The excitement in the air at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre was palpable as the crowd poured in for Bruce Springsteen’s final show on the Aussies tour, after less than a year away. Rumours had been flying on social media for a few days about a full album show with the featured album being Springsteen’s second studio album, The Wild, The Innocent, and The E Street Shuffle. The possibility of this seemed even more likely with the news that Bruce had called for extra violinists (an indicator of the epic New York City Serenade). Then, Twitter delivered a tantalising piece of news that seemed to confirm all we’d hoped for; New York City Serenade, as well as local Bee Gees hit Stayin’ Alive, was sound checked. As the crowd sat in their seats, we saw the beautiful violinists in their black dresses backstage, and the plush chairs Bruce had provided for them.
When Bruce took to the stage, acoustic guitar in hand and violinists in the darkness, the opener was unclear at first until he busted out with the familiar lyrics “well you can tell by the way I use my walk, I’m a woman’s man”. The rendition was the furtherest thing from disco, with the string ensemble and rock infusion. The surprises kept coming as Bruce launched into four songs from his debut album Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ; It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City, Does This Bus Stop at 82nd St?., Growin’ Up, and Spirit in the Night (with Bruce’s prelude asking, “stayin alive, stayin alive….how do you stay alive?” before proceeding to his passionate crowd involver…”can you feel the spirit?!”). Does This Bus Stop At 82nd St was given new life with wild, brilliant sound; while Growin’ Up came with a story. Bruce reminisced about being thirteen, acne prone and not getting any sex yet (except for Mr Trusty, where Bruce held up his right hand and asked if Mr Trusty wanted a date….*crowd proceeds to laugh their arses off* He also talked about the superheroes he wanted to be and how he could never be Batman because he was just figuring out his iPhone, and there’s no way he could use all of those fuckin’ gadgets).
The standard had been set, and the set continued with upbeat renditions of High Hopes and Just Like Fire Would, which given it’s Brisbane origins had the crowd on its feet. Bruce then ventured to the edge of the stage where every sign in the pit was raised high. Bruce grabbed a few (I spied Frankie Fell In Love, but it wasn’t played) and held the first one high, a black poster with vivid green writing that said “YOU CAN LOOK”. Bruce did a rocking version of You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch) from The River, with Bruce and Stevie sharing the microphone (it’s good to have Stevie back!). More from The River and another sign request saw Sherry Darling come next. Bruce saw another sign in the audience and picked it, rather than the pile he’d already collected. Save My Love. He first spoke to the sign “you were too happy for Darkness on the Edge of Town!”, then played a beautiful rendition of the song. He then played a rare rendition of Fade Away (for Stevie, said the sign). Then Bruce mused about how they were just doing what came to them, and going with the signs…and asked if we wanted to keep hearing that or hear The Wild, The Innocent, and The E Street Shuffle. After various cheers, Bruce said “It’s E Street Shuffle Time”. And off we went.
The full album was played. A lively E Street Shuffle was followed by a gorgeous 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) and a sensational Kitty’s Back. It felt like the music would never end, and we loved it, the entire crowd yelling “Kitty’s back in town” after all those amazing horns. Then Mr Gary Tallent took to the stage with a tuba during Wild Billy’s Circus Story, with the Professor on the accordion. Then that beautiful piano riff that started Incident on 57th Street, a song done so well and so beautifully…always an emotional experience. Party time with Rosie followed, with some serious solo work from Bruce, Stevie and Jake (oh Jake…baby boy was rocking!). Then the moment we’d all been waiting for. The girls came back out and a beautiful and moving rendition (album perfect too!) of New York City Serenade filled the entertainment centre. It was magical, Bruce was magical, and it was the experience of a life time.
Bruce didn’t stop…literally. No going off and coming back for encore. The encore and the main set become one huge journey. We rocked out with Darlington County, straight into a beautiful Waiting on a Sunny Day where one lucky boy sang wonderfully with Bruce on stage. Things continued along these lines with a powerful rendition of The Rising. Next the room darkened for The Ghost of Tom Joad with Tom Morello finally getting a chance to show his skills. In a wonderful gesture to local issues and people, Morello wore a patch on his shirt of the Aboriginal flag and pointed to it passionately as he sang “Wherever somebody’s fighting for a place to stand, or a decent job or a helping hand…wherever somebody’s struggling to be free, look in their eyes Ma you’ll see me”. Morello, always a man of social justice, made an effort to understand local struggles and give a voice to it….while it was small and will have gone unnoticed by some, it was a nice gesture.
A loud and passionate Badlands followed, the crowd treated to Stevie’s harmonising after missing out on him last time. The sound of the crowd in Badlands always speaks to the love the fans have for Bruce and his music, it makes you feel a part of something special. Then came Glory Days, the epic Born to Run, Bobby Jean, and of course Dancing in the Dark where girls not only got dance with Bruce but the kid from Sunny Day got to dance with Suzi, several people got to jiggy with Jake, sway with Tommy, bang with the Reverend, and dance with Cindy and Curtis. When Tenth Avenue Freeze Out began to play, the end seemed near and the crowd felt ALL THE FEELS when photos and Danny and Clarence made an appearance. But wait, there’s more. Eddie Vedder joined Bruce on stage for Highway to Hell, which had everyone in the house on their feet and fist pumping. I was sure, considering we did the goodbyes and the legendary E Street Band chant, that Highway to Hell was our brilliant ending. But then Kevin handed the acoustic over and we were treated to a beautiful Thunder Road (the Thunder for Down Under Bruce said). He thanked us for our love and most importantly, he promised to come back.
I believe he will. We brought the love big time and he knows it. At one point while crowd surfing he came back with a toy kangaroo (and someone’s phone…then Tommy was trying to help him figure out how to work it). It was a show that I wouldn’t have believed unless I was there. I felt connected with every #BruceBud there, connected by song, by soul, and by that legendary man and his band. Even my Nanna at her first show ever proclaimed Bruce’s brilliance (and she’s never really been a fan before)….we turned another one guys! So until next time Bruce, thank you. Thank you for being that unflagging, soulful performer that you are.