Monthly Archives: March 2013

Bruce Springsteen in Australia Now

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As we speak Bruce is performing his 4rth concert in Australia. Here is a little taste for those who are interested.

And here is a fan’s review of the second Sydney concert:

BY Roberto Robespierre.

Last night’s show was a joy to behold. A masterclass. A manifesto on the importance of music for helping us make sense of our world, and a testament to the power of the song in the right hands. Also a reminder that after Bruce, there will be nobody to replace him. In my mind, he’s analogous to the ideal centre of the political spectrum (libertarianism); he is the ideal centre of the two rock music extremes of Elvis Presley (all body/dancing, not much brain/literary action) and Bob Dylan (not much dancing, extreme cerebral activity). Or maybe he’s both extremes at once? (Don’t apply the political spectrum analogy though: he’s not Stalin.)

The opening two songs – Devils and Dust, Last to Die, two different, but equally profound responses to the same subject (US troops in the Middle East) performed to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the start of the war – were stunning. They created a sombre mood, and built the enormous tension that would subsequently be torn down in the catharsis of what was to follow.

The Ties That Bind. Didn’t think I’d hear it! He knows how to connect the political (first two songs) with the personal (most of what follows). But my God it was good. And straight into Darkness on the Edge of Town. The guttural, agonised cry of the last word (‘town’) was brutal. The first four songs alone were worth every yawn I’ll have today.

Only Bruce could write a song about a sports stadium being demolished and make it mean something approaching a metaphor for all of life’s struggles. It’s his myth of Sisyphus. Wrecking Ball was massive. The “Hard times come/hard times go” bridge was a deep, religious experience.

Death to my Hometown was amazing, once again. I love the key change in the live version. It’s an Irish folk song, and the melody – like many of Dylan’s – is completely derivative. But that’s the point: we see the old in the new. The lyric also tells a familiar story. He taps into songwriting tradition in ways that only Dylan surpasses.

Out in the Street was some light relief. And another chance for Bruce to prove he’s Dorian Gray: what other 63 year old would consistently crowd surf half the length of the arena to get back to the main stage?

Does This Bus… has never been my favourite Boss song, but it was the best version I’ve heard. And not in a nostalgia kind of way. The horns turned it into deep soul music, and Bruce’s older man voice gave the lyric a perspective the original lacks.

We got The Promised Land in Brisbane too, and this time it was the first of four sign requests IN A ROW. The next three were all Born in the USA songs: Cover Me (with a Nils solo to die for), No Surrender (an ironic statement on the first two songs, in retrospect), and – wait for it – I’m on Fire. Full band, with extended vocal falsetto in the coda. I really didn’t expect that.

My City of Ruins was, as always, magisterial. He really taps into that Southern preacher persona, but without the dogmatic fundamentalism that limits its appeal (thankfully).

High Hopes for the third time. I’m really digging it. Much more than the recorded version. It’s all about the E Street horns. They’re outrageously good.

Because the Night reminds us once again that he really shouldn’t have given it to Patti Smith (although her version is obviously also great), and Open All Night does what Elvis did at his best too: makes everybody (even the 70 year old in front of me) stand up and dance for the rest of the show.

…Sunny Day is always as cheesy as it gets. But we allow him this because the random kid he chooses from the audience to sing the last chorus with him (and then knee slide down the front of the stage) is always cute. Lonesome Day (another first) reminds us again of the first two songs (“Better ask questions before you shoot”), and simultaneously keeps people dancing. Weird but awesome.

Tom Joad. I don’t want to ruin this for people who haven’t seen the show yet. He’ll play it in Melbourne, and when he does, it’ll be something you’ll tell your grandkids about one day.

Badlands finishes the main set really subtly. Not.

I don’t want to rub it in or anything (Iain!), but Jungleland was the best thing I’ve seen him play so far. The sax solo was just bloody marvellous (Jake knew he made Clarence proud, and Bruce gave him a big hug at the end), and the howl in the coda was better than it was in 1975. An exceptional piece of
writing and arranging, and performed with all the respect it deserves.

Born to Run. No comment necessary. Bobby Jean brought the tears again. “I miss you baby/Good luck, goodbye” gets me every fucking time. Only Bruce could sing those words – eternal cliches – and make them mean everything.

And Dancing in the Dark, Detroit, and Tenth Avenue finished the show in usual style and elation.

We will never haver an artist like Springsteen again, and you have to really take the opportunity to ‘suck the marrow’ as much as you can. Musicians aren’t as ambitious (generally) these days (who can afford to be?), and aren’t as historically connected to the greats (remember, John Hammond also signed Dylan as well as jazz and blues greats to Columbia, and this line is evident in Springsteen’s music). Even those who do mine the History of Song (and I’m not just talking about rock music here) are usually too cerebral to make their audiences dance so much. And what musician of a younger generation can afford to tour a shit hot 17 piece band around the world? This is a rare experience to be treasured. Trendy po-mo art rockers come and go, but Bruce’s artistry and influences gives this music long life. Eternal life, perhaps. This was a show to treasure.

Happy Mabon

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Here in Melbourne we’ve just gotten over a late summer heat wave, so with summer being a little longer than usual, Mabon (also called autumn equinox or the witches thanksgiving) feels like it’s arrived too early this year. An inspirational picture can make all the difference, we are , after all, in the middle of autumn harvest season. To me , Mabon also means planting time, I will be spending the next few weeks on the preparations for a winter veggie and spring flower garden.

mabonaltar2Photo by Moonroot