Tag Archives: Bruce Springsteen

Springsteen and his moments of miracle

Since seeing Springsteen in April, I have been completely under his spell… listening to every album in chronological order, including the box set Tracks and a handful of incredible bootlegs including Bruce and The E-Street Band Live at the Main Point in 1975 and at Winterland in 1979. Both contain there fair share of miracles… moments that make your skin tighten and your nervous system ignite. The version of E-Street Shuffle from 1975 is one of those moments; you can hear in every note that the band is playing for their lives and that Springsteen has everything to prove, everything to live and die for.

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I have also been reading Clinton Heylin’s compelling, E-Street Shuffle: The Glory Days of Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band. It is a superbly researched book that takes the reader deep into, the at times infuriatingly perfectionist world of Springsteen, from his early days with The Castilles up to the recording of Tunnel of Love and the end of the first E-Street era. And for the real buffs, it provides detailed notes on the 300 songs Springsteen penned during this time. It really is the work of a true aficionado.

One of the few issues I took with the book was Heylin’s final note; that the moments of miracle are fewer these days. Anyone who experienced the recent ‘Wrecking’ shows would attest to the fact that night after night, Springsteen continues to perform miracles. Maybe it is because audiences go expecting nothing less, and that these days Bruce and band are performing in much larger arenas that some of the subtle magic is lost. I can’t say for sure… but what I do know, is it wasn’t lost on me.

Here’s three moments of miracle from three different E-Street eras. Get your fill.

Now I am off to start reading Peter Ames Carlin’s ‘Bruce’.

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See you again, Bruce

Bruce has played his final show on Australian shores as part of the Wrecking Ball Tour, so now the anticipation begins… thankfully, there is 40 years of incredible music, and endless footage to make the wait bearable. C’mon back soon, Bruce…

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C’mon Rise Up: One night on E-Street

It’s been almost three days since spending the night on E-Street and the high I left on is yet to lose any of its edge. Springsteen and the E-Street Band demonstrated to all that gathered why they remain a unique musical force on the world stage. Thursday night (March 14), was their first show for 2013, and the anticipation among the 17 musicians on stage (yep, you read that right) was tangible, their bond, magnetic; each of them played for their lives, wringing every last note from their respective instruments. Here’s a great example, with Nils tearing up his fretboard in Because The Night.

The set list was studded with masterpieces from their 40+ year career as well as six cuts from 2012’s Wrecking Ball. For anyone wondering whether the new material would stack up live; it more than did; set opener We Take Care Of Our Own laid the foundation for the rest of the show, Bruce and co. giving it some added grunt; and the audience reciprocated, singing it back as loud as the band pumped it out. And if that wasn’t enough to whip the crowd from their seats, the cover of Brisbane legends, The Saints 1986 classic, Just Like Fire Would, certainly did.

I have to admit, I was choking back tears for the first 5 songs… such is the emotion Springsteen creates. For me he is one of the few artists in this world that really matters; one of the few whose lyrics continue to shape lives; whose energy continues to inspire and amaze. Early classics like Spirit in the Night and E-Street Shuffle show no signs of their forty years; in fact the outro to E-Street Shuffle was one of the absolute highlights of the night; the horn section, including the late, great Clarence Clemons nephew, Jake on Saxophone, giving it some real swing.

But talk of highlights is foolish, as there was not a song in the 25 song setlist that didn’t deliver. Few artists are able to play songs spanning 40 years and have them all sit seamlessly side by side. This is yet another fact that makes this band so remarkable.

Speaking of the setlist, here it is…

We Take Care Of Our Own (from Wrecking Ball, 2012)
Just Like Fire Would (The Saints cover)
Wrecking Ball (from Wrecking Ball, 2012)
Badlands (from Darkness On The Edge Of Town
Death To My Hometown (from Wrecking Ball, 2012)
Hungry Heart (from The River, 1980)
My City of Ruins (from The Rising, 2002)
Spirit In The Night (from Greetings From Asbury Park, 1973)
The E Street Shuffle (from The Wild The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, 1973)
Jack Of All Trades (from Wrecking Ball, 2012)
Murder Incorporated (from Greatest Hits, 1985)
Johnny 99 (from Nebraska, 1982)
Because The Night (from Live 1975/85, 1986)
She’s The One (from Born To Run, 1975)
Shackled and Drawn (from Wrecking Ball, 2012)
Waitin’ On A Sunny Day (from Working On A Dream, 2009)
Apollo Medley
The Rising (from The Rising, 2002)
The Ghost Of Tom Joad (from The Ghost of Tom Joad, 1995)
Thunder Road (from Born To Run, 1975)

Encore:

We Are Alive (from Wrecking Ball, 2012)
Born To Run (from Born To Run, 1975)
Glory Days (from Born In The USA, 1984)
Dancing In The Dark (from Born In The USA, 1984)
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out (from Born To Run, 1975)

I went knowing that the ghosts of Clarence and Danny would be in the room; and there were two distinct moments when you could really feel their force. Bruce asked us all to remember the ghosts who walk beside us before delivering what was one of the most spiritually uplifting moments of the night, My City Of Ruins; and in set closer, Tenth Avenue Freeze Out, he stopped the band as he finished the line;

When the change was made uptown
And the big man joined the band

and on the big screens that flickered above the stage, we were given the opportunity to say our goodbyes to the Big Man and Danny; though, as Bruce said, they will forever remain in the band.

Like the showman he is, Springsteen worked the crowd. Throughout the night he lifted two women from the audience; one to sing Waitin’ On A Sunny Day; and one to be his dance partner at the end of Dancing in the Dark; he even crowd surfed his way from the middle of the Entertainment Centre during Hungry Heart.

There was no slowing down; no letting up; the band’s contagious energy surging throughout the 3 and a bit hour show. If it takes another 10 years for the E-Street Band to reach our shores, I will be waiting. Nights like this have the power to live inside of us forever.

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Tomorrow night on E-Street

Tomorrow night, I will be on E-Street; standing beside my wife on our 4th wedding anniversary in front of one of our shared musical heroes. Life really doesn’t get much better…

Springsteen has played a vital role in my life. Way back in April 1985, I saw Bruce and the E-Street Band as they stormed the globe on the Born in the U.S.A. Tour. It was my very first taste of live music and almost 30 years on, I still tingle when I think about it. Bruce himself talks about Elvis freeing his body and Dylan freeing his mind… well, that night, Bruce freed both for me; changing forever, the way I think and feel about music and art in general. That night, dancing down the street after the gig, I felt something that I had never known. A fire and a joy that were simultaneously making me laugh, sing and cry.

Bruce’s commitment and passion have continued to be a guiding light in the way I approach my own work… the willingness to stand behind your words, no regrets; to leave nothing behind when you get an opportunity to stand on stage in front of an audience. These principles continue to drive me…

I know tomorrow night is going to be wildly emotional… there will be no Clarence on stage, no Danny, but I’m sure they’ll be in the room… where else would they want to be? As Bruce said, Danny and Clarence haven’t left the E-Street band because they are no longer with us; they leave the band, when the band dies.

And the band is far from that… For the committed, the hungry and the hunted, here’s the full audio from one of the Wrecking Ball shows last year, all three and a bit hours of it:

For those of you looking for a smaller bite, here’s Bruce and band playing Tenth Avenue Freeze Out at last year’s SXSW festival:

See you on the other side of E-Street!

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Live Sounds of 2012: A.A. Bondy

As the year rushes to its close, I plan to take a trip back through my 2012 concert calendar; to share with you the sounds that have flooded from the stages of countless venues. First up, let’s step back to Monday January 23, when American alt-folk singer, A.A. Bondy toured Australia for the first time on the strength of his third album, Believers. The Brisbane leg of the tour rolled in to The Powerhouse and Bondy’s intimate, reverb-caressed sounds got the music year off to a delightfully languorous beginning… Here’s A.A. playing Surfer King from 2011’s Believers live in the ABC Studio:

And with Springsteen touring in 2013 (and yes, I have tickets!), I couldn’t resist posting A.A. covering I’m On Fire.

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Songs of Defiance

Defiance is a personal characteristic that often gets a bad wrap, but let’s face it, there are times when we need to stand strong in the face of popular opinion and hold our ground. Lately, I’ve been feeling a little defiant, wanting to bare my teeth at the world and some of its inhabitants; wanting to lower my horns and meet the day head on. So here’s a clutch of songs from three men who aren’t afraid to make a stand… each song, shiver-inducing in its own way. Hope they help you carry the fire.

Room at the Top – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Tom Petty is one of those rare artists, unflinchingly honest in his approach and able to tell it bullet-straight, while still sounding sweeter than sugarcane. When Petty sings, I’ve got a room at the top of the world tonight and I ain’t coming down, he does so with a quiet ferocity. Petty, the perpetual outsider, stakes his claim and is prepared to go down swinging in its defence.  This is the sound of a band, who never once believed rock was dead…

Hurt – Johnny Cash

While the NIN original is brilliant in its own right, Cash owns this song, his dying body and thinning voice giving these lyircs an otherworldly poignance. Cash stands at the threshold of life and delivers the closing lyric, If I could start again/ a million miles away/ I would keep myself/ I would find a way, with such certainty… there is no resignation here, just a man and the knowledge that everyone goes away in the end. And this is quite possibly one of the greatest clips ever produced.

Atlantic City – Bruce Springsteen

Everything here is stripped back to the core… the line between an honest man and a criminal blur, as does the line between life and death. Springsteen’s voice is at its harrowing best, but at the same time defiant, triumphant in its declaration, Everything dies baby that’s a fact/ but maybe everything that dies someday comes back/ Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty/ and meet me tonight in Atlantic City. This is the truth told simply… and death, theft, loneliness are part of that truth.

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LitRock Songs

Issa’s Untidy Hut has long been one of my favourite blogs, serving up some of the finest ‘little’ poems from the Lilliput Review, poetic explorations into the lives and art of poets and of course Issa’s Sunday Service. The Sunday Service features a song which bridges the gap between rock and literature in some fashion… it may be a reference, it may be the artist themselves or it may be that the words demand closer attention. However it happens, we all know music and literature are not as far removed as some would like to think.  And now, Issa’s Sunday Service has put the call out for submissions of your favourite LitRock Songs and to make it even sweeter, if yours is selected, you receive the two current issues of The Lilliput Review.

Now as you know, I am a huge believer in Ezra Pound’s famous words:

poetry begins to atrophy when it gets too far from music

so here’s a few of my LitRock recommendations for you to dip into…

And please, drop your suggestions to me as a comment, I am always up for some listening and don’t forget to email them to the Lilliput Review for consideration (be sure to check out the first 27 tracks before emailing).

 

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Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken? – Lloyd Cole & the Commotions

When it comes to Lloyd Cole, there are a number of tracks I could have selected – Rattlesnakes for it’s Simone de Beuvior reference; Perfect Skin for its lyric, Louise is the girl with the perfect skin/ she says turn on the light, otherwise it can’t be seen/ she’s got cheekbones like geometry and eyes like sin/ and she’s sexually enlightened by cosmopolitan; Weird On Me for using a line from Raymond Carver – but I have gone for the lesser known Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken? Originally recorded as part of the Rattlesnakes sessions, I chose this song for it’s wonderful Norman Mailer reference and all round lyricism. And with Lloyd playing Brisbane’s Powerhouse tonight, his words have been circling my brain. Be sure to watch the clip above…

Here’s a snapshot of the lyrics:

Pumped up full of vitamins
On account of all the seriousness
You say you’re so happy now
you can hardly stand
Lean over on the bookcase
If you really want to get straight
Read Norman Mailer
Or get a new tailor

Are you ready to be heartbroken?

(read the complete lyrics here)

 

 

Springsteen

It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City – Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band

Let’s face it, any song from Springsteen’s first few albums could be included and then there are the tracks from Nebraska & his much overlooked album The Ghost of Tom Joad. The man has penned some of the greatest lyrics of his era. And before I go further into the lyrics of Saint in the City, if you don’t get goosebumps watching this live clip of a young, hungry E-Street Band, tearing up The Hammersmith Odeon on their first tour of Britain, then you need to check your pulse. The way Bruce conducts the whole band here is intense and the guitar duel between he and Little Stevie is white hot. But back to why I chose It’s Hard to be  Saint in the City. Well, it’s purely on the lyric. Springsteen’s early work had that wild, sprawling, carnival feel… all shifting perspectives, haunted visions, streetwise toughness & heady romanticism. Saint is a classic and for mine makes the list every time.

Check out these lyrics:

And the sages of the subway sit just like the living dead
As the tracks clack out the rhythm their eyes fixed straight ahead
They ride the line of balance and hold on by just a thread
But it’s too hot in these tunnels you can get hit up by the heat
You get up to get out at your next stop but they push you back down in your seat
Your heart starts beatin’ faster as you struggle to your feet
Then you’re outa that hole and back up on the street

And them South Side sisters sure look pretty
The cripple on the corner cries out “Nickels for your pity”
And them downtown boys sure talk gritty
It’s so hard to be a saint in the city

(read the complete lyrics here)

 

 

Steve Kilbey

Swan Lake – The Church

Steve Kilbey, like Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith, Bob Dylan et al. is a poet in his own right. Having released three books – Earthed, Nineveh/The Ephemeron & Fruit Machine – plus the broadsheet, Eden alongside more than 20 albums with The Church (not to mention the myriad other side and solo projects), Kilbey has more than proved his literary credentials. 1992’s Priest=Aura album was a turning point in my own personal history. The albums dense textures and sublime lyricism turned me inside out and set me off in search of poetry. I could have chosen any one of the songs from this album but for now, I will settle with the fragile beauty of Swan Lake.

One night your shoulders will ache
But next day when you wake
You’ll sprout wild wings, and fly high
Just like in Swan Lake

(complete lyrics here)

And for everyone in Australia, don’t forget the band is touring nationally throughout November. Full tour dates are listed on the band’s website.

 

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