Clarence Clemons (1942-2011)

It is painful to think that Clarence Clemons’ sax will never be heard again. I only saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band play once, on the 22nd of March 2003 at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The experience was simultaneously unforgettable and disappointing, both for the audience and, I would imagine, the band, who have not ventured so far south since. The best efforts of Springsteen, Clemons and the rest were thwarted by the SCG’s horrific acoustics and a sound system which, whether due to interference from eastern suburbs cell phones or gremlins, repeatedly conked out entirely. The silver lining was a very special treat, a big, shaggy rendition of “Rosalita,” the only time it was played on the Australian part of their tour. During the sudden intervals of silence when the machinery broke down, the band kept playing, either in the hope that the malfunction would be brief, or because the huge E Street sound, like a locomotive, takes some time to come to a complete stop. Clemons, of course, who needed no amplifier, was so intrinsic to that sound that you anticipated his roaring solos even when he wasn’t playing.

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