I WAS among the tens of thousands of people who packed into Melbourne’s AAMI Park on Sunday night to hear the rock gospel according to “The Boss”, Bruce Springsteen.
But amid the many euphoric reviews of his Saturday night concert in Melbourne and subsequent Sydney concerts, I will introduce a note of heresy by daring to say that when he opened the Sunday concert, Springsteen looked like a man who had just woken up from a “nanna nap”.
His opening performance of Born in the USA was ordinary and he looked disoriented — not a good look when your image is enlarged forty-fold on a giant screen.
Springsteen’s confession a few songs into the concert that he had woken up only an hour beforehand was likely to be part of the reason why, with the passionate performance he gave only the night before at his Saturday night show another reason.
With the Boss soon to turn 65 years old, there was a risk his much-heralded reputation as a performer who could still raise the roof might be exhausted and we would get a Meatloaf-type performance when we should be getting steak.
But not to worry!
The Boss’s adrenalin kicked in and he lifted his game, going on to deliver an epic concert of three hours and 48 minutes, perhaps to make up for his lethargic start.
It was an impressive performance that showed Springsteen’s development as an artist over the decades since his first album in 1973.
His talent for poetic storytelling, his affinity for those on struggle street and his heartland rock and passionate rhythms were all on show.
But for me, part of the engrossing entertainment on Sunday night was the crowd.
All those punters who had been caught up in their youth by Springsteen and the E Street Band’s powerhouse performances nearly 40 years ago were back to relive the excitement, myself included. But as age might have been the cause of Springsteen’s lacklustre start, so it had also impacted the behaviour of many of the punters.
In the $227 seats where I sat with my fellow babyboomers who could afford such expense, we were a sedate lot for much of the show.
During the support acts, I was accused by the man in the seat below me of spilling my water bottle and wetting his backpack.
While innocent of this crime, the water most likely coming from a flow along a concrete seam at our feet, it made me realise how set in our comfort zone some of my generation were compared to those enjoying all sorts of intrusions into their personal space in the mosh pit on the stadium floor below us.
When the music moved me and I tapped my foot in time, making contact with the back of the seat of the prickly fellow below me concerned about water on his backpack, he gave me a sideways look of disapproval.
I was annoying him by moving to the music! Perhaps he’s got lost and thought he was heading to a concert at the Melbourne Recital Centre up the road, I thought.
But this scribe cannot throw stones.
When a woman younger than me got up from her seat and danced to Springsteen’s opening numbers, blocking my entire view of the Boss and the E Street Band, I was annoyed.
I hadn’t paid my $227 to watch the concert on a giant screen that only gave a truncated view, focusing mainly on Springsteen and not the powerhouse ensemble magic that is the E Street Band.
After tolerating her for a few songs, I tapped her on the shoulder and asked her to sit down. She was indignant.
“This is a Bruce Springsteen concert! You gotta dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert,” was her passionate defence.
And as the night unfolded, I realised of course she was right. She remained on her feet but her defiance led not only me but others in the group I was with to speculate about her and her connections with two people she was with, entertaining us with what we believe were insights into how the Boss’ music resonates across the generations.
She was the daughter of the hip-looking older fellow to her left who had kept himself trim and succeeded in looking younger than his years, we thought.
Eventually the daughter sat down, probably at the request of her father, but she had the body language of someone chastised.
During the night, her spirits were buoyed by visits by a man of her generation who came up from below and gave her alcoholic drinks, adding to those she had procured herself.
This fuelled not only her, but also our speculation.
She was only sitting in the expensive seats to be with her father under sufferance and really wanted to be dancing on the stadium floor with her friends.
But it was apparent she and her father shared a love for the Boss’ music, falling into each others’ arms when they recognised the first strains of a favourite such as Thunder Road coming from the stage.
The woman to the older fellow’s left did not share the same passion but would grab their waving arms when she could to bond with them.
She was probably the older fellow’s second wife, we thought — the ‘third wheel’ trying to catch up on the father and daughter’s shared experience.
When you’re a fan of an artist who has been performing for 40 years, it’s not surprising to have changed partners during the course of those many years.
As the concert picked up pace and excitement, most people got to their feet and shook their groove thing, surrendering to the irresistible rhythms. Even the prickly fellow directly in front of me.
And by then I had realised that the mosh pit was where both I and the defiant daughter should have been.