Bruce Springsteen and Barnsey unite at Hanging Rock

Two working class heroes were united last night during a spectacular set under the stars at Hanging Rock in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges.

About nine songs into yet another three-hour set, Bruce Springsteen invited Jimmy Barnes on stage for a warm rendition of ‘Tougher Than The Rest’ from 1987’s Tunnel Of Love. The Boss may’ve looked a little uncomfortable sharing the mic, but for Barnsey it was a moment for the scrapbook. Earlier, during his support set, he confessed to revering The Boss since he first heard him back in 1973.

Introduced as “Australia’s greatest rock singer” by promoter and the afternoon’s MC Michael Gudinski, Barnes yelled his way through a well-received “greatest hits” set that included Chisel classics ‘Khe Sanh’ and ‘Flame Trees’, ‘80s radio mainstays ‘Ride The Night Away’ and ‘No Second Prize’, and signature song ‘Working Class Man’.

But for all his huffing and puffing, the gulf between these two elder statesmen of rock was apparent from the moment The Boss ripped into ‘Badlands’ from arguably his greatest album, Darkness On The Edge Of Town. That was followed by yet another Darkness classic, ‘Prove It All Night’, featuring a dizzying solo by the top-hatted Nils Lofgren, before the 17,000-strong crowd even had time to draw a breath.

Time and time again, the 63-year-old Springsteen reminded us of the enduring power of rock’n’roll. He pulled out every stadium rock trick in the book – from embracing crowd members as if they were long lost friends to crowd-surfing and taking requests (‘The River’, ‘Atlantic City’, ‘If I Should Fall Behind’ and ‘Johnny 99’). He has that unique capacity to make everyone feel counted and connected – even those sitting on picnic rugs way up in the back. And he certainly doesn’t need pyrotechnics or an elaborate stage set-up to illuminate his performance. His presence, showmanship and sense of timing are rare and innate.

Springsteen was backed as always by his E Street Band, which has swelled to 16 members, including old faces (Lofgren, bassist Garry Tallent, pianist Roy Bittan and drummer Max Weinberg) and new ones (Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello ably deputising for Stevie Van Zandt, and Jake Clemons replacing his sadly departed uncle Clarence on sax). Morello, in particular, has been the surprise packet of this tour. While he confessed last week to not knowing all of the material – with a 17-album back catalogue to learn in three months, can you blame him? – he’s slotted seamlessly into this well-oiled machine. He’s mostly curtailed his trademark scratching and histrionics, but was given free reign on ‘The Ghost Of Tom Joad’, which was elevated from plaintive folk ballad to something else entirely.

The E Street Band has one more show left – a repeat performance tonight at Hanging Rock – before they head off to Europe to wind up their “Wrecking Ball” world tour. Michael Gudinski has called this the greatest tour his company, Frontier, has ever been involved with. And with nine sold-out shows, 76 different songs and three-hour-plus performances each night, who’s to argue.

(Photos by Darren Levin)

Hanging Rock setlist, March 30:


Prove It All Night

High Hopes

We Take Care of Our Own

Wrecking Ball

Death to My Hometown

Hungry Heart

Spirit in the Night

Tougher Than the Rest

The River

Atlantic City

Johnny 99

Pay Me My Money Down

Darlington County

Shackled and Drawn

Waitin’ On A Sunny Day

The Promised Land

The Rising

The Ghost of Tom Joad

Thunder Road


If I Should Fall Behind

Because the Night

Born to Run

Glory Days

Dancing in the Dark

Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out