MELBOURNE to Run, and Write

Write All Nite is a website, NOT a fucking blog.”

That’s a sentiment I’ve expressed countless times to friends who wouldn’t be scared away by my predilection for feigned, hyperbolic frustration. Heck, I even contacted WordPress to inquire about removing any trace of the word “blog” from these pages (alas, they responded with a polite, “Leave us alone, you crazy blogger”). For some reason, I’ve always associated “blogs” with navel-gazing, “me me me me me me me me me me…wait…oh yeah, and me me me me me me me me” writing. Though all writers inherently put themselves in their work, I like to think my Bruce-themed analyses have been less about myself and more about the universal ideas and experiences at the heart of E Street Band concerts. Yours truly refers to yours truly on occasion, but I strive to take myself out of the equation as much as possible.

Until today. This will be – gulp – what I consider conventional blog material. Sometimes, your reaction to a concert cannot be separated from certain events in your personal life, and Bruce and the Band’s first of two nights in Melbourne was such an occasion for me.

You may be wondering (and by you, I mean my mother) why my thoughts on the Adelaide concert have not been posted yet. Don’t worry (Mom), they’re coming. Since that setlist felt like Bruce’s ode to the importance of America preserving its diversity and heritage as an immigrant nation – concepts that I deeply believe are the bedrock of my beloved country – I unsurprisingly have far too much that I want to communicate pertaining to the concert.[1]

As any writer can attest, finding the exact right words to convey ideas nearest and dearest to one’s heart can be taxingly exhausting, in addition to being an exercise in crippling self-doubt. Rest assured (BTX trolls), I’m in no way complaining about my life; I’m following some of the greatest artists in the history of mankind through one of the most beautiful countries full of some of the nicest people in the world – to say I thank my lucky stars every damn day is an understatement of the highest order. And yet, my main priority Down Under is to write, and that can be a grueling process even in heaven,[2] especially when there are so many amazing tourist activities just waiting to be enjoyed outside my room, not to mention the plethora of wonderful Bruce crazies with whom I could be hanging and talking all things E Street (…and Trump).

Speaking of which, the inherently-cyclical vine in this tweet perfectly captures the unavoidable rubbernecking involved with writing during the dumpster fire that has been Trump’s Presidency thus far:

OK – you may be wondering – but why the hell am I delving into this exceedingly (excessively?) personal fare? Simple: these were the cognitive and emotional swirls pervading my entire being as I walked into AAMI’s Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.[3] I was A) frustrated with myself for not completing my Adelaide report before the concert, almost ensuring far less people read it, B) in my usual state of disappointed self-hatred after another long day ‘in the office,’ C) wondering how much I would regret not seeing more of Australia if none of this writing leads to a successful career in the field, and D) overwhelmingly depressed about the state of America, given stories such as Trump utterly disrespecting Australia’s Prime Minister, going so far as abruptly hanging up on their first phone call. Needless to say, I was in an absolutely shit mood, despite still being aware of my good fortune.[4]

But then, Bruce and the Band walked on stage. The latter all donned expectant, sly, tickled grins as the former approached his microphone, acoustic guitar in hand:

“We stand before you as embarrassed Americans tonight. This is a song from 1965 by The Orlons.[5] We’re going to use it to send a letter back home.”

When Bruce was through singing the first line – “Don’t hang up (no no)” – I felt myself doing something that I couldn’t remember having done since Adelaide: smiling. At the end of the next line – “Oh don’t you do it now, don’t hang up (no no)” – I was laughing. By the acoustic performance’s conclusion, I was happily swaying back and forth, clapping along. After Bruce launched into “American Land” – perhaps his most explicit song celebrating the aforementioned immigrant heritage of the United States,[6] as he so succinctly stated with, “We come from a land of immigrants; this is an immigrant song!”– I was in full blown, rock-the-fuck-out mode, with my whole body and mind joyously consumed by the mighty power of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

Yet in no way had I forgotten the issues plaguing my psyche pre-show. Quite the opposite: much like how he’s handled the current plight of America on this tour, Bruce is in the business not of escape but of altering perspective, allowing his fans to productively recalibrate how they view their lives and, ultimately, life itself. As “The Ties That Bind” became “No Surrender” and so on and so forth over the course of two hours and 51 minutes, Bruce imbued in me, once again, a newfound sense of purpose, both personally and socio-politically. As his songs of faith, and comradery, and communal power, and perseverance through hard times, and the benefits of struggle and work, came flying at me fast and loose, I found myself – finally – getting outside of my own damn head to appreciate the complete range of my current situation, both positive and negative.

For Bruce, the darkness of life is just as integral as the light in inducing in his fans – and himself – perhaps his most hallowed of feelings: hope, always an exceedingly excessively rare commodity, but especially today. Perhaps that’s why Bruce has been insisting on boisterously signing off these concerts by sending everyone home dancing, as opposed to the more somber acoustic renditions with which he often closes evenings; the particularly exuberant combination here of “Shout” and “Twist and Shout” did just the trick.  The genuinely palpable human connection that Bruce seems to strike with each individual fan every night proves the timeless validity of this story:

“I went out walking the other day
Seen a little girl crying along the way
She’d been hurt so bad said she’d never love again
Someday your crying girl will end
And you’ll find once again
Two hearts are better than one
Two hearts girl get the job done…”

Life will undoubtedly make us feel down and out from time to time, regardless of how great our lives may be. Yet an essential part of maturation, of personal progress, is not only to overcome such times but legitimately utilize them to strengthen our resolve. To remix the lyrics of “Two Hearts,” I’m literally living one of my childish, childhood dreams of becoming a writer, but along the way reality will of course end those dreams by changing their tenor, as should be the case. Yet what matters is continually pursuing dreams, “to become a man and grow up to dream again.” What works for me – and for Bruce – is what will also work for America, and the rest of the world. In the words of the very next song played: “Mister, I ain’t a boy, no I’m a man / And I believe in a promised land.” As long as we keep resisting those demons – be they internal or external – we will be, to borrow Bruce’s favorite catchphrase, alright. The final verse of “The Promised Land” may as well be the globe’s motto right now (and forever):

“There’s a dark cloud rising from the desert floor
I packed my bags and I’m heading straight into the storm
Gonna be a twister to blow everything down
That ain’t got the faith to stand its ground
Blow away the dreams that tear you apart
Blow away the dreams that break your heart
Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted”

Bruce wasn’t done with me yet, though. Like recognizable manna from God,[7] he introduced “Mary’s Place” with this:

Is there anybody in the house tonight? Are you ready for a house party?! Well then meet me right here; we need a dance party. I’ve been so fucking depressed. Shit is fucked up at home, man. God! What else can I say except: God, shit is fucked up! The E Street Band needs some Aussie spirit. You gotta bring us up tonight. That’s right. [he laughs; my heart melts] Well, listen…

He may claim to need us to bring him up, but I know that we need him to bring us up. Even though this man is basically a superhero, he somehow still finds a way not only to reflect, but to voice the everyday existences of his average fans, thereby making them feel a bit more super. If someone with a life like Bruce’s can still feel depressed – and, crucially, has the guts to admit it – then that should make the rest of us a little more comfortable feeling and doing the same. And if this apparently distraught man can still put his misery aside for the sake of 30,000 fans by turning in a blissful, seemingly carefree but in actuality carefully considered performance befitting of the gorgeous sun-filled day shining on this rambunctious stadium, then you best believe a random aspiring writer in that crowd will be inspired to keep running with his dreams, namely to keep writing.

Without Bruce, I don’t know if I would have had the guts to write, let alone publish such a probing introspection as this. But as Bruce bellowed to finish “Mary’s Place:” “Can you feel the spirit? I need some spirit now!”

That’s exactly what I needed too, and that’s exactly what I got, yet again, from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. When all feels helpless, they pick up those instruments not only to play, but to have and spread fun; what else can I do in response but pick up my pen to write? I couldn’t ask for better companions for this part of the ride, who continue – despite everything – to make us believe, night after night after night after night after night, “Tomorrow there’ll be sunshine / And all this darkness past.”

How do I get this writing thing started? I’ll drop my pen needle and pray.

 

 

FOOTNOTES

[1] Due to Bruce covering a lot of the same territory in Melbourne, I debated just copying and pasting my Adelaide analysis here to ensure as many people as possible actually read it, but that felt too disingenuous for my taste. Hopefully you’ll still check it out regardless…

[2] A Bruce concert is about as close as this agnostic will ever get to believing in a divine place.

[3] You’ll have to wait for my forthcoming performance notes for an explanation as to why I refuse to use the real name for this venue. What a tease…

[4] Adding to my pain: this concert sold front GA and rear GA tickets. A few other Aussie shows did the same, which usually means those with the former automatically gets into the Pit. Except, that wasn’t the case here because they separated the front GA into two sections. The worst part: they didn’t give different wristbands to everyone in the front-front vs. the front-back, preventing them from controlling the number of people attempting to gain access to the former (thus, there was no way to disprove “I was here earlier!” claims). You can imagine how much we all felt like over-packed sardines. It was the epitome of an organizational clusterfuck (though perhaps the real epitome has been the subject of much ire in the news recently, but I digress)…

[5] It was in fact 1962, but Bruce needs a teleprompter for a reason.

[6] I promise that I unpack this claim (girl, do I ever!) in my forthcoming Adelaide post. I do so tremendously, bigly. You’re not prepared for my big-league analysis. Trust me, everyone says it’ll be the absolute best. No fake news nor alternatives facts here.

[7] Bruce is about as close as this agnostic will ever get to believing in a divine being.

 

 

SETLIST

  1. Don’t Hang Up – *Tour Premiere*
  2. American Land
  3. The Ties That Bind
  4. No Surrender
  5. Two Hearts 
  6. The Promised Land
  7. Glory Days
  8. Hungry Heart
  9. Wrecking Ball
  10. New York City Serenade
  11. Atlantic City
  12. Johnny 99 
  13. Murder Incorporated
  14. Death to My Hometown
  15. The River
  16. Mary’s Place 
  17. Darlington County
  18. Working on the Highway 
  19. I’m on Fire
  20. Because the Night
  21. The Rising
  22. Badlands
  23. Land of Hope and Dreams
  24. Long Walk Home – *TP*
  25. Born to Run
  26. Dancing in the Dark
  27. Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
  28. Shout
  29. Twist and Shout – *TP*
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7 thoughts on “MELBOURNE to Run, and Write

  1. Anonymous

    “A writer with a great future?” That’s usually a comment you won’t see regarding someone who has been unemployed for quite some time and is mostly exclusively writing his musings regarding the tour of a 67 year old musician.

    Like

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