Thursday, 6 February 2014

Inside a Bruce Springsteen soundcheck

A few hours before the first Perth Arena show a group of around 30 journalists, including myself, were lucky enough to get an early glimpse of what goes on backstage before a show.
Before going in we were told to stand at the back of the GA pit while Springsteen and the band performed. When he was ready, Springsteen would then call us forward to the stage and we could ask him some questions.
Dream Baby Dream

We were also warned that the whole media call would only begin when Springsteen was happy with the sound and that it could take a while.
So we spent what felt like hours waiting in a hallway of Perth Arena trying to listen out to the songs being rehearsed behind a closed door.
At one point I could make out Frankie Fell In Love, and a friend said she heard The River.
Finally let inside and ushered to the back of the GA pit, Springsteen shouted a welcome from the stage before launching the band into Dream Baby Dream.
The band, following every hand gesture from the lead man even more intently than you would probably notice on show night, were obviously not in the evening’s wardrobe selections yet.
Soozie Tyrell wearing thick glasses and Tom Morello in a big cowboy hat and shades both made a lasting impression.
At the end of the song Springsteen jokingly waved off our applause by saying they weren’t done yet.
“You’ve stumbled into a rehearsal”, he said, before turning to the band and explaining what he wanted to hear more of something before starting up the song again.
But it seemed someone started before others in the 18-member band were ready as something was so out of time he immediately stopped the band a few seconds in, and joked “that was the single version.”
Before running through the song again.
Afterwards he again turned to the band, and you could see how he was determined to perfect the song, that in the end would not get played on opening night.
He then turned to the assembled media and called them forward, sitting on the centre platform at the front of the stage.
There he answered several questions about how he feels about being more open to writers and the internet, the role of folk music “when it’s done well” and his approach to the setlists.
Saying that he still planned to “keep changing things up” and bringing out surprises for the tour.
When asked if there was any songs he wished were requested a bit more he talked about how he liked performing Girls In Their Summer Clothes but didn’t get to do it very often, and also Long Walk Home from Magic, of which he was pleased with the strength of his writing.
The diehard fan in me managed to string a sentence together enough to ask if he would be doing any full album shows on this tour.
He said although they had done some in Europe last year, it was unlikely while he had a new album out and wanted to keep each night different and fresh for both new and returning audiences.
When it came to his interview the answers he gave were never short or abrupt, they were long, detailed and genuine.
The personal commitment and enthusiasm his live performances are known for easily transferred over to a group of 30 people that although excited – and in my case totally bewildered and quietly overwhelmed – were all thinking of fast approaching deadlines and how they would file copy, footage and audio clips to their outlets on time.
As his publicity and crew were obviously eager to hurry things along by calling time on the press conference, Springsteen was happy to keep talking and allowed the questions to keep going.
If he didn’t have a show to do, I think he would have been happy to sit on that stage talking for hours.
But even if spending a lengthy time chatting with Springsteen was an option, I would take being in the pit of his live show for three hours over a conversation every time.

Read the article I scrawled together on the side of the road after the media call here:  Bruce Springsteen promises to keep surprises coming for Australia