Saturday, 23 March 2013

Roll Of The Dice

Five shows, two cities, one five-hour flight, and two 12-hour train rides down.
Another five shows, one city and a Hanging Rock to go.

At the halfway point into my trip across Australia to see all ten Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band shows asking "has it been worth it so far?" is a fair question.

And the answer, probably unsurprisingly, is a resounding "yes".

From the five shows, two in Brisbane, three for Sydney, the expectations of the performances and entertainment values has not only been met but monumentally surpassed.

Throwing out some numbers, 63 different songs have been performed out of the total of 113 performed tracks in almost 16 hours of music from the five nights.

I can't name any other artist or act that would come close to that in the world today.

Even Monday night in Sydney when Springsteen was reportedly not at his best and delivered a set ten minutes short of his trademark three hour mark, the band still delivered everything, like it was the last chance they would ever play anywhere again.

The range of songs, the requests from fans even the unpredictable nature of interacting with the crowds for songs like Waitin' On A Sunny Day and Dancing In The Dark, show that every night is different.

So when people ask those who go to multiple shows, "won't you just be seeing the same show again?..." the answer is a clear no.

(Usually followed by a shaking of the head and a reluctance to explain further to someone who hasn't see Springsteen live just why people need to camp out over night to get to the front, or go to show after show, after show.)

Everyone has their favourite songs.
For many it's the hits that may - or may not - get played.

For others it's the rare tracks, that again, depending on how lucky you are, may - or may not - get played.

The final show in Sydney with the huge amount of signs for rare tracks and rare versions of popular tracks - I mean Prove It All Night with the 1978 extended intro must have been a WTF moment for the uninitiated - demonstrated perfectly how Springsteen fans' minds work over their favourite tracks.

Not only do they want to hear them live, but when it comes to deciding which concert to go to they also fear missing out on the one where it gets played.

Since day one of this trip I've had people from across the world message me on Twitter to request I tweet the setlist throughout the concert, as I learned that people from all over the globe take breaks from work, stay up all night or get up early to follow every track that gets played, note how many times it's been performed on a tour and how long each night runs for.

There is essentially an incredible community of 'setlist watchers' out there taking notes and making predictions one what song will be played where and then evaluating just how big of a shock it is when a song once thought to be abandoned from the live show gets brought out.

There have been so many surprises already on this tour that comparing night by night performances is becoming incredibly addictive.

Meanwhile theories are abound about the shows being filmed for a live Wrecking Ball tour DVD compilation or even that the second night at Hanging Rock will get it's own concert DVD release as, so I'm told, it's the 100th date of the world tour.

Reaching the halfway point the only thing clear is that there really are no guarantees on what to expect - other than that to never underestimate the band's ambition in belting out a tune you might not expect, and also never underestimate a fan's commitment to get to the front of the stage.
(More on the nature of Springsteen fans later)

Also, a few lessons learned along the way are simply avoid alcohol in the hours before a concert if you want to keep your place near the front without being met with angry looks from people who aren't aware of the hours you've logged in the line outside the venue to get your spot, and another is to get plenty of sleep on the nights you're not rocking out.

There have been plenty of times on this trip where I have been exhausted as a result of late nights and early mornings. None of these matter when the band start up but keeping up with Springsteen and Springsteen fans is both incredibly exciting, and overwhelmingly exhausting.

Bring on Melbourne!