Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sydney Night 1 - Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band @ Allphones Arena

This is not gonna be another detailed song-by-song review, as I've already done so with the UK shows I attended last year. All one has to know is everytime you see Bruce Springsteen, you know you're gonna get the greatest show on earth. Period. He's got a huge backing band that has countless years of experience, able to cover the entire American and rock & soul songbook and beyond, and can switch on a dime. They aren't always perfect, yes they do have the occasional fuck-up, but they play so damn raw and loose it's absolutely intoxicating to watch. This was my fourth show, and my first indoor one. After this, I don't think I wanna go back to seeing them in stadiums again. Arenas are just so much more intimate. Plus, the sound is always better and louder. If Bruce can make a giant outdoor stadium feel like an arena, then in an arena he can make you feel like you're in a club. No matter where you're sitting, you feel like he's singing directly to you. I've not had that experience with any other performer; probably the only one that comes pretty close is Eddie Vedder.

The first show of the three-night stand in Sydney began unusually early, with a nod to Saint Patrick's Day; American Land has been rarely played on this tour. It was a rousing opener which led to something very cool, Prove It All Night. And then Bruce spotted a sign in front, and the band launched into a fierce Adam Raised A Cain, in which Tom Morello took his first solo. The E Street choir added a subtle but nice touch to the background vocals. By that point, any preconceived notions I had about the first show having a 'standard' setlist went out the door. We Take Care Of Our Own didn't make an appearance for the second night in a row, and after the usual two-punch of Wrecking Ball, Death To My Hometown (with Morello doing an extended solo at the end) came Hungry Heart, which basically made everyone get out of their seats for the first time. Shockingly, Australian audiences are a very soft, reserved bunch of people. They only stand up when absolutely necessary, unlike the UK crowds. I myself couldn't stand as everyone else was sitting down; it felt weird. Even then, doing fist pumping while no one else around was doing it also felt weird. It was during Hungry Heart where I witnessed the 'legendary' Bruce Springsteen crowd-surf for the first time, something that couldn't possibly be done in a stadium. It took almost two minutes for him to make it back to the stage from the middle of the floor through the relatively small pit.

My City Of Ruins sounded so much better in an indoor setting, as it needed a certain amount of darkness (lighting-wise) for the performance to be effective. Bruce made reference to the 'great power failure' of 2003, where the Sydney Cricket Ground show was plagued with many power outages. Something I've not seen before was the spotlights shone on stage right, where Danny and Clarence used to stand. Bruce kept singing the line, 'the change was made uptown', which was a real tear-jerking moment. The following Spirit In The Night featured a longer intro monologue, and then also that 'newly' added part where Bruce and Jake Clemons sat on the steps of the front stage. Next was a super obscure High Hopes, which, despite its intense high 'Seeger Sessions'-style energy, went over many heads. The second Morello moment came when he played with his teeth at one point. Candy's Room going right into She's The One was incredible. Pay Me My Money Down was my first Seeger Sessions song live, and this time Bruce had to address the tame crowd, saying beforehand that after 90secs, everyone's asses would start talking to them, telling them to get out of their seats. Nice 'method' to get people to stand up rather than just outright shouting to them. I'm not so crazy about the tune, but damn it sounded really good live, thanks to the 5-piece horn section and some crazy Charlie Giordano accordion.

Biggest Morello moment was obviously The Ghost Of Tom Joad. The solo he played was more or less the same as the very first time he played on the Magic Tour and many more since then. He got a standing ovation. Nothing else to say other than it was simply jaw-dropping. All those bootlegs and official live recordings don't do the performance justice. You just have to be there in person to experience the ferocity and brilliance of Tom Morello. I liked how this time Badlands ended the main set rather than usually opening it outdoors previously. The encore was a standard affair; no shake-ups. Born To Run had the houselights on and everyone standing once again. Dancing In The Dark segued into Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out pretty quickly, maybe because Steve Van Zandt was absent, thus bypassing the James Brown shtick. Bruce made his way back to the center platform once again. This time the Big Man tribute included some shots of Danny, which made the whole thing even more emotional. I watched the band a bit, as they waited for their cue to come in. Then I realized it was actually Max's snare shot that came in first. Jake Clemons was always looks up to the ceiling, saxophone close to his chest.

The show clocked in at 2hrs 45mins, rather short by Bruce's standards, and one of the shortest shows on this tour. But you have to admit, that's much longer than most mainstream acts today, and the band never once left the stage! It was still a wonderful gig nonetheless. I'm grateful to get the chance to see him again just a mere nine months after the last one in Manchester. And I'm glad for the many new and old Aussie fans who finally got to see the band after a ten-year hiatus from Oz. If this were my first Springsteen gig, it could very well have been the greatest one I've ever seen thus far. The show could've been much better though. It's just that there's this 'something' missing from it; that inexplicable thing that makes a show truly great and memorable. In other words, it wasn't an epic show. Could've been the tame crowd; the back-and-forth energy exchange between audience and band wasn't happening most of the time, except for the front of the pit. Could've been the fact that Bruce was under the weather; he was blowing snot rockets all night. But he looked and sounded pretty alright from my seat. If he was already mixing things up in Night 1, I was starting to get hyped up, as I walked out of the arena, for the exciting stuff Night 2 was gonna offer. "We'll be back Wednesday night for another SPECTACULAR!!", Bruce proclaimed at the end.

American Land
Prove It All Night
Adam Raised A Cain
Wrecking Ball
Death To My Hometown
Hungry Heart
My City Of Ruins
Spirit In The Night
High Hopes
Candy's Room
She's The One
Pay Me My Money Down
Shackled And Drawn
Waitin' On A Sunny Day
The Rising
The Ghost Of Tom Joad

Thunder Road
Born To Run
Seven Nights To Rock
Dancing In The Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out