Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Springsteen’

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - Los Angeles Sports Arena 4/28/1988

The Tunnel of Love Express Tour’s five-show station stop in Los Angeles wraps with this peak ’88 performance on April 28th. The core Tunnel setlist, including “Be True,” “Brilliant Disguise,” “Tougher Than The Rest,” “I’m A Coward” and “Part Man, Part Monkey,” has never sounded better. An irresistible encore features Arthur Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music” and a deserving homage to Northwest garage rock, as Bruce covers The Sonics’ “Have Love, Will Travel.” Rarer still and even more meaningful is the seminal cover of Ry Cooder’s majestic masterpiece, “Across The Borderline,” the sound of which echoes through Springsteen’s writing ever since.

Setlist consistency has historically been considered something of a demerit for the ’88 tour. As I rolled from town to town, show after show, I’ll admit I initially yearned for changes, though that was more to counter my own unusual circumstances than any sense that “the show needs them.” It didn’t.

I now admire the Tunnel of Love Express Tour for its commitment to Bruce’s creative expression. Back in ’88, once I made my peace with the lack of changes and focused more on what he was playing, I came to appreciate the shows even more. Certain gigs , still stand out for their performance energy and connection to the audience.

By the time the tour rolled into Los Angeles for a run of five shows (allowing me to sleep in the same bed for more than two nights), I was fully on board. Any changes, should we get them, were icing on an already delicious cake. The fifth and final LA performance on April 28, 1988 is peak Tunnel tour and, with the addition of one extra special song, warrants inclusion in the Live Archive series.

We have revisited this stand before, as the second show on April 23rd was released back in July 2015. The first thing you’ll notice about 4/28 by comparison is that the Man in Black has moved your seat forward about 10-15 rows closer to the stage, revealing more sonic detail and placing you right next to the band.

It remains a memorable show opening, as the E Streeters walk out in pairs, then Clarence Clemons, then Bruce, to take us on a ride through “Tunnel of Love” straight into the resurrection of River outtake and b-side “Be True,” carried so capably by Clarence. 1988 was a great year for “Adam Raised a Cain,” bolder than ever with the addition of the Horns of Love. Each version from ’88 released in the series has its own distinct appeal in how Springsteen sings it. The tone of this night is expressed in the slightly tweaked reading of the line, “From the dark heart, baby, from the dark heart of a dream.”

“Two Faces,” so rarely played after this tour, stands out for its pure song writing excellence. The sweet “All That Heaven Will Allow” prelude with the Big Man on the park bench is heartwarming, a moment of looking ahead in life, not reflecting on his passing as we do now. Bruce mentions that when the weather turns warm, “Girls dig out all their summer clothes,” clearly making a mental note that would be remembered 20 years later for Magic. Equally prescient, while looking at photos of Clarence’s new baby, Springsteen jokes, “In about 15 years, there’s gonna be an E Street Band Volume Two.” He was off by just ten years and one familial branch, in predicting Jake Clemons joining the band.

There’s serious high voltage in the back half of the first set. Springsteen’s full-throated vocals fuel the tractor pistons of “Seeds,” and this “Roulette” is a candidate for best-ever status. Every musical detail is vivid, in particular Max Weinberg’s drumming and Roy Bittan’s piano. “Roulette” melds into “Cover Me,” and perhaps because of the horns, the ’88 editions of the song are my favourites. “Cover Me” gallops with conviction, pace and power, twisted just a shade darker by a few snippets of the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.”

“Brilliant Disguise” eases off the throttle a little, though one could argue the subject matter is darker still, as desire gives way to self-doubt. Roy and Danny’s gorgeous “Spare Parts” sonata prelude is one of those moments of E Street musical brilliance that never showed up on record but is nonetheless one of their most beautiful contributions to the cannon. The full band and horns bring “Spare Parts” to a roaring conclusion that stops on a dime and resets into Edwin Starr’s “War.” Bruce makes sure every line lands, shifting one for extra impact as he swaps “friend only to the undertaker” to “ain’t nothin’ but a widow-maker.”

The first set ends as it did every night on this leg with a fantastic “Born in the U.S.A.” I’ve written before about the emotive guitar solos that marked the long versions of the song performed on the ’88 tour, and this is a case in point. Jon Altschiller’s mix also reveals the multi-part layering of synthesizer and piano sounds by Federici and Bittan that give “Born in the U.S.A.” its staggering keyboard bite. Halftime.

The second set commences with “Tougher Than the Rest,” Bruce’s voice sounding slightly wearier and the swirling guitar sound (from a phaser pedal?) lusher than ever. In “She’s the One,” Springsteen’s vocal command is on point, pushing “She the onnnnnne” to the edge just before the bridge. In the land of malls that was ’80s LA, “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)” resonates, and from there the second set only gains momentum. “I’m a Coward” is goofy fun; “I’m on Fire” offers a radical, alternate view on love to the point of obsession; and “One Step Up” nails one of the bittersweet parts of human relationships, another masterclass in songwriting. “Part Man, Part Monkey” turns the mood playful again, reminding us it’s just evolution, baby.

At this point in the set, Springsteen had most frequently played “Walk Like a Man,” occasionally swapping in “Backstreets.” But for weeks, he and the band had sound checked Ry Cooder’s majestic “Across the Borderline,” and it finally made the setlist for the last two LA shows.

The song was written by Cooder, Jim Dickinson, and John Hiatt for the soundtrack to the movie The Border, in a version sung by Freddie Fender and featuring background vocals from future Springsteen backing singer Bobby King. Cooder put out his own rendition in 1987.

Despite fewer than a dozen performances ever, you can hear the influence of “Across the Borderline” in music Springsteen wrote for The Ghost of Tom Joad and beyond, as his fascination with the intersection of roots music on both sides of the border continues to this day.

The LA Sports Arena arrangement adds soulful scope while maintaining the Mexican elements of the original versions. The song fits so well because it feels like Springsteen could have written it himself, but that’s really a testament to the quality of the song writing of the original. “Across the Borderline” is a welcome and worthy addition to the Live Archive series.

From there, hit the party lights, as, aside from the sublime solo acoustic “Born to Run,” the last ten songs of the set turn into an E Street block party. Of note, “Sweet Soul Music,” in rare standalone, non-medley form, brings a fitting bit of Memphis to a horn-driven show. Equally fun is the rare cover of The Sonics’ “Have Love, Will Travel.”

“Have Love, Will Travel” was written by Richard Perry (who also penned “Louie Louie”) and popularized by Seattle garage-rock standard bearers The Sonics, who released their version in 1965 on the band’s debut album, Here Are the Sonics. As the story goes, back in 1984, a record store employee from Seattle slipped Springsteen a Northwest Garage Rock mixtape that included “Have Love”; Springsteen found the song and it became an encore feature for the last few weeks of the U.S. Tunnel tour.

As he so often does, Bruce makes “Have Love, Will Travel” his own, keeping the chorus of the original, but rewriting the verses to fit the nomadic love themes of the tour, while making the arrangement a showcase for the Horns of Love.

words by Erik Flannagan

When we regard several shows in a particular stand, setlist changes are often cited to distinguish good from great–the more changes the better being the general rule. Yet the 4/28/88 set differs by only one song from the previously released April 23rd show. Even when the addition is as significant as “Across the Borderline,” the takeaway is that setlist isn’t everything, as Tunnel tour fans already know and I learned out on the road 33 years ago.

The Band:

  • Bruce Springsteen – Lead vocals, guitar, harmonica; Roy Bittan – Piano, keyboards; Clarence Clemons – Tenor and baritone saxophones, percussion, backing vocal; Danny Federici – Organ, keyboards; accordion; Nils Lofgren – Guitars, backing vocal; Patti Scialfa – Guitar, percussion, backing vocal; Garry Tallent – Bass; Max Weinberg – Drums
  • Additional musicians: Mario Cruz – Tenor saxophone, backing vocal; Ed Manion – Baritone saxophone, backing vocal; Mark Pender – Trumpet, backing vocal; Richie “La Bamba” Rosenberg – Trombone, backing vocal; Mike Spengler – Trumpet, backing vocal
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We have always loved the Bruce Springsteen album “Nebraska”, how sparse and raw it sounds, and how it is effectively a live demo recording. We wanted to keep that live-feel when covering State Trooper and so we tracked the song live in our little home studio. We tried to do justice to the atmosphere of the original when arranging the track, with rumbling tom-heavy drums, warm creamy guitars and intimate slap-back vocals.

 

 

Performed by – King Hannah

Players:
Hannah Merrick (vocals)
Craig Whittle (guitar, vocals, synth)
Ted White (synth, additional percussion)
Jake Lipiec (drums)
Olly Gorman (bass)

Released March 17th, 2021

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Bruce Springsteen, who traditionally shuns any kind of corporate tie-in, has partnered with Jeep for “The Middle,” a two-minute ad that debuted on the car brand’s social media platforms at midnight ET on Sunday (February. 7th) and will air during the Super Bowl. “Olivier Francois [global chief marketing officer for Jeep parent Stellantis] and I have been discussing ideas for the last 10 years and when he showed us the outline for ‘The Middle,’ our immediate reaction was, ‘Let’s do it,’” Springsteen’s manager Jon Landau said in a statement. “Our goal was to do something surprising, relevant, immediate and artful. I believe that’s just what Bruce has done with ‘The Middle.’”

Jeep® kicks off Game Day by reminding us we are stronger than the obstacles in our way, and invites us to remember all the ways we are connected as Americans. A timeless CJ-5 takes us on a journey to the U.S. Centre# Chapel in Kansas in search of common ground. We have spanned deserts and climbed the highest peaks. We can cross this divide.

Like those previous short films, “The Middle” features sweeping footage of great expanses of America’s heartland, as Springsteen voices a narrative about a chapel in Lebanon, Kansas — “standing on the exact centre of the lower 48. It never closes, all are more than welcome” — before going into broader themes about how divided we have become. “It’s no secret, the middle has been a hard place to get to lately, between red and blue…between our freedom and our fear,” he continues.

Springsteen appears in the ad, driving a Jeep through snow-lined streets, as the commercial’s elegiac score,

The lesser known fifth and final leg of the Joad tour comes into fresh view with Nice, France 1997. After 18 months on the road, Springsteen’s solo acoustic performances were honed to a sharp edge, contrasted throughout with humour and soul. “Nice 1997″ offers nine songs from restless heart of Joad, plus captivating readings of “Darkness On The Edge Of Town,” “Murder Incorporated,” “It’s The Little Things That Count,” “Highway Patrolman,” “Long Time Comin’,” “Saint In The City,” “Growin’ Up” and the tour premiere of “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch).”

Every Springsteen tour starts with a vision and an underlying narrative. What story is our favourite artist telling through his setlist and presentation? Over time, setlists typically evolve and tours explore new themes, keeping things fresh but sometimes departing significantly from the initial concept.

Springsteen’s solo-acoustic tour for “The Ghost of Tom Joad” was unwavering in conserving its original vision. Beyond special nights in Freehold and Asbury Park, from the earliest shows in late 1995 through final gigs in the spring of 1997, the core songs from the album served as the spine of the show, while Bruce’s performances stayed steely and steady. Nice, France, a stop from the tail-end of the Joad tour and the first Archive release from 1997, presents an opportunity to reassess this compelling commitment from the little-heard fifth leg.

Bruce performed the same songs from Joad at the LA shows as he would in Nice, more than 120 performances later. “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” “Murder Incorporated,” “Born in the U.S.A.,” and “This Hard Land” are also intact. Adding “Brothers Under the Bridge,” which debuted the second night at the Wiltern, 13 songs remained in the set, anchoring the tale and tone of this special solo outing.

Which isn’t to say those songs are played exactly as they were in the fall of 1995. The Nice performance is unmistakably honed after a year and a half on the road without a band. Case in point: Springsteen’s guitar playing feels less muscular but more masterly. Because the arrangements largely remain faithful, the differences are subtle, but a song like “Murder Incorporated” has evolved from stark noir to more of a beautifully sung cautionary tale, with Bruce’s guitar weaving an unsettling rhythmic bed that lulls us into submission.

“Straight Time,” “Highway 29,” and the title track play truer to form, but there’s extra weariness in the tone of the protagonists that makes their stories resonate all the more. Heard through a post-Western Stars filter, “Highway 29” feels like a progenitor to that recent masterwork, especially its title track. Truest of all is the four-pack that served as the lyrical denouement for show. Nice gets sublime readings of “Sinaloa Cowboys,” “The Line,” “Balboa Park,” and “Across The Border,” and the verb is accurate for these near novellas.

On Broadway, Springsteen set up familiar songs with stories and vice versa, but this storytelling sequence is more like an author reading to an unfamiliar audience. As such, Bruce’s performances of the material place a premium on the vivid details that make the narrative spark to life. For a performer who has earned the position of having his audiences eat out of the palm of his hand, brokering this type of connection with more demanding material must have been a fascinating challenge. Admiration for how he pulls it off night after night is well earned.

Other Joad tour stalwarts are also in top form in Nice. The 12-string reinvention of “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” debuted at the Christic shows in 1990, still sends shivers up the spine. “Brothers Under the Bridge” is perhaps the most underappreciated entry among Springsteen’s Vietnam Veterans material. The song was still unreleased when Bruce performed it on the Joad tour (it eventually came out on Tracks in 1998). The final line, “One minute you’re right there, and something slips,” remains one of the most haunting in the canon.

Nice would also see the final tour performance of “It’s the Little Things That Count.” Bruce revisited the song a couple of times at the Somerville, MA solo shows in 2003, but it has been unheard ever since. The song was written for Joad and later considered for Devils & Dust, but it remains officially unreleased in studio form. Gotta love the transition from “Little Things” to “Red Headed Woman”: “Speaking of tongues…”

Of course Joad tour setlists were not totally rigid. Nice finds Springsteen in something of a nostalgic mood, pulling the kindred “Growin’ Up” and “Saint in the City” into the set, connecting the Joad era to Springsteen’s last turn as a solo artist in 1972. He also takes “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)” out for an entertaining spin in its tour debut. “Working on the Highway” is good fun, too, exposing the Born in the U.S.A. song’s Nebraska roots — listen for Bruce hitting a particularly impressive high note at the end of “cruel cruel worrrrrld.”

The final reinvention of the night comes with “The Promised Land.” As evidenced by his use of Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream” to close shows on his next solo tour in 2005, Springsteen is attracted to mesmeric arrangements. The transformation of “The Promised Land” could be the most radical of all his reinterpretations and merits reappreciation for sheer performance beauty and vocal control. We’re transfixed until that final percussive thwack breaks the trance of a spellbinding evening and a tour that stayed true to itself from the first show to the last.

words by Erik Flanagan

  • Bruce Springsteen – Lead vocals, guitar, harmonica
  • Kevin Buell – Keyboards (offstage)

Bruce Springsteen Live Concert CDs & Downloads

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The longest, at three and a half hours, and arguably the hottest of the three holiday shows. As Bruce told the crowd at the beginning, “This is our Saturday Night Special even though it’s Monday night.” There was little variation in the set, but as practice tends to make perfect, a tight night three had MVP Sam Moore in peak form. No DeVito or JBJ, though all of the other guests returned — and we got a little more Sam and a little more holiday spirit as the Soul Man joined in for the only “Merry Christmas Baby” of the run. We also got “96 Tears” in Garland’s set and a real highlight in Southside’s set, with the Bruce-penned “Talk to Me.” The blazing “What’s So Funny…” was again sent out to our troops in Iraq as a prayer for peace. Happy holidays and to all a good night! 

Songs listed below have the most prominent guest-artist listed in parentheses, but many performers were on and off stage over the course of the night.

Setlist: Hold Out Hold Out (Victorious Gospel Choir)
I’ve Got a Feeling [Everything’s Gonna Be All Right] (Victorious Gospel Choir)
Christmas Day (MW7)
So Young and In Love
None But the Brave (Alliance Singers, Soozie & Lisa)
Queen of the Underworld (Jesse Malin)
Wendy (Jesse Malin)
R.O.C.K. Rock (Garland Jeffreys)
96 Tears (Garland Jeffreys)
Merry Christmas [I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight] (Little Steven)
This Time It’s for Real (Southside Johnny, Little Steven)
Talk to Me (Southside Johnny, Little Steven)
It’s Been a Long Time (Southside Johnny, Little Steven)
Seaside Bar Song
Thundercrack
The Wish (Bruce on piano)
Hold On, I’m Comin’ (Sam Moore, the Alliance Singers)
When Something is Wrong with My Baby (Sam Moore)
Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa [Sad Song] / I Thank You (Sam Moore)
Soul Man (Sam Moore)
Shine Silently (Nils Lofgren)
Because the Night (Nils Lofgren)
Kitty’s Back
Christmas [Baby, Please Come Home] (all)
Encore: Merry Christmas Baby
I Don’t Want to Go Home (Southside, Little Steven)
My City of Ruins (Sam Moore)
What’s So Funny about Peace, Love and Understanding
Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (all)

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From his broadcast. The prelude to “Land of Hope and Dreams”. ‘I ask my good American brothers and sisters to value yourselves and your allegiances more deeply’, Springsteen said. ‘Donald J. Trump does not deserve your good soul and your honest and heartfelt commitment. Your country, your real country, awaits and needs you. So I say this with pain and love in my heart: Don’t waste your compassion on those, who do not deserve it. You are better and worth much more than that. In this world, God’s world, no infallible truth resides in just one man. There is only one truth, God’s truth, and it is a truth of deep inquiry, humility in the face of facts and it is grounded in the faith and love and respect you carry for your neighbours and your country. Let us all pray to God we have the strength to see clearly with our mind, heart and eyes and that we may hold our faith high, humbly and in the service of our country and the truth.’

Thanks to The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, for kicking off our celebration tonight!

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Eight of the finest performances from Bruce Springsteen’s 1978 tour are now available in a limited, collectible box set. This 24-CD set contains all five of the legendary radio broadcasts on the Darkness On The Edge Of Town tour: The Roxy in L.A., The Agora in Cleveland, The Capitol Theatre in Passaic, NJ, Fox Theatre in Atlanta and Winterland in San Francisco. Rounding out the collection are the second shows in Passaic and San Francisco, plus the December 8th show in Houston, Texas. A limited number of empty boxes are also available to hold previously purchased CDs.

By Erik Flannigan

I’ve written before about the role the Darkness tour radio broadcasts played in the career development of Bruce Springsteen. Broadcast live from the Agora in Cleveland, the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, The Roxy in West Hollywood, and Winterland in San Francisco, those concerts were recorded off air by thousands of people listening at home in 1978. In the years that followed, many wore out their tapes, playing them again and again as the only “official” live Springsteen product until Live/1975-85 was released in 1986.

Through the “magic of bootlegging,” home recordings wound up on illicit vinyl pressings like Piece de Resistance and Live in the Promised LandCopies of those LPs made their way to Europe, which wasn’t visited by the Darkness tour itself, so overseas fans at least got to hear Springsteen on stage. He and the band wouldn’t return to those shores until 1981; for such Bruce-starved fans, those recordings were manna from heaven. Without question, the familiarity fans have with the broadcast recordings of shows like The Roxy and Capitol Theatre cemented their status among Bruce’s greatest performances ever. But what if there were another?

It would be an exaggeration to call Atlanta 9/30/78 “the lost broadcast.” But compared to the other four, which were pressed multiple times on vinyl and CD bootlegs, Atlanta is the least familiar, having no meaningful history on bootleg vinyl and a limited one on CD. Originally broadcast live on radio stations across the Southeast, Atlanta 9/30/78 is the fifth and final Darkness tour transmission released in the Live Archive series. While not as familiar to fans as other ’78 broadcasts, the blistering Atlanta performance more than holds its own and is newly mixed from Plangent Processed, multi-track analogue master tapes. The 23-song show presents a potent core Darkness tour setlist augmented by the yet to be released “Independence Day” and “Point Blank,” plus special additions “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” “Raise Your Hand” and the only performance ever of James Brown’s “Night Train.”

The home recording enthusiasts alluded to above were certainly more plentiful in the Tri-State area, for the Passaic broadcast, than in the Southeast for Atlanta. Other broadcasts got wider distribution (the Agora show was syndicated to FM rock stations around the country after the fact) or were simply bigger events to begin with (Bruce’s Roxy appearance was the most buzzed-about show in Los Angeles in 1978). On the other hand, Atlanta and the Southeast were more of a development opportunity for Springsteen that year, and legend has it, stormy weather in the region on 9/30/78 caused reception problems for those who did record.

All of which explains why, as fans traded tapes and bought bootlegs in the ’70s and ’80s, the quality of the Atlanta broadcast, if it could be found at all, was inferior to the other four broadcast recordings, hence its outlier status. But one listen to Jon Altschiller’s new mix from Plangent Processed, 24-track analogue master tapes and Atlanta is an outlier no more.

The 9/30/78 set captures the Darkness tour “picked at the peak of freshness,” as the old commercial used to say. It’s like getting a lost episode of Seinfeld, shot but never aired during Season 5. The official release of this Fox Theatre show gives us the chance to fall in love all over again with a spectacular slice of Springsteen ’78.

After a great intro to the stage, the show smashes to a start with “Good Rockin’ Tonight” straight into “Badlands.” Each E Street Band member quickly shows they are in it to win it this night, with first-among-equals Roy Bittan carrying the melodic load with aplomb, as he will throughout the night. “Spirit in the Night” sets the band-fan tenor. “Darkness on the Edge of Town” is flawless, and Bruce sings with total conviction — no more so than on a subtle lyric change, replacing “Where nobody asks any questions or looks too long in your face” with, “You can drive all night, and never make it around.”

Sonically, Atlanta offers crystalline clarity. In the stately “Independence Day,” which Bruce introduces as the “flipside to ‘Adam Raised a Cain’,” the level of instrumental detail — from Danny’s glockenspiel to Max’s hi-hat, Garry’s bass to Stevie’s delicate strumming — is breath taking and immersive. It pulls you into what just might be your new favourite version of “Independence Day,” a sentiment you are likely to feel across several Atlanta performances. Yes, the audience is mixed just right, too.

The rest of the first set holds to the same gold standard as we move from a faultless “The Promised Land” to a scintillating, extended “Prove It All Night” that’s as good if not better than any version you’ve heard from this tour — and that’s saying something. 

The same goes for “Racing in the Street.” Listen for a gorgeous and distinct bit of interplay between Danny and Roy around the 2:05 mark. The first set wraps with the peerless pairing of “Thunder Road” and “Jungleland.” It doesn’t get any better than this.

“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” opens the second half of the show in jolly spirits, and because the fake snow that fell needed to be swept up by stagehands, Bruce and the band vamp by paying tribute to one of Atlanta’s adopted sons, James Brown. They play the Godfather of Soul’s “Night Train” so well, one would think the song was in the set every night of the tour. In fact, this is the only performance ever of “Night Train.”

“Fire” extends the frivolity before the tone turns dramatic via “Candy’s Room.” Danny and Roy again weave around each other in stunning fashion in the long intro to “Because the Night,” which includes a superlative guitar solo in yet another “name a better one” version. The second River preview of the night, “Point Blank,” surely sent anticipation soaring for Springsteen’s next album, with Danny and Roy intricately swirling behind the striking original lyrics.

E Street Band vocals in the “Not Fade Away/Gloria” intro to “She’s the One” have never sounded livelier, the guitar licks never more Link Wray than this terrific extended reading, another reminder of how special it is to re-live such a beautifully recorded document of the tour. “Backstreets” provides a tour de force denouement, with the middle section a Van Morrison-inspired, mind-blowing melange of “sad eyes,” “Drive All Night,” “you lied,” and “we’ve got to stop.” Listening to the Atlanta version will reaffirm everything you love about the song, this tour, and these musicians.

Even venerable “Rosalita” gets an intriguing instrumental introduction more than two minutes long. There are so many moments in Atlanta 9/30/78 that are just a little different from the Darkness shows we know best, and it is all the more compelling because of it.

The traditional but no less exceptional Darkness tour encore of “Born to Run,” “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” and “Detroit Medley” brings us home, and the night ends with one of only eight tour performances of “Raise Your Hand,” far fewer than you’d guess because all five broadcasts are counted among those eight renditions. With the release of Atlanta, the quintet of 1978 broadcasts in the Live Archive series is now complete, representing not only some of the greatest Bruce Springsteen performances of all time, but arguably the greatest live concert recordings in rock history. 

8 Complete Shows On 24 Factory-Pressed CDs.
• 7/8/78 The Roxy, West Hollywood, CA
• 8/9/78 The Agora, Cleveland, OH
• 9/19/78 Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ
• 9/20/78 Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ
• 9/30/78 Fox Theatre, Atlanta, GA
• 12/8/78 The Summit, Houston, TX
• 12/15/78 Winterland Arena, San Francisco, CA
• 12/16/78 Winterland Arena, San Francisco, CA

Release date February 1st, 2021

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Bruce Springsteen performed with the E Street Band for the first time since the pandemic began — and for the first time, not counting private studio sessions, since February 2017 (!) on December 12th, on “Saturday Night Live.”

They performed the songs “Ghosts,” the second single from Springsteen’s recent “Letter to You” album, in the show’s first musical slot. Springsteen seemed to be enjoying himself, smiling and laughing often. The song became most dynamic at the end, when Springsteen let pianist Roy Bittan, saxophonist Jake Clemons and and guitarist Steven Van Zandt take brief solos. But it ended only moments later. While the seemed a little tentative on “Ghosts,” especially early in the song, their second song — “I’ll See You in My Dreams” (another track from Letter to You), performed later — seemed smoother and more assured.

Jack Daley, of Little Steven’s Disciples of Soul band, played bass in place of original band member Garry Tallent, who did not make the trip to New York from his home in Nashville. And violinist Soozie Tyrell did not perform with the band.

Springsteen shared the following message on social media, December. 10th: “We’ll be missing our great bass player Garry Tallent and our compatriot Soozie Tyrell on Saturday night due to COVID restrictions and concerns. Garry and his family are fine as is Soozie, but we thank Jack Daley of the Disciples of Soul for sitting in.”

Garry Tallent Tweeted the next day: “I don’t have the Vid and intend to avoid catching it. Stay safe and weigh the risk/benefit for whatever you do. I personally felt that a two song TV appearance was not worth a week long stay in NYC. Thanks for your concern.”

I believe this was the first time in the entire nearly-50-year history of the E Street Band that they have made an appearance with a bassist other than Garry Tallent.

Loss is one of life’s most challenging experiences. There is no universal path to solace, no prescriptive behaviours to mitigate its pain. But as we process the death of a loved one, at some point in the days and weeks that follow, the one undeniable truth of the situation is eventually revealed: Life goes on.

Just 11 days removed from the passing of Danny Federici, Greensboro opens with a video tribute to the band’s fallen comrade set to the music of “Blood Brothers.” But from there the mood shifts markedly. At the first four shows performed after Federici’s funeral, setlists dipped back to Springsteen’s first two albums for songs like “Blinded By the Light,” “Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?” and “Growin’ Up” in tribute to Phantom Dan. There would be time for that this night too, but to open Greensboro, something more cathartic was delivered.

The pairing of “Roulette” into “Don’t Look Back” rivals the best one-two punch from any Springsteen show in any decade. Two stunning, underplayed rockers—one haunting, one life-affirming—blow off the doors of the Greensboro Coliseum, and the release of energy is unmistakably liberating for all.

As the diehard collectors well know, “Roulette” has a very tricky arrangement, especially as a one-off, and here it is played with full conviction in what has to be one of its best modern performances. How convicted? Listen to Bruce declare, “They say they wanna help me but with the stuff they keep on sayin’, I think those guys just wanna keep on playin’.” The guitar solo is searing as well, and Max crushes one of his signature drum parts.

The same can be said for “Don’t Look Back,” which faithfully follows the 1977 arrangement in its only live outing circa 2000-2012 and one of only 31 performances ever. Short-listed for, but ultimately left off of Darkness on the Edge of Town, “Don’t Look Back” remains one of Springsteen’s greatest non-album tracks. In fact, “Don’t Look Back” was so “ready” for Darkness, it is the only song that wasn’t newly remixed for Tracks in 1998. The performance in Greensboro is a faultless rebirth.

One could argue the top of the show isn’t merely a perfect pairing, but a trio, quartet, or even quintet of brilliantly linked performances. The momentum of “Roulette” and “Don’t Look Back” pushes kindred spirit “Radio Nowhere” to new heights. “Out in the Street” (a phrase also uttered in “Don’t Look Back”) bears renewed vivacity and “The Promised Land” brings us home, riding Roy Bittan’s piano and Stevie’s guitar.

Bruce finally catches his breath as we move into Magic territory with a solemn (and timely as ever) reading of the title track with Soozie subbing admirably for Patti. “Gypsy Biker” was a Magic tour highlight every night and continues to deserve consideration as one of the finest E Street Band songs of the 2000s. A heartfelt story follows, as Bruce describes meeting Danny for the first time, preceding a momentarily tentative but ultimately winning “Saint in the City.”

Setlists on the Magic tour were notably tight, and that bang-bang approach is in evidence as Bruce steers “Saint” left into a very fine “Trapped” and follows that with graceful right turn into the Nils Lofgren (and Soozie, too, in Ms. Scialfa’s absence) showcase, “Because the Night.”

The night’s crackling atmosphere sparks a terrific “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” Jon Altschiller’s mix positions piano and guitar ideally. The performance is anchored by an impassioned Springsteen vocal that drops in defeat when he sings the slight variant, “I lost my faith when I lost you,” only to rise to that arresting heightened register to deliver the rest of the verse starting with, “Tonight I’ll be on that hill, ‘cause I can’t stop.” “Darkness” and the “She’s the One” that follows are equal parts vintage and in-the-moment.

By the halftime arrival of “Living in the Future,” the score Bruce has put on the board is at MJ/Lebron levels. And to continue the analogy, those games still make for great, memorable wins, even if the superstars don’t hit quite as many downtown three-pointers or monster dunks in the second half.

The return of a newly streamlined “Mary’s Place” registers as another highlight. “Let’s see if we remember this one…debut on this tour. Come on, let’s try it,” says Bruce with undeniable glee. There is something fresh about “Mary’s Place” mk2, with more echoes of the kind of updated “Thundercrack” or “Santa Ana” vibe that he seemed to be going for in the first place, compared to what the song morphed into on the Rising tour.

Sure, there is something peculiar about spending your sign request on “Waiting on a Sunny Day.” The motivation may have had more to do with being picked for the singalong (which, as it turns out, didn’t even happen for this tidy performance), but we’ll excuse it as well-meaning if slightly misguided. From there, Greensboro moves through a solid back ten that may lack a bit of the first half’s urgency but holds its own, especially the Magic songs: “Last to Die, “Long Walk Home,” and “Devil’s Arcade.” The last of these and “Magic” make their first appearances in the Live Archive series from 2008 performances.

Springsteen and the band ultimately bring Greensboro home in fine form through a long and lively “Badlands,” a musically rich and beautifully sung “Backstreets,” the fitting farewell of “Bobby Jean” (kudos to Clarence for nailing the solo), and the high-spirited finale, “American Land” with Charlie Giordano eloquently deputizing for Danny on accordion.

The recent release of Letter to You on record and film reinforces that life does go on for the E Street Band, and equally that the spirit of those who have departed continue to inspire those who carry on. Greensboro is a wonderful reflection on the process of loss and the power of perseverance.

  • Bruce Springsteen – Lead vocal, electric and acoustic guitars, harmonica; Roy Bittan – Piano, keyboards, accordion; Clarence Clemons – Tenor and baritone saxophones, percussion, backing vocal; Nils Lofgren – Electric and acoustic guitars, backing vocal; Garry Tallent – Bass; Stevie Van Zandt – Electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, backing vocal; Max Weinberg: Drums; Charlie Giordano – Organ, keyboards, accordion; Soozie Tyrell – Violin, acoustic guitar, percussion, backing vocal

words by Erik Flanagan

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Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa

Lately, Bruce Springsteen has been contemplating his past. He started the previous decade by revisiting four older songs on the otherwise newly written 2012 album Wrecking Ball, which also paid tribute to E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons after his death in 2011. Two years later, Springsteen filled the entire High Hopes LP with songs he’d written, but then discarded, for other projects – some dating back to the mid ’90s. And 2019’s ’70s-soft-pop homage Western Stars contained songs that were recorded years earlier.

Then there’s the 2016 memoir Born to Run and its sorta stage version, Springsteen on Broadway, that opened a year later and ran for 14 months. Both projects were all about looking back.

On Letter to You, his 20th album, Springsteen confronts mortality, talks with ghosts and pulls out three cuts from his early-’70s songbook he never got around to releasing before. There’s no getting around it: The past lurks behind every note. But, ironically, he hasn’t sounded this alive and in-the-moment in years.

Much of that has to do with the spontaneity surrounding the record’s creation. Many of the songs were quickly composed by Springsteen and then recorded in five days with the E Street Band at his home in 2019. It’s the first time the group made this much music live in the studio since the first part of the ’80s.

It starts solemnly, though, as Springsteen whisper-sings the first line to opener “One Minute You’re Here” – “Big black train coming down the track,” evoking the traditional blues, country and folk metaphor for death. From the start, Letter to You lets you know where it’s headed, but there’s also joy in the celebration of life as an understanding, and acceptance, of what follows. The album was made pre-coronavirus, but at times it sure sounds like a product of the pandemic.

The title track recalls the re-energized and reinvigorating spirit of 2002’s The Rising, Springsteen’s heartfelt response to 9/11 and his first album with the E Street Band in nearly two decades. There are similar anthem-sized songs on Letter to You, digging up glockenspiel (“Burnin’ Train”), lyrical references (“House of a Thousand Guitars”) and even outtakes (“Janey Needs a Shooter”) from Springsteen’s past. Guitars jab and organs swell throughout, and Springsteen’s throaty rasp recalls The River’s stadium shakers more than they do the truth-telling troubadour folk found on 2005’s solo Devils & Dust and the reigned-in vocal clearness of more recent records like 2009’s Working on a Dream.

It doesn’t all work. The self-mythologizing “Last Man Standing” aims for Born to Run-style grandeur but lands flat both musically and lyrically (“Faded pictures in an old scrapbook / Faded pictures that somebody took”), despite a sax solo by Jake Clemons straight from Uncle Clarence’s playbook. The forgettable “The Power of Prayer” could be a leftover from any Springsteen album from the past 15 years.

Springsteen doesn’t get too political on Letter to You. Only the rousing “Rainmaker” makes passing references to the current climate, dropping in lines about a “house … on fire,” a “mean season” and how “sometimes folks need to believe in something so bad.” He never comes out and says “Trump,” but it’s not hard to connect the dots from the songs central character – “Says white’s black and black’s white, says night’s day and day is night” – to the divisive president.

Mostly Letter to You is about finding peace in the past, so in some ways the trilogy of ’70s castaways – “Janey Needs a Shooter,” “If I Was the Priest” and “Song for Orphans” – form the album’s center. The songs sound very much like pieces from Springsteen’s back pages, even with the updated performances and modern co-production by Ron Aniello. Biblical themes, along with Dylanesque wordplay and harmonica, and big, sweeping musical flourishes, run through the tracks, which haunt the album as much as “Ghosts,” the LP’s most personal confrontation of days gone by. They’re also the longest on the album, each clocking in at more than six minutes.

Letter to You ends as contemplatively as it begins, with the hopeful “I’ll See You in My Dreams” declaring “death is not the end.” Like the opening “One Minute You’re Here,” it serves as a melancholy bookend to Springsteen’s most reflective work. But his reconciliation with the past and, ultimately, his mortality comes down to a single line in the bustling “Ghosts”: “I’m alive!” And on this stirring band album, that breathless sentiment is both earned and deserved in the end.

A documentary on Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s new album Letter to You is coming to Apple TV+ on October 23rd.