March 27, 2013

Notes from the road: Melbourne, Night #3

“Good evening Melbourne, are you ready for the finale?” And so began the last round of Bruce Springsteen’s three night stand at the Rod Laver Arena. First song in was the Australian tour debut of Long Walk Home, followed by the greatest rock single ever written by a man over 50, Radio Nowhere.

The American critic Robert Hilburn once described Bruce’s live take of My Love Will Not Let You Down, a song from the relative margins of his catalogue, as being as rousing as the national anthem in concert. He was right. Plucked from the crowd as a request, the E Street rhythm axis of Mighty Max Weinberg and Garry W. Tallent nailed the track to the floor: while Bruce, Nils and Tom traded high-octane guitar lines.

Better Days had its’ first airing, with a band, since 2003 [thanks uber-fan Bernie], and was quickly followed by a mighty triumvirate from the Wrecking Ball album; We Take Care Of Our Own, the title track and Death To My Hometown.

After another mighty crowd surf during Out In The Street, Bruce returned to the stage to inform us that his socks were stolen, but his boots were still on. “It’s miraculous!”

Lost In The Flood saw Charlie shine on keys as Bruce turned up the heat with some searing guitar work. It followed a stark reading of Factory, which was another debut for Australians. Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street had the E Street Band reverting to sassy, big band, swagger. One member of the audience came with a multiple-choice placard: Candy’s Room or Incident On 57th Street? Melbournians voted and Candy’s Room took off like a Lear jet.

What happened next was worth the price of admission alone. If Bruce had taken a bow and left the stage right here, no one would’ve felt short-changed. The band leaned into a muscular version of Youngstown and followed it with a ‘knock-down-drag-em-out’ reading of Murder Inc. Stunning, Springsteen himself was slack jawed afterwards and said what we all thought, “ Whoa, what was that?” Inexplicable, if you were in the room you witnessed that “third” kind of heat that only great bands know how to conjure up.

Pay Me My Money Down became a big-room sing-a-long as Bruce took the horns and singers for a virtual line dance through the room. Twins in the front row got a special shout out for their dedication and were rewarded with I’m Going Down. Born In The USA was a massive album in Australia, as it was around the world, and anything Bruce plays from the record goes down a storm.

Waiting On A Sunny Day appeared and guitar tech Kevin Buell treated us to a master class in how to catch an airborne acoustic guitar, which was followed by Bruce’s epic knee slide.

The principle set was played out in fine fashion with powerhouse renditions of The Rising, The Ghost Of Tom Joad [possibly the best version of the Australian tour so far] and Badlands.

After a beautiful/hard rocking take on Jungleland Bruce thanked the audience and assured us that now that his kids are older, and out of the house, he’ll be down here a lot sooner than we’ve come to expect. Born To Run, Dancing In The Dark [replete with Bruce in sunglasses] and Tenth Avenue Freezeout rounded out the finale before Bruce gave us ‘one more’ with a firebrand American Land.

An absolute stunner of a gig, the next stop on the tour is Hanging Rock.

The highway is alive tonight …

– Sean Sennett