Thursday, 27 February 2014

Springsteen at Brisbane Entertainment Centre

"I don't know who else runs their shows like this!" said Bruce Springsteen after letting the audience decide if the band should play his second studio album from top to bottom, or carry on taking sign requests and having a ball in Brisbane.

The voices, mostly in the GA pit, carried sway with Springsteen, as he announced "It's E Street Shuffle time!"

And so continued a show that even before it finished after 3 hours and 42 aminutes, had already become legendary amongst fans as being the one show they would always remember seeing, or always remember missing.

Rumours that Springsteen was planning another album show with the complete run down of The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle, had been circling since Sydney faded into Darkness and two-sides of the speculated The River failed to flow through the Hunter Valley.

But after an incredible opener of The Bee Gee's Stayin' Alive, with Springsteen and the E Street Choir slowly emerging out of the shadows into a full-blown rock 'n' soul version of the disco classic, complete with additional string section, fans were once again reminded that anything can happen.

What followed was four songs from Springsteen's Greetings From Asbury Park, that would be among a eight new tracks for the 2014 Australian tour, and starting an education for those fans overheard leaving every show complaining about how he didn't perform Born In The USA or Streets Of Philadelphia.

It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City, complete with Springsteen's guitar solo battle with Stevie Van Zandt, was a blast to watch with the enthusiasm from the musicians both obvious and infectious for the high-tempo, party spirit of the band's earlier days.

Carrying straight through with Does This Bus Stop...Growin' Up, and the crowd-surf inducing Spirit In The Night. (Which came with a hilarious first for Springsteen as someone slipped a phone into his back pocket as he was carried back to the stage.)

An energetic High Hopes and Just Like Fire Would - both covers which started life in their current format at Brisbane last year - was followed by a series of sign requests, which looked certain to derail Springsteen's full album show plans before he confessed they had made plans, but wasn't sure if they had time to fulfil them.

But with an eager audience and a gorgeous string section waiting in the wings following an extensive training afternoon, there could only be one outcome. The crowd demanded and the band more than delivered.

After a rousing E Street Shuffle, the band returned to Danny Federici's signature tune 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) brought out at Hunter Valley and the phenomenal expanded, Springsteen-orchestrated Kitty's Back. Its previous outing at the start of the tour in Perth remains one of the best E Street moments of 2014.

It was the eagerly awaited Incident On 57th Street and album closer New York City Serenade that took the show to epic proportions however.
In particular the latter which saw the aforementioned string section return to the stage and add a soaring finale to the album chapter that until Brisbane, had still been the talk of E Street fans since the song was given the treatment in Europe last year.

For diehard fans the show could have stopped there and still been something special. (Especially with unsung hero of the past two shows Garry W Tallent - this time taking on tuba duties).

But not wasting any time Springsteen took the band forward in time by a decade for Darlington County. Even those standard easy-to-judge Born In The USA-era fans were given a few extras as Bobby Jean and Glory Days were blasted out in the encore.

All before Springsteen of course brought out one final surprise for the Australian tour finale, with Eddie Vedder joining him back on stage for Highway To Hell - the Aussie cover song that is arguably another top highlight of the eleven shows Down Under.

After a long tour across the country it would have been understandable if Springsteen and the band wanted to play it safe and take it easy with a well-rehearsed set list of songs from across this tour and the 2013 Wrecking Ball shows.

But the fact they didn't, and that up until the last of the 222 minutes on stage in Brisbane, Springsteen again gave it his all and kept fans hooked for the next big surprise, simplified why people will beg, borrow and bribe their way to attend show after show, after show.

Brisbane's tour-ending colossus proved the only thing to expect from a Springsteen show is the unexpected.

Set list

1. Stayin’ Alive (Bee Gees cover)
2. It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City
3. Does this Bus Stop at 82nd Street?
4. Growin’ Up
5. Spirit In The Night
6. High Hopes
7. Just Like Fire Would
8. You Can Look (But You’d Better Not Touch) (sign request)
9. Sherry Darling (sign request)
10. Save My Love (sign request)
11. Fade Away (sign request)
12. The E Street Shuffle
13. 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
14. Kitty’s Back
15. Wild Billy’s Circus Story
16. Incident On 57th Street
17. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
18. New York City Serenade (w/ strings)
19. Darlington County
20. Waitin’ On A Sunny Day
21. The Rising
22. The Ghost Of Tom Joad
23. Badlands
24. Glory Days
25. Born To Run
26. Bobby Jean
27. Dancing In The Dark
28. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
29. Highway To Hell (with Eddie Vedder)
30. Thunder Road (solo acoustic)

Australasia tour so far: 11 shows, 306 songs, 116 different.