The Weekend Australian - Review - - Cover Story -

in time, which was what a ‘ record’ does. It’s the record of your thoughts, feel­ings and ex­pe­ri­ences at a given moment. That came at a moment ob­vi­ously with the ter­ri­ble fi­nan­cial crash, which saw an enor­mous price paid by so many peo­ple when that oc­curred. It was just a ques­tion and a dec­la­ra­tion at the same time. It’s one of those songs that has a lot of dif­fer­ent lay­ers to it.’’

In Oak­land, Spring­steen went out among the crowd gath­er­ing up signs used by fans to write their re­quests. Hits, deep cuts and ob­scu­ri­ties are all called for. In Ana­heim ac­tor Rob Lowe asked to bor­row a pen to make a makeshift sign us­ing a large nap­kin. He asked for a full band ver­sion of The Prom­ise.

A greener fan holds up a plac­ard for Born to Run: Bruce as­sures the au­di­ence they don’t need a sign for that one.

Later in the night he re­vis­its his own rock ’ n’ roll past and lifts a girl out of the au­di­ence to dance with him dur­ing Danc­ing In the Dark. It’s a per­fect moment where a fan meets her idol and whole room is will­ing them on.

‘‘ It’s a rock song now,’’ says Spring­steen of how he has rein­vented the work. ‘‘ We’ve moved it a bit from its pop in­cep­tion — it’s now a more spit-out ver­sion of it than it was on the record. But it still con­tains its essence: it sets the joint alight be­cause it was such a big hit,’’ he adds, laugh­ing.

‘‘ It was a hit be­cause there was some­thing really uni­ver­sal in it. That’s just one of those per­fect pop songs that come out and catch a par­tic­u­lar at­ti­tude and feel­ing at a cer­tain moment. It main­tains its ur­gency, which is the se­cret to any­thing that we play at night.’’

With the pass­ing of time the song car­ries a lit­tle more weight than when it was a synth- driven smash in the mid-80s and to­tally un­like any­thing else in the Spring­steen song­book. ‘‘ It was a song partly about age­ing and ‘ the joke’s on me’ lit­tle bridge is pretty nice. That was an el­e­ment of it, which has al­ways been an el­e­ment of my mu­sic, go­ing back to Thun­der Road and maybe be­fore. Peo­ple tend to for­get that in the 70s the old­est pop mu­si­cians were prob­a­bly 30-some­thing . . . maybe, and that’s the old­est.’’ He laughs. ‘‘ Dy­lan and the Stones were only in their 30s. Those guys are only about six or seven years older than me — it doesn’t feel like much now. It’s a short gen­er­a­tional jump, be­tween the sec­ond and third gen­er­a­tion of rock mu­si­cians. It’s brief.’’

Pol­i­tics is never far from Spring­steen’s con­ver­sa­tion. Spring­steen is a Demo­crat sup­porter, along with Jay Z and Will.I.Am, and his in­put into this year’s elec­tion was seen as cru­cial in giv­ing Barack Obama’s flag­ging cam­paign the lift it re­quired in the fi­nal stages. When he was called, Spring­steen turned up at ral­lies across the coun­try armed with an acous­tic gui­tar and was pre­pared to do his bit.

‘‘[ My involvement] be­gan with the Bush pres­i­dency . . . things got very bad . . . [they were] dire. But it’s nice to be there the night be­fore the day. I al­ways put my two cents in if we are asked. I was glad to be in­volved and cer­tainly glad of the out­come.’’

With Obama’s win so strik­ing, one won­ders whether the US could be on the thresh­old of a new lib­er­al­ism.

‘‘ It’s hard to say,’’ Spring­steen says. ‘‘ Through his­tory [Amer­ica] tends to be a pretty cen­trist coun­try at the end of the day. I think that ob­vi­ously the voter de­mo­graphic is chang­ing dra­mat­i­cally. It cer­tainly af­fected this elec­tion, and you can’t have a po­lit­i­cal party that’s go­ing to suc­ceed while try­ing to just ap­peal to older white males at this point. That’s not go­ing to work.

‘‘ Those changes were ac­knowl­edged as facts, as his­tor­i­cal facts, as a way the coun­try is mov­ing. You can fig­ure that out in the mid-90s in Cal­i­for­nia when I wrote The Ghost of Tom Joad, which was ba­si­cally a record about im­mi­grants, and you could say — you knew in Cal­i­for­nia in the mid-90s that this was the way the rest of the coun­try was go­ing to go 10 or 15 years later. That’s ex­actly what hap­pened.

‘‘ I’d like to think there’s a more pro­gres­sive push — it’s hard to say — I ac­tu­ally felt the Repub­li­can pres­ence was so poor in the elec­tion. It was sad. The coun­try needs de­bate and ex­change about dif­fer­ent ways of do­ing things. But I think this elec­tion was a wa­ter­mark and ac­knowl­edg­ment that the coun­try is chang­ing.’’

An hour af­ter show­time, the stage is be­ing pulled down and about to be shipped to the next city. Spring­steen is back in his civil­ian clothes, tired but glow­ing like a man half his age. Thirty odd years ago he said it best: ‘‘ When you get out there man . . . you gotta be rockin!’’ Sparks fly on E Street.

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