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Bruce Springsteen live review (AAMI Stadium, Melbourne)

It is not the stadium alone responsible for the devastation of rock but it certainly focused these efforts. The minute we gather to formally celebrate resistance is the minute we formally kill it. There are not many artists who can withstand the arena’s devastation.

Somehow, though, Bruce Springsteen manages.

In any typical reading of the world, Springsteen would feel like a moment of dead nostalgia. He is still singing about a rust-belt, for goodness’ sake, outsourced some decades ago. Few of us who love him are old enough to have lost a manufacturing job or have ever seen a union card. Somehow or another, though, the man offers us not only an account of a world that still exists but the means by which to defy it.

I love him.

Of course, we can be certain Born to Run — a glorious album he played in its entirety last night in Melbourne — has lost some of its cultural power in the forty years since its release. When audiences first met Mary, they knew the sound of the screen door that signified the end to her reasonable dreams and they knew the feel and the hum of the car in the yard whose owner had never quite managed to fix to the degree he could drive her away from a town full of loss.

But when he concedes in Thunder Road, “All the redemption I can offer, girl/Is beneath this dirty hood”, he still makes a good deal of sense. Our disappointments may be different and our hands may no longer be dirty but we are still looking, along with Springsteen, for moments of redemption amid the broken rubbish of the everyday.

Of course, no one has a timeless, universal message; not even The Boss.  But his critique has remained as lean and attractive as he has.

Springsteen — perhaps the only man alive who can wear a waistcoat without looking effete or like a parking attendant — is still helping us find redemption. In Born to Run (seriously, hearing this album end-to-end was such a treat; even if Tom Morello did drown out the memory of its subtler passages by turning the E-Street Band into Rage Against The Machine shortly after) he redeems us from the tragedy of ailing western industry. In 2012’s Wrecking Ball, he redeems us from the more confusing terms of a world that runs on debt instead of engines.

Being The Boss, Springsteen knows that power has become more diffuse. While Mary’s hopelessness is a relatively simple matter, and can be seen writhing on the floor of her town, the post-crash world sees our “best hopes and desires are scattered through the wind”. His waistcoat, his age and occasionally questionable choices in band members notwithstanding, he remains keenly and sublimely aware that the self is now under siege in a thousand different ways. And he can still sing beautifully about it. “They brought death to my home town” he explains; and he helps us to see, in using his familiar imagery of small places and big mosquitoes, how the weapons of death have changed across the decades.

This newer death is the subject of a talking-blues bit. Springsteen spends some minutes speaking well — and, as he has it, under the influence of drink — about watching the television past his bedtime as a kid. He tells us that there was a time “believe it or not” when the television went dark for an hour or two at night; a time when our best hopes and desires were not so scattered but when they actually went to bed at night and got some sleep. It’s not nostalgia but part of a forty year project of describing the man in an advancing technocratic landscape.

I love him so much. I don’t think there ever been a popular music artist who has built such loyalty from an ongoing account of the absence of hope under capitalism. And I don’t know of another man who can stand and give most of what he has to a stadium for three-and-a-half hours without sacrificing a feeling of intimacy.

It is not as though Bruce and I are alone in this arena; although that would have been nice. It is, however, as though he continues to be able to describe the only, and very intimate, escape-route from a world where the screens never go dark.

Bruce gives us late nights. He still gives us songs about solitude. He gives us moments of pleasure taken in the dignity of a self that exists on its own and flourishes in love.

Love — which can be of the sort known with Wendy in Born to Run or in the power of resistance or even in a stadium — is what it’s all about. “Together we can break this trap”. Together, we will walk in a world of screens we are still able to turn off. Tramps like us, baby we were born to love and endure the marathon ride of a man who is still over-full of despair and love in equal measure.

You should have been there.

Bruce Springsteen continues his Australian tour. More information is available at

51 responses to “Bruce Springsteen live review (AAMI Stadium, Melbourne)

  1. Oh, and I forgot to mention, I went to that Adelaide show with a sceptical mate, who happened to be a huge ‘ Sabbath fan, three songs in, he looked at me and said, “Dude, this is already the best show I have ever seen!” Ha!

  2. Thankyou for the heartfelt review Helen, a wonderful read. I was lucky enough to see Bruce and the Band on 5 occasions, all brilliant, all special, but the first Adelaide show, on a bloody hot day, (hot even for Adelaide!), was, well, how does one even attempt to describe it really. And the special moment i will never forget?…After nearly 3 & 1/2 hrs of wittnessing a group of artists and musicians playing their hearts out, Bruce then steps out alone and plays, with all the house lights on, the most beautiful version of If I Should Fall Behind, Helen, I can’t write like you do, so I can’t adequately describe what the feeling was inside that venue. From ear ringing applause to just complete silence, nothing…And then he played Thunder Road!!
    In Bruce’s earlier Perth show he explained that in love, art & music, the rules of physics do not apply and that 1 + 1 makes 3, maybe he is right, maybe it was just that..magic!

  3. Great ,thoughtful review, Helen. I loved the show, and was privileged to catch six of his Australian concerts: all different; all amazing. As a fan of over 40 years, this was a gift. I understand now why people cash in all their savings to follow Springsteen around the world…he and the band are a phenomenon and a significant piece of music history. He is truly the best of the best.

  4. I went last night in Sydney.
    The first concert I ever saw, as a 14 year old, was Springsteen and the E Street Band in Brisbane in 1985. Between then and now I’ve seen U2, The Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam, INXS and others. They were all good to really good. But the is only one great, and his name is Bruce. Springsteen first, daylight second. He was and is the very best. Thanks again.

  5. He had the same affect on me last night Helen/ In Sydney – he sang non-stop for more than three hours – I love the man and first saw him in 1986 but had been a fan of early days and E Street Band – Dark Edge of Town. God bless him. We all ended with ‘Shout’then he saang a touching song in aid of Food Bank – bless him again.

  6. Sorry Chris G, but the reviewer is in fact correct. On Saturday night Bruce played the Born in the USA album. On Sunday night — the night Helen Razer went — he played the Born to Run album. I went both nights and both were great. Wonderful words on Bruce, Helen.

  7. Great review, but I must correct one fact. Bruce played the hugely popular album ‘Born in the USA’ (1984) from cover to cover, not the magnificent ‘Born to Run’ (1975). But he did play the single ‘Born to Run’ and concluded the night with a solo rendition of the sublime opening track ‘Thunder Road’, that you so eloquently quoted.

  8. I took my 12 year old son to see Bruce on Sunday. We arrived at 3 and were in the stadium at 4:30. We were standing 10 metres from the stage just to the right of where Bruce would be standing. However, after watching the fantastic support acts we chose to move to the side of the standing front zone. We watched the concert together, I carried him on my shoulders when Bruce moved off stage to the side barriers, Bruce was right in front of us smiling and waving. We sat and watched the big screen and I experienced this concert, I heard and felt the lyrics holding my son. I will never forget “Lucky Town”, I thought his guitar was going to break. “Meeting across the water river” and “This hard land”: stunning. Thanks Bruce.

  9. There aren’t many artists who would get me to a football stadium. There’s one. There aren’t many artists to whose show I would arrive more than five hours before he played in the hope of getting near the stage. There’s one. There aren’t many artists who could keep me on my 60-year-old feet for four hours – actually most of ten hours including walking, queuing, waiting and support acts. There’s just one Bruce Springsteen. And he’s fucking brilliant. Lovely piece, Helen. You totally get it, and I feel sorry for those who don’t.

  10. Thank you Helen for a most heartfelt review. You were obviously as moved by Sunday night’s performance as I was by Saturday’s. I have friends who saw these Melb shows that had never seen him live before. I had been raving ever since last year’s tour. Now they get it too. His is not a nostalgia show, he’s not just dialing in a performance, or resting on his laurels. Bruce’s love of performing is so obvious it’s contagious. And, as you say, surprisingly intimate even in an outdoor stadium. Best review of one of his concerts that I’ve read.

  11. Every middle aged woman I know is in love with Bruce… anyway, my wife is, and I introduced him to her nearly 40 years ago! Not with Born To Run, the album before that, nearly forgotten but fabulous The Wild, the Innocent and the E-Street Shuffle.

    Some time quite a lot later with the kids looked after by a sitter, we saw him at Sydney’s Ent Cent, and of course, she was on her feet before the end of his first song. Jumping shouting and sweating, as was everyone in the stadium for the next 3 and half incredible hours. Even me, embarrassed a bit (weren’t we passed all that?).

    Bruce, I think I love you too.

    1. It is best that you do not resent the Power of the Boss; who attracts his fair share of thirty-something straight female admiration and a large number of chaps.. Just like you do, my partner completely understands that if Bruce ever makes himself available to me, I’d have no choice!

  12. Loved the review Helen; he is remarkable.
    I went Saturday night and would have loved to go back Sunday night too.
    There is no way to resolve the issue of what you get to hear; there are too many great songs to fit into one event and, in ant case everybody has their favorites.
    My advice is just enjoy the experience and listen to as much Bruce as you can.

  13. It was nothing short of a privilege for this low income earner to hand over
    $230 to see the only man I’ll ever refer to as ‘BOSS’, Bruce,the peoples champion,has earned the respect of all who care to listen and sings for people who may not have.
    I’m 42,for 28 years Bruce has been there with nothing but positive,powerful and just special music,music I relate to and love.
    Please come back and do us again
    Mr Springsteen.Thank you.Brett

  14. That was a good review Ms Razer. I’ve seen a few Bruce shows. I don’t chase him around but if the opportunity is there, I will go. I had never heard Meeting Across the River at any of the six or so performances I’ve attended nor the final song on that magnificent Born to Run album, Jungleland. I thought both those songs were beyond wonderful. The story of Eddie is pathos in its purest form and Jake Clemons channelled his famous uncle in a note perfect soaring sax solo that almost had me “drop to my knees, hold my head and cry” to quote another beautiful lyric. I guess I don’t need to see every show. One can last a long, long time. He is brilliant.

      1. Well you’ve only had two thirds of it in your head. Jake screwed it up by going from the first round to the third. Bruce was yelling at him to keep going, and when Jake realised his mistake, he quickly got back into it. One of the highlights was Bruce giving him a hug after the song and consoling him. Or perhaps telling to make sure he doesn’t screw it up again. Magic moment though. Beauty in imperfection.

  15. the show was excellent on Sunday night but at $130 bucks a ticket up the back the sound quality was a joke…….its a music concert , lets get the sound right first frontier touring…..

  16. Nice piece Helen though love is not the word I would use. Admiration is the first that comes to mind – for being able to haul his 64 year old arse on stage and to give it all for three to four hours every show and for being able to make each concert an event not just for the diehards but the newbies – young and old – experiencing the joy of a Bruce concert for the first time. Not for him just playing the hits or the same setlist every night. He trawls his vast songlist and makes each concert a surprise for the audience. Who else can do that? The other word is generous. He is the undoubted star but other band members have their time in the spolight, he loves bringing on a guest or two – hello Eddie Vedder – and he makes a real connection with the crowd through his walks along the security fences and bringing the lucky one or two on stage for a taste of the limelight. Allowing the two guys in afro wigs to dance with Candy the back-up singer at Saturday night’s first Melbourne gig could have gone pear-shaped but not only did he grant their wish but he let them strap on guitars and join the band as they brought Dancing in the Dark to a wonderful conclusion. As for the covers, stop your moaning Michael. Bruce has been doing them for as long as I can remember and what better way to get an Australian audience in your pocket than by opening the show with Highway to Hell? Magic stuff.

    1. Just watched Highway cover and boy did that pump up the crowd. Be a privilege to see that live. He can’t scream like Bon/Brian but he sure did the job.

  17. I still remember the first time I heard Born to Run nearly 40 years ago. I saw him in Adelaide, and now I understand why people follow him around the world. I would if I could.

    1. Oh yes me too. A Neighbour walked into our home and said that I had to hear this album. We put it on Mum’s Kreisler stereo and it blurted beauty to us in one split second. Just kept getting better and better and it has ever since. Oh yes I won’t forget my time in 75 either!

  18. Where were the songs most of us know? There’s no need for ‘The Boss’ to do three covers & leave out most of the songs that made you great. What was with a 15 minute cover of Twist & Shout, you’ve got to be kidding. Sunday night was waste of 4 hours especially when he finished with a song that had most of the crowd heading for the aisles before it finished.

    1. Michael, I am sorry to say you clearly don’t “get” Bruce. The whole point is every show is different and stands alone as a special night to remember. If all you want is an hour of hits go and see Dire Straits !

      1. Might be a bit difficult, Dire Straits split up about 20 years ago. Even so, their concerts were always two hours or more long.

    2. I loved the show and find him beautiful. He seems to have many people under some kind of “spell” becaus like Michael, I reckon it is reasonable to hope to hear the biggest of his hits – for the money forked out. Glory Days, Human Touch? With any artist I think it a touch self indulgent not to play what the majority of the audience wants most.

      1. How do you know what the majority of the audience want? I would think a large chunk of the audience have been fans for many years & are happy to be surprised by what he does. As for the money forked out – most artists do a 1.5-2hr show for that money – some even charge a lot more. The problem for him is that he has been doing this so long and has so many songs that it’s impossible to sing every song that everyone wants to hear. Everyone has a different favourite. That is why I like the way he does his shows. If you can go to more than one show you get a different show each time. I have been to see him 5 times & wish I could go to every show. Class about everyone else I have ever seen. Plays for his true fans and leaves everything on the stage.

    3. If you check out the set list of previous shows/tours you’ll see that there is probs only 2 songs that always get played. Dancing in the Dark & Born To Run. A few get played most of the time but I suspect the Boss & the band get bored & like to mix things up. You’ll also note that he picks out requests that appeal to him. At the concert I saw (last year) Tom Morello had to impro a song because he is not an old time e-streeter and so didn’t know the music. Tom soon picked it up however (he is a real pro after all) but not before Bruce jokingly stirred him up. When you’ve got a back-catalogue like him & tour so much you can’t play the same 20 or so songs every concert.

  19. I have always liked your work Helen & now I know we share a great love for a beautiful man. I am a fan of 40 years and to bear witness to a Springsteen show is to be transported to a world of bliss. To bear witness to a live performance of “Born to Run” can bring you to tears which is what happened to me last night. I can’t wait to see Bruce again on Wednesday night in Sydney.

  20. I heard the woman who was pulled onstage engaged in a lovely and special moment with The Boss.

    He offered her hand to her and they both embraced in a slow waltz together in silence..

    She was middle aged and had her
    children create a sign in the crowd so
    Bruce could pick her from the audience.

    They nodded towards one another out of respect as she left his embrace and returned to her seat.

    The crowd erupted in applause.

    What a gentleman.


    1. You need to take a look under the hood of his lyrics, Greg; ain’t no flags being waved here. Most songs chronicle the decline of a once great America, rather than eulogising it.

      1. Brucebud you sound way too much like an american or a deeply humbled and bossed about aussie [by american cultural colonialism], please remember down here its mate not bud….well it used to be anyway when we actually had a culture not owned by america

        1. Bruce Springsteen is a product of American folk, rock and soul music – but dismissing him as some kind of barnstorming invasive species shows no understanding of who he is or what he’s about. Yes, he’s American and regularly identifies as an American. But he’s not a jingoist or a cheerleader or a cultural elitist. As proud as he is of being American, he’s angry at what America has become. Further, he goes wherever his fans are and respects music and other musicians around the world. He’s a musician first and all the other stuff follows.

        2. Wrong again mate, I’m an Aussie through and through, and having a mind of my own, tend not to be influenced by any cultural imperialism. The term Brucebud is used by Springsteen fans worldwide, a fact you’d be unaware of because you’re not a fan. This type of narrow-mindedness is no better than the jingoism you rail against, dismissing a brilliant performer out of hand based on their country of origin, not their actual musical output. Shame, you’re missing out on something very special…….

        3. “Born down in a dead mans town, first kick i took was when I hit the ground, you end up like a dog that’s been beat too much til you spend half your life covering up, born in the USA, got in a little home town jam, so they put a rifle in my hand, sent me off to a foreign land to go and kill the yellow man, born in the usa.”

          I’m pretty sure these aren’t the lyrics of flag waving jingoism, Greg. Is that un Australian of me to say or is it just blindingly obvious?

    2. I suspect you fall into the Ronald Reagan trap of not actually listening to what the Boss is saying. No jingoism with the Boss mate.

    3. Been listening to Bruce’s music since ’75 and I can tell you that ‘flag waving and jingoism’ is not a theme – not one bit. I assume you make your judgement based on Born in the USA in much the same ignorant way as Ronald Reagan did.

    4. I think Born in the USA doesn’t say what you think it says.
      Let’s do some textual analysis. Does this look jingoistic to you?

      Born down in a dead man town
      The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
      You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much
      Till you spend half your life just covering up

      Born in the u.s.a., I was born in the u.s.a.
      I was born in the u.s.a., born in the u.s.a.

  21. I’m pleased you love him too, Ms Razer. He is a special man. Creating intimacy in a stadium is one of his exceptional gifts. I suspect everyone who attended this weekend is in Bruce-love. I have been all my life. Some advice: remember how special Melbourne was when you read the setlists of future shows and see the songs he performed on nights you were not in attendance. Believe me, it’s torturous!

  22. Beautiful work, Miss Razer, I’m so pleased you love him too. Creating intimacy in a stadium is pure heartfelt magic. Ah Bruce…


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