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Springsteen rocks the Hunter

It was my first Springsteen concert – his second and last show in the Hunter Valley at Hope Estate. We’d spoken to friends who had gone to the previous night’s show and also read the online feedback – it had all be outrageously good, so we were hopeful to say the least. I was in a group on six who – me aside – had all seen him before, ranging from one occasion to 23. That’s right, it was his 24th Springsteen concert. So as a Springsteen virgin, here’s my take. Without any doubt the best show I’ve ever seen, full stop. Daylight second to be honest (which was probably Dire Straits in their prime at the Sydney Entertainment Centre). I’ve not seen anyone who gives as much to the audience as Springsteen did on Sunday night: three hours and 10 minutes of non-stop action, barely stopping between songs to hear the applause. For a bloke of 64, his stamina, his energy, was breathtaking. On this tour from what I’ve heard he and the band – and what a band – had a playlist of just over 100 songs. You never knew what you were getting except to say that Born to Run and Dancing in the Dark were pretty much guaranteed. After that you took your luck. He opened with an Australianised version of Spill the Wine by Eric Burdon and then took us on a journey … Rosalita, Born in the USA, Pay Me My Money Down, The Rising, Human Touch, Badlands etc etc. He even did a version of Rockin’ All Over The World, borrowing from Status Quo. And quite frankly, it blew the Status Quo version out of the water. Terrific songs anyway, but made even better by the sound he was getting from his large E Street Band. I love a band that has a horn section – it brings a richness and a depth to the music. He must have had six or seven horns, and the sound they could bring – that swinging, rollicking, toe-tapping, arse wiggling rock & roll sound, even touches of jazz at times, were brilliant. To see Springsteen take them for a stroll through the crowd of 19,000 as they played, along with his three backing singers, was a joy. I remember saying to my wife at the time that this guy clearly has fun. No sign of let’s do it because I have to do it to get paid and damn what the people think (why does Van Morrison, for all his wonderful talent spring suddenly to mind?)… no these guys were having a ball. A group of guys who, it must be said, aren’t all exactly in the bloom of life, turning their backs to the crowd to wriggle their backsides in a line across the stage, it was a hoot. And then, of course, there were the signs in the crowd, and the girls from the mosh pit getting up on stage for a dance... six or seven of them at one stage. One sign – “I’d love to shake with Jake” – resulted in sax player Jake Clemons somehow managing to dance and spin a girl from the audience one-handed while continuing to play with the other. So much for men not being able to multi-task. The defence rests. And then after the band had left the stage to rapturous applause Springsteen, soaked in sweat as usual after getting the crowd pumping for hours, played two ballads (I Wish I Were Blind, and Thunder Road) and you could hear a pin drop, and I’m talking deathly silence, it was truly amazing. So here’s my beef. Can I now ever go to another show without feeling disappointed to a degree? Can I go and not say “they were good, but not as good as Springsteen”? Probably not. But that’s okay, at least I was there to see I, although I must admit I was really hoping to hear Hungry Heart, but no luck. The price you pay for listening to a band with so many hit songs. And if he comes back will I go again? Hell yeah! Will I go 24 times like my friend? No way. But to anyone who asks, I’ll say it’s the best concert I’ve seen by a country mile. I’d also say to people like me who like his music but aren’t “rusted on” fans, do yourself a favour and find the time. Mark Knopfler? Silver medal, sir. The gold’s locked up. RA

Springsteen’s next concerts are in Auckland, New Zealand, on March 1 and 2. For tickets go to www.brucespringsteen.net

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