I’m a big fan of Bruce Springsteen. I’ve got almost all the records and I’ve seen him live in 1985 (Sydney) and 2002 (LA). He’s never really lost it and his 2012 album – Wrecking Ball – is a remarkable return to the top flight. Compared to BotF member, John however, my love of the Boss looks like a fleeting high school crush. On Bruce’s latest tour to Australia, John got tickets to all 3 Sydney concerts and tickets to an outdoor gig at Hanging Rock – a reserve 80kms north of Melbourne. This correspondent managed to snaffle one of these and a quick road trip to Melbourne and beyond ensued. BotF member Rachel and soon to become BotF member Jay, accompanied us on the hit and run mission.
For a marathon gig (3 plus hours of Bruce plus Jimmy Barnes plus The Rubens), a solid base needed to be laid. Plenty of Melbourne bars don’t open until 1pm on a Saturday including our target, the Napier, so we snuck a quick one at the Workers Club. Appropriately, the one unique I hadn’t had was a beer from 3 Ravens, a small brewery in the Melbourne suburb of Thornbury. 55 American Pale Ale is a batch release that tastes as USA as the Boss himself. Plenty of hoppy goodness that comes from 5 hop varieties. Not one for novices and a great start to the day. Must get to 3 Ravens one day.
Disappointment ensued at the Napier. A small crowd had gathered for the 1pm opening, but 20 minutes later it was still shut as tight as a drum. Jay and I had detoured slightly to the Union Club Hotel (a suburban classic) for a wedgie – but Rachel and John were ravenous. Fortunately, inner-city Melbourne is jammed with pubs and it didn’t take long before we were tucking into a fine feed at The Grace Darling Hotel in Collingwood.
Any trip to Hanging Rock must have a detour, no matter how short, to the Holgate Brewery in Woodend. It was my pleasure to introduce my companions to Keatings Hotel. I was very keen for a Millenium Falcon, but it wasn’t being served unfortunately. Next best option was a Roadtrip IPA. Always great to drink a beer at source. Plenty of Bruce concert goers were warming up in more ways than one. The atmosphere was building.
The attraction of seeing Bruce at Hanging Rock was all about the outdoors. Hanging Rock is a natural reserve and it was no surprise to see kangaroos (wallabies?) bounding around. The backdrop of the Hanging Rock was as spectacular as one could expect and seeing it change colour both during the sunset and with the lighting effects was terrific. Despite the threat of rain, the weather remained clement and it didn’t even get that cold.
Bruce was sensational. Despite the absence of three key members of the E Street Band from the last time I’d seen them, Bruce has put together as solid a band as you can imagine. Clarence needed 5 horns to replace him (including his wonderful nephew Jake Clemons), the 3 back singers were awesome and Tom Morello as the replacement for Miami Steve brings guitar virtuosity that isn’t normally a feature of a Bruce concert. His energy was awesome. From song one (Badlands) to the finale (10th Avenue Freeze Out) – he just pumps out hit after hit. His new stuff is excellent and almost all the songs from the new album can become standards in future sets. I wasn’t familiar with Pay Me My Money Down, but I’ll be getting that on the iPod shortly. His crowd surfing, his singing, his guitar playing all have the vigour of someone far younger than 63. My only quibble is that Bruce doesn’t talk much anymore. In 1985, he’d sit down on the front of the stage and tell a yarn. He was quite funny in the Sydney gig that I went to, where he discussed the unusual way Australians say “Arses” as opposed to “Asses”. It’s a minor point. He played his second ever single, Spirit in the Night, all the way through to his latest, Death to my Hometown. 39 years of music across 26 tracks. Amazing.
I saw Bruce, probably around 1974, first big gig in NYC at Philharmonic Hall, now known as Avery Fisher HALL. Best performer I ever saw. Opening for him was Garland Jeffreys.