How will Tom Morello's temporary membership in the E Street Band affect onstage camaraderie and, more importantly, the setlist?
Morello's solos on 'Death to My Hometown', 'Shackled and Drawn', 'Ghost of Tom Joad' and High Hopes' are show staples. Morello's Hendrix bit (below) during 'High Hopes' is something never before exhibited during a Springsteen show. 'Jack of All Trades', played opening night in Brisbane, was made perfect by Morello's closing solo. The Nightwatchman provided Rolling Stone with insight into his E Street Band experience: "Every night, there's six to eight songs I have literally about a nanosecond to prepare for. But it's fun. Now that I know that's the gig I'm like, 'Lets go!' Make it clear: I'm not asking Bruce to stump me. I would love to play 'Thunder Road.' But it's been a really fun challenge."
With four studio releases since his last tour, which recent live staples get the chop?
Along with being the first Seeger Sessions song to be played in Australia, 'Pay Me My Money Down' was the highlight of opening night in Sydney. Its presence in the setlist marked the debut of Bruce's 'Your ass is gonna be talking to ya' speech, one that's evolved to include a 90-second guarantee ('Who's got a watch?') and using the proper pronunciation of 'arse' in Australia. He opened the first Melbourne show with an acoustic 'Devils & Dust' and an unforgiving 'Last To Die' but that was due to it being the tenth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. Otherwise, no dice.
Does Bruce appease the crowd with a full-on 'Born in the USA'?
He played it the last night in Sydney and nearly blew the roof off Rod Laver Arena with it Sunday night in Melbourne. It was the highlight of my wife's evening.
What will these Aussie audiences be like?
Bruce shows reverence for Max's final 'Born in the USA' flourish.
This subject's been well-covered in this blog and on stage by Springsteen himself. His 'arse be talking' speech is a necessary evil in a country where to be in possession of a seat is taken to mean you won't be doing any standing. Bruce tries to give the audience the benefit of the doubt by refusing to say the words 'get off your asses' but the point gets made, and gets results, especially Sunday night in Melbourne. The crowd may be all white, but in Melbourne there's a decent dollop of soul.
How flexible will the setlist be throughout the 10-show run?
Very flexible, to a point. Show #2 in Sydney was as loose a setlist as I've ever experienced, with Bruce pulling signs willy-nilly from the crowd and blasting a classic 'Detroit Medley' in the encore. But the opener in Melbourne was reasonably conservative and veered towards stadium favourites. Will tonight's second show in my adopted hometown be loose, or is Bruce willing to sacrifice variety for audience participation?
At the conclusion of 'Detroit Medley', Bruce asked for a wet sponge to be squeezed over his head. Nils Lofgren obliged.
Which Aussie politician will get hers/his photo taken first with the Boss?
It's been a tumultuous time for Australia's Labor party since Springsteen & Co. arrived, a development not worth exploring because nothing on this planet is as superfluous as Aussie politics. But at this moment no politician has succeeded at having him- or herself photographed with the One True Boss.
Which member of the E Street Band gets photographed with a koala first?
I've yet to see any member of Springsteen's entourage photographed holding Aussie fauna, though Jake Clemons has tweeted several photos of himself beside Aussie lasses. Good on him.
Does the author of this blog desperately wish the dozens of friends from around the world he's had the good fortune of seeing Bruce Springsteen with over many, many years were here in Melbourne seeing the show with him?
Just as in Brisbane and Sydney ... yes. Yes he does.
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