Friday, 15 March 2013

Show #1: Spirit in the night.

Past 2 am in Brisbane. Means it's actually after 3 am in Melbourne, where this day began. I don't know why I lost a f*cking hour traveling northeast from Melbourne to Brisbane, except to say it probably has to do with Queenslandic intransigence.

I'm making words up 'cause it's late and I'm beat but my brain is like an exhausted painter chucking fistfuls of paint at a canvas long after the fingers and eyes and aesthetic sense have surrendered. The opening show of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's 2013 Australian tour is in the books. Many questions to my previous post have been answered. (More on that tomorrow, er, later today.) Setlists have no doubt been posted and reviews must be poring in but my brain is weary so I'll show, not tell. At least for now.
Walked past this swamp out front of the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, site of tonight's show. Considering the number of times my friends and I have gathered in the swamps of Jersey over several decades for Bruce & Co. it seemed fitting to come across one in Australia. No, I didn't wade in to check for crocs, because mosquitos the size of popcorn sent me scurrying for the arena.
Before I write anything else ... Tom Morello was a goddamned marvel tonight. I had high expectations but they were surpassed in spades. Nobody could replace Little Steven Van Zandt but Morello brought such exuberant mastery of an assortment of guitars that I wished every song had a solo he could blister. Welcome to the E Street Band, Nightwatchman. Can't wait to see if your role expands as the tour heads south.
Bruce seemed particularly exuberant this warm, muggy evening. My side of the floor got visited several times, and the man passed within a few feet of me twice. Insanity. My row (which I abandoned early in the show, as explained next) was parallel to the soundboard so it was far from close to the stage. Look at the woman about to pummel Springsteen with a bearhug: Bruce never lost his place in the song but did work in the words 'security' and 'help'.
Bruce may have deemed it necessary to visit the arena's far reaches because the crowd was joyless and dour. Even Aussies admit to lacking exuberance in crowds of fellow Aussies but tonight's collection of lumps had the energy and passion (and skin complexions) of mashed potatoes. I couldn't take sitting down so I joined some fellow humanoids with pumping hearts to a railing where security guys let us stand above the floor and away from the stagnant sitters. The photo above was taken during a wonderfully loose but powerful 'E Street Shuffle'. I posted another one taken during 'Thunder Road' on FB that was equally damning. GA seemed better but still lacked intensity. Hope like hell Sydney and Melbourne and Hanging Rock are better.
A genuinely lovely moment during 'Spirit in the Night' as Springsteen explained to Jake Clemons how he and his uncle used to ham it up during the song's spooky intro. The crowd -- at least the ones not on horse tranquilisers -- cheered each time Jake's face appeared on LCD screens. I was prepared to hear someone ask 'Where's Clarence?' but didn't and that's good because I was having too much fun and didn't want to be bothered finding a bag of ice for my sore, bloody knuckles. 
'The Rising' still brought goosebumps. I longer ago stopped scanning setlists when the chances of seeing another Springsteen concert seemed as probable as Mad Dog replacing Max. Don't know if tonight's show included any true rarities. The second song was a cover of a well-known Brisbane band called the Saints. But I loved every song and wasn't concerned with the 'integrity' of the setlist. For a change.
For my tastes there's no such thing as too much horns or percussion or honey-voiced backup singers. The E Street Band has never sounded better, despite the loss of Danny Federici and Clarence. And they continue to bring the power night after night after night after night .......
Don't know what Bruce was singing here but when you move from Asbury Park to Australia and some guy shows up nearly 7 years later singing 'Born to Run' take my word for it -- homesickness blows.
There are innumerable things wrong with it but I nonetheless love this photo. So much love and power and strength and hope and redemption in between those two hands, and all the while, Bruce never leaves Max's sight.
Post-concert outside Brisbane Entertainment Centre, which had the clear markings of being built by Soviet Union-era apparatchiks.

So it's now after 3 am in Brisbane, after 4 am in my mind ... or whatever's left of it. Another travel day tomorrow. Next show is the opener in Sydney on Monday night. 

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