It's not as if The Saints are a household name in these parts and I, for one, wasn't familiar with the track, what with All Fools Day slipping past my guard back in what I've been known to label The Wilderness Years. When you're talking iconic Brisbane songs they aren't exactly thick on the ground. It might have been interesting to see an E Street version of I'm Stranded, but you wouldn't be holding your breath. Maybe the three guitars doing an acoustic Cattle and Cane, but that wouldn't have worked coming after We Take Care of Our Own, would it?

Wrecking Ball was starting to get things together, but when they launched into Badlands any bugs that had been there from the start had seemingly sorted themselves out and I was resigned to the fact that it was going to be an up and down sort of show depending on what the substantial section of the crowd in front of where I was sitting was doing and which part of it was doing it.

Now, I realize you've probably got no business sitting at a Bruce concert, but if you're going to put seats into a flattish area you either need a bit of a slope or else they shouldn't be there at all. End of story.

Badlands, however, was where things really got themselves together and from that point there was no (or very little, unless you were inclined to dwell on the start) looking back. You're possibly not inclined to roar along with We Take Care of Our Own early on (though you may well be doing so later), and Wrecking Ball's in much the same boat, but the anthemic Badlands, well, that's different. A chorus that begs you to give voice to the frustrations, and there was a goodly bunch of throats around the auditorium that did.

Having loosened things up that way, Death to My Hometown worked better than its Wrecking Ball colleagues had done earlier, and Hungry Heart got the voices roaring again. Not the sort of thing you'd have been looking for if you were taping the show, perhaps, but as far as getting the audience in is concerned...

There was a heartfelt introduction to My City of Ruins, referring to the natural disaster of Hurricane Sandy, and Spirit in the Night jived and gyrated along, working that R&B groove for all it was worth and bringing Jake Clemons into the spotlight role formerly filled by Uncle Clarence.

Clarence's passing brought its share of anguish at the time, and continues to do so as the encore demonstrated, but the most significant issue that came out of it was how to fill the sizeable hole he'd left in the stage presence. Replace one man with another and you're bound to get comparisons. Replace one man with something demonstrably different (a relative as part of an enhanced brass section) and you're adding some different sonic possibilities. Make the horn section something that's individually mic'ed rather than blowing into a fixed object and you've got further possibilities in the visual dynamics department.

It was around Spirit in the Night that those matters became a bit more evident as far as Hughesy was concerned, and The E Street Shuffle reinforced the same conclusion. Around this point in the show there was the first of a number of references to The E Street Band as a show band, and Bruce seemed quite determined to emphasize what I took to be a reference to the bands that worked the Irish circuit from the mid-fifties through to the end of the seventies and provided the inspiration for The Commitments in the movie and the Roddy Doyle novel.

I'd seen passing references to this particularly Irish phenomenon, but a wander over into the Wikipedia suggested an outfit based on the internationally popular six or seven piece dance band with a repertoire that ranged from rock and roll and country and western songs to traditional dixieland jazz ... Irish traditional and Céilidh music.

Usually comprising a rhythm section, lead guitar and keyboards augmented by a brass section, this isn't, from where I'm sitting, a million miles away from the E Streeters anyway, and when the Wikipedia goes on to refer to the fact that they usually played standing up, rather than sitting a la the earlier Big Bands, and created momentum by playing while stepping, dipping and bopping in the manner of Bill Haley & His Comets, and the more successful bands toured Irish clubs located in Britain, the United States and Canada.


© Ian Hughes 2012