Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band @ Perth Arena
Friday, 27 January, 2016
While most media covered Bruce Springsteen’s first show at Perth Arena last Sunday, here at X-Press we checked out Friday’s third and final date of his Perth run for 2017. As we’ve come to expect from The Boss, it was a markedly different setlist to those on the Sunday and Wednesday, as the audience was treated to half 1975’s classic Born to Run album and plenty of deep cuts from 1980 double album The River.
If the first thing many punters noticed about Bruce Springsteen’s second tour to Perth was that tickets were twice as expensive as three years ago, the first thing they actually saw on Friday was a trimmed back E Street Band accompanied by an eight-piece violin section for opener New York City Serenade. The nine core members may not have been accompanied by the big horn and choir section this time around, further adding question marks around the expensive ticket price, but for the incredible 10-minute opener at least, the members of the local Perth Symphony Orchestra took the numbers to 17 onstage and they absolutely shone.
As ever, The Boss was in the mood to remind us of a few deep cuts from his back catalogue, with Night off Born to Run second track in, and “the song that got me a record deal,” It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City up next. Cover Me was one of five tracks from 1984 mega-album Born in the U.S.A. and Radio Nowhere was a rare track taken from his last few studio albums. The playing and enthusiasm was electric despite no hits coming early, which meant what happened next lifted the roof.
Not content with just teasing the crowd, Springsteen dropped not one, not two, but three absolute bangers in a row. Glory Days got the crowd out of their seats; Hungry Heart had us singing along while The Boss crowdsurfed his way from the seated section back to the stage in a move made famous on his 2014 visit; then The River provided the night’s emotional apex as Springsteen pointed the mic to the crowd who sang back at him: “And for my 19th birthday I got a union card and a wedding coat!” The falsetto outro was simply spine tingling, and it was the first indication The Boss meant business.
An electric version of Youngstown was a nice change up to its recorded counterpart before Murder Incorporated rocked like it was 1995 and Johnny 99 was the only (and frankly a disappointing) choice from 1982’s critically adored Nebraska.
The next section featured some stunning arrangements of tracks from The River, as the Boss dug deep for Ramrod, You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch) and a 10-minute version of power ballad Drive All Night, which went from an amazing sax solo from Jake Clemons (nephew of the late E Street Band original Clarence) to a huge outro that rivalled the night’s opener, even minus the strings.
No doubt a few people went home and dug up old favourites such as Drive All Night and New York City Serenade after The Boss reminded us of their power, but likely even more have been singing the songs that came next, in the night’s big run home. A “cover” of the song he wrote for Patti Smith, Because the Night, that just missed the cut on the original Darkness on the Edge of Town album became more than a singalong when guitarist Nils Lofgren delivered his signature spinning guitar shred. It never gets old.
It was the start of a huge finale as The Rising and song-of-the-night Badlands took the show to another level again. From there it didn’t let up, as Jake Clemons’ solos on Land of Hope and Dreams gave us an emotional connection to one of the last songs his uncle played on, before one of the night’s real treats in Backstreets was dedicated to Foodbank, in another monster epic worth the price of admission alone.
Then the lights went up and it was party time as Born to Run and Dancing in the Dark were only separated by a cover of Seven Nights to Rock in between. One lucky young girl got her Courtney Cox moment and “Stevie’s Angels” got to dance on stage with their idol “Little” Steven Van Zandt, the night’s second hero to The Boss and the closest most of us will get to a Soprano.
The question of whether or not the lights needed to stay on for the remainder of the evening seemed a common complaint as the band rocked their way through Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, a cover of The Isley Brothers’ Shout and finally Bobby Jean to close the night, but it was a moot point really given the concert event we’d just witnessed.
Crowds at Wednesday night’s gig will likely say they got the best setlist of Perth’s three nights, and with absolute monsters like Jungleland, Thunder Road, Atlantic City, I’m On Fire and Wrecking Ball unique to that show it’s a fair argument. But with the likes of Backstreets and Glory Days, Friday held its own. The energy was inescapable. It was a good night to be alive.