Published on theMusic.com.au, Jan 2017
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
“We are the new American resistance!” US rock icon Bruce Springsteen yelled to a packed Perth Arena, advocating for tolerance, inclusion, racial justice, LGBTQ rights, gender equality, and so much more.
In stark contrast to the bold figure commanding the unwavering attention of thousands of people, a more casual, softly spoken Springsteen addresses the media during soundcheck. “Our hearts and our spirits are with all the millions of people who marched yesterday, and The E Street Band, we are part of the new resistance…art’s job is to witness and testify.”
The band’s execution of more than 30 songs over three-and-a-half hours was flawless and they made it look so easy. But it was during soundcheck that we see even after forty years, they’re still honing their craft, having been in rehearsals in Perth since Wednesday.
“Oh yeah, I got it, I got it,” Springsteen says to guitarist Steven Van Zandt after some brief notes on the Land Of Hope And Dreams outro.
Four hours later and the epic chorus soars across a sea of people, and although the crowd is a lot bigger, The Boss remains just as affable and down to earth as he was earlier.
There’s a wealth of homemade signs littering the crowd – some requesting songs, others a dance, and one reads “Springsteen 4 President”. As hit after hit crash into one another, there’s little time for in-between song banter, but the energy coming from the stage says it all, with The E Street Band truly in sync and loving every second of it.
The set takes numerous unpredictable turns after opening with an orchestra-fuelled version of New York City Serenade, courtesy of some local musicians, and every member has their moment in the spotlight; even drummer Max Weinberg is perched on a podium.
Saxophonist and nephew of original E Street Band member Clarence Clemons, Jake Clemons stole the show on numerous occasions, unleashing gut-wrenching solos while pianist Roy Bittan was a driving force.
Despite being one of the more endeared members of The E Street Band, Van Zandt often faded into the background, only reminding punters of his presence with the occasional harmony or by leaning over The Boss’ shoulder.
Tom Morello was a key element of The E Street Band during their last Aussie tour and while his absence could be noted, longtime guitarist Nils Lofgren was on fire, with Springsteen also taking on more guitar solos throughout the set, bending his strings to oblivion on numerous occasions.
With his trademark Telecaster flung over his shoulder, Springsteen strutted back and forth to Out In The Street, shortly after securing his status of the coolest musician alive when sculling a beer presented by an audience member.
Every song was played like it was not only the last tune for that show but the final song he would ever play, with Springsteen screaming the final chorus of Darkness On The Edge Of Town with show-stopping conviction.
He ventured back into the crowd once again and took position on a platform in the middle of the room. A toddler perched upon someone’s shoulders nearby looked on in awe during Darlington Country, a sure sign that the iconic songs will be endeared for generations to come.
Three hours into the set and there was no sign of an end, as the band dished up The Promised Land, American Skin (41 Shots) and The Rising before leaving Springsteen on the stage with just an acoustic guitar. “Let’s see if I remember this,” he said, spotting a sign requesting Blood Brothers. A minute to figure out the chords and he was off.
The intimacy was short-lived, though, as in a blaze of glory the house lights turned on and the intro of Born To Run saw a sea of people rise from their seats. Three audience members were plucked from the crowd during Dancing In The Dark before a touching rendition of Tenth Avenue Freeze Out was accompanied by imagery of the late Clarence Clemons.
“I don’t think I have anything left,” Springsteen said, as a glittering cape was thrown over him and he hobbled off the stage. The charade came crumbling down quickly as he burst back onto the stage to finish Johnny O’Keefe’s Shout and rounded out a set of quality and quantity with Bobby Jean, cementing his status as the greatest performer of all time.