jungleland' guitar solo.
We all know the 'Jungleland' solo note for note, and would recognise a less-than-stellar version. Some performers would no doubt wilt under such expectations, which is why I hold Jake Clemons in such high esteem. He GETS it. He understands how important these songs are to Springsteen's fans. And performs accordingly.
The continuing majesty of 'Jungleland'.
'Born to Run', a perfect bookend to 'Jungleland'.

Just before I crossed over to the other side.
My people.
Bruce sports a pair of sunglasses hurled onstage.
'Hey baby ... ' Check the mix of pride and joy on Springsteen's face. It's felt by those watching, too.
That sponge has gotten a helluva workout on this tour.
A defining image for Bruce Springsteen of Freehold, NJ.
Yup. He can still do that. Wonder what goes through Max's mind each time the Boss defies physiology?
'It's all .................. RIGHT'
'Melbourne, you're DONE! You're FINISHED!'
'American Land' was a perfect arena closer for an American band so far from home.
I love this photo. Just look at Tom Morello. Even Garry looks tickled. What a night.
I was stunned to receive words of praise from Jake Clemons on Twitter today for the photos I've been taking on my digital camera. All praise belongs to Bruce, Max, Roy, Garry, Nils, Soozie, Charles, Everett, Jake, Cindy, Barry, Clark, Eddie, Michelle and Curt. See y'all at Hanging Rock!


The Rhyme Animal said...

No worry Joe about crossing the river to the other side of fandom- I think any of us- "long time" fans would do exactly the same, and touch the Telecaster- and hell, during Born to Run no less!

My next wish is for you to get to say hello to Bruce- as a fellow NJ person, and just let him know how he has helped us all along the way at some point-

The pics are really great, what a wonderful spot you had- keep it coming.

Unknown said...

Great shots. Surely the best of the concerts. Bruce picked my "Jungleland Jake" sign to kick off the encore. You don't have an outtake of him holding the sign do you? - would love to have it to show the kids!

My photos of the Aussie gigs are here - they are nowhere near as good as yours.

Kudos to you, again great shots and just a super night.

Anonymous said...

Joe, so great meeting you "in line" before the show. Another fellow American living in the wonderful land down under. Gotta love the Aussie line up taking the no lottery, no risk approach. Time invested guarantees a spot up close.

Kudos to the gang in the pit on Wed night. I thought this was the most emotionally connected crowd I have been amongst in Australia! Of course being my 5th night in the pit line, you start to know "the regulars". Our team doesn't change as much night to night as the Bruce's set list does! Truly amazing experience when song after song we all know the words and pour every bit of our energy into singing every word.

I love your story told in pictures. Awesome photos! Would be great to see after any show, but even better when you were actually at the show and felt the experience. Thanks for sharing!

Hope our paths cross again at Hanging Rock. I have my fingers crossed for Incident for you and Cynthia for me!