Friday, March 29, 2013

Sydney Night 2 - Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band @ Allphones Arena

A day off between Nights 1 and 2 was probably a good thing for the band and the fans, especially those attending all three shows. Because personally, seeing Bruce and the band two nights in a row would've been too much to handle. Coming out of a Springsteen show will overwhelm the hell out of you, so much that it consumes a big part of your life for the next few weeks, months even, and it's all you ever think about. You wish you could relieve the experience over and over and over again -- Sydney No.2 was one of those where I wish I could turn back the clock. Manchester (22 June 2012) was the greatest show I've ever seen, until Wednesday, 20 March 2013, came along. It made Monday night seem like a rehearsal warm-up.

Doing GA this time round, I wanted to get as close as possible to the stage, but I didn't think I would end up that close....second row, in between Tom Morello and Garry Tallent. If only I'd brought a sign for Downbound Train! Of course, getting there involved lining up for more than four and a half hours, since 3pm. Only Springsteen fans would go to the extent of organizing special queues for the diehards. Basically what happens is you show up early in the day, say in the morning, you provide your name and get a number written on your arm by the organizer (I was no. 87), and then you can leave, but have to report back every few hours for a roll call, to make sure you're dead set on being right in front. This is unofficial, but it's recognized by the venue security and Springsteen's people, because it has been done and honored at literally every show in the past few years that involves first-come-first-serve GA, to ensure the most dedicated fans are upfront against the barrier. The cutoff may be at about 200 people, and these lucky ones get special priority wristbands, and are let into the arena floor 15mins earlier before the rest of the normal GA ticket holders. Thank God the Allphones security didn't allow sprinting to the front, if not it would've been chaotic. Speaking of which, the Allphones is the best concert arena I've had the pleasure of being in; easy to get merchandise, cold air-conditioning, spacious foyer, seats are comfy, friendly staff, and plenty of food and drink stands.

Anyway, it was nice to see a good mix of young and old fans in the pit. Lots of them brought signs. I spoke to a few diehard fans, some who were attending all ten Aussie shows, some who even came all the way from the States and Europe, and have been attending shows since the '80s; it was fun being among them, as I never ever get to meet anyone from my country who matches my level of Springsteen fandom. I wonder how many people from Singapore also traveled for these shows.

The show began fifteen minutes later than Monday night's. The band walked onstage in the dark, but without the usual Big Boss Man playing over the PA. Bruce came on last with an acoustic guitar and harmonica. I knew this wasn't gonna be your usual concert start. Devils & Dust was a bold move to open. But man, was it tremendous. Shit, I was only like twenty meters away from Bruce! The band then kicked into high gear with another unfamiliar tune to causal fans; Last To Die got its tour premiere, and it was the first off Magic to get played down under. The first two songs fittingly marked the tenth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. Then before I could even catch my breath came a BIG one in my book, The Ties That Bind, one that I've always wanted to hear but never seemed to get played often. Then even better, following that, was Darkness On The Edge Of Town, which sent chills down my spine. What a powerhouse performance. I knew then we were in for a special night. Bruce was singing much better than on Monday, despite him blowing the occasional snot rocket.

Out In The Street replaced Hungry Heart as the obligatory crowd-surfing song, and this time it was more enjoyable watching Bruce ride the sea of the hands from the pit than from the seats. Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street? was another showcase of the E Street dynamics that can only fully appreciated up-close. Man, I can't tell you how many thousand times better it was seeing the show from the pit. That half-day waiting in line was totally worth it after all. The sound was quite different from in the seats too; my only gripe was the bass was rather overpowering. The next portion of the set was in no way setlisted, as Bruce decided to have some fun, by taking sign request after sign request, nothing the band couldn't handle, thus relegating My City Of Ruins way down the set for the first time this tour (City may be too long-drawn for some, but I think it's an essential part to the narrative and the 'loss & renewal' themes of the show, just like Tenth Ave is). First up was The Promised Land, which he doesn't play that often now unlike last time [link]. During the last verse, Bruce walked over to our side. I was extremely close to him at one point, and I recalled for a brief moment at the end, we made eye contact. He gave his harp to the fella on the first row just two people to my right!

Then came a Born In The U.S.A. three-pack combo, a shit-hot Cover Me, which I never thought I'd hear. Even I'm On Fire was stunning. Because The Night was Nils Lofgren's turn to shine. I always love it when he does that spinning thing during the solo which makes the crowd go wild. To see his axe-wielding prowess so close, WOW. And he looked good in that new hat of his! The Seeger Sessions version of Open All Night blew Pay Me My Money Down out of the water. Quite similar to the Live In Dublin version, which I listened to religiously at one point in my life. Before going into it, Bruce did another monologue about Aussie audiences not standing up, and then he asked to turn up the house lights, after which he warned the seated crowd not to 'fucking stand up' just because the lights were on. It was hilarious! And how bout watching that cheesy but awesome E Street hoedown at the end of Shackled And Drawn? On Sunny Day, Bruce brought up a boy who couldn't really sing so well. And since the kid was wearing jeans, Bruce proceeded to sponge his knees for the power slide, which didn't exactly go as planned. Morello seemed more into Tom Joad tonight. He looked almost possessed as he went absolutely NUTS over his guitar. I'll never forget the moment right at the end of the song, when he turned around and let out this scream, like the spirit of the devil finally left his body or something. It was mighty intense. Again, you only get this up-close. And also to see Bruce's expressions during Tom's solo -- priceless.

Following the PSA about supporting the local food bank, Bruce finally unleashed THE monster, the biggest highlight of the show. My eyes started welling up during the opening intro to Jungleland. Soozie got it right with her violin this time. Morello did Stevie's solo, putting his own slight spin on it. You know that look Clarence gave right before his sax solo in the Live In NYC performance? I think Jake did the same too. I mean it when I say it was the most religious, out-of-body experience I've ever had. Time froze for that moment. Tears were streaming down my face. At the end, Jake looked up to the ceiling, and gave a big thanks to his uncle. It was in no way the definitive version, but it was sure as hell damn solid. And what better song to follow an epic than the always fantastic Born To Run. Finally got to witness the glory and the power of the greatest Rock & Roll song of all time from the one of the best spots in the arena! After that, I saw Bruce mouth the words to the band.....Bobby Jean. In fact, being within such close proximity to the stage, I noticed Bruce did it often, calling out audibles and stuff, keeping the band (and the crew) on their toes. Not all the time the message got through to everyone, and band members would relay it to one another, all within that few seconds before Bruce started counting off (Max Weinberg always has his eyes intently and intensely fixed on Bruce). Seriously, what other frontmen his age actually does that?

Finally, what sealed the deal for me was Detroit Medley, another rare one on this tour, and yet another one of those I've been dying to hear for a long, long time. In my opinion it's the greatest song the E Street Band has ever covered. I don't know what made Bruce want to play it, but it was heaps of fun. After the song was over, Nils sponged some water over Bruce's head. It was more of a necessity than a comic relief, but really, I thought Nils looked so much funnier (than Steve) doing it! And then to have Bruce stand on top of the grand piano during the Tenth Avenue intro just ten feet in front of us.... Tenth was earth shattering as usual, and another one I never get sick of hearing. Holy shit, what a show!! Tonight featured sixteen songs not played on Monday. I couldn't tell if the audience from the seats were better tonight, but the energy in the pit was off the charts. It was where I felt most at home. And what superhuman energy coming from Bruce! The Boss lives and breathes working the crowd and the stage. The connection he shares with the audience is unlike any other. I would've been pretty satisfied if this were the final Syd show. Because how do you recover from something like this? What have I just witnessed? I saw Neil Young & Crazy Horse from roughly the same distance two weeks before, but tonight's show takes the live concert performance into a whole new stratosphere. Everything else pales in comparison after seeing Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. Simply UN-FUCKING-BELIEVABLE.

Devils & Dust
Last To Die
The Ties That Bind
Darkness On The Edge Of Town
Wrecking Ball
Death To My Hometown
Out In The Street
Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?
The Promised Land
Cover Me
No Surrender
I'm On Fire
My City Of Ruins
High Hopes
Because The Night
Open All Night
Shackled And Drawn
Waitin' On A Sunny Day
Lonesome Day
The Ghost Of Tom Joad

Born To Run
Bobby Jean
Dancing In The Dark
Detroit Medley
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out