Saturday, February 22, 2014

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band @ AAMI Park, Melbourne - Night 2

This time round, we decided to stand further back in the pit, in front of the sound tent. Because lining up for two days in row proved to be too much, as my feet were still sore from the previous night. Unfortunately the further you stand back, the more drunken idiots you encounter. Tonight's show was kind of a weird one, at least for the first hour. The E Street Band took the stage five minutes before eight. But Bruce was nowhere to be seen! He always comes out last, but this evening he didn't appear for a good minute or so. I was surprised Born In The U.S.A. was the opener (very rare in recent years), but the first few seconds were enough to whip the restless crowd into a frenzy. Badlands followed, but I noticed Bruce' voice wasn't in tip-top shape, as opposed to last night. He looked and sounded tired.

Things started to get interesting from Lucky Town onwards. I noticed something was off, but didn't know what till I saw the fan-shot video from the first row [link]. Apparently, guitar tech Kevin Buell put the capo on the wrong fret on Bruce's guitar, causing Bruce to realize the mistake and quickly change to the right fret just before going into the first chorus. He looked pissed after that. But we were rewarded with a lengthy, passionate solo at the end. Roulette was another obscure surprise, one that flew over most of the audience's heads. Only a diehard would be able to pick out the screw-up at the start. Apparently Bruce went into the opening guitar melody one bar too early. But man, it was a furious performance. Was happy to get Growin' Up again, but the introduction was plain strange. For what seemed like a ten good minutes, Bruce sat down on the stage steps and told a long, long story about growing up, living with his grandparents, staying up and watching television till the wee hours of the morning, going to school all fucked up...and on and on he went. This was the kind of thing he used to do in the '70s. Perhaps tonight he was using this opportunity to catch his breath, or maybe he was still hungover from Saturday night partying with Eddie Vedder. And when the band finally went into the song proper, it was brilliant. And then to my surprise, (and maybe for a lot of fans too), he brought back the powerful two-pack, Wrecking Ball and Death To My Hometown. The response was immensely overwhelming, probably the best of the night, next to Dancing In The Dark. It felt great to hear those songs again. The only sign request of the night was Lost In The Flood, which was played with so much power and fervor that it looked like Bruce had to recover from it by sitting down again during the following Spirit In The Night and do some more talking, this time something about the Jersey Devil. Love Jake's little sexy sax solo during the breakdown. 

And then when Bruce announced they wanted to do something different tonight, it could only mean one thing. The greatest album ever made, as far as I'm concerned. I never thought I'd get to see Born To Run played in its entirety. I knew this would be the last time I'd be seeing Bruce and the band for quite a while (I said that last year after Sydney, but really, who would've guessed he'd ever come back down under in less than a year?), and to receive the full performance of my all-time favorite record was an absolute, absolute pleasure. Thunder Road was played full band, the first on this tour. Jake's playing and showmanship have reached new heights and he continues to amaze me. There was a slight accident at the start of Tenth, when Max came in with the main beat before the main horn riff came in. Bruce went with the flow, proclaiming, "I like it! I like it!" Backstreets was tremendous, the best performance of the night. Bruce even included the famed Sad Eyes interlude. The segue from Born To Run to She's The One was awesome, just as the house lights went down quickly. Meeting Across The River was fucking brilliant. Only three instruments, Roy's piano, Curt Ramm's eloquent trumpet and Garry Tallent's EPIC (and I mean EPIC) bass playing. And then there was Jungleland, the highlight of any Springsteen show. My third time hearing it live, and while it was killer, it felt a bit odd, because Jake actually missed a portion of his solo, meaning he played the climatic portion a bit early, prompting Bruce to get him and the band to continue playing, so he repeated the same sax lines twice. But it actually turned out pretty good. Don't you just love the imperfectness of the E Street Band?

Heaven's Wall was moved up to the main set. While it's a good song live, I wished Bruce were more adventurous and play something else from High Hopes, like Frankie Fell In Love or This Is Your Sword; those would've killed live (also would've loved to hear American Skin). With so many children upfront, you knew he had to pull out Waitin' On A Sunny Day sooner or later. Well, we didn't get it on Saturday, so I didn't mind hearing it tonight. And here's something that doesn't happen often -- Kevin Buell was 'ordered' by Bruce to come out and sing the initial chorus with Stevie, before he counted off for the band to come in. This time The Rising (possibly the best version I've heard) came first before Tom Joad, before again concluding the main set with Land Of Hope And Dreams. By then, the show had already clocked in at a whopping three hours, and we all know how lengthy the encores can be sometimes. Bruce mentioned, "I got a note saying there's 20 minutes left... but you can all hitch-hike home, can't you?" It was gonna be yet another curfew-breaking Boss time, not that anyone was complaining.

Bruce gave an impassioned speech about his experience at the South African shows, Nelson Mandela's influence, and the late Pete Seeger. He then brought back the great We Are Alive, but with a unique twist; he sang the first verse & chorus a capella. The mood was further livened with a raw, loose Ramrod, and then a surprise Bobby Jean before turning back up the stadium lights for Dancing In The Dark (on a side note; it has gotten to a point where there seems to be more Dancing sign requests than actual song requests now, and people are getting more creative with their signs). Twist And Shout replaced Shout, and by this time we've gone way past the 20min mark. An emotional This Hard Land finished off one of the longest shows (and definitely the longest in Australia to date) Bruce and the band had ever done....3 hrs 48 mins to be exact. This Hard Land was a farewell song for the ages, and I wept because Bruce sang it so damn beautifully (and it looked like he was gonna break down at one point), I wept because I don't know when I'll be seeing 'em live again, because even after a mere eight shows over five years, I still couldn't believe I was standing among thousands, many miles away from home, witnessing magic. I was extremely exhausted, but extremely satisfied. Despite the several flubs that occurred throughout the night, I don't think I've ever seen a better concert than this, and I don't think I ever will. The E Street Band look and sound so good they could easily do this for another ten years at least.

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band are not the best in the world at what they do. They're the only ones in the world that do what they do.

Born In The U.S.A.
Lucky Town
Growin' Up
Wrecking Ball
Death To My Hometown
High Hopes
Just Like Fire Would
Lost In The Flood
Spirit In The Night
Thunder Road
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Born To Run
She's The One
Meeting Across The River
Heaven's Wall
Waitin' On A Sunny Day
The Rising
The Ghost Of Tom Joad
Land Of Hope And Dreams

We Are Alive
Bobby Jean
Dancing In The Dark
Twist And Shout
This Hard Land (solo acoustic)

P.S. It's really disappointing that they chose not to release the bootleg for this show [link]. Who knows what the reason is. I like to think it's not those screw-ups that led to the decision of not putting it out. In fact, I was so looking forward to hearing those mistakes again, and obviously the entire Born To Run. Oh well...I'm still hoping it'll be made available at later date.