(This piece was originally published on The Footy Almanac’s music site, 24/01/2015.)
This summer, for the first time in three years I am not eagerly awaiting a Bruce Springsteen tour to Australia. Thank goodness.
Not that I wouldn’t want Bruce to return, bringing with him his million-dollar entourage, his massive back catalogue and three-hour musical extravaganzas. It’s just that I couldn’t bear the stress of anticipation.
Stress? I’ve been addicted to Springsteen since the late 1970s when a fellow uni student, Ian Wright, introduced me to the man from Freehold, New Jersey.
Wrightee (always spelt that way) had read somewhere that Bruce was the future of rock and roll and decreed that we needed to be part of that future.
We stocked our record collections with Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town, then bought The River and Nebraska when they appeared. Wrightee even sourced copies of Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ and The Wild, The Innocent & the E Street Shuffle.
Hours were spent listening to Bruce’s fiery guitar work and howling vocals, Clarence Clemons’ haunting sax and the dueling notes of Danny Federici’s organ and Roy Bittan’s piano. We tried really hard to learn all the words.
Springsteen songs were folk stories, Americana set to rock and roll. I loved his shady characters: the Magic Rat, Spanish Johnny, Weak Knees Willy; and the exotic women: Rosalita, Crazy Janey, the ubiquitous Mary and the Barefoot Girl sitting on the hood of a Dodge.
My favourite song then, and still, is Atlantic City with its extraordinary opening line – “Well they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night, now they blew up his house too.”
I thought Wrightee and I were part of an exclusive club and it was irritating when so many others jumped on Bruce’s Born in the USA wagon.
When Bruce came to Melbourne in 1985, I bought tickets but worried too many others would too. Needlessly I feared the last-minute switch of guitarists from Steve Van Zandt to Nils Lofgren might spoil the night. Afraid I might not be able to see, I was at the front of the queue when the gates opened but even then worried I’d be too far from the stage.
While others felt euphoria when the last notes of Born to Run died, I just felt relief.
I was overseas when Bruce brought his “unplugged” acoustic show to the Palais Theatre 12 years later, with a setlist drawn from his “mournful” period. I heard the concert was introspective and rambling so figured we wouldn’t see him again in Australia.
But then he got the band back together and produced The Rising, surprisingly finding another generation of fans. Now they included my young children who learned the words to Waitin’ On A Sunny Day as we drove away on holiday. I felt an old friend had returned but so did my anxieties when Bruce’s concert was announced for Docklands stadium.
What tickets should I buy? Seating or standing? If seating, where in the stadium? What time should I get there? Will I be able to see? Will he sound ok in such a barn?
More worryingly, what songs will Bruce play? Will it only be new stuff? Will any of the old classics be revived? What happens if my favourites are overlooked?
Then, to compound matters, the US invaded Iraq on the day of the concert, which I knew would take the gloss of Bruce’s enthusiasm.
By the time the lights dimmed, though I hadn’t eaten for days I felt like vomiting.
Ten years and five original albums later, Bruce agreed to bring his show back to Australia. By now, Springsteen shows were in the same class as Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera – long-running sagas. I bought tickets for the Hanging Rock show the moment they went on sale.
As the day grew nearer my anxiety returned. How am I going to get there? Where will I sit? Will I be able to see ok? What will the sound quality be like? What happens if it rains? How will I get home?
By the time the last rays of the sun disappeared from the Rock and the E Street Band (actually more of an E Street Army by now) were on stage, I was a jellyfish.
When Bruce toured Melbourne last year I almost decided not to bother. The Rectangular Stadium is nowhere to stage a concert of Springsteen proportions. I knew I’d be sitting sideways all night, the sound bouncing from side to side. And would it be sufficiently different from last year?
I did go and I suppose it was great.
So I’m pleased to have the summer off worrying about Bruce. In fact, I doubt he’ll bother to tour Australia again so the rest of my life might be relatively stress free.