me & The Boss.
heads up, i have a halloween art surprise thing for you coming tomorrow.
greetings from a plane bound for berlin, we just left vienna. whitney and justine and le bébé are all asleep beside me and it feels like i’m alone (sort of) for the first time in two weeks. i fired up my guardian app before we took off and came across this article on brice springsteen i wanted to share with you guys. it didn’t make me want to run out and buy the book, but it’s a beautiful piece of human music journalism and a lot of it resonated, especially the parts about being with a community of fans and having children as a music workaholic….
i have to shamefully admit that i paid no attention to bruce springsteen until a few years ago. as a child of the early eighties that bandana-in-jeans album was obnoxiously ubiquitous, and i never listened to it. it sat on the shelf of the record store next to guns n’ roses and whitesnake filed under “music not for you”.
i assumed (i assumed a lot of things) that it was just boring guitar-man-music like the rest of the crap on the radio. i never actually listened to the lyrics of “born in the USA”. i assumed they were patriotic drivel. yes: i am a bad person.
then in around 2005 i was hanging out with my german goth/punk friend david, and he mentioned that one of his favorite albums was “nebraska”..by bruce springsteen. i was like – how is that possible? isn’t bruce springsteen like whitesnake and guns n’ roses? oh amanda, he said. you fucking idiot. no.
in a basement club in boston, not long after that, i saw a piano player hush out a rendition of “i’m on fire” that stopped me dead in my tracks. those lyrics. and i speak piano. i finally got it. i bought nebraska, and others, and caught up on my springsteen – and listened to it without the filter of anti guitar-man teenage judgement. i’d been wrong.
(was i also wrong about whitesnake? don’t try to convince me please).
then, two years ago, while i was working on “the art of asking” manuscript in australia, i was offered free tickets by a local promoter to see bruce springsteen at the melbourne enormodome. i asked fiona if she wanted to join me and off we went. i had no idea what to expect. as we waited for him to take stage i looked around me. 25,000 australians were waiting to see this man play. how had i missed this? i couldn’t think of a single friend of mine who’d ever mentioned seeing him live. some fandoms just haven’t crossed my little bubble. but this seemed to enormous to have not noticed. no matter.
he played a beautiful set of music, and i finally fully got it. he played for over three hours, clearly taking ecstatic joy in every moment, including the inviting of two drunk australian men in drag (and matching pink wigs) to dance on stage with him during “dancing in the dark”. he was what i’d call an Enlightened Performer. if it’s work, it’s work, but it’s work he so fully enjoys that it’s not work…like any work should be. he celebrated the moment, his band, the fans, there was a humility about him that stretched to the back row of the enormodome. the only other performer i’ve seen show such incredibly grace and graciousness in a giant venue was leonard cohen, who literally performs with his hat in his hand, against his chest. grateful for every bit of applause after every song. such a contrast to most rock stars. with, not above or apart. in flow.
i have moments like that, and i had one the night before last in vienna. it’s been a long time since i’ve been on tour, and i started this tour relatively off my game having barely practiced before i hit the road. brighton, liverpool and edinburgh got to see me stumbling over my own playing and choices. by the time we got to vienna for our two-show day i was feeling somewhat more ready to entertain a room full of people with nothing but a mic and a piano and a ukulele. the 4 pm show was a beautiful, silly celebration, and by the time doors opened for the 8 pm show, i was warmed up. it was also the first show with NO CURFEW, which is something i keep forgetting to remember to make a non-negotiable must when i’m booking shows. brice must do it. i don’t like having to look at the clock between every song, especially when i’m playing requests and losing myself in a story that sometimes takes ten minutes to tell.
i kept asking if people were tired of standing. by 10:45 they’d been standing for four hours. no, they said, and asked me to keep on playing. i didn’t need much encouragement.
this is what i love about touring solo, and what i can’t do with a full band, or the dresden dolls, or an orchestra or symphony. just sit there and make shit up and play for hours. i fucking love it. at the 8pm show, as the hour got late, i mentioned from stage that i had read in the news that bruce springsteen had broken the 4-hour set barrier. perhaps we would beat him.
we didn’t. all in all the second set lasted over 3 hours, and i clocked 5.5 hours at the microphone that night. my left thumb was bleeding, my voice was a wreck, my neck hurt, but my god it was so wonderful to just play, play, play, and drink wine, and take requests and be with a room full of 800 viennese people who felt like family. i signed after both shows and was so happy to find out that a ton of vienna is on the patreon. if you were there, or you’re here…same same. THANK YOU.
this does all make me want to thing a 24-hour marathon concert and webcast it.
“….not a lot of rock bands concentrate on joy.”
why the fuck is that, eh?
bring it on.
amen, michael hann. beautifully done.
here’s the set list from vienna, shows #1 & 2. thanks to whitney for jotting it all down, god knows i’d never be able to keep track.
—4 pm show—-
ich bau dir ein schloß
in my mind
map of tasmania
Killing type (request)
Bad habit (request)
Grown man cry (request)
—-8 pm show —-
ich bau dir ein schloß
Map of Tasmania
-long explanation of forthcoming song-
A mother’s confession (epic request)
-rant about american gun control-
Strength through music
-long divulgement about making a record-
1/2 jack (request)
-love-letter to john grant-
In my mind
Bigger on the inside (weeping).
Ukulele anthem (in the middle of the crowd).
ps. photo of the crowd in vienna during “ukulele anthem” at the 8 pm show by hannah (@httr_), via twitter.
p.p.s if you’re iN LONDON – meow meow has a career-pinnacle show at royal festival hall in two days at royal festival hall and there are magically still tickets. GO. http://Lpo.org.uk/meowmeow
as always, click through this email to comment. if you got Boss stories, here’s the place. i’m reading.