February 7, 2014

Notes from the road: Perth #2

As the house lights dimmed and The E Street Band took to the stage, Bruce walked up to the mic and bellowed a simple question. “Is there anybody out there alive tonight?”  We replied in the affirmative and, so began, round two, at the Perth Arena.

Kicking off with a scorching Badlands, Bruce was clearly in the mood to tear the place apart. Out In The Street was next and, as the energy in the room built, the artist was soon off the stage, heading towards the stalls and shaking hands like a Southern diplomat.

Gathering up signs he pulled out a perfect slice of frat rock in Sherry Darling. “You know you want it Stevie,” he beamed before changing the lyrics to ‘I’m stuck in traffic in the remotest city on earth.’ Two Hearts capped off the opening gambit.

High Hopes (with powerhouse percussion from Max and Reverend Everett) was followed by a tune that could be in the running for our next anthem, Just Like Fire Would.

Looking for more signs, Bruce called out for Light Of Day and Mighty Max went straight to work on a killer garage rock groove. If aliens landed and you wanted to show them an example of monster rock and roll guitar playing: you’d simply tune into Bruce shredding on this masterpiece from the margins that included a snippet of Land Of A 1000 Dances. We should also doff our cloth caps to Charlie who played a terrific organ solo, so inspired, he should have a 60’s style fraternity house named after him.

Midway through Hungry Heart an enterprising fan handed Bruce a gift bag with two Australian culinary delights: Bruce grinned as he displayed his Tim Tams and Vegemite before crowd surfing back to center stage.

Reaching for an acoustic guitar Bruce slowed the tempo of the show down with a jaw dropping Girls In Their Summer Clothes which, in this bare bones encounter, fully exposed the gorgeous melody and lyric.

Save My Love and Atlantic City paved the way for what this writer is prepared to cite as the best one-two-punch of the last twenty years, an electric Youngstown followed by a brutal take on Murder Inc. Next, Bruce hammered out a riff that sounded like the bastard offspring of AC/DC that built into Johnny 99.

Taking umbrage at the propensity of West Australians to stay in their seats he guaranteed that within thirty seconds of Pay Me My Money Down their ‘asses would send a message to the mind’ saying ‘shake me please’. And they did.

As the entire troupe marched back to the stage (with beach umbrellas in tow), Bruce led them into Shackled And Drawn which is a powerful centerpiece to the show. A young boy, James, who Bruce met at the beach, brought the house down during his guest spot on Waitin’ On A Sunny Day.

The Ghost Of Tom Joad and The Rising rounded out an incredible gig. If the first night in Perth went into interstellar overdrive, night two was something else all together … it was simply a remarkable rocking set that saw the band turn on a dime as Bruce took them from the barroom to New Orleans with an inspired selection of material. And, all of this happened before Bruce and Co. launched into a gloriously ramshackle version of Rosalita (Come Out Tonight).

The house lights were up for Born To Run, Dancing In The Dark and Twist And Shout. If Ferris Bueller had arrived on a float direct from the Von Stueben Day Parade to sing the latter himself, nobody would have taken their eyes off Bruce.

Finally, alone on stage, with a harmonica and acoustic guitar, Bruce closed the night with powerful readings of I’ll Work For Your Love and Thunder Road. It was in that moment, during the final strains of Thunder Road, where the audience, who sang the melody in unison, came together and celebrated a man’s music that strikes a powerful chord in the democratic oasis of the heart.

– Sean Sennett