MELBOURNE 1: Notes From Down Under

Performance Notes:

  • Time to explain why I used the moniker “AAMI’s Melbourne Rectangular Stadium” as opposed to “AAMI Park” – as it’s widely known – in my initial analysis of this concert. Though I’m totally fine with the financial necessities of corporate naming rights, I’m NOT totally fine with these corporations insisting on money-washing the original, often historic names of these venues. Seriously, how adorably on-the-nose is “Melbourne Rectangular Stadium?!” Does AAMI – an insurance company – truly believe their exposure – and thus bottom line – significantly suffers from going with “AAMI’s Melbourne Rectangular Stadium?” When James Dolan – the universally loathed (at least by us perpetually-destitute Knicks fans) owner of Madison Square Garden – inevitably cashes out what will undeniably be the absurdly ludicrous naming rights for “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” would anyone bemoan the name “Chase Bank’s Madison Square Garden” as opposed to “Chase Bank Arena?” Seems like a fair compromise between economic realities and honoring history…
  • Speaking of the stadium, this advertisement struck me as odd. I’m sure it’s for a good cause, but still: img_6091
  • I don’t have a review of Jet – a rare opener! – for you because I didn’t make it in time for an obvious reason (I was writing). But even if I had been in attendance, I probably would’ve been spending the time writing on my phone anyways. Does anyone know the rhyme or reason as to when Bruce agrees to an opener and when he doesn’t?
  • This may have been the promptest start time ever. In fact, they came on slightly BEFORE 7:30!
  • Nils was rocking a charcoal grey, train conductor hat. THIS TRAIN CARRIES SAINTS AND SINNERS…
  • Continuing my quest to record every single wardrobe decision on stage, Bruce went with his red shirt again, but this time without a vest and unbuttoned a bit farther down, befitting of the warm day. Woof is all I have to say to that. Woof.
  • Seriously, what the heck do Australians know about acoustics that the rest of the world has totally missed?! Despite being a stadium, the sound was STILL better than most arenas – and DEFINITELY stadiums – I’ve visited around the world. Unless Bruce Inc. has invested in a new system for the tour, this is really an inexplicable trend…
  • During “Don’t Hang Up,” Roy – already standing downstage with his “American Land” accordion strapped around his miniscule frame (which is always adorably dwarfed by the instrument) – spent much of the performance watching Bruce on the big screen. Way to take advantage of your rare opportunity to watch the Boss like the rest of us, Spider!
  • Spider? Though I explain this in my forthcoming Adelaide piece – YES I’M STILL WORKING ON IT, GODDAMNIT – Bruce has started introducing the once Professor as “Roy ‘Spider’ Bittan,” as in his fingers are like spider legs crawling all over the keys. Though this was the second show in a row Bruce went with this description, Roy still didn’t remember that Bruce wants him to slide back and forth on the keys – like a spider – in response.
  • Not to jump waaaay ahead in the show (too late), but Bruce actually started adding a few more adjectival descriptors to his Band introductions. This may have just been a result of the ludicrously high spirits he was in the other night, but if it continues, I will make sure to note the exact words he uses for each!
  • Once again, for the most socio-politically resonant line of “American Land” right now – “The hands that built the country we’re always trying to keep down” – Bruce cut out the Band except for Max, who accentuated every other word with an emphatic drum beat.
  • And now, for your daily lyric question based on Bruce’s inability to enunciate: is it “The hands that built the country WE’RE always trying to keep down,” or “The hands that built the country WERE always trying to keep down.” I’ve always believed it’s the former, but seemingly every lyric database on the net – including Bruce’s official website – uses the latter. Similarly, does the line end with “down” or “out?!” I’ve always believed it’s the latter, which would’ve been more prescient given recent events.
  • Completely unrelated to the concert, but I kind of don’t like the song’s recording on Wrecking Ball. Bruce’s clearly put-on gruff voice is distracting.
  • Looks like Stevie has stopped playing that giant, turquoise guitar that used to be commonplace for performances of “The Promised Land.” If I knew anything about instruments, I’d definitely call it by the proper name. But since I don’t, you’re stuck with this gibberish.
  • A wild Jon Landau sighting!
  • There were waaaaay more signs in the Pit, which alas had no bearing on Bruce choosing any more of them (in fact, he didn’t pick a single one tonight). This is a man on a clear sociopolitical mission right now. Even so, the camerapeeps had a FIXATION with showing them on the screens (the rear-stage screen returned, as usual for stadiums). Also, have I mentioned yet that the video director of this tour has come up with some more creative camera angles?
  • Speaking of the screens, the color saturation of the side screens was exceedingly different than that of the rear screen. LOOK AT CASPER BRUCE VS. SUNTANNED BRUCE:img_6096
  • img_6099
  • Another concert, another example of seated Australians refusing to stand up for anything besides the encore (or when Bruce walks around the Pit near them).
  • During Bruce and Stevie’s “Glory Days” ass-shaking, Gary literally leaned forward, elbow on bass, head resting on closed fist, watching the shenanigans with a look of…bemused amusement?
  • Once again, the casual fans standing around me in the back of the Pit FREAKED THE FUCK OUT when Bruce walked around the crowd during “Hungry Heart” (no crowd surf, as usual in stadiums). I particularly enjoy watching the women alternative between screaming and crying. Unfortunately, this was the only time Bruce ventured back there; he was stage locked for “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.”
  • The stadium set up once again came with two rear-stage platforms. As Jake blasted his “Hungry Heart” solo on one, Bruce chilled on the other, finishing a fan’s beer.
  • Hot take: “Wrecking Ball” is the song that has the biggest gap between how much Bruce likes it and how much his crowds/fans enjoy it. Good song, but every night?!
  • “New York City Serenade” works in really any slot, but perhaps it wouldn’t have altered the pace so much if Bruce had opened the encore with it? Plus, that would’ve allowed him to move “Long Walk Home” into the main set, perhaps after “The Rising,” and perhaps the full Band version?! I understand he’s trying to emphasize the relevance of the lyrics, but I miss Stevie’s vocal solos!!!
  • While we’re on the subject, Bruce introduced his acoustic “Long Walk Home” with “I wrote this during the Bush administration, but it still applies.” That last clause was DRIPPING with sarcasm, as he made clear by emphasizing the lyrics, “…flag flying over the courthouse / Means certain things are set in stone / Who we are, what we’ll do and what we won’t,” and then pausing afterwards. Hopefully this is the start of Bruce busting out more Magic material, arguably his best album of the 21st century (I like the songs more than those The Rising, but I think the latter is a more cohesive work of art, and had more societal significance), and one that reeeeeeally speaks to today. “Trust none of what you hear / And less of what you see…”
  • Was there a singalong to the chorus of “Long Walk Home,” or was that just wishful imagination on my part?!
  • I will never not enjoy the Bruce Bop during “New York City Serenade.” That’s my phrase for when Bruce bops along with the melody while strumming his guitar. After all of these years, the man clearly still loves a good tune when he hears one.
  • The string section was comprised entirely of women. My idealistic analysis: he’s trying to add some much-needed estrogen to the predominantly boys club that has long been the E Street Band, especially since equal representation was one of the main purposes of the marches he celebrated during Perth 1. Cynical analysis: all of the women were lookers – TO SAY THE LEAST – and Bruce has always been a purveyor of fine art…
  • Bruce makes sure to shake the hand of each and every member of the string section (regardless of their gender). No matter how successful you become, it’s imperative to remain gracious. This has been your daily life lesson courtesy of Bruce Springsteen.
  • Official show-specific poster and shirt: img_6088
  • Time to flex my lack of instrument knowledge once again! The expert acoustics really make Stevie’s contributions to “Atlantic City” stand out, both vocally and musically. Regarding the latter, is that a mandolin he’s playing with the leaves on it?!
  • Bruce keeps messing up the fast guitar introduction of “Johnny 99.”
  • His voice has gotten a tad hoarser since the start of the tour, but it actually works for a lot of these darker working man tales.
  • Speaking of which, the sun fittingly descended as the setlist veered into darker territory, starting with “Atlantic City.” THE SUN EVEN BENDS TO THE WILL OF THE BOSS.
  • Once again, Bruce took a long guitar solo on “Murder Incorporated,” followed by a not-quite-as-long-but-still-long solo from Stevie, culminating in both of them harmonizing by the end. You’ll have to wait for my Adelaide piece for how I believe this fits the tour’s thematic focus on the Hegelian Dialectic…I swear it won’t be as pedantic as that sounds…maybe.
  • Check out the picture of the stadium at the very top of this post (which includes a cameo from my parents!). Note all of the bubbles bordering the stadium. At random points, the lights would distractingly reflect off them. Don’t think I’ve ever experienced that before…
  • Here’s my obligatory shout-out to the consistently underrated lighting team. Most may not notice your work, but it unequivocally immerses them in the shows more than a majority consciously realize!
  • Speaking of the technical aspects, to all those who criticize the simplicity – some would add the adjective “frugal” or even “cheap” before that word – of Bruce Inc.’s stage design: STOP. It serves as the perfect, unencumbered vehicle for the music and performance of the songs. Why mess with a good thing?
  • During “Death to My Hometown,” Bruce hit, “No DICTATORS were crowned” real hard. I WONDER WHY?!?! Jeez, I’m in a CAPS mood today…
  • ANOTHER HOT TAKE: “The River” and “Thunder Road” are rare examples of the original recordings being vastly superior to their current live renditions. COME AT ME, HATERS!
  • Ticket and wristband design: img_6104
  • Once again, Bruce and the Band messed up the transition into the breakdown of “Mary’s Place” (pre-“I got a picture of you in my locket…”), with Bruce oddly flailing his arms in the air to signal to Max to hit that down beat hard, which he understandably totally didn’t comprehend from the random arm waving. Bruce’s response: “Tonight’s my night for fucking everything up! Let me try that again. Mighty Max?” This time, they were in sync. A few diehards always criticize such fuck-ups, but I actually derive pleasure from watching the greatest Band in the world work their way through it. Quite endearing, and a good reminder that even the best aren’t perfect.
  • During his ‘breakdown speech,’ Bruce purposefully waited for the BRUUUUUUCES to deliver his now custom comical retort: “Don’t be Bruuuuucing me now. I don’t wanna hear no fucking Bruce right now. Just shhhhhhhh.” Bruce has always been a master of artificial spontaneity. HOW ABOUT THAT FOR ONE OF MY BELOVED INTERRELATED DICHOTOMIES.
  • Bruce almost always sings his own lyrics to “Because the Nights” as opposed to Patti Smith’s version, but here he randomly decided to replace “The way I feel when I’m in your hands” with “The way I feel under your command” in one verse. If he makes that a nightly occurrence, you best believe I’m going to pretentiously analyze the shit out of that decision on these pages in the near future…
  • The crowd was tooooootally not in sync for the “Badlands” chant, but at least they made an effort (which is more than can be said about most of the night).
  • Speaking of which, time for a proactive defense: my Adelaide piece somewhat revolves around my opinion that the crowd’s lack of outward enthusiasm forced Bruce to lurch the setlist from one type of song to another in an attempt to engage them, ultimately harming my personally cherished setlist cohesion. Though I’m not sure Melbourne’s audience was any better, it didn’t negatively affect me as much, perhaps because crowd quality just isn’t as influential in stadiums given the greater distance between them and Bruce? The sheer magnitude of the size of the crowds almost makes up for their lack of noise, which isn’t the case in smaller arenas?
  • One of the few positives about stadium shows are noting which international flags Bruce decides to fly. By the by, the one on the left is the Australian Aboriginal Flag. As much as I’d love to claim I knew that off the top of my head, alas I had to look it up. Bruce Inc. really doesn’t miss an inclusive beat.img_6092
  • Between the main set and the encore(s…seriously, is that supposed to be singular or plural?!), Bruce took the time to share not only that there were people from 21 different countries in the Pit alone, but he even specified each nationality (“these crazy Italians follow me everywhere,” he lovingly added). I don’t want to step on my own toes because I delve into this a bit in my Adelaide piece (yes, it’s as gargantuan as it sounds), but Bruce clearly believes in the importance of noting ALL diverse groups, as evidenced in the “American Land” lyrics: “The McNicholas, the Posalski’s, the Smiths, Zerillis(!), too / The Blacks, the Irish, Italians, the Germans and the Jews.” They’re all obviously Americans, but it’s always critical to honor their heritage, because their histories and cultures help shape American society for the better. Now compare that with the generalizations found in Trump’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day statement. Are you telling me it’s more understandable for Bruce to take up valuable concert time in the name of this virtue than it would’ve been for Trump simply to add a few more words?
  • For some reason, the stadium lights turning on has a more profound impact on “Born to Run” in stadiums than arenas. Perhaps due to the aforementioned magnitude reason?
  • Bruce let every side of the downstage platform strum his guitar during “Born to Run,” then he grabbed a stuffed animal from the crowd and threw it to Kevin.              ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • Some awesome dancers in the dark this evening. First, the camera crew reveled in showcasing a (more) geriatric couple in the crowd getting jiggy with it (na na na na na na na nana), then Bruce called up a woman with a dance request sign that labeled herself as a “nasty woman.”
  • Does anyone else miss Will Smith rapping? No? Word. Guess I’ll just move on then…
  • But do you at least miss Will Smith choosing good roles that actually challenged people’s widely-held perception of him?! Fine, I’ll stop!
  • Real talk: why does Bruce yell “E-FLAT!!!” before “Shout” every night? The Band must know by now, right? Plus, it’s on their teleprompters….
  • This was a particularly rambunctious “Shout” (easily the best of this tour, and maybe even of the last too?), with Bruce even switching up the intro to “Is there anybody in the house tonight? Are you alive out there tonight?!” He of course repeated these questions an estimated 305,942,608,457 times.
  • For those who always try to stand as close as possible to the stage, you may not know that the back of the rear GA section always devolves into a crazy dance party by the end of the night, thanks to the voluminous free space allowing them to…OH YES, I’M NOT LETTING IT GO…get jiggy with it (na na na na na na na nana)!
  • When Bruce introduced Garry, the bass man busted a move! My obsession with him is reaching an unhealthy, potentially off-putting level.
  • After E! Street! Band! (further cementing the impression that this is merely a continuation of The River 2016 Tour: they’re still using The River font for these), Bruce kept uttering, “Listen to me!,” followed by a quirky dance move accompanied by a Max drum beat.
  • Dance fever was clearly in the air, because Bruce and Jake revived their “Shout” moves from last tour. First, swinging back and forth to the melody with their instruments, then the shuffling in place while turning 90 degrees…thing.
  • Have I told y’all the James Brown cape-shtick has travelled with the Band across shark infested waters? But this time, Bruce didn’t even leave the stage to have the crowd – in the words of Stevie – “call him back.” Instead, Bruce simply bellowed, while shaking his cape, “I can’t go on…I can’t go on…well, maybe if I hear a little more noise!” The man was on too much fire to go anywhere!
  • Bruce’s ingenious transition between “Shout” and “Twist and Shout:” “I know you can shout…I know you can shout…I know you can shout…BUT CAN YOU TWIST?!”
  • Roy had an extended solo during it.
  • Due to the stadium’s aforementioned ceiling bubbles, only a few people could see the fireworks, one of whom was clearly Bruce. Since this is a fairly normal occurrence, I really wonder if the fireworks are for us or for him. He’s like a kid on Christmas when he sees them. Forever young, that one, in so many ways.
  • As they took their bows, Nils somehow tripped over a speaker on stage. Bruce: “Nils so excited he fell over!” Does anyone have such mishaps as often as Nils?!
  • Max made sure to give his sticks to someone in the crowd, which isn’t abnormal. What WAS abnormal, in fact, was how late he decided to do it this time. Everyone was basically already offstage by the time he reached the downstage platform. As such, he had to SPRINT back to the stairs not to make the Boss wait. RUN, WEINBERG, RUN!
  • I’ll end on this: I know a plethora of diehards – many of whom have attended multiple concerts on this tour – were disappointed with the show. Though I’ve already admitted I’m incapable of being objective about this one, I understand that it felt like a ‘greatest hits’ night, both in terms of songs already played on this tour AND just in general in regards to Bruce’s catalogue. Case in point: “Darlington County” into “Working on the Highway” into “I’m on Fire.” I’m as sick as anyone of those first two (I always appreciate “I’m on Fire,” mostly for the voracious singalong, AND because it’s one of the few Bruce songs my girlfriend likes, and she doesn’t understand why he refuses to play it whenever she’s in attendance. I of course text her every single time he does so, because I’m an asshole), but stadium shows full of casual fans will inherently be treated to this sort of setlist. It’s basically par for the course by now, and expecting anything different – or even judging that decision – feels a biiiiiiiiiiit self-centered. With all that being said, I do believe Melbourne 2 will mix thangs up.
  • Sorry, one more: contrary to what this piece may make you believe regarding the state of my mental health, I promise that I’m not losing my mind from all of this writing…at least not totally…
  • Official run time (I clock from Bruce’s first word/note to the last): fullsizeoutput_1e42

 

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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