Saturday, 18 January 2014

How will High Hopes shape Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band’s new tour?

There’s plenty of reviews out there analysing Springsteen’s latest album with average to positive ratings, along with excited and disappointed fans that it’s not an album full of new material.

After a few listens now I think it’s a great album that will a few years down the line sit nicely alongside Wrecking Ball in a much stronger, more welcome, position than how Working On A Dream sits next to Magic.

The big question is how it will influence and sit with the library of material in the upcoming tour.

Will it be the backbone of shows like Wrecking Ball on the last tour? Or will the fans reactions lead it to fade away like the aforementioned Working On A Dream during that album’s tour – where by the final shows, songs from the album were mostly dropped from setlists?

In the meantime, here’s some thoughts on the new album and how the tracks might work on the upcoming tour.

High Hopes
This song has been on my work commute play list everyday since it’s single release now. It gets an extra imaginary fist pump as I cycle through the city on a Monday morning. For me it was a highlight of the Wrecking Ball tour in Australia so I wasn’t surprised to see it get a studio release. I was only glad that they gave it the same bursting energy in the studio as they do on the stage.
I’ve never heard the previous or original version of this song so I can’t compare, but I’m fine with that. This is a great opener and will no doubt open at least one show in Australia in February.

Harry’s Place
With an intro that feels like it should be set to a montage of people living in Manhattan during the 1980s, this is a great ‘throwback’ tune. Complete with Clarence Clemon’s saxophone within the first few seconds. One of the calmer songs vocally, it’s the guitars, sax, organs and keyboards that duel on the streets in the song. A good one for the album but I’m not sure how well this will transfer to the live show. Unless Springsteen et al have an invigorating live version coming – like they did with the track Wrecking Ball – I’d be happy if it wasn’t a regular on upcoming setlists.

American Skin (41 Shots)
Already a proven live hit, this will hopefully emerge on tour a few times in all its haunting glory. Personally I don’t think the studio version adds anything to the previous live recording, but I do feel it’s one of those underrated tunes overdue a decent reception. This tour’s Land of Hope and Dreams.

Just Like Fire Would
The more I hear this tune, the more I like it. I confess to not having any idea what it was when they played it in Brisbane last year, and I don’t think it was their best performance of the tour either.
But with the added tribute of being an Aussie band’s original song, and an excellent recording from the E Street Band I’m hoping we get to see this a lot on the next tour.
The performance on Jimmy Fallon shows how much they enjoy playing it. It’s the one song on this album I can’t get out of my head for the rest of the day.

Down In The Hole
Another song that is growing on me. And another one where the music really shines along with the subtleness of the lyrics. It reminds me of a cross between I’m On Fire, Empty Sky and the original Ghost of Tom Joad. I can’t wait to see how this one is done live and hope we get to see it a few times.

Heaven’s Wall
I’m not decided on this song. The opening 25 seconds of ‘raise your hand, raise your hand, raise your hand…’ kind of grates me a bit.
Saying that, the Jimmy Fallon performance showed the band can throw it out together pretty well with an appreciative audience. Of course the guitar solos that jump in around two minutes are brilliant, and really take the track to another level. Tom Morello and Nils Lofgren could have a lot of fun with this song, even if it is sandwiched in a setlist between a few better, more memorable show stoppers.

Frankie Fell In Love
I really want to like this song. Really I do. It’s got a good beat, fits on the album well and is easy to listen to as it is to pass by.
But… I hate the lyric about the church mouse snoring. And with it being at the start of the song I just can’t get passed it. When I first heard it I stopped the song and listened to the intro again I couldn’t get my head around it. Now I listen to the whole song trying to picture what a church mouse would look like wheezing annoyingly in his sleep and it drives me insane. Just like the ‘giddy-up’ bit in Pony Boy. Or the chorus of Bobby Jean that I could happily live without ever hearing again. Seriously, why Bruce? Why?

This Is Your Sword
I don’t mind this folk, Seeger Sessions-style song, although I’m not sure how it fit on a live show. What I would like to hear however is a stripped back, acoustic version without the rest of the band, as I feel the lyrics could stand up well with a darker, intense solo performance. Saying that, if you’re with Bruce fans in a pub on St Patrick’s Day, this would be an easy one to belt out and would suit the surroundings nicely. This could easily be placed as one of those filler tracks on the tour which come round occasionally and are easily forgotten.

The Hunter of the Invisible Game
This track could easily fall into everything I just said about This Is Your Sword, except I like it a whole lot better. It’s a subtle tune that gets inside and urges the listener to slow down and reflect. Reminds me of Nothing Man from The Rising. Not sure how we’ll see on stage, but could offer Bruce a chance to recover from any crowd surfing carnage, or could simmer the audience down before busting into one of his powerful songs. Which probably explains it’s position on the album.

The Ghost of Tom Joad
After the acoustic original, this version is another track that started life as an unforgettable live song. Every Australian show had the Morello-infused version and every time it was an incredible experience. When I listen to the studio recording I’m right back there hearing the live version, waiting for that bit where Morello just lets fly on his guitar.
This is a highlight of the album, and will no doubt be a highlight of the tour again.
Until then play it loud. Very loud.

The Wall
This album’s If I Fall Behind, or to a lesser extent Brothers Under The Bridge. A slow, pensive track that Springsteen can pull off so well in a setlist full of powerful rock tracks. Could slide in nicely on during a concert, and one that would allow Jake Clemons to come down and provide an always welcome reminder that there’s Clemons air playing on the night.

Dream Baby Dream
Another cover and one of those seemingly simple songs that somehow stops you in your tracks and just hits you. The video thank you to Wrecking Ball tour fans shows how much of an emotionally charged song this can be. If played live, the way it builds up slowly will have everyone reaching for that bit of energy left inside ready to go through an entire show all over again. Could even be the new tour’s My City of Ruins.