Bruce Springsteen and I

December 2, 2013

He is only one of five people who have their own “category” on this blog.  He has been my favourite musician since 1983 – more than 30 years now.  It’s Bruce Springsteen.

Last night here in Australia, SBS TV broadcast the documentary “Bruce Springsteen and I”, a collection of delightful and frequently moving testimonials by Springsteen fans, interspersed with the man’s music.  Cleverly, in many cases peopled told a story about a certain concert that they attended and how they were called on by Springsteen to sing, or come up on the stage for a hug (he does that sort of thing) or whatever.  And we get to see the original footage as well, edited into their stories.

A truly moving experience for Springsteen fans, now on sale here in Australia on DVD.

And the boss does not stop.  He has a new album out on January 14, 2014:  “High Hopes”, recorded in New Jersey, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Australia and New York City.  (Astute readers of this blog will note my strong connections with three of those five places.)  The “High Hopes” tracklisting:

High Hopes tracklisting:

1. High Hopes (Tim Scott McConnell) – featuring Tom Morello

2. Harry’s Place * – featuring Tom Morello

3. American Skin (41 Shots) – featuring Tom Morello

4. Just Like Fire Would (Chris J. Bailey) – featuring Tom Morello

5. Down In The Hole *

6. Heaven’s Wall ** – featuring Tom Morello

7. Frankie Fell In Love

8. This Is Your Sword

9. Hunter Of Invisible Game * – featuring Tom Morello

10. The Ghost of Tom Joad – duet with Tom Morello

11. The Wall

12. Dream Baby Dream (Martin Rev and Alan Vega) – featuring Tom Morello

Can’t wait.

Bruce Springsteen down under – Sydney 20 March 2013

March 23, 2013

It’s only his third concert tour to Australia, and I missed the first two.  So we went on 20 March.  Summary:  the most accomplished stage performer I have ever seen, but the music was too loud, too brassy and hard to understand.

I guess most of us knew the music anyway.  I sure did.

A three and a half hour concert without a break, with enough energy to power a small city for a year.  How does he do it?  What was more amazing was his audience interaction:  Springsteen almost never lost eye contact with his audience, and we loved him for it.  Highlights:

When he strolled through the crowd while singing (I can’t remember the song, but the event was riveting), and then perched himself on a ledge in the middle of the audience, while audience members held him up.  He then crowd-surfed over the mosh pit back to the stage, held aloft of hundreds of fans.  I was rapt, and just about everyone else was too.

When he brought the little kid on stage with him to sing.

When he chose audience members’ signs identifying songs to sing.

When – near the end – he danced with a female fan whose flip chart he had read out during the concert.

We sat near the back (see photo) but relatively close and he did not ignore us.  He came to the edge of the stage and pointed:  each of us thought/knew he was pointing at us individually, and we waved back.

Bruce Springsteen3 20March2013

What a shame:  Springsteen is the champion of the American working class, a supporter of Barack Obama and New Jersey, where he grew up and still lives.  Almost none of this found its way into the Homebush Bay arena.  He was awfully far from home, but it would have been nice to feel that connection.

Most ironic moment:  Near the end, during what surely were the encores (although it was a bit hard to tell), when he asked, “Are you tired yet?”

Freakiest moment:  When the lights came up and I realised that there were about six men and women perched in the rigging about 20 meters above the stage, pointing spot lights and strapped into little seats.  When did they get there?  How would they get down?  Were they ever scared?

The most memorable concert I have been at, and I am a 30 year fan.

Bruce Springsteen Sydney - 20 March 2013

Bruce Springsteen Sydney – 20 March 2013

Bruce Springsteen2 20March2013

The Folks Down Under Get the Word at Last

November 6, 2009

(This article – entitled “The Folks Down Under Get the Word at Last” – was originally published in The New York Times on Sunday October 20, 1985, in the New Jersey section, page N.J. 23.  Some 25 years later, it is a bit of an historical artefact, but captures a nice bit of New Jersey impressions.  Bruce Springsteen, at least, continues to make a pretty significant cultural impact.)

Bruce Springsteen and John Sayles have made me p[round to be a New Jerseyan again.  It was not always thus.

In 1970, I lived with 15 other freshmen in a dormitory at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.  I was the only one from New Jersey, and I will never forget the taunts, gibes and New Jersey jokes.

Some years later, in common with many of my high school classmates, I moved to California.  I remember with pride my first California driver’s license.  It even carried a color photograph, something New Jersey didn’t have in those days.

And I remember how I even changed my speech:  “ahrange” (orange) became “awrange” and “Ahregone” (Oregon) became “Awregen.”

As an American living in Australia for the last five years, I am bedevilled by the perpetual inquiry, “Where ya from in the States?”

I used to answer “California.”  Australians understand California.  Most of this country’s television is produced in and around Los Angeles, and many people here have been to Fisherman’s Wharf or Disneyland.

The first time I answered “New Jersey,”, I received a blank stare and a muffled “Oh.”

Australia is a country with some 22 million cows and 17 million people.  England is “home” and that island in the English Channel is the only “Jersey” they know.  For many others, Jersey is a cow.

No longer.

Bruce Springsteen’s tour of major Australian cities like Sydney and Melbourne was sold out within hours.  His “Born in the U.S.A.” was already the top-selling album there, and $20 concert tickets were scalped for more than $200.  His was declared the most successful rock tour since the one by the Beatles.

All of this for a boy from New Jersey.

Australia is different now because of Bruce Springsteen.  In the small university town where I live, I hear teenagers singing “Johnny 99” (about the closing of a plant in the Bergen County community of Mahwah) and “fixing your hair up pretty” from the song “Atlantic City.”

John Sayles, the film director, grew up in Schenectady, N.Y.  At age 33, he is making films for his generation (those of us who went to high school or college in the 1960s or early 1970s).

Australians enjoyed Sayles’ first two films (“Return of the Secaucus Seven” and “Lianna”).  “Baby, It’s You” closed in Sydney after good reviews and an extended run and went on to play throughout the country.

The film, set in Trenton, was shot in Bayonne.  Jill (Rosanna Arquette) and “The Sheik” (Vince Spano), unlikely sweethearts, meet in high school in 1966.  Jill goes to Sarah Lawrence and “The Sheik” to Florida, both to escape and to “make” it.

Neither really does.  Sayles does not infuse Trenton (Bayonne) with a romance it does not have.  He treats it as it is, or rather, was.  He reminds us of the setting where we tried to become adults.

I knew, sitting in the Sydney cinema, that the nuances of “Baby, It’s You” were lost on the Australians.  But for the first time, I began to understand what it was like to grow up in middle-class ethnic New Jersey in the 1960s.

Now I answer “New Jersey” to the question and wait for the slow dawning of recognition.  If not, I tell them about Bruce Springsteen and John Sayles.