Concert Review: Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band

Brisbane Entertainment Centre, February 26, 2014

After I saw Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band last year, I left the Brisbane Entertainment Centre convinced I’d seen the greatest live act in the world (you can read my review from the time here). I also left wondering if I would ever see them again – after all, it had been ten years since the band’s previous Australian tour, and at 64 years of age, Springsteen isn’t getting any younger.

It’s a bit daggy for a bloke in his late twenties, but the Boss is my favourite artist of all time (well, him and Oasis, anyway. Strange bedfellows, eh?). His music has never been far from my ears, and so I was overjoyed when I learned that he would be bringing the E-Street Band back to Brisbane, less than 12 months since the last show here. In many ways, it felt like a ‘bonus’ – a chance to re-live a ‘once in a lifetime’ moment.

Bruce Springsteen
The greatest live act in the world today?

This latest tour is in support of High Hopes, Springsteen’s 18th studio album, and an eclectic ‘odds and ends’ record that brings together new songs, studio versions of live favourites, and cover songs (including a take on ‘Just Like Fire Would’ by Brisbane’s own punk pioneers, the Saints).

Just like High Hopes itself, a Bruce Springsteen concert is packed with surprises. Trying to guess the setlist is a mug’s game, and the surprises start from the moment he takes to the stage in front of a packed Brisbane Entertainment Centre crowd (there’s no support act – it’s not necessary when the main act goes for as long as three NRL games). Acoustic guitar slung around his neck, stage lights still off, he starts to sing ..

“Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk, I’m a woman’s man
Music loud and women warm, I’ve been kicked around since I was born …”

… Yes, ‘Stayin’ Alive’, a nod to the Bee Gee’s Brisbane roots (elsewhere on the antipodean leg of the tour he will start with covers from other home-town heroes including INXS in Perth and Lorde in Auckland). As if a 70s disco hit isn’t left-field enough, over the next four hours we will also be treated to an end-to-end run through of The Wild the Innocent and the E-Street Shuffle, and welcome Eddie Veddar to the stage for a cover of AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’.

Bruce Springsteen
Eddie Veddar joins the band for a cover of AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’

It is only the second time that Wild has been played live in full, and the audience seems divided. Half of the crowd are beside themselves with the chance to go back to 1974 New Jersey (the Twitterverse lit up with jealous fans from around the globe). But the other half is less enthused at listening to Springsteen’s second ever album in full. I’m on the fence about it – I’m more of a Nebraksa guy, but can’t resist the charms of ‘Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)’ and the ever-catchy ‘E-Street Shuffle’.

After that, a rousing ‘Darlington Country’ from Born in the USA stirs the crowd into life and heralds a Greatest Hits-esque run home. ‘Badlands’, ‘Glory Days’, ‘Born to Run’ and ‘Dancing in the Dark’ are all there, each one ratcheting the crowd’s euphoria to new heights, culminating with the beforementioned ‘Highway to Hell’ and a moving acoustic rendition of ‘Thunder Road’.

Watching Bruce in action, running and crowd surfing (yes – he crowd surfs), it’s hard to believe that songs like ‘Born to Run’ are almost thirty years old. He still sounds so good and has so much energy, seemingly defying aging. But elsewhere there are signs of the band’s vintage – Max Weinberg has to work that extra bit harder to keep hitting the skins for four hours, and the montages of Clemons and Federici during ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out’ are a poignant reminder of those E-Streeters who are no longer with us.

Bruce Springsteen
ex-Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello

Speaking of the band, back with the E-Street Band this time around is rubber-faced guitarist, Steven van Zandt. Miami Steve skipped last year’s tour to concentrate on his television show Lilihammer with ex-Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello well and truly covering his absence. But seeing Stevie up on stage again and his comradery with Bruce is a reminder of just how much he is part of the E-Street fabric.

Morello is back again too, seemingly having become a touring member of the band (he also plays on 8 songs on the new album). The winner in all this is the audience – for the second year running we are treated to his blistering guitar shredding during ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’. Go on – look it up on YouTube. It’s incredible.

After close to four hours, the show comes to a close. It’s been my third time seeing the Boss – and who knows, maybe the last – but yet again he shows why he and the “the heart stoppin’, pants droppin’, earth shakin’, love makin’, history makin’, Viagra takin’ E Street Band” are the best rock and roll act in the world today.

Setlist

Stayin’ Alive (Bee Gees cover)
It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City
Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?
Growin’ Up
Spirit in the Night
High Hopes (The Havalinas cover)
Just Like Fire Would (The Saints cover)
You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
Sherry Darling
Save My Love
Fade Away
The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle
The E Street Shuffle
4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
Kitty’s Back
Wild Billy’s Circus Story
Incident on 57th Street
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
New York City Serenade
Darlington County
Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
The Rising
The Ghost of Tom Joad
Badlands
Glory Days
Born to Run
Bobby Jean
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Highway to Hell (AC/DC cover with Eddie Veddar)
Thunder Road

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