May 2013

Arts & Letters

Bruce Springsteen Live in Melbourne

By Mark Seymour
Rod Laver Arena, 29 March 2013

Witnessing a Bruce Springsteen gig is like watching a game of football. It demands commitment, comes with a sense of sweeping drama – the pause, the rebuild, the surging of forces – and lasts as long: three hours on the dot. It’s also loud and relentlessly optimistic. But the fervor is far from spontaneous, for this is a flawless theatrical presentation. Unlike in football, the outcome is known from the start: everybody wins. The precise lighting cues, the sheer number of personnel, the range of instruments, Springsteen’s seemingly impromptu forays into the crowd, sometimes right to the back of the stadium – all of this demands weeks of preparation on a sound stage, with the entire rig assembled. The magnitude of what’s involved is mind-boggling. So is the cost.

The band swarms on stage, house lights up, then it’s straight into a string of anthems, each a tale of triumph over multiple adversities, be it loneliness, social injustice, war, sexual betrayal or any combination of these. As each song’s climax is reached, a new version of the drama emerges, laying out the doubts and disappointments of common experience only to have them swept away by Springsteen’s uplifting exhortations.

Rock is meant to be euphoric. Audiences arrive with a level of expectation that no other theatrical form can meet, and the stakes at a Springsteen show are at fever pitch. His concerts are nothing short of evangelical. The group routines, the swaying bodies and the choreographed unity of purpose recall gospel.

There is something else at work here. Springsteen’s songs document a life writ so large as to be heroic. Since 2001, he has managed to fuse his own emotional experience with that of an entire people. Set against the template of America’s story, his imagery has become pointedly political, a deliberate reflection on the triumph and tragedy of empire.

The audacity of this idea is uniquely American. In music culture, no other nation would willingly grant an individual this level of credibility. Of course, the notion that he is hero-worshipped as such does not detract from Springsteen’s genius. His songs have given Americans a narrative that has helped explain the often violent contradictions of their society. Americans crave redemption and providing it is a role Springsteen has willingly embraced. Their story is more dramatic than anybody else’s. And so is Springsteen’s.

If, as they say, success in rock ’n’ roll is about imagining the zeitgeist ahead of time, then Springsteen’s genius lies in his overwhelming self-belief.

Mark Seymour

Mark Seymour is an Australian singer-songwriter.

@_MarkSeymour

Bruce Springsteen, Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, 29 March 2013
Cover: May 2013

May 2013

From the front page

Too far left?

Corbyn Labour gets smashed in the UK

Image of Cardi B

Bodak moment: Pop’s decade of superstars

Cardi B delivered the song of the decade as a new league of superstars overcame the significance of bands

Big in Morocco

Australian cinema finds a new audience at the Marrakech International Film Festival

Conversion on the way to Damascus by Caravaggio

Damascene subversion: Christos Tsiolkas’s ‘Damascus’

The literary storyteller’s latest novel wrestles with the mythology of Christianity’s founder, Paul the Apostle


In This Issue

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Annette Kellerman & Esther Williams

Peter Sutton at a Wik outstation in 1977: “That period seems a little innocent now”. Photo courtesy of David Martin

The Aurukun blues of Peter Sutton

An anthropologist hits the skids in Cape York

‘The Secret River’, Sydney Theatre Company

‘The Secret River’

Sydney Theatre Company

Still ready to served: Rudd’s backers refuse to give up agitating for his return © Andrew Taylor/Fairfax Syndication

Kevin Rudd’s unrelenting campaign to regain power

How Labor changed its view of the deposed PM from party saboteur to potential saviour


More in Arts & Letters

Image of Cardi B

Bodak moment: Pop’s decade of superstars

Cardi B delivered the song of the decade as a new league of superstars overcame the significance of bands

Photo of Liam Gallagher

Don’t look back in anger: Liam and Noel Gallagher

As interest in Oasis resurges, talking to the combative brothers recalls their glory years as ‘dirty chancers, stealing riffs instead of Ford Fiestas’

Conversion on the way to Damascus by Caravaggio

Damascene subversion: Christos Tsiolkas’s ‘Damascus’

The literary storyteller’s latest novel wrestles with the mythology of Christianity’s founder, Paul the Apostle

Cover of Peter Pomerantsev’s ‘This Is Not Propaganda’ [detail]

Agents of chaos: Peter Pomerantsev’s ‘This is Not Propaganda’

The Russian expat journalist wonders if democracy can survive the internet, as social media is used to promote feelings over facts


More in Noted

Utagawa Yoshimori, The Tongue-cut Sparrow [detail]

‘Japan supernatural’

The Art Gallery of NSW’s examination of Japan’s centuries-long artistic traditions depicting the spirit world and the macabre

Cover of ‘The Topeka School’

‘The Topeka School’ by Ben Lerner

The American author’s latest novel canvasses the seething hate speech of the burgeoning alt-right and white-boy rap battles in the Midwest

Image of ‘Wild River, Florida’

‘Civilization: The Way We Live Now’

The beautiful photographs of often grim subjects in NGV Australia’s exhibition raise questions over the medium’s power to critique

Cover of ‘The Testaments’

‘The Testaments’ by Margaret Atwood

The Booker Prize–winning sequel to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is an exhilarating thriller from the “wiliest writer alive”


Read on

Images of Aaron McGrath rehearsing as Johnny Mullagh in ‘Black Cockatoo’

A tale of triumph and exploitation: ‘Black Cockatoo’

The little-known story of history-making Aboriginal cricketer Johnny Mullagh and his team is told in this new play

Image of a woman’s hands

Is elder abuse avoidable?

Our current aged-care system makes it difficult to deliver care in its truest sense

Big in Morocco

Australian cinema finds a new audience at the Marrakech International Film Festival

Image of Julian Barnes’s ‘The Man in the Red Coat’

Julian Barnes’s playfully incisive ‘The Man in the Red Coat’

This biography of a suave Belle Époque physician doubles as a literary response to Brexit


×
×