Friday, 22 March 2013

Open all night ... in Sydney.

The second show at Allphones Arena in Sydney Wednesday night bore little resemblance to the opener on Monday, and not just because of a wild setlist that included several audience requests and audibles. How do I know they were audibles? Because Aradhna and I were close enough to read his lips as he called out 'Bus Stop', 'Open All Night' and 'Detroit' (as in 'Detroit Medley', an absolute highlight) among others. Being in GA, a metre or so from the lip of the stage, made for a radically different experience than my first two shows on this tour, when somnolent crowds left me reeling with bemusement. For one thing, it was Aradhna's first Springsteen show. When we first met in 2004 some Springsteen classic came on the radio I asked, oh-so-nonchalantly, if she liked Bruce Springsteen. She paused, thought for a moment, and answered, 'Who?'

Yes, that's an oft-repeated anecdote of our improbable relationship. It's also an unpardonable offense for many people I know, who to this day couldn't imagine marrying someone not at least familiar with the name Bruce Springsteen, much less move to bloody Australia to do so. I've since gone off the deep end delving into her Indian culture, especially music and film. Being on an arena floor for a Springsteen show was her plunge into mine.

Thankfully for all involved -- except the divorce lawyer industry -- she had a blast. Because of our proximity to the stage it was one of the best experiences I've ever had at a Springsteen show. Those around us were naturally jubilant, of course, and while it was nice not having to worry about the non-participation of those around me for the first time in Australia, I did notice people standing in the upper echelons of the arena throughout the show. As always, Springsteen fed off the energy of the crowd, proving my earlier rants were more than a blogger equivalent of yelling at kids to get off my goddamned lawn.

Instead of writing about it I'll let photos taken by my small digital camera recreate the story.

Bruce and Tom Morello during 'Last to Die', the first Magic song to be played on the Oz tour. Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. Coupled with 'Devils & Dust', also the first song from that album of the same name to be played in Australia, it set the tone for an emotional night.
'The ties that biyiyiyiyiyiyiyiyiyiyiyind ....'
'Tonight I'll be on that hill ... 'cause I can't stop ...'
I was glad to hear 'Out in the Street' replace 'Hungry Heart' as the night's crowd-surfing song. Wonder how Bruce felt singing it without Steven or Patti?
I remember snapping this photo thinking I'd better put the camera away because I'd soon have the body of  Bruce Springsteen passing over my head. He did, and even Aradhna helped in passing him to the stage. She looked up at me immediately afterward and said, 'I touched his bum!' It was the first time my wife's ever touched another man's ass and I didn't mind.
Watching Max watch Bruce is one of the best things to watch at a Springsteen and the E Street Band show.
'Death to My Hometown', along with 'Shackled and Drawn', are phenomenally powerful 'new' songs and show off the talents of this larger, more soulful E Street Band.
Bruce pulled up several signs, though this was the only one with a blatant misspelling. A woman beside me with whom I'd made amiable chat was gobsmacked to see Springsteen point at her sign for 'I'm on Fire'. Bruce flashed the sign at Roy and Max first -- their nods meant it was possible to play the song, because none of the newbies had a clue. 
This was the first show to spotlight Born in the USA, far-and-away the most popular Springsteen album in Australia. Besides 'Cover Me', which Bruce tore through like it was played every night, we also heard Oz-first renditions of 'No Surrender', 'I'm on Fire' and 'Bobby Jean'.
Serious axemen.
'Now the sweet bells of mercy, drift through the evening trees ...'
'Jakey' continues to astound.
'Take me now baby here as I am ...'
Bruce seems more comfortable confronting the reality that Aussies are not the crazy people personified on film & TV. Last night he described a conversation he'd had in which he'd been advised to tell Australians to get off their asses. Bruce, however, believed it wasn't necessary and that the next song could do the same thing, and predicted people would get off their asses 'in exactly 90 seconds'. He then launched into a joyous, full-band 'Open All Night', allowing me to scream the words to my favourite song about the NJ Turnpike.
How joyous?
This joyous.
'Gambling man rolls the dice, workingman pays the bill ...'
What Australia needs is SOUL. My words, not Springsteen's, because I've lived here nearly 7 years and I KNOW.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (Aussie version).
'Waitin' on a Sunny Day'. And waitin' for the kid to sing.
In anticipation of a shared knee slide, Bruce bought the boy to his water cooling station besides Max's drum kit and sponged the kid's knees.
Off they go.
Jake Clemons. Already feels like family.
Nils wore an Aussie bush hat for the first few shows but sported a 19th-century London murderer's chapeau last night.
My memory is definitely slipping but Tom Morello's guitar solo during 'Ghost of Tom Joad' Wednesday night was the best guitar playing I've ever heard at a Springsteen concert. That's no shot at Nils. Morello is ratcheting the energy of the show in a way I've never seen anyone besides Bruce or Clarence accomplish.
Jake waits for his moment during an epic 'Jungleland'.
When that moment arrived, he made his uncle look down with an approving, if slightly wicked, grin.
'Born to Run' crowd participation.
This was by far the best crowd of any of the three shows I've seen thus far in Oz.
Bruce carries a flip-pad he'd taken from a woman in the audience earlier in the show. He'd read the pad's contents to us, remarking on the woman's greeting-card-like wishes for members of the band. He'd promised to dance with her during 'Dancing in the Dark'.
He kept his word.
At the end of a blazing 'Detroit Medley' Bruce fell to the floor, a la 'No Nukes' concert film, like he'd never get back up ...
So he called on Nils to give him a dousing.
Which apparently worked a treat.
A serious treat.
Just before 'the important part' of 'Tenth Ave Freeze Out', Bruce walked to the rear of GA, slapping a billion sweaty hands along the way.
'It's all ...... RIGHT.'
Monday's show was a robust but shorter than usual 2 hours 40 minutes. Wednesday's was well over 3 hours and equally robust. Here, it shows.
Final bows. And we all resume our normal, non-indescribably rapturous lives.


Sonja Gill said...

Hi Joe-
I'm a photo editor at Rolling Stone in the U.S. Please contact me ASAP, we're interested in one of your Bruce photos.

The Rhyme Animal said...

Dear Rolling Stone- not only can Joe photograph well- read some of his writings here on this journal- you might find he has a dual edged arsenal he can throw your way!

Anonymous said...

Do you have any contact info for Joe? I'd like to use one of his photos, and I'm on a tight deadline.

Sonja Gill said...

Sorry, I posted the above comment. Could you have Joe email me, if you know him?

jd said...

Those pics are amazing Joe Wall, as I scrolled through them reading the descriptions I got seriously anxious to be missing such a great night, its been way too long.

Anonymous said...

Farout joe awesome shots!! Best review in pictures ever!

Anonymous said...

Wow! You've captured the entire night so accurately and perfectly. It was an incredible show indeed. Excellent blog and photos!