You can tell a lot about a show by how Bruce greets the audience at the start. For his last of three nights in Perth, he went with, “GOOOOOOOOD EEEEEEVEEEEEEENIIIIIIING WEEEEEESTEEEEEEEEERN AAAAAAAAUSTRAAAAAAAALIAAAAAAA!!!”
Alrighty, so we were in store for a house party? Yes, if you consider two hours and 45 minutes of pure, unbridled, uncut, undiluted, undistilled, and un-fucking-believable rock and roll to be the best house party the world can offer, one that felt like it spanned lifetimes while lasting only a few seconds.
And here I thought an opening couldn’t get any more scorching than night 2, but along comes Bruce to needlessly outdo himself, again, with “Night” (does any other song in his arsenal establish as breakneck of a pace?), “It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City” (Bruce and Stevie reprised their guitar duel), “Cover Me,” and “Radio Nowhere” (Australians seem to LOVE his new material, inspiring Bruce to engage in a deafening “I just want to hear some rhythm” call and response with the crowd).
This time around, the notoriously seated Aussies had no choice but to stand, especially when Bruce whipped out a rare mid-set “Glory Days” – the earliest ever? – especially when he bellowed, “Can we get these folks in Perth dancing? CAN WE GET THEM ASSES OUT OF THOSE SEATS?!” By the time everyone was waving their arms to the end of “Hungry Heart,” it felt like we had already hit encore-level bedlam…seven songs in (I know I was an encore-level stanky, sweaty mess).
“The River” momentarily and hauntingly slowed things down (I needed it more than anyone onstage), before they went right back to setting their guitars ablaze with “Youngstown” (two long Nils solos are always better than one), “Murder Incorporated” (another Bruce-Stevie guitar duel), “Johnny 99” (there are few superior talent showcases for the entirety of the E Street Band. MORE COWBELL!!!), and “Ramrod” (this AND “Glory Days” in the main set?! Just one of those nights. You also had to love Bruce and Stevie’s, “What time is it? I don’t got no watch. I’m so damn jet-lagged I don’t know what fucking time it is. Does Perth know what time it is?! DO YOU KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS?!” They did. “That’s goooooooood”). After the last, Bruce thanked the crowd as if they were done, and I don’t think anyone would’ve gone home unhappy…we were less than 90 minutes in.
But no, there were so many more highlights to burn through, including the first ever Down Under performance of “Drive All Night” – transcendent as always (those who predicted a third night in a small venue might be treated to full River performance were kind of right; more songs from the album were played here than the other two nights) – and a balls-to-the-goofy-wall “I’m Goin’ Down,” which Bruce introduced with an odd little story about how he tends to get in fights at home that end with him being asked, “Who do you think you are?!”
The energy straight up did not wane for even one second all night long (“Seven Nights to Rock!”); I can’t remember the last time Bruce and the Band were in such high spirits from beginning to end. And the crowd was with them every step of the way; the Pit even mirrored an eyes-closed Bruce raising his hands and then crossing them when he sang, “May I feel your arms around me / May I feel your blood mix with mine” during The Rising. That was a first for me, as was the crowd continuing the “Badlands” chant from the mid-song breakdown, over the final verse, through the coda, and into a gorgeous “Land of Hope and Dreams.” Transitioning into the mid-“Shout” litany of E Street adjectives, Bruce exclaimed, “Do you have kangaroos in this part of Australia? Good, then on your drive home, if you see a spare kangaroo [author’s note: yes, he said spare], I want you to pull over by the side of the road, get out of your car, and tell them YOU’VE. JUST. SEEN…” Bruce even mixed up the pace of the litany!
A few ignoramuses have long asked how multi-millionaires many times over can still so effectively perform working man tales, but those who’ve seen them live know the answer: absolutely no one – and I mean no one – works as hard, enjoys themselves as much, or is as good at their job as Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
After only three nights, I’m already at a loss for words as to how to describe what the hell is going on Down Under. How about this: nights like these would convert a rock and roll atheist into a lifetime believer. Or, to utilize a more E Street-centric explanation:
When walking out MetLife 3 this past year, many lifelong fans exclaimed that Bruce had very few other three night stands that could compare. Yet in classic E Street fashion, his very next three-night stand – less than 10 shows later – every bit matched those now legendary Jersey evenings (dear naysayers: quality > quantity). As always, right when diehards believe they’ve witnessed a culmination of sorts, Bruce just dials it up even further to 11…and then 12…and then 13…so on and so forth, ad infinitum; by now, they’re basically off the numerical scale. 58 different songs – let me repeat that: FIFTY-EIGHT DIFFERENT SONGS!!! – over the first three shows, and they looked like they could’ve kept going for hours more. That’s more than most bands play for an entire tour. Indeed, it seems like glory days will never pass this merry band by. In Bruce’s own words: “We swore forever friends…that was the deal, right?” Cue the waterworks for the remainder of the encores (at least for me).
Yet when they do hang up those guitars for good, these are the sorts of nights that will keep their memory alive and burning in our psyches forever. To slightly remix their most famous recording: who could’ve known that ‘letting in’ Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band 45 years ago would still be returning joyous dividends today, still proving all these decades later that, yes, ‘love is wild and love is oh so real?’ Simply put, they were born to rock.
If this start is a sign of what’s to come, then get ready, Eastern Australia and New Zealand – the righteous fire of E Street is coming for you, baby.
Who am I kidding? There’s no way to prepare for this, undoubtedly one of the best ways to spend 3 hours of our lives together. Here’s hoping for many, many, MANY more…
- Official t-shirt:
- In my never-ending quest to note every damn difference from night to night, it must be known that Bruce went with more of a black and white, quasi-checkered, flannel button-down underneath his usual charcoal vest. Looked a liiiiittle like this checkered shirt I’ve worn one or two times…Also, he ended up taking off the vest by the end, which is when you KNOW it was a hot night (and I ain’t only talking about the temperature here).
- Also, Perth 3 marked the return of Nils’ striped hat that he busted out randomly on the last tour. Newsflash: you’re seeing too many shows when you start noticing slight wardrobe changes…
- A not-so-slight change: Charlie’s pornstache! His official fan club (of two! Yes, this club actually exists; shout-out to you two – you know who you are!) will no doubt be anxiously awaiting a picture…
- Bruce went with a few new vocal fluctuations on “NYC Serenade,” approaching the song in a more relaxed – though no less intense – way.
- Jake has REALLY been making his presence felt from the start with his “NYC Serenade” sax solo; he gets an ovation every time now just from the sheer enormity and surprise of his sound, and his playing – at least here – even rivals his uncle’s…
- I love the gender make-up of the string section: five women and two men. More estrogen to break up the mostly boys club that is the E Street Band is always a good thing!
- On night 1, Bruce bowed to each member of the string section as they left the stage post-“Serenade.” On night 2, he shook each person’s hand. On night 3, one of the first women went for a kiss on the cheek; Bruce obliged. Same for the next one. Ditto for the third. The final person to leave the stage was a heftier, older gentleman…who also went in for a kiss! And Bruce, of course, obliged! The Pit simultaneously cheered and laughed. To the guy: A) you’re phenomenally talented, and B) WAY TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF PERHAPS YOUR ONLY CHANCE TO GIVE THE BOSS A SMOOCH!!! How’d it taste? JOKING…kind of.
- Bruce introduced “It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City” with the line, “This is the song that got me my first record deal.” He didn’t delve into the story ala the final leg of The River Tour, but the crowd still cheered the sentiment nonetheless.
- The participants in the “Glory Days” booty shake (in order of the velocity of their booty shaking): Jake (his ENTIRE body jiggles), Bruce (dat ass tho), Nils (A for effort), and Stevie (um…yeah). Notably missing: Garry! C’mon (b)ass man – shake that booty! Bruce ended by bellowing, “SHAKE YOUR ASS, WESTERN AUSTRALIA!”
- This was probably my favorite live performance of “Glory Days” that I’ve ever personally experienced, but my dad politely informed me it paled in comparison to those on the Born in the U.S.A. Thanks for rubbing it in, Father!
- I honestly feel bad for Kevin when Bruce is in such a good mood; his post-“Glory Days” guitar toss was high AF.
- Further proof Aussies are crazy, man:
- Bruce’s review of the crowd’s “Hungry Heart” singing: “excellent!”
- So I was standing in the center of the back of the Pit for the crowd surf. Right before Bruce plopped himself down – which ALWAYS receives just this amazing gasp from the crowd; “WHAT IS THIS PRECIOUS YET LUNATIC 67 YEAR OLD THINKING?!?!” – two women in their mid-20s FEROCIOUSLY SPRINTED over to my area, promising each other they would grope the Boss. I moved out of their way fearing for my own life (I also like giving others the chance to touch this golden god), only to watch them successfully complete their mission…followed by both crumpling into each other’s arms in sobbing fits of joy.
- I miss the crowd singing the melody of “The River” with Bruce….
- When was the last time three consecutive shows not only had ONE sign request total (“Blood Brothers,” night 1), but seemed to mostly lack audibles too. Bruce was on a mission, and he knew exactly what he wanted to say and how to do so…
- Bruce rested his foot a lot on one of the speakers on the ground around him. I have no further interpretation of this…
- Bruce switched “judge, don’t take my boy this way” to “JUDGE DON’T TAKE MY BAAAAAAABBY AWAY” in “Johnny 99.” Not going to lie, I kind of like these new lyrics more; they emphasize the devastating emotions involved with recognizing that the life of a person who was once your baby is about to end…
- Props to all of the Aussies who clapped along with Jake’s “Johnny 99” cowbell. MORE!!!!!
- Guess what made a return in this performance of “Johnny 99?” THE WOO-WOO TRAIN NOISE! YES, BRUCE, I LOVE YOU!!! But also, I like any way that Bruce can connect all of these socially-conscious songs to the ‘train’ of “Land of Hope and Dreams.”
- Before handing his guitar to poor Kevin, Bruce thrusted with it in a very phallic gesture. Fitting, hysterical, odd, etc.
- During Bruce and Stevie’s back and forth in “You Can Look;” Bruce: “You can look…but you can’t touch…there’s a law against it!” I had no idea!
- Rough transcript of Bruce’s “I’m Goin’ Down” intro: “You’re in a fight with your wife or girlfriend. I’m usually not too good at those types of things. I’ve done something that merits the statement, ‘who do you think you are?!’ That doesn’t work at home. That doesn’t get me any fucking where at home.” It made as little sense in context as it does here…as it goes when the Bruce is loose.
- Bruce sang one of the choruses like so: “I’m goin’ down down down down AAAAAAAAAAALL the way down down…” dropping each syllable an octave lower as he went.
- I spotted that little boogie during “I’m Goin’ Down,” Jakie!
- Random statements: “Badlands” captures my ideal conception of life, perhaps not how I actually live it but definitely how I want to live it. “Land of Hope and Dreams” – which followed – captures my ideal conception of America, perhaps not how it actually is but what it should strive to be. Related: “Brilliant Disguise” captures my conception of relationships, but ain’t nothing ideal about it (and no, it wasn’t played here…I just like to mention Tunnel of Love as much as possible).
- The lyrical change “This train carries…IMMIGRANTS!” made a return to “Land of Hope and Dreams” after night 1. I have to imagine this will now be the new norm…
- Hot take: “Dancing in the Dark” is low-key one of the best songs ever written about the writing process. Maybe one day I’ll explicate that theory…
- PSA: When Bruce is quiet, shut the fuck up. Please and thank you!
- Why setlist diversity is important: at a certain point I legitimately stopped thinking about the setlist because I was having so much fun.
- Bruce invited up a big group of women – all rocking the same garb – to dance with Stevie. They called themselves “Stevie’s angels.” Needless to say, he was LOVING it:
- Bruce invited a girl who was wearing his official sunglasses – still sold at merchandise stands – on stage to dance with him. Not only that, he put them on for a few hot seconds. Gotta love that product placement!
- Theory as to why Bruce seems to be more inspired when he opposes the President: his books tells us he’s a natural born outsider, so perhaps he feeds off feeling like an outsider to the politics of his own country?
- The only setlist misstep (IMO): “Bobby Jean” wasn’t a hard rocking enough closer to the vibe of this particular show. The perfect choice: I know he usually saves it for the last show of a tour, but “Rocking All Over the World.” A more realistic option: “Twist and Shout.” Even so, yay to the crowd for doing the “Bobby Jean” wave from the very first note…
- I like how Bruce changes “And you’ll hear me sing THIS song” to “And you’ll hear me sing YOUR song.” All a part of Bruce’s new mission to transfer ownership of his songs from himself to his fans because he knows we’re the ones who will ensure they live into a future he will one day not be a part of (as terrible of a thought as that is)…
- “Bobby Jean” works as a closer if it’s a way for Bruce to implicitly say goodbye to his fans just in case he never plays Down Under again…except he finished the night by saying, “We’ll be seeing you, again!” Truthfully, I think Bruce always believes he’ll be back again, but understands there’s always a chance life prevents that from happening. As such, “Bobby Jean” plus “we’ll be seeing you” is almost like Bruce having his cake and eating it too.
- I keep forgetting to mention: Alison Krauss’ “Down to the River to Pray” still blasts over the PA after every show. And I do mean blast; I have a hard time hearing people in conversation post-show, which is a shame because the freshest reactions are my favorite reactions. With that being said, the song definitely lends credence to the theory that this should be considered an extension of The River 2016 Tour.
- The external speakers of the arena were bumping “Dancing in the Dark” as people walked out. I honestly could’ve went right back in for three more hours. Even more impressive: it looked like Bruce wanted to. The dude is not human.
- Official time count, for the two of you who care:
- New York City Serenade
- It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City
- Cover Me
- Radio Nowhere
- Glory Days
- Hungry Heart
- The River
- Murder Incorporated
- Johnny 99
- You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
- Death to My Hometown
- Drive All Night
- I’m Goin’ Down
- Because the Night
- The Rising
- Land of Hope and Dreams
- Born to Run
- Seven Nights to Rock
- Dancing in the Dark
- Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
- Bobby Jean