Can You Feel The Spirit? Bruce Springsteen at Hanging Rock


“Ancient texts tell us that the famed prophet rose again on Easter Sunday, moved the rock and kept his believers filled with faith until his inevitable return to the promised land. On Sunday night at Hanging Rock, 17,000 disciples are treated to their own religious experience: Bruce Springsteen finalising his first Australian tour in more than a decade with an energised three-hour set of biblical proportions.

One Boss, 17,000 fans, 29 songs, 17 band members, 19 “1, 2, 3, 4” count-ins and countless tales of runaway American dreams. Our saviour has risen. Praise be.”
Scott McLennan

1. Adam Raised a Cain

2. Candy’s Room

3. She’s The One …

4. Something In The Night

5. We Take Care of Our Own

6. Wrecking Ball

7. Death To My Hometown

8. Hungry Heart

9. Spirit In The Night

10. The E Street Shuffle

11. Incident on 57th Street

12. Tougher Than The Rest (w/Jimmy Barnes)

13. Because The Night

14. Jackson Cage

15. Open All Night

16. Darlington County

17. Shackled & Drawn

18. Waitin’ On A Sunny Day

19. The Promised Land

20. Lonesome Day

21. The Rising

22. The Ghost of Tom Joad

23. Badlands

24. Born In the USA

25. Born To Run

26. Dancing In The Dark

27. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

28. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)

29. Twist & Shout

We never meant to take the trip to Hanging Rock. When my son and I discussed whether we should attend a Springsteen concert together, we thought Rod Laver Arena in the city would be easier. Alas, when I tried to get tickets one morning early last December, all the good front seats were gone in seconds,and so was GA, which I expected. I don’t know what people do to get good tickets, but I have a feeling that a suboptimal internet connection (we live between two servers, both too far away) had something to do with my lack of success 30 seconds after ticket sales began. Anyway, when I couldn’t get god tickets for the city, I immediately tried the second concert at Hanging Rock to score 2 seats, section A5, dead centre in front of the stage, row 3. But I didn’t know what to expect, how big was the venue? how big was the GA? James complained that he didn’t want to make the treck and I should take someone else, but since he is such a big music fan and avid concert goer (and a musician) I insisted that he’d accompany me. He had, after all grown up with me blasting Bruce non-stop and while his tastes are a little more hard-rock than mine, I tend to think that listening to Springsteen in his formative years contributed to his love of Rock’n ‘Roll.

We took off at about 1pm armed with a six-pack and a small flask of Jack Daniels and – more sensibly ,some sandwiches, Easter eggs and water. You are not allowed to bring your own alcohol to concerts, but we thought we’d have some in he car before entering to save us queuing up,since James insisted that he would only be able to handle a night out with his mother if he consumed a fair amount of booze.

James drove there, his very first experience of driving in the country himself. It was a smooth trip, not much traffic in the middle of the day on Easter Sunday and it took about 1 1/2 hours all up. Of course we missed a turnoff ( as you do) and ended up having to go over the Westgate bridge first before backtracking.

After arriving at Hanging Rock at about 3pm , we had a couple of beers and proceeded to climb the rock ( the first band started playing but we had no interest in listening to 7 hours of music.)

Climbing Up

Walking uphill is not the easiest thing when you are a little tipsy, but we made it up to the summit, where we were greeted with a really nice view of the stage(from the back) and the crowd, so it was worth it just to get a photo of that (and you could still hear the music from up there too). Mind you, the rock is spectacular and well worth a visit if you haven’t been there in a while. The rock formations make it appear like a castle created by nature, a wonderful place with a strong spiritual energy!

Top View

We scrambled downhill and made the return walk through 2 giant car parks before drinking more beer and bourbon in the car. People had their car stereos blasting a variety of Springsteen songs, some sat around in deck chairs having a picnic. Soon it was after 5pm and time to go in to check out our seats and the second act of the day : Jimmy Barnes. i must admit, i quite enjoyed his performance. it only went for a little more than an hour , he sang some of his greatest hits and was at one point joined by his daughter Mahalia, whose powerful voice probably surpasses his and his old friend and Cold Chisel partner in crime Ian Moss (the highlight for me). Barnsey was well received by the Springsteen crowd, he is a consummate performer and has nothing to be ashamed off. it was great!


A few more beers later, dusk descended on Hanging Rock. While roadies were checking the equipment and someone vacuumed the stage, a few people climbed into a cage hung high above the stage: 5 cameramen (and one woman, you go girl!)Not a job for me hanging by a few metal threads about 20 metres above the ground! One of them waved to us.

Still the wait, getting nervous. But then finally at 7.15, the E-street band came on stage, two by two, with Bruce appearing last.There he was again, after 10 year absence. I still remember his powerful acoustic rendition of “Born in the USA ” on the eve of the Iraq war in 2003, what a moment. But this time he chose to go full band and biblical and launched into a relatively obscure song from 1978 :Adam Raised a Cain. When i say obscure I mean that it wasn’t a radio hit, every Springsteen fan worth her salt knows the song. But, it was an indication of what was to follow : Apart from a few songs from the new album (all brilliant), a few evergreen staples like the classic Badlands and the Promised Land and a few greatest hits, the heart of the night were the fan requests of relative obscurity. Bruce had been changing the set list on a nightly basis since the tour began in Brisbane, but he took it to new heights for his last show, playing rare gems like Jackson Cage and Incident on 57th Street, Candy’s Room and Something in the Night and the glorious E-Street Shuffle. I was so pleased with the song choices, I forgave him for not playing Thunder Road and City of Ruins, two of my all-time favorites.

Bruce HR2

The highlight of night, to me, was the wonderful boogie woogie version of one of his greatest obscurities: Open All Night, a song that was only ever released in a stripped down acoustic version but has now become a killer show stopper with full horn section – insanely good (and that was about half-way through).

Other highlights worth mentioning (There were so many) were “Spirit in the Night” (which has Bruce drinking from a fan’s smuggled Vodka bottle , see my Video) and the superb guitar -wailing duet of “Ghost of Tom Joad” with the incredible Tom Morello.

There was a walkway separating the seated section from the GA section, and Bruce ran past several times . I managed to get a spot in front of the barricade for the moving tribute for Clarence Clemmons and Danny Federici, dearly departed E Street Band members and Bruce walked right past me, sadly he didn’t stop to say hello, but it was as close as I ever got and I was thrilled!(Thanks to the nice lady who allowed me to push in!)


James, who had been whingeing for days that maybe he should not come along ,was in shock and could not believe his eyes and ears and at the end of the night he exclaimed “This is the best concert I have ever seen.” at one point James was dancing on top of his chair and Bruce looked right at him. A new convert to the Church of Bruce.

To me Bruce has always been a master of superlatives, I have been a die-hard fan forever: I can recite most of his song-lyrics in my sleep and have seen him twice before (In 1985 and 2003), where he completely fulfilled my high expectations. This time though, he exceeded them! Part of the reason is the new band formation with the addition of a full horn section and percussion , which soften the otherwise blasting Hard Rock of the E-Street Band while at the same time lending it a kicking soul-jazz groove; The film technology that allowed views of him when he was amongst the crowd and the enormous screen behind the stage were appreciated by all and (especially the people further back) and really added to the atmosphere; but mostly he himself was in fine form last night,- no idea where he gets his energy from – the way he interacted with the crowd was intense, captivating, brilliant, charming and funny and heartfelt: an incredible showman! I had been worried about whether playing two nights straight would affect his performance, but he actually wore me out and a few times I had to briefly sit down to rest my aching feet. It appeared that , being his last night of the tour, Bruce did not have to conserve his energy: He went for broke, pushing his voice, himself , the band and the audience to the utmost limit, to say he succeeded would be an understatement.

It seemed that the show would never end. When the last song finished Bruce screamed : “one more”!
James and I yelled back :we had enough, we want to go home” but he wasn’t gonna let us off that easy and launched into “Twist and Shout” (twice). Bruce and the band played for almost 3 1/2 hours without taking a breath between songs. What a night! There are rumours that the Hanging Rock shows are to be released as a DVD, which is promising, but I cannot wait for Brother Bruce and his Travelling Salvation Circus to hit town again, it will probably be even better next time!

Bruce come back!


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