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The Wait For Thunder Road

Updated on April 21, 2017
Kylie Keene
Kylie Keene | Source

Thunder Road is the name of the greatest Bruce Springsteen song ever written (In my opinion!). It was written in 1975 and was originally titled 'Wings for Wheels' with a more dark tone than the studio recorded version. The content of the song evolved into a story about a young woman named Mary (Who is a recurring character in Bruces' songs). It also includes Mary's boyfriend and their struggle living in a deadbeat town. They dream of moving away and escaping from a mediocre existence. The song made the '500 Greatest Songs of All Time' Rolling Stone magazine list at number 86. It features on the album Born to Run from the year 1975 which itself was voted 18th on the 'Greatest Albums of all time' list from VH1 TV music network. The song concludes with the inspirational line " It's a town full of losers, but we are pulling out of here to win".

I was lucky enough to witness Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band on two other occasions before tonight. The first at the iconic Sydney Cricket Ground on March 22nd in 2003 and Thunder Road was played just before the encore. Bruce also kicked off the show that night with an acoustic version of his mega hit Born in the USA. At my second viewing of the band on the 14th of March in 2013 at the Brisbane Entertainment Center Thunder Road was again played before the encore but Born in the USA was a noticeable omission. Just like Pearl Jam Bruce has been known to shake up his set lists and therefore some big tunes get left out. Born in the USA seems to be one of those especially in foreign countries outside America.

Born in the USA is to alot of casual music fans an inspirational and patriotic song for all Americans. In reality the song is a protest against the vietnam war and also against the treatment of US soldiers upon their return to American soil.

So coming into February 16 2017 at the Brisbane Entertainment Center I had not seen Thunder Road performed live for 4 years and Born in the USA for 14 years (Plus had only seen it Acoustic and not with the E Street Band). Bruce and his eight band members enter the stage to a huge reception and the first piano notes of New York City Serenade ring out through the arena. This haunting version plays on for over 12 minutes as the near perfect sound of the E Street band puts the crowd in awe of such music greatness. The pace quickens with Working on a dream and Roll of the Dice. He then made the old Harry Choates song originally recorded in 1946 Jole Blon his own adding the unmistakable E Street sound to the classic.

Photo: Peter Wallis
Photo: Peter Wallis

Played for the first time on this tour was tune Long Time Comin' and then at it's conclusion a young lad was spotted in the crowd by Springsteen. He held a sign that said "Skipped school..already in the shit. Can I play Growin' Up?" so Bruce dragged the young teenager up to play guitar. The main problem I had with this was the young guy also started singing the song as well!. Now I know the new generation are a very confident bunch but this bordered on narcissistic!. No offence lad but I payed my money to hear Bruce sing not you!. Plus I am pretty sure this may have been a publicity stunt for the camera's and the iphones. Hell, everyone does it nowadays to get youtube hits. Anyway the young guy did a good job and seemed to enjoy his ten minutes of fame.

Next up was Out In The Street then came a request from a fan made sign for the classic No Surrender. Let's be honest, who would argue with this choice?. The hits kept on a rollin' with Hungry Heart (Bruce actually crowd surfed, yes you read correctly! Crowd surfed through this song), Mary's Place and a fantastic performance of Fire. Bruce then covered an Elvis Presley performed song Follow That Dream. Springsteen has an amazing ability to add his sound and influence to other people's songs to make them his own. Following this was a song that is unmistakably a Bruce original, The River. Such a classic and one of Springsteen's greatest moments. The show took a political turn with American Skin (41 Shots) inspired by the police shooting death of Amadou Diallo in 1999. Powerful stuff. But still no Thunder Road!.

Photo: Peter Wallis
Photo: Peter Wallis

The next three tracks The Promised Land, Downbound Train and I'm on fire were all impressive and perfect in a way that only Springsteen and the E Street Band can pull off. The song with parts co-written with Patti Smith Because The Night is a classic and is always a highlight in any Bruce show. The constant bombardment of hits didn't slow down with She's The One and then the mega hit Badlands.This tune has that typical Bruce sound that takes you away to another place and resembles a rock n' roll "heaven on earth!". You don't even have to be a "Boss" fan to be swinging away to that song. Rosalita (Come out tonight) closed off the set and if the show ended there not one person would have been upset (even without Thunder Road!).

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Photo: abms1970 @instagram
Photo: abms1970 @instagram

So after pretty much zero intermission the hardest working man in rock reappears to amaze the crowd again with a fan request Jungleland. The band then launch into Born To Run which means we are definately in the home stretch. This classic tune is an iconic Springsteen number and whips the crowd into a frenzy with it's unmistakable hook. Born To Run has ended many a Bruce show before so the end seems near. I had come to the conclusion that Thunder Road was not getting played tonight. Next came another notorious show closer in Dancing In The Dark. Who would blame the Boss for closing the show with two such powerful tunes. I thought there could be a small chance of Born In The USA as last song of the night?. Then came a bonus track Tenth Avenue Freeze Out which Bruce used to introduce the band and pay tribute to the former members that have passed on. Of course Bruce's famous saxaphone legend the late Clarence Clemons' big shoes were filled by his nephew Jake Clemons and former founding member Danny Federici was remembered as well. Gary Tallent was on Bass tonight and was also there at the beginning of the E Street Band. Also on stage tonight were long time members Max Weinberg (Drums), Nils Lofgrin (Guitars and Vocals), Soozie Tyrell (Violin and Vocals) and Steve Van Zandt (Guitars and Vocals). Last time I caught the E Street Band Steve was away doing some acting and Rage Against The Machine's Tom Morello was filling in on guitar. If the E Street Band are not the best band on the planet they sure as hell are close. But wait! There's more!.

Bruce then covered The Isley Brothers hit tune Shout. This tune always goes down well with Aussie fans because of the Australian legend Johnny O' Keefe's cover version. What an excellent way to close out a fantastic show.....the keyboard starts again, the show is not over yet and this is the unmistakable intro of........Thunder Road!!. "The screen door slams, Mary dress sways" sings Bruce. I couldn't believe it. Such a great show comes to an end with my favourite Springsteen song. The wait for Thunder Road was over!.

So on the way out from an amazing Five Star Performance I overheard a punter complaining that the boss didn't play Born In The USA. I to would have liked to hear it but even with it's omission tonight's show was a near perfect display of musical genius.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

5 stars for February 16 2017 Brisbane Entertainment Center

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