“Halfway to Heaven, and Just a Mile Outta Hell”: Bruce Springsteen in Brisbane

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Technology has ruined us Bruce Buds. The ability to watch live shows on your own screens from across the world due to the miracles of Periscope and videos on fan pages has given us a glimpse into the intimate relationship between Bruce and his chosen crowd. We see it as it unfurls and, honestly, we get a bit jealous. One might think that makes us less excited for our own live events….UNTRUE.  The excitement was palpable at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, even in the heights of B reserve where I sat the air was alive. This only reached its climax when many spotted the elegantly dressed strings behind the stage – surely meaning an opening of New York City Serenade.

We weren’t disappointed, Bruce opened with a beautiful NYCS – the stage lit up to reveal The Professor himself with those distinctive opening notes. I’ve seen the song played before, but I feel I will never tire of its enchanting beauty. It was slower, more intense this time around. Though we predicted NYCS, no one could have predicted the stunning transition into Lucky Town – a live rarity. It was the first sign that this setlist would be anything but ordinary (no Springsteen show ever is). The rendition was powerful and energetic in such a way that I and everyone that knew the words screamed them with Bruce. Next up was Bruce’s Valentine’s Day Special. Descending into the pit to pluck signs while we waited with bated breath to see which one he would choose. I saw Meet Me in the City and Back in Your Arms among the plucked, but he held up Janey Don’t You Lose Heart from Tracks. This was followed by a rocking Rendezvous and wonderfully energetic Be True, also from Tracks. For the more casual Springsteen fan (we love y’all!) they would have been an unfamiliar experience, but no doubt an educational one. Bruce was clearly having a great time, dancing, making goofy faces and shaking it with Jake during the Be True sax solo. To make it even more perfect he played a beautiful Back In Your Arms, complete with five whole minutes of “Bruce Talk” (see my twitter feed for the video). It was raw passion and emotion combined with classic Bruce humour – including advice for when “you done fucked up” with your woman. It swung between hilarious and deeply emotional where one could clearly see Bruce was missing his own woman, with Ms Patti absent for the present tour. To make sure all hope was not lost for those of us who had been broken-hearted, Bruce played us Better Days.

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At this point I felt like the set list was made for me, for my day. I had just learned that I gained an elective placement in my chosen area and was on a high, I used the phrase “Bruce concert days are lucky days”. So when Lucky Town started, I felt a little blessed. Time then ceased to exist as Bruce launched into three River Classics: The Ties That Bind, Out in the Street, and Hungry Heart. On Hungry Heart…any true Bruce devotee knows that you have one job during Hungry Heart: show Bruce how epically you can sing that first verse. If you do well, he bestows upon you the honour of singing the first verse again. Brisbane scored top marks. While these songs can be considered the bread and butter of a Springsteen show, last night Bruce approached them with the same energy and finesse of any of his epic anthems. The same can be said of his rendition of Wrecking Ball – fierce, loud, and full of righteous anger. The surprises kept coming with Leap of Faith, of the Lucky Town album which never would have even been on my Bruce wish list and yet upon hearing I realised I had no idea what I was missing. The pit turned blue for an impassioned “The River” performance with Bruce on harmonica.

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The next seven songs were an unbelievable high of energy and wonder. The house was well and truely brought down by Youngstown and the incomparable Nils Lofgren and his guitar solo. Also, can we take a moment to talk about the mighty Max Weinberg smashing it with fervour and stamina all damn night? Youngstown, Rendezvous and Wrecking Ball are just f few of his efforts worth mentioning. Then he introduced Candy’s Room with that crisp, clean roll and all my dreams came true. It was hard to stay seated as Bruce and the crowd roared “baby if you wanna be wild, you got a lot to learn”. Another wish from my Bruce list. From here the band went into a thrilling She’s The One, and beautiful Because the Night. I challenge you not to fist pump and damn near cry during Because the Night. The Rising, Badlands, and Rosalita were met with passionate crowd responses. My little cousin attended her first show last night, and when asked she excitedly told me that she “did the whoah-whoahs” in Badlands, a Springsteen rite of passage. I have done it four times now, and it never fails to make me insanely happy. I never tire of the way it manages to connect every person in the building in inescapable joy.

The encore started with the lights low and Bruce telling us he had a special treat for Brisbane. Charlie played the opening notes of Secret Garden and I couldn’t believe my luck. I never imagined I’d get Candy’s Room and Secret Garden in the same show. While I had hoped maybe for some Jungleland or Backstreets, I could not have been more thrilled with the quiet magic of Secret Garden. I could feel myself shedding a tear, because it was everything I ever dreamed it could be. The rest of the night was the traditional Springsteen encore with an amazing Born to Run, Dancing in the Dark, and Tenth Avenue Freeze Out. Asses were out of seats for fun in Shout with the band intros and Bruce’s new command to every departing guest to go home, wake the neighbours “in their pyjamies” and tell them, that we just saw the heart stoppin, pants droppin, Earth shockin, hard rockin, booty shakin, earthquakin, love-makin, Viagra-takin, history makin, LEGENDARY: E STREET BAND.

By the end of Bobby Jean, everyone was exhausted in the best possible way. My father was speechless, and my little cousin had the glow of a newly inducted Springsteen die hard. I tweeted, a hard task considering how concise one has to be, to the other #BruceBuds: “I am speechless. I have seen Bruce Springsteen channel God himself in an epic, energetic show with surprise after surprise”. It was without a doubt one of the best set lists I ever had the joy of experiencing. After seeing a show, you’ll never doubt that experiences are more soul-enriching than “things”, because Bruce Springsteen takes you to another place and that place stays with you forever. The come down from such a high can be hard…Hannah from “Burgers and Bruce” has been describing it from across the world since she left the Australian tour and even this morning I’m beginning to get that feeling.

But lucky for me, Bruce will rock again Thursday night…and I’ve got two tickets. Happy Valentine’s Day Bruce lovers, we have been loved.

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