By Kelly Carmichael
Date / Venue: Saturday March 1st, Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
Taking the stage quietly and alone to a single guitar note, Bruce Springsteen opened his Auckland leg of theHigh Hopes tour with a spine tingling acoustic version of Lorde's hit Royals. It's really something to win aGrammy, but to have Springsteen cover your song in your hometown is quite another. Before he came onstage the excited crowd were trading suggestions of which local act The Boss might choose to cover. The Australian leg of the tour had seen some surprising choices, thoughtfully covered versions of INXS, AC/DCand even a bit of Bee Gees were served up to appreciative crowds. In Springsteen's hands Royals became something new - the already authentic and vulnerable lyrics held their own but gained from the experience and wisdom of a man who understands what it means to struggle with the culture around you. The Mt Smartcrowd was captivated.....
My Love Will Not Let You Down from the Tracks album was next, closely followed by Badlands, the band ripping through Springsteen's classic grass roots rock tracks with something to say and a hook that won't leave you alone. Early works Out in the Street and Loose Ends came next, Springsteen grabbing a sign from the crowd requesting the song and holding it up before launching into the number. Backed up by the extensive E Street Band he delivered three hours of a performance that was hugely energetic and engaging. Accompanied by great visuals from a well-cut and thoughtfully curated live vision mix the performance was polished but still organic and playful. Watching him interact and connect with the band on stage, including long time friend E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt - a fabulous smaller and more menacing Dot Com predecessor - was a treat. There was an incredible amount of talent on the stage, all musicians at the top of their game collaborating as something of a rock orchestra and occasionally lining up at the front of the stage. The line up was joined by guest Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine offering a ferocious and historic guitar solo on Springsteen's track The Ghost of Tom Joad later on.
It's been over a decade since Bruce Springsteen was last in New Zealand and the animated atmosphere gave the impression like fans had felt every moment. A few tracks from the recent Wrecking Ball album were enthusiastically received, and then as Atlantic City recalibrated its pace and flowed into The River the crowd really got excited. An hour in Springsteen offered the crowd the Born in the USA album "from top to bottom" which had everyone up on their feet, singing along to hit after hit from the mid 80s blockbuster album. Often when you get someone with such an extensive back catalogue as Bruce Springsteen they throw you a bone with an old classic every now and again, but this was really an incredibly generous performance. Other acts often pay lip service to earlier hits they're not really capable of pulling off any more, but Springsteen was right there, drilling down the title track along with others like Cover Me and I'm On Fire with the same erotic intensity and conviction as ever. Throughout old and much loved songs were played with a joy and exuberance that suggested they're as meaningful to him as they are to his fans. Old hits were given fresh energy and Springsteen showed that he's still a force to be reckoned with in music, and a stone cold fox to boot.
Some three hours after he started Springsteen dedicated the last song of his encore to the Auckland City Mission and the work they do. An ethereal and tender acoustic version of Thunder Road saw him on the stage alone with only guitar and harmonica, exactly as he'd started the evening's performance. Slowing things down he really took his time to reveal hidden layers within the well-known lyrics of the song. If you like Bruce Springsteen there's absolutely no doubt you'll LOVE him live. There are a few tickets left for tonight's performance - grab them while you can.