I am drinking blessedly cold beer in a noisy venue called the Corner Hotel down the road from AAMI Park. It’s a little past midnight, 90 minutes after Bruce Springsteen and Jake Clemons took their final bows together, the last two E Street Band members to leave AAMI’s stage. The Corner is ripe with good-looking men and women in summer clothes and boozy grins. A DJ is spinning a mix of hip-hop and obscurities, typical hipster soundtrack. A space for dancing before the DJ is vacant. Suddenly, like wolves howling at the scent of blood, a ‘Whoa – oh – oh – oh – oh’ ‘Badlands’ chant arises. The DJ, aware of a need to appease the howlers, drops the needle on ‘Hungry Heart’, Max’s drums popping like the fireworks that ended this second and final Melbourne show. People in River Tour 2017 t-shirts converge on the dance floor from every corner of the bar, a full-throated “Got a wife in kids in Baltimore, Jack …” obliterating all other sounds.
|Before joining the throng I snapped this photo of the maelstrom.|
The DJ wisely follows with “Dancing in the Dark” before setting loose a force he clearly doesn’t understand: “Born to Run”. I join the writhing, jubilant throng and behave in a manner better suited to a Misfits mosh pit. My cohorts and I scream words of longing and desperation like we’re possessed by the Jersey Devil itself. We smash into one another, screaming to the ceiling, laughing with joy. We’re not drunk. We’re not seeking attention. We’re at the mercy of a lingering force too raw to be tamed. A young blonde I’ve never seen before throws her arms around me, a temporary Wendy holding on for dear life, both of us charged by nearly three hours of a superhuman Springsteen. “Tramps like us!” we shout, free and wild, wanderers in a blast zone searching for survivors of the E Street apocalypse, “Baby we were born to run!” Temporary Wendy kisses me as we part, the DJ fades the song, and our wolfpack disbands. The whole experience surreal, a dream, a possession. But it happened, and none of us will ever forget it.