Down Under 2013 (Godfatherecords G.R. 876/877/878)
Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Australia – 24 March, 2013
Disc 1: Intro, Out In The Street, The Promised Land, Something In The Night, Wrecking Ball, Death To My Hometown, Hungry Heart, Spirit In The Night, High Hopes, The River, Seeds, Johnny 99
Disc 2: Prove It All Night, Pay Me My Money Down, Darlington County, Shackled And Drawn, Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, The Rising, The Ghost Of Tom Joad, Badlands, Land Of Hope And Dreams[/People Get Ready]
Disc 3: Born In The U.S.A., Born To Run, Dancing In The Dark, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Bonus Tracks: Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Australia – 27 March, 2013: Long Walk Home, Better Days, Factory, Lost In The Flood, Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?, I’m Goin’ Down, Jungleland, American Land
The Wrecking Ball Tour arrived in Australia in March 2013 and Godfather presents us with the sixth show, the first of three in Victoria’s capital city, Melbourne. The Australian shows are notable for featuring Tom Morello, standing in for Steve Van Zandt, who was occupied with the filming of his television series Lilyhammer. This particular show was also notable for being the first of the tour not to include My City Of Ruins. The start of the show is described by Desiree Koh, writing on the Backstreets website, as follows:
“Bruce wasted no time in getting to the point, starting the show in mid-set form with a double shot of ‘Out in the Street’ and ‘The Promised Land.’ It was a bit of a surprise that ‘Something in the Night’ slowed down the tempo right after, but who’s complaining with the Mighty One maxing out Bruce’s soulful mourn pound for pound?”
Andrew Tate, writing on WAtoday.com.au, calls Out In The Street, “a slow burn version…relatively sedate,” and refers to Something In The Night as “atmospheric.” Iain Muir, writing on morningsun.net, was also rightly impressed by this rendition of the latter song, commenting that, “it was haunting. The rumble of Max’s drums during the intro, Bruce’s wail… just absolutely incredible.”
After this superb performance, Springsteen moves into the present with two songs from the current album, Wrecking Ball and Death To My Hometown, the latter clearly featuring Morello’s distinctive guitar, before the audience gets its customary opportunity to sing along at the beginning of Hungry Heart. Spirit In The Night has its now-customary over-heavy beginning and long drawn-out denouement, which features a short vocal contribution from some audience members (“Oh my God,” comments Springsteen, “that’s terrible!”). Then we get a rarity in the shape of High Hopes, so far only played live six times, all in Australia in 2013, with this being the fourth of those performances. The Lebanese Tribute To Bruce Springsteen site gives the following details of the song’s history:
“HIGH HOPES is a song written by Tim Scott McConnell who originally released it in 1987…The song was then recorded by Scott McConnell’s band The Havalinas in 1990…The Havalinas’ version caught the ear of Bruce Springsteen and he ended up recording it in 1995. His version was included the next year on the Blood Brothers promo EP and a year later on some European issues of the Secret Garden EP…
In 1994, Bruce Springsteen recorded an unreleased album with Shane Fontayne and other members of the 1992-1993 touring band. Springsteen’s manager Jon Landau wasn’t a fan of the project (the 1994 album), and recommended shelving it and focusing more on a ‘career overview'; this lead [sic] to the Greatest Hits sessions with the E Street Band in early 1995.
Bruce called the band in early January 1995, and they assembled for the recording sessions on 09 Jan 1995 at the Hit Factory in New York City, NY. This was their first studio reunion in 11 years (since the Born In The USA sessions) and their first ever with Nils Lofgren. HIGH HOPES was among the songs recorded during these sessions. Being a cover, it is not surprising that the song was not included on the Greatest Hits album.”
The song, opening, with percussion and Springsteen’s acoustic guitar, later brings in the horns, the backing vocalists and Morello’s guitar in an exciting performance which is far superior to the officially recorded version.
The River, which gives the audience another opportunity for vocal participation, is given a subdued, stunningly poignant reading. The theme of the effects of economic hardship on individuals continues with the grinding Seeds, which features a fine contribution from the horns and a terrific guitar solo from Springsteen and this, in turn, gives way to Johnny 99, heavy, as is now customary, with horns, violin and backing vocals. This draws disc one to a close.
The second disc opens with a real highlight of the show, Prove It All Night, of which Corey J. Stephenson comments on brucetour.blogspot.co.uk:
“After the incredible Prove It All Night with ’78 intro in Sydney, Springsteen took a vote on a request to see if the crowd wanted it again – or Incident on 57th Street.
They voted for Prove It…and they got a more polished, incredible rendition by Springsteen who took his time to blast out the previously rarely performed intro before leading the band through to Nils Lofgren’s solo.
Again Lofgren took the song and stole it from it’s [sic] master for a few minutes as he spun around the spotlight with his guitar with more energy and enthusiasm then I have ever seen.”
Herald Sun reviewer James Wigney was also impressed with Lofgren, writing of his “blistering solo” during the song.
Then Springsteen enters Seeger Sessions territory with Pay Me My Money Down, which Tate rightly refers to as a “rollicking tune.” Before the song Springsteen addresses the audience at length, informing them that Australian friends had advised him of the futility of encouraging members of an Australian audience to “get off their asses.” Allegedly, Australians will find this instruction incomprehensible, as they use the terms “arses” or “bums.” Being English, I found Springsteen’s enunciation of “arses,” where he comes across in the fashion of someone attempting a mock British upper-class accent, hilarious. The song itself is huge fun, and Springsteen can be heard encouraging a troupe of seven girls to get up on to the stage and dance.
Darlington County chugs along nicely and gives way to an excellent performance of Shackled And Drawn, which showcases the vocal talents of Cindy Mizelle. Waitin’ On A Sunny Day features the customary singing opportunity for a child drawn from the audience, this one younger than usual (the YouTube video bears the caption, “4 year old Aleksandar rocks the crowd”). It is succeeded by The Rising, a song which always seems to come across strongly in live performance.
The Ghost Of Tom Joad is another highlight and observers were uniformly impressed especially by the contribution of Tom Morello. Tate enthuses that, “Morello was key to the night’s show stopping number, a duet with Springsteen on a supercharged version of ‘Ghost of Tom Joad’…[a] brilliant high-octane duet with Morello.” Wigney reckons that, “Morello was simply awesome trading verses and guitar solos with Springsteen on The Ghost of Tom Joad.” This performance even seems to have made a convert. Iain Muir writing on morningsun.net, writes that, “‘Joad’ followed and just wow, again not a favourite of mine, but Morello is absolutely beastly during this. The conviction he puts into it not only singing, but also playing is incredible to witness. Just brilliant.”
After this, the show concludes with a stirring Badlands and what Tate calls an “emotionally powerful” Land Of Hope And Dreams, closing with its customary snippet of People Get Ready.
The third disc begins with the encore’s opening number, what Stephenson describes as, “the angry, near-deafening version of Born In The U.S.A.” The band thunders through Born To Run and parties through Dancing In The Dark, during which Springsteen danced with a girl on her sixteenth birthday in response to a sign request, before Tenth Avenue Freeze Out, with its customary tribute to late saxophonist Clarence Clemons, brings a relatively short encore to its triumphant conclusion.
This brevity allows Godfather to add a generous selection of bonus tracks from the third show at the Rod Laver Arena, which Brucebase characterizes as, “excellent…with plenty of rarities.” First up is what the site informs us is, “the second full-band ‘Long Walk Home’ of the tour (third in total).” Then comes Better Days, which Brucebase reminds us, ” is a tour premiere, not performed with the E Street Band since May 19, 2003 in Madrid.” An atmospheric, poignant Factory follow, performed for only the second time on the tour.
Koh writes that Springsteen, “silenced Melbourne with a climatic ‘Lost in the Flood’ solo of delirious distortion and ferocious feedback, which nothing but Roy’s calming piano could smooth back into rest.” This is followed on the disc by a joyful Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street? with plenty of soloing from the horns and a duel between percussionist Everett Bradley and drummer Max Weinberg, and an energetic, muscular I’m Goin’ Down.
Koh writes of the epic Jungleland “igniting the encores” and, following the encore’s opener we get the the very final number from this show, American Land. “The end of the 2:58 long walk was ‘American Land,'” states Koh, “after the crowd convinced Bruce they were not ‘done.’ A vibrant jig about one former British colony played for another, from one second-generation immigrant to a city founded on migrants, there was not a stoic arse nor bum by the time the band took its bows.”
The source for the main show is described by Godfather as “excellent audience” and for the most part the sound is full, clear and dynamic. Unfortunately there are several occasions, almost all during the latter part of the show, where the sound quality goes awry, with a few seconds’ fluctuation in balance and clarity. Aside from this, however, the main show is a joy to listen to. The sound quality of the bonus tracks is again full, clear and impressive, though it is perhaps slightly less crisp and dynamic than that of the mains show. The taper also picks up more audience noise.
Down Under 2013 comes with Godfather’s customary tri-fold packaging, which continues the national flag theme seen on the labels last two Wrecking Ball Tour releases, and, also as usual, the sleeve features a selection of onstage photographs. There is no booklet or other insert, so the customary “Joe Roberts” notes appear on the sleeve.
With this release we get a very desirable combination of a brilliant performance, largely excellent sound, numerous bonus tracks and attractive packaging – to say nothing of the opportunity of hearing three guitarists of the quality of Springsteen, Lofgren and Morello playing on the same stage.
If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)