The Boss & I
The floor of the passenger side of my mum's premature mid-life crisis sports car — a 1994 Toyota Paseo — is littered with damaged CD cases. Rod Stewart, Leonard Cohen, Buffy Sainte Marie, Bruce Springsteen. Born In The USA. The shameless Americana imagery, the skin tight blue jeans, the toned buns. The latter of which was amplified by the fact the record had found itself in the path of direct sunlight for a prolonged period and the plastic outer shell was warped, slightly raised at the exact point of Bruce's left butt cheek.
Born To Run was probably my mum's favourite Bruce Springsteen song. I think mostly because of the triumphant tone. She grew up as part of the generation that proceeded the down-the-pit-at-13 plague of hopelessness which defined the North-East of England, so it made perfect sense that she was drawn to songs that dealt with the idea of escaping, riding off into the sunset and never looking back. She would have loved Bruce's SXSW 2012 keynote.
Olympic Park is a strange place. A well-planned, concrete palace. Wide-open and ephemeral. It's main purpose is to act as a reminder of what people can do when they have to. It's taken four state government terms to revitalise a few kilometres of light railway track near my house, but they were able to construct a swarm of gigantic stadiums and surrounding facilities in Homebush in less than a decade.
Hotel Concord is packed. Red and green and sky blue and black flowing from every exit and out onto the surrounding footpath. It's the perfect pre-game drinking hole, exactly one-longneck walking distance from Stadium Australia, through the neatly landscaped pathways, industrial art sculptures and up Dawn Fraser Avenue. Nobody parks here either, with the separating railway line acting as a defining barrier. I asked my friend who lives near the pub if this was the right place to leave my car to avoid the spiral car-park gridlock and public transport woes of Olympic Park. He assumed I was attended the scheduled rugby league match.
The Rabbitohs remain a team dogged by a lack of on-field direction. Adam Reynolds is a promising halfback, but lacks the required qualities of a true leader. Cronk, Sterling, Mortimer, Kimmorley. The current team seem to be crying out for some defined structure, because on paper, they're an impressive team. In this particular instance, they scrape home 14 to 12 against the Sharks, a team who still seem unaffected by the fact that — if you believe the endless tabloid reporting — are only days away from being kicked out of the competition forever and/or forced to migrate to East Gosford.
Editors Note: This.
Near the entry of the venue, there's a lady on a loudspeaker directing the crowd to the different doors which all lead to the same place, telling everyone to "avoid bottlenecks" by removing the advertising material connected to the barcode end of their tickets. We sit against a pillar and eat the dinner we'd packed and planned to have mid-show, but weren't allowed to take into the venue. Security guards at the door confiscate our water on entry, apparently as well as being an essential element of life, it's also classified as "outside commercial food or drink".
The whole process of going to see a large-scale "arena show" is a strange, and somewhat foreign, experience. It's almost nothing like walking down to Black Wire to see Yes I'm Leaving on a Friday evening. It's an event. The travelling, the plans, the schedules. It's a relief when you get there, find the right door, find the right internal door, find your row, your seat. You didn't lose your tickets at any stage of your travels. Good on ya. Now, just settle in and wait for the lights to dim.
I love witnessing adults letting themselves go, reverting back to their squealing teenage antics and, even just briefly, discarding the expectations of society. The soundtrack of the evening conquers up associated memories and it's extremely entertaining to see the worries of today draining from the faces of adults as their mind recognises the opening bars of a familiar song.
My mum once told me a story of how her and a friend ducked under a security guard, ran onto stage and kissed Steve Marriott, frontman of The Small Faces. One on each cheek. I don't think I've ever felt the need to do something like that. Or had the confidence. That said, I also never had the pleasure of seeing All Or Nothing performed live.
Adam Raised A Cain is probably my favourite Springsteen song. I was shocked and stoked (in that order) that it was included in the set, upon the request by a banner-waving crowd member.
I'm not the world's biggest Bruce Springsteen fan. I don't own all the records. I don't know the b-sides, the rarities, the details. I don't have the words "Thunder Road" tattooed across my chest. To be honest, there's times when I'm not sure if it's more familiarity than lust, my subconscious drawing an association between songs and fond childhood recollections.
Either way, there's an admiration. Not just for Bruce's sustained influence on modern music, but, more importantly, the fact he still does it. And does it well. One of the few performers who I imagine is only marginally off where they were thirty-odd years ago. It's hard not to get distracted by his sheer physical capabilities whilst watching him perform. He's old enough to be my dad yet still more than capable of performing continuously — with seemingly endless enthusiasm and energy — for over two hours under sweaty stage lights.
I've only skimmed through his latest album, Wrecking Ball, a handful of times. The title track is an immediate standout though. Equally a triumphant fist-pumping celebration and a face-spitting challenge, it will undoubtably feature on the setlist of Bruce's 28-date Madison Square Garden farewell shows in 2052. There's no doubt in my mind that he'll still be more than capable of touring for the next century-or-so.
Max Weinberg, drummer in the E-Street Band, was also the band leader on Late Night With Conan O'Brien. Some would argue that his little deadpan quips were often funnier than the snickering, self-depreciating punchlines of the host.
I was slightly sceptical when it was announced that former Rage Against The Machine guitarist, Tom "Morello Money Morello Problems" Morello, would be inducted as a temporary member of the E-Street Band for the tour. But he was an unexpected highlight, with his little rock-rap guitar show-off solos slotting in quite well. Freddy Durst is probably pretty bummed now that he turned down the offer.
Morello also sung on The Ghost of Tom Joad.
But, undoubtedly, my favourite part of the show was Bruce's interaction with the crowd. Mostly because of the unbalanced transaction of significance. It's not too much effort for him to crowd surf, but anyone that had the pleasure of touching, groping or fondling him will be bragging about it for years. He didn't have to get that little girl on to the stage to sing with him. But he did. It'll undoubtedly be her version of my "kissed by Muhummad Ali at 6 months old" story. These actions are "cheap" to Bruce, costing him just a few moments of time, but equating to a lifetime of importance for the other party involved.
People love set lists, so here's one from Monday, March 18, 2013.
1. American Land
2. Prove It All Night
3. Adam Raised a Cain (request)
4. Wrecking Ball
5. Death to My Hometown
6. Hungry Heart
7. My City of Ruins
8. Spirit In The Night
9. High Hopes
11. Candy's Room
12. She's The One
13. Pay Me My Money Down
14. Shackled & Drawn
15. Waitin' On a Sunny Day
16. The Rising
17. The Ghost of Tom Joad
19. Thunder Road
20. Born To Run
21. Seven Nights To Rock
22. Dancing In The Dark
23. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out