February 8, 2014

Notes from the road: Perth #3

The stage lights are out and the only glow in the auditorium is the one that surround the exits. No one is leaving. The E Street Band are on the stage. There’s a roar from the crowd and then a count of four … and still no lights. Then comes a riff: unexpected, dirty and downright mean. The drums have kicked in and the band are locked on to the AC/DC classic, “Highway To Hell“. A tribute to the late Bon Scott, who once lived in Fremantle WA, there’s now a lone spotlight on Max, while the Jersey Devil himself, still sight unseen, has taken full possession of Scott’s lyric. Bruce’s is nailing the vocal part and, finally, the stage lights up and so does the room.

Tom Morello tears off the lead solo and we’re witnessing the E Street Bad in full flight with Bruce singing like a demon.

It’s as an intense an opening as you’re likely to hear and Bruce maintains the energy by running straight into Badlands which is followed by a further trilogy from Darkness: Adam Raised A Cain, a sign request for Streets Of Fire and a spirited Candy’s Room.

Bruce’s take on The Havalina’s “High Hopes” and the Saints  “Just Like Fire Would” continues to illustrate the dexterity of this mighty band. Hats off to the horn section that shone tonight as they do every night.

Reminding us that he’d travelled once again, ‘thousands of miles over shark invested waters’ to be here tonight Bruce was in preacher mode. He was here to testify and we were there to say ‘amen’. Once it was confirmed that we could indeed ‘feel the spirit’, Bruce dove headfirst into a raucous “Spirit In The Night” that took him off the main stage and into the crowd. Jake joined him on sax before Bruce threw himself to the mercy of the ticket holders on the floor who then ‘surfed’ him back to centre stage.

Wrecking Ball came next, before Bruce kicked into a soaring “No Surrender“. The Born In The USA album really broke Springsteen in Australia, and it led to his first tour here in 1985. To say the material from that record holds a soft spot in the heart of Australian Springsteen fans would be understating it. An equally thrilling Bobby Jean followed.

The house lights remained up as Roy Bittan tinkled the ivories for the beginning of “Because The Night“. A powerhouse of a song it was again underpinned by Nils Lofgren’s virtuosic guitar magic.

Downbound Train was another BITUSA masterstroke (the album was well represented tonight), while the gospel, wholeheartedly, is in the choruses of “Heaven’s Wall“.

Continuing to wage war on ‘Australian asses’, or on their propensity for sitting down, Bruce upped the ante with a take no prisoners “Open All Night” which segued into Little Richard’s “Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey” before delivering the final pay off ‘Hey ho rock and roll… deliver me from nowhere’.

Shackled and Drawn” impresses night after night, with an added emotional punch provided by Cindy Mizelle during her vocal spot.

It’s open to debate, but for this writer at least, “Radio Nowhere” remains the greatest ‘single’ ever written by anyone over 50. Tonight it was nothing short of barnstorming and was the perfect precursor to guitar work that highlighted “The Ghost Of Tom Joad“. “Land Of Hope and Dreams” made a welcome return and the main set duly came to a close.

But, of course, there’s more. It’s a Bruce Springsteen concert! Choosing a sign from the crowd, Bruce headed to the piano for a bare bones reading of “The Promise“. Plaintive and relatively unadorned, the power of the rendition burned bright.

With the band back on stage, the troupe played, for this first time on this leg of the tour,” Born In The USA“. It took the roof off. Max Weinberg deserves a bow for his explosive drumming. “Born to Run” followed in all its’ magnificence: and then came a cover of Moon Mullican’s mission statement, “7 Nights To Rock“. Raising the bar on the theatre of the night, Bruce got on his knees to bash Roy’s keys with his… head.

Dancing In The Dark saw the stage packed with girls requesting dances with Tom, Garry, Jake and the ringleader himself. “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” saw Bruce hitting the floor for a lap around the arena. “American Land” brought the electric part of the night to a close.

With all of the rock and roll coursing through our veins, Bruce managed to hold the capacity house spell bound for two more songs. This time he was alone on stage with his acoustic guitar. First came a sign request for ‘Erik’ to hear “Terry’s Song“. Beautifully delivered, the song was incredibly moving. “Thunder Road” was,  again, performed as a, finely nuanced, communal sing-a-long.

As The Triffids’ “Wide Open Road” filled the PA System, Bruce was gone. For three nights he has held this city spellbound: all while playing over fifty different songs.

One for the books, Perth won’t forget the experience in a hurry. He came. He saw. And he set fire to this town. Long may he run.

– Sean Sennett