Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Springsteen’

Steven Tucson Train single

Bruce Springsteen released hisWestern Stars album in June, and in September, Little Steven Van Zandt became the first E Street Band member to perform one of its songs, live, singing “Tucson Train” at a show with his Disciples of Soul band at Tucson’s Rialto Theatre. Van Zandt and the Disciples of Soul have performed the song at other shows since then, too, and have now released a live version as a single. You can listen to it below.

It’s a somewhat different interpretation of the song from Springsteen’s. While “Tucson Train” is one of the most optimistic songs on Western Stars, Springsteen still sounds a bit world-weary and restrained on it. Buoyed by his big Disciples of Soul band, and especially its powerful horn section, Van Zandt’s version is more exuberant.

Springsteen released “Tucson Train” on his 2019 album, Western Stars. It was also released as the album’s second single, two weeks before the album itself came out.

“Tucson Train” is No. 14 on NJArts.net’s list of the Top 70 Springsteen songs of the last 30 years (the second highest-ranking Western Stars song, after “Moonlight Motel”.

A consensus pick as one of the best nights on the Reunion tour, Los Angeles 23/10/99 brings it wire to wire, from the show-opening invocation “Meeting In The Town Tonight” into “Take ‘Em As They Come” through the rare, delightful closer “Blinded By The Light.” Other highlights of this peak Reunion set include “The Ties That Bind,” “Darkness On The Edge Of Town,” “The Promised Land,” “Incident On 57th Street,” “For You,” “Backstreets” “Light Of Day” (detouring briefly for a romp through “California Sun”) and the first solo piano version of “The Promise” in a formal concert since 1978.

Any longtime fan who has seen their fair share of Springsteen shows has at some point played the Time Machine game: If you could go back in time and see any Bruce concert, which would it be? A wish to witness tours and performances well before our time is a charming fantasy. More painful is taking stock of the shows you could have seen but didn’t.

This release of 23/10/99 confirms it is justified. The final LA ‘99 show is an outstanding Reunion tour performance, from the moment “Reverend” Clarence Clemons implores, “Brothers and Sisters, all rise” to start the show. There’s something special about Reunion sets that open with the “Meeting in the Town Tonight” preamble, and going from that straight into “Take ‘Em as They Come” is irresistible. The River outtake/Tracks highlight is one of those songs I never imagined I would hear in concert .

The elements that made the Reunion tour so enthralling. The band was back together for the first time since ‘88, but they were also playing unreleased songs I never dreamed possible in a Springsteen concert. Add to that the return of songs unplayed since the ‘70s and you had the intoxicating belief that any song could find its way into a Reunion tour setlist.

The first half of the set nails the ‘99 blueprint, with the notable inclusions of an excellent “The Ties That Bind” following “Take ‘Em,” a resolute “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” and one of the best takes of “Factory” on the tour. It’s fascinating how distinct this “Adam Raised a Cain” is compared to the performance from the Chicago ‘99 archive release recorded less than a month before, putting more muscle into thick guitar where Chi-Town soared on incredible vocal dynamics.

Then there’s the humor. I’m not sure Bruce has ever been more deadpan than delivering jokes expressing his disdain for the corporate branding of LA’s state-of-the-art arena. “Good evening office supply lovers,” he says. “I’ve been searching for Mr. Staples.” On opening night of the run, he called out the building for its triple-decker skyboxes that start where upper bowl of a typical arena would be. “They don’t call ’em middle-of-the-room boxes,” he added, before invoking a line he famously uttered at The Roxy 21 years prior: “I don’t play no private parties anymore.” True to his word, despite Staples Center being the newest and biggest arena in Los Angeles, Bruce has not played another concert there to this day.

Every archive release provides an HD window to hear details otherwise lost on bootleg recordings and 10/23/99 is no exception. Though they are but a few seconds each, I love hearing Danny Federici’s organ swells at the start of “Murder Incorporated” and “Incident on 57th Street.” HD quality also shines a light on Roy Bittan’s lovely playing on the aforementioned “Factory,” not to mention Bruce and Patti’s lilting harmonies that wind down the song.

The back half of 10/23/99 is sensational. By request, we get “Incident on 57th Street.” This Wild & Innocent fan favorite returned to the set in Philadelphia on 9/25/99 for the first time since Nassau ‘80, but its appearance here is arguably even more special. Based on available setlists, Springsteen had never played the song on the west coast, let alone LA, going all the way back to 1974. For all but a lucky few, this was its Pacific Time Zone debut.

“Incident” is followed by an essentially perfect “For You,” which couldn’t be played better in ‘99 (maybe any year) than this. The pacing, the vocal intonation, the band, the spirit, Max’s cymbal work, the Big Man’s sax… all are spot on. A divine performance. The feeling of seeing the band leave stage and Bruce walking back to Roy’s piano by himself for a performance of the Promise, starting slightly tentative on piano then gaining composure. Bruce sings with a touch of weariness, taking time to let his words land and ultimately restoring one of his greatest compositions to the canon.

Bruce could do no wrong from that point forward, and he didn’t. Like “For You,” we’re gifted a remarkably timeless “Backstreets,” steeped with Bittan’s expressive piano. Setlist normalcy returns for the end of the set and the encore, delivered with high-gear intensity. “Light of Day” is extra fun, with a quick romp through “California Sun” (made famous by The Rivieras) by way of the memorable guitar riff from Johnny Rivers’ “Secret Agent Man.”

As the last show in LA, /23/99 is definitely a “one more song” kind of night. To the delight of every office supply lover in the building, we’re treated to “Blinded By the Light,” in only its second performance since 1976. Though arguably Bruce’s most famous song pre-Born to Run (largely because of the Manfred Mann cover), the song has a spotty performance history even back in the day. Its celebratory, playful appearance seals the night with a fitting E Street kiss goodnight.

words by Erik Flanagan

Bruce Springsteen – Lead vocals, guitar, harmonica, piano; Roy Bittan – Piano, keyboards; Clarence Clemons – Tenor and baritone saxophones, percussion, backing vocal; Danny Federici – Organ, keyboards; Nils Lofgren – Guitar, pedal steel; Patti Scialfa – Guitar, percussion, backing vocal; Garry Tallent – Bass; Stevie Van Zandt – Electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, backing vocal; Max Weinberg – Drums

Bruce Springsteen’s feature-length directorial debut, Western Stars” opens in movie theaters on October 25th (after limited early screenings on the 19th and 23rd). In the movie, Springsteen performs all the songs from his latest album in his hundred-year-old barn. Springsteen said that the point of the film, which also includes new interviews and archival footage, was to “to get some of the music live to an audience.”

Springsteen was backed by a band and full orchestra for this performance, which took place at Stone Hill Farm in Colts Neck, N.J. He called that the perfect setting during the Western Stars premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.

“The [2018] album and the film are both about this fading Western movie B-level star who’s looking back on his life and the decisions he’s made,” said Cameron Bailey, artistic director of the Toronto International Film Festival where the movie debuted. “That narrative and that character shape all the songs. In between the songs, you’ve got Bruce really talking about this character he invented, the story he wrote for the character, and how it reflects back on his own life as he ages and other kind of narratives he’s had in his previous albums.”

Now, the music from the film can be enjoyed outside of the cinema.

On October 25th, Springsteen will release Western Stars: Songs From the Film. It features the live versions of all 13 songs from the album, plus a rousing cover of Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy.” The audio was mixed by Bob Clearmountain and mastered by Bob Ludwig, the same duo behind Springsteen on Broadway.

Bruce Springsteen, “Western Stars: Songs From the Film” (Columbia, 2019)

  1. Hitch Hikin’
  2. The Wayfarer
  3. Tucson Train
  4. Western Stars
  5. Sleepy Joe’s Cafe
  6. Drive First (The Stuntman)
  7. Chasin’ Wild Horses
  8. Sundown
  9. Somewhere North of Nashville
  10. Stones
  11. There Goes My Miracle
  12. Hello Sunshine
  13. Moonlight Motel
  14. Rhinestone Cowboy

Less than a month before the release of his physically and sonically mega box set Live/1975-85, Bruce went completely the opposite direction, stripping down to play his first all-acoustic set since 1972 at what would become Neil Young’s annual Bridge School Benefit Concert.

During a guest DJ session on E Street Radio, Nils Lofgren recounted getting a call from Bruce to join him for the Bridge (Lofgren was also on the bill as a solo artist). Along with Danny Federici, the trio worked up and rehearsed the set in a New York City studio in early October 1986. But as Nils tells it, in an anecdote that conveys deep admiration for the confidence and prowess of his bandleader, on show day at Shoreline, Bruce called a major setlist audible. It wouldn’t be enough to merely play acoustic; Springsteen would go one step further and open the show a capella.

Here was the biggest rock star in the world, last seen 12 months earlier wrapping his staggeringly successful Born in the U.S.A. tour in front of 85,000 fans at the LA Coliseum, taking the stage and singing “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)” accompanied only by his snapping fingers. Nils described Bruce’s audacious performance as Elvis-like in its physicality, and grainy bootleg video of the show confirms that. What an entrance.

The Bridge ’86 is a special show. The short but oh-so-sweet set reconnected Springsteen with acoustic performance and can be viewed in hindsight as helping spur a decade or more of solo appearances like the Christic concerts and acoustic recordings like The Ghost of Tom Joad that followed.

The line-up for the inaugural Bridge benefit included Bruce, Nils, Don Henley, Robin Williams (who briefly referenced his famous “Elmer Fudd does Bruce Springsteen” bit during his stand-up set that night), Tom Petty, and host Neil Young (who had his own special guests in Crosby, Stills & Nash). Not unlike the M.U.S.E./No Nukes shows, another benefit where some of these same artists shared a bill, “Broocing” throughout the concert made it clear who most of the audience had come to see.

Following “You Can Look,” Bruce delivers an astounding rebuttal to the jingoistic appropriation that surrounded the title track of his last album. “This is a song about the snake that came around and began to eat its tail,” Bruce says introducing his first public airing of the original solo acoustic arrangement of “Born in the U.S.A.” Any misconstruing of or ambiguity as to the song’s meaning is vanquished over the next five minutes in a spellbinding performance. Until the Bridge, one could only speculate as to what “Born in the U.S.A.” would have sounded like on Nebraska. Now we know.

Nils and Danny then take the stage, and we get an exquisitely rare outing for this E Street Trio. What magic they weave. “Seeds” arrives as a companion to “Born in the U.S.A.” Angry and defiant in 1985, the 1986 model of “Seeds” is instead weary and knowing, sounding like a tune from a bygone era. “Darlington County” is next, preceded by a mini-edition of the story that introduced “Open All Night” in 1984 of Bruce getting pulled over on the turnpike. Nils provides charming harmony vocals throughout the show, none better than what he offers here, as “Darlington” takes its time driving down from New York City.

Strumming and singing brightly, Lofgren shines again on “Mansion on the Hill,” as does Federici. Danny first vamps a little “Lady of Spain,” as Bruce gets his guitar ready, then adds rich accordion swells that paint the song an emotionally tinged hue.

“Fire” will be familiar to those who own Video Anthology on VHS or DVD, where the Bridge version was showcased. Before it starts, Danny is again tapped to fill time due to minor technical difficulties, and he drops a dose of Duke Ellington’s “Satin Doll.” Uncannily, Federici used the song in much the same manner in the earliest E Street days circa 1973-74. Though “Fire” is rightly remembered as a Clarence Clemons showcase, the acoustic version, carried by Bruce’s deep vocal, is pure delight, peaking when Lofgren and Springsteen raise their voices way up to sing, “your words they liiiiiie.”

“Dancing in the Dark” rides a particularly passionate lead vocal along with some fine accordion work from Federici in the final third that pushes the Shoreline audience towards rapture. “Glory Days” always had a bit of a campfire singalong vibe underneath it, and that comes through in this charming take that has the swooning audience joining in.

Serving as something of an encore, “Follow That Dream” lends poignancy to the evening as Springsteen dedicates the song to Neil and Pegi Young. In its River tour incarnation (as heard on the London ’81 archive release) “Follow That Dream” is stark and solemn. In 1986, it transforms into an uplifting song of hope, performed less as a mediation and more as an instruction.

For the final song of the set, “Hungry Heart,” the trio is expanded with backing vocals and guitar from special guests David Crosby, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, and Young, putting a spirited ending on just under an hour of acoustic enchantment.

Bridge School ’86 is a significant moment in the rebirth Springsteen as an acoustic artist. Since that show, Bruce has done two fully acoustic tours and a Broadway run that carried on in the spirit of ’86. Perhaps someday, Bridge School ’86 could still inspire an E Street Trio tour as well.

Words by By Erik Flannigan

Western stars

Bruce Springsteen’s first new studio album in five years takes his music to a new place, drawing inspiration in part from the Southern California pop records of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. It was recorded primarily at Springsteen’s home studio in New Jersey, with additional recording in California and New York. “This record is a return to my solo recordings featuring character driven songs and sweeping, cinematic orchestral arrangements,” says Springsteen. “It’s a jewel box of a record.” Introduced by lead single “Hello Sunshine”, the 13 tracks of Western Stars encompass a sweeping range of American themes, of highways and desert spaces, of isolation and community and the permanence of home and hope. Ron Aniello co-produced and plays bass, keyboard, and other instruments. Patti Scialfa provides vocals and contributes vocal arrangements on four tracks. The musical arrangements include strings, horns, pedal steel and contributions from more than 20 other players including Jon Brion (celeste, Moog, farfisa), as well as guest appearances by David Sancious, Charlie Giordano, and Soozie Tyrell.

A new Bruce Springsteen record is always an event, but we haven’t had a new album of original material since 2012’s Wrecking Ball and we haven’t had a solo album since 2005’s Devils & Dust, so this feels extra special.

Here is everything you need to know about The Boss’s new effort Western Stars 

Though it’s been a little while since we had a new album proper from Springsteen, he’s not exactly been idle. He’s undertaken three world tours, grossing over $700 million between them, published his hugely acclaimed autobiography and headlined a Broadway show, appropriately named “Springsteen On Broadway”.

Originally intended to run for just six weeks, demand for tickets was so high that the show was extended again and again, finally reaching its conclusion in December last year after a staggering 14-month run. A live album was released to celebrate the show, which has also sold handsomely.

Somewhere, at the end of that process, Springsteen began to talk up plans for his new album, an album that arrives in store today (June 14th).

Ron Aniello, who has worked with Springsteen on 2012’s Wrecking Ball and 2014’s High Hopes, is back at the mixing desk for this new record. He co-produces with Springsteen himself.

Over 20 musicians have helped Springsteen out on this album, including original E Street Band keyboard player David Sancious and violinist Soozie Tyrell and organist Charlie Giordano.

Also featured is Jon Brion, whose credits include Kanye West and Fiona Apple. Springsteen’s wife and E Street bandmate Patti Scialfa has also helped out, providing a series of vocal arrangements.

As well as this, Aniello’s playing is all over the album, he provides bass, keyboards and more besides.

Western Stars finds Springsteen in a reflective mood and a long way away from the bombastic colour of High Hopes. Springsteen has talked up his love of Burt Bacharach and the pop music that came out of California in the late 1960s and early 1970s and it’s all over this album.

This is elegant, reflective Americana. It’s delicate, windswept pop, buffeted by Springsteen’s biting lyrics.

This isn’t a record for the casual Springsteen fan. There are no romping anthems or stadium fillers, but it’s a delightful record, one that will demand repeated listens and yield more and more every time. Devotees, of which there are millions, will adore it.

Image may contain: 1 person, car

The march towards Bruce Springsteen’s 19th studio LP release continues. Bruce has shared another track from the upcoming album “Western Stars” “Tuscon Train,” an expansive ode to escapes that don’t leave everything behind. After outrunning his “darkness,” our narrator now finds himself pausing, waiting for his love to catch up—”I’m wailing down at the station,” he sings, “Just praying to the five-fifteen/I’ll wait all God’s creation Just to show her a man can change”—while our 69-year-old rocker leans, again, into his Western influences.

Springsteen hasn’t released a new collection of original material in seven years but the rocker’s hardly been resting on his laurels. The past several years have seen him celebrate the 35th anniversary of his 1980 LP, The River, with a massive tour with the E Street Band as well release his highly regarded memoir, Born to Run. He then adapted the work for a lengthy stint on Broadway, which kicked off in October 2017 and stretched halfway through the following year.

So far, he has also shared the forlorn “There Goes My Miracle” and the reflective “Hello Sunshine,” named one of the best songs of 2019. Western Stars is due out June 14th, and while thematic details remain sparse, Springsteen seems to be steadying his gaze on the grittier, more difficult corners of his mind and personality—something he’s comes to terms with throughout his life.

“I have come close enough to [mental illness] where I know I am not completely well myself,” the singer and songwriter confessed in 2018 . “I’ve had to deal with a lot of it over the years, and I’m on a variety of medications that keep me on an even keel; otherwise I can swing rather dramatically and . . . just . . . the wheels can come off a little bit. So we have to watch, in our family. I have to watch my kids, and I’ve been lucky there. It ran in my family going way before my dad.”

Western Stars is Springsteen’s first album since 2014’s High Hopes. Expanding on his upcoming album, Springsteen said, “This record is a return to my solo recordings featuring character driven songs and sweeping, cinematic orchestral arrangements. It’s a jewel box of a record.”

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bruce springsteen there goes my miracle, bruce springsteen, bruce springsteen western stars, bruce springsteen new album

Bruce Springsteen is gearing up to release his first new album in five years, Western Starsdue out on June 14th via Columbia Records. The solo album marks Springsteen’s first collection of new, original songs since 2012’s Wrecking Ball. He had previously released an album of covers and re-worked originals, High Hopes, in 2014.

Following the release of the album’s lead single, “Hello Sunshine”, Springsteen has shared “There Goes My Miracle”, the second single from his forthcoming Western StarsLP. “There Goes My Miracle” features some impressive vocal arrangements from The Boss along with a lush string section. “There Goes My Miracle” features a lush and orchestral arrangement, with melodic detours more reminiscent of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds than Glen Campbell, even though some electronic drums show up midway through the bridge.

Much like Springsteen’s previous two albums, Ron Aniello produced the project in addition to playing bass, keyboard and other instruments during the tracking sessions. Western Stars also features work from over 20 musicians, including original E Street Band keyboard player David Sancious and violinist Soozie Tyrell, as well as organist Charlie Giordano, who currently plays with the group. Jon Brion, who’s best known for his work with Kanye West and Fiona Apple, also contributed in playing celeste, Moog, and Farfisa to the album. Springsteen’s wife and E Street bandmate Patti Scialfa is responsible for the vocal arrangements on four songs and contributes her vocals on several others. It’s uncertain whether Springsteen will tour in support of his forthcoming album. Recently, while chatting with Martin Scorsese at a Netflix event in Los Angeles, Springsteen revealed “I wrote almost an album’s worth of material for the band. And it came out of just … I mean, I know where it came from, but at the same time, it just came out of almost nowhere. And it was good, you know?”

He noted that it woke him out of a seven-year stretch where he was doubting the prospect of any new music. He said was relieved after the “little daily visitations” of creativity. “You go, Fuck, I’m not fucked, all right?” he said. “There’ll be another tour!”

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band have been off the road since their Working on a Dream tour wrapped in 2017.

Western Stars arrives on June 14.

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen recently surprised the attendees at the Asbury Park Music and Film Festival by announcing that he would be releasing a concert film from the epic show that The Boss delivered to a 2006 Fest pummeled, bruised and beaten by Hurricane Katrina just eight months prior.

This was the first time Bruce had debuted his Seeger Sessions Bands, and there are many people that would argue that it was one of the most important sets ever delivered during the entire history of the festival. Springsteen devotes four full pages of “Born to Run” to his 2006 Jazz Fest experience. For many of those who stood on the Acura Stage field at the Fair Grounds that day, Springsteen’s show was a watershed event, an emotional meeting of music and moment.

He apparently felt the same way. He prefaces his account with, “There was one show in America that stood out as not only one of the finest but one of the most meaningful of my work life: New Orleans.”

He recounts arriving at the Fair Grounds at 8:30 a.m. for a sound check before the festival opened. U2 guitarist The Edge, an old friend, was there bright and early, as well, watching from the side of the Acura Stage as the Seeger Sessions Band rehearsed. He concludes, “I’ve played, many, many, many shows, but few like this one. …You cannot book, manufacture or contrive these dates. It’s a matter of moment, place, need, and a desire to serve in your own small way the events of the day. There, in New Orleans, there was a real job to do.”

Springsteen emphasizes how critical performing is to his existence; it is his primary drug. “I’ve never gotten anywhere near as far or as high as when I count the band in and feel what seems like all life itself and a small flash of eternity pulsing through me. It’s the way I’m built.”

Springsteen said he to release a film of his April 30th, 2006 performance with the Seeger Sessions Band at the New Orleans JazzFest. He considers that show, he said, to be among his Top 5, ever. He also said, about that rootsy Seeger Sessions project, “I wanna do that again sometime.”

Bruce Springsteen ranking that show as quite likely the best, and certainly most emotional, musical experience.

As Bruce Springsteen led his sprawling Seeger Sessions Band onto the Acura Stage on the Sunday, he confessed to a hint of trepidation. “It’s our first gig, ” he said. “Let’s hope it goes well.” Moments later, he encountered a “technical problem” with his pants. Grinning, the embarrassed Boss turned his back to the vast audience and made the necessary adjustments. “It’s not just a new band, ” he later explained, “but a new belt.”

That was his first, and final, glitch. For two hours, Springsteen and his glorious Seeger Sessions ensemble — six horns, a banjo, accordion, pedal steel, fiddles, piano — rendered vintage folk and protest songs stirringly alive and relevant in a tour de force performance. Like few others in popular music could, he crafted a show that spoke eloquently to the city’s struggles, both welcome distraction and poignant reminder.

The opening “O Mary Don’t You Weep” set the tone. Springsteen led, then the full ensemble swung in behind him. A muted trumpet, a trombone and a saloon piano all took solos. Springsteen, as usual, heaved himself into the material at hand. The gravel in his voice stamped a ragged glory on “John Henry” over banjos and accordion. “Old Dan Tucker” and “Open All Night” were each a hoot. Big horn swells lit up a gritty “Jesse James.”

The best folk songs transcend time. In the old Irish anti-war ballad “Mrs. McGrath, “ a cannonball claims her son’s “two fine legs”; it could just as easily have been an improvised explosive device.

Certain lyrics resonated more directly for locals: “There’ll be better times by and by.” “God gave Noah a rainbow sign, no more water, but fire next time.” “The bank holds my mortgage and they want to take my house away.” “The only thing we did right was the day we started to fight.” And it was easy to imagine “Louisiana” swapped into the lyrics to “My Oklahoma Home, ” which was “blown away” in a natural disaster.

In his most overtly political statement, Springsteen recalled his visit the previous afternoon to the 9th Ward. “I saw some sights I never thought I’d see in an American city, ” he said. “The criminal ineptitude makes you furious.” In response, he adapted Blind Alfred Reed’s “How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live” with new lyrics dedicated to “President Bystander”: “My old school pals had some high times there/What happened to you folks is too bad, ” he sang, mocking President Bush’s comments in the early days after Hurricane Katrina.

The set’s watershed moment, literally, was “My City of Ruins.” Originally written for his adopted hometown of Asbury Park, N.J., he dedicated it to New Orleans. To a hushed audience, Springsteen closed his eyes and began: “There’s a blood red circle on the cold dark ground, and the rain is falling down/The church door’s blown open, I can hear the organ’s sound, but the congregation’s gone . . . the boarded-up windows, the hustlers and the thieves, while my brother’s down on his knees . . . now tell me how do I began again? My city of ruins. . .” And then the refrain: “Come on, rise up! Rise up!” Thousands lifted their hands to the sky.

Just as quickly, Springsteen kicked back into good-time gear with “Buffalo Gals” and a zydeco rubboard and accordion reimagining of “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch), “ from his 1980 album, “The River.” A tuba, improbably enough, was the final instrument onstage before the encore at a Springsteen show.

Then he presented one last gift. A hundred bands in New Orleans, Springsteen said, could play this last song better than he. But he had come across two lesser-known verses that he thought might be appropriate. With that, he unspooled “When the Saints Go Marching In, “ not as a boisterous, high-kicking second-line, but as an acoustic prayer, delivered in a desperate hour. Face clenched, he sought the promised land: “Now some say this world of trouble is the only world we’ll ever see/But I’m waiting for that moment when the new world is revealed.”

No other artist could have spoken to, and for, the city of New Orleans at this most important of Jazzfests more purposefully, more passionately and more effectively than Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band.

Bruce Springsteen - July 25, 1992

Performing with his new band in front of eager hometown fans, Springsteen goes the extra mile in this spirited set showcasing songs from Human Touch and Lucky Town along with a few special treats. New Jersey 1992 delivers 13 songs from the two albums, from “Living Proof” and “Souls Of The Departed” to “Real Man” and “All Or Nothin’ At All.” It also features the tour’s only performance of the gospel gem “Ninety-Nine And A Half (Won’t Do)” showcasing the background singers, plus a unique solo-to-band arrangement of “Open All Night” that hilariously updates the turnpike tale.

The 11-night stand at the Meadowlands Arena to kick off the 1992 U.S. tour was a bold statement of intent. It’s surely intentional that it was one show more than the famed ten-show run at the same venue in 1984, the difference being that this time Bruce was coming home with new friends, not familiar ones. Touring for the first time without the E Street Band and playing in front of what are arguably his most diehard fans is a daunting proposition. But with opening night jitters out of the way, the second show on July 25th, 1992 offers a hungry, highly entertaining performance that plays to the new lineup’s gospel-meets-roots-rock strengths.

Right from the top, Bruce is wholly committed and in stellar voice, his rich timbre leading the strong show-opening trio of “Better Days,” “Local Hero” (complete with local landmark namechecks to show his Garden State cred remained intact), and “Lucky Town.”

Bruce’s new musical collaborators “wouldn’t have looked out of place on stage with [Bob] Dylan circa 1978-81,” and that particular Dylan-era frame of reference applies to the music, too, as the approach to both new and old material was to make it more soulful while still rock ’n’ roll. The playing of the core band (Shane Fontayne on guitar, Tommy Sims on bass, and Zack Alford on drums) with a full European tour already under their belts is punchy and tight, while the background singers add gospel gravitas to the proceedings–an appealing combination.

Even on familiar material, these off-E Street versions don’t sound quite as “different” 27 years on, in a good way. The opening set features a first-rate “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” an eloquent reading of “The River” with a long, heart-heavy harmonica outro, and an inspired tour debut for “Open All Night.”

Aimed squarely at this turnpike audience, “Open All Night” starts solo and builds to full band in a manner that may suggest what the unreleased “Electric Nebraska”version sounded like ten years prior. Better still, in the middle of the song, Bruce tells an updated version of the yarn he spun on the Born in the U.S.A. tour, noting the closure of his beloved Howard Johnson’s and a reunion with the waitress at Bob’s Big Boy who reminds him her restaurant is still “open all night.” Good fun.

The first set wraps with four key tracks from the new albums, wrapped around a deeply personal “My Hometown,” introduced with an earnest story about parenting and dedicated from one relatively new dad to all the “moms and pops.” A dynamic performance of “Living Proof” again shows the song to be Bruce’s most powerful from the era. “Leap of Faith” is endearing and infectious thanks in large part to the singers, while the Sam and Dave-style vocal duet with Bobby King on “Man’s Job” raises it from catchy ditty to heartfelt homage. A feature-length “Roll of the Dice” wraps a spirited and undeniably entertaining first act.

After the break, the rarely performed “All or Nothin’ at All” proves a fine set opener and gets the energy of the show right back on track. It’s the one song from Human Touch that sounds like it could be a Born in the U.S.A. outtake, a spiritual cousin to the likes of “I’m Goin’ Down.” The crowd enjoys it too, singing along in full voice when tasked to do so. Having been played in concert fewer than a dozen times, its inclusion here is a welcome opportunity for fresh appreciation.

What follows is another rarity and one of the highlights of the tour, “Ninety-Nine and a Half (Won’t Do),” inexplicably performed only this night (and at a private tour warm-up in June, suggesting it may have been considered for a regular feature in the set at that point). The gospel tune has been covered by everyone from Wilson Pickett to Creedence Clearwater Revival, but Springsteen’s version casts him as a humorous preacher questioning the commitment of men in relationships, while King, Carolyn Dennis, Angel Rogers and the rest of the background vocalists sing like they’re wearing choir robes. The result is amusing, cleverly arranged, and another lost gem rediscovered by the download series.

On the whole, the 7/25/92 performance has aged well, but there are a couple of exceptions. “Real Man” is another rarity, performed on 7/25 for the very last time in concert. Bruce himself admits, “This next song I almost threw off the album because I thought it was too corny, but what can say? It’s how I feel.” Corny we accept, especially from a man in love. More difficult to ignore is the synthesizer that could not sound more dated, though in the end, “Real Man” is interesting if only for the sheer novelty factor of it in the overall canon.

Three recent classics return us to regularly scheduled programming: a spot-on “Cover Me” with fine fretwork from Fontayne, and two Patti Scialfa features, “Brilliant Disguise” and “Tougher Than the Rest,” the latter derailed slightly by those pesky period synths, though Bruce sings all three superbly.

The show’s denouement comes with the pairing of “Souls of the Departed” into “Born in the U.S.A.” “Souls” begins in desert darkness, with news reports of bombs over Baghdad riding desolate guitar strains a la U2’s “Bullet the Blue Sky.” It is a sharp-edged, commanding performance that moves through flourishes of “The Star-Spangled Banner” a la Hendrix into “Born in the U.S.A.” to slam home the point Bruce made so clearly on last month’s release: “War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.”

The show wraps with a run of crowd pleasers–”Light of Day,” “Glory Days,” “Working on the Highway,” “Bobby Jean,” “Hungry Heart”–and the tour’s gorgeous, stripped-down “Thunder Road,” before “Born to Run” and Bruce’s best-ever coda,“My Beautiful Reward,” send us out on a high, hopeful note.

Because of the new band, 1992-93 always carries an asterisk in Bruce’s live history, like a strike-shortened baseball season. But as was the case in the major leagues, they still played the games and the games still counted, especially to Springsteen himself. One can feel his commitment in this performance, joyfully trying to win over the Jersey crowd and largely succeeding.

Words by Erik Flanagan.

Bruce Springsteen will release “Western Stars”, his first studio album in five years, on June 14th.

Springsteen has said he drew inspiration in part from pop records that emerged from Southern California in the late ’60s and early ’70s. “This record is a return to my solo recordings featuring character driven songs and sweeping, cinematic orchestral arrangements,” he noted in a news release. “It’s a jewel box of a record.”

Sessions were primarily held at Springsteen’s home studio in New Jersey, with additional work in New York and California. Western Stars will be available for pre-order beginning tomorrow. “Hello Sunshine,” is the advance single,

Though presented as a solo project, Western Stars has several intersections with the E Street Band. Patti Scialfa provided vocals and vocal arrangements on four tracks. Other guests included David Sancious (who was with the E Street band in the early ’70s), Charlie Giordano (an adjunct member of the group following the death of original E Street Band keyboardist Danny Federici in 2008) and Soozie Tyrell (a longtime touring collaborator).

Ron Aniello returns as producer. He earlier worked with Springsteen on 2012’s Wrecking Ball and 2014’s High Hopes. He also co-produced the 2014 EP American Beauty, which capped a period of renewed studio activity.