In the latest edition of Rolling Stone Australia, Henry Rollins, former Black Flag band member, wrote in his A Fan’s Notes column, “Never Miss a Springsteen show. He’s the real thing.”
And disappoint he did not. Springsteen is truly an entertainer who knows how to get his crowd excited. With no support act, Bruce ‘The Boss’ Springsteen & the E Street Band performed for three hours straight; No breaks, no mistakes, no slowing down. As the band entered the stage, The Boss yelled to the sold-out Rod Laver Arena crowd to ‘get off their bums’ before he’d even started singing or strumming. The lights still on, the band opened the night with Badlands. The lights went out and his entourage of 16 talented musicians – including Jake Clemons, nephew of longtime pal and musical companion/E Street Band saxophonist, the late Clarence Clemons and Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello, replacing Steven Van Zandt as a temporary touring member – plunged into performing jazzy, bluesy country-tinged, rock-fueled tunes ranging from his debut to the his latest release.
What I liked best about the show was how much Springsteen adores his fans and how he made the night all about them. A setlist of songs was loosely constructed with Springsteen from time to time grabbing plaques of song requests from people in the mosh, placing it on the stage and launching into that song. One, Red Headed Woman, took him by surprise and he chatted to the audience as he tried to figure out which key to play to the song in. The interaction with the crowd didn’t stop there. He’d high-five fans at the front and even allowed them to strum his guitar with him. He would momentarily disappear from the stage, you’d hear his voice and suddenly he’d be in the middle of the crowd in front of the barrier between the mosh pit and the floor seats. One time making his way back to the stage via crowd surfing, which saw him nearly dropped as he inched towards the stage. Towards the end of the main part of the show he pulled a young boy to come onto the stage to perform with him. The Boss chuckled as he pointed out the words ‘rock star’ emblazoned on the kids shirt. The next couple of minutes saw him teaching the kid how to be one. Springsteen allowed the boy to sing a chorus to Waitin’ on a Sunny Day solo, before hauling the kid onto his shoulder, encouraging him to wave to the crowd. He finished off by holding the his hand and teaching him how to knee slide across the stage before handing the kid back to his parent/s.
My favourite, by far, was the performance of The Ghost of Tom Joad. Bruce brought out the harmonica as the eerie melody of the track progressed. Morello stepped up to the mic with his harmonious vocals taking centre stage and played an amazing, hard-hitting guitar duet with The Boss. The five song encore, including classics Born To Run and Dancing In The Dark, completed the night in an emotional state as Springsteen stopped midway through show closer Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, for a photographic tribute to Clemons, before finishing off the song. This was a fitting tribute as this is the song that brought Bruce and Clemons together.
Overall, the concert was a memorable night which made me realise I was a bigger fan of his music and The Boss as a person, than I thought previously. I would definitely see him perform again live and his showmanship, stamina and passion for the music and his fans made the night a more enjoyable affair. Springsteen’s voice hasn’t aged and his music just gets better with each album he releases. The talent and interaction of the supporting musicians with the main man made the show even more spectacular. There were just a few minor issues that ruined the night for me. A couple of times audience members were booing, and I just couldn’t figure out why. Many people, told me days later, that it was in fact, the crowd saying ‘Bruuuuuce’ (PHEW). And as the lights went back on and people started exiting the venue, I was a bit surprised that Born In The USA, Springsteen’s most iconic track, wasn’t performed. It wasn’t as such a disappointment to not see it be performed, but more that I’d expected that it would be the song he would always bow out with. Here’s to hoping this isn’t the last time The Boss will set foot on our shores, as I can see Springsteen rocking and rolling on well into his 80s just like rock legend Chuck Berry, 86, who still performs regularly.