Posts Tagged ‘Stevie Van Zandt’

The home stretch of the Darkness tour in late 1978 may look like a victory lap, but its purpose was to return to key markets and seal the deal. The final push raised Springsteen and the E Street Band up from theaters played on previous legs to bigger rooms, with dates in arenas in cities like Cleveland, which closed the tour with a pair of shows at the Richfield Coliseum on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day 1979.

In the Bay Area, that meant graduating from the Berkeley Community Theater and San Jose Center For the Performing Arts, played in the summer, to back-to-back nights at legendary promoter Bill Graham’s Winterland, capacity 5,400.

Winterland 15/12/78 was the final legendary radio concert on the Darkness tour. A fan favorite (the excellent bootlegged as Live In The Promised Land), this essential ’78 tour document is now available in best-ever quality, Plangent transferred from recently discovered two-track, 15 IPS master reels recorded by the Record Plant Remote Truck.

The first night at Winterland would also serve as the fifth and final live radio broadcast from the Darkness tour, thrilling listeners around the Bay Area on KSAN-FM and strategically extended via simulcast to audiences in Sacramento, Eugene, Portland, and Seattle on their respective rock stations. The simulcast primed the pump in two of those markets, as Bruce would play the Rose and Emerald cities in just a few days’ time.

By that point, Springsteen’s management and Columbia Records had recognized that the Darkness tour broadcasts which preceded Winterland (The Roxy in Los Angeles, Agora in Cleveland, Passaic, and Atlanta) were a powerful marketing tool, not only reaching established fans in core and adjacent markets but converting fence-sitters who were loyal listeners to those all-important rock radio outlets. Live concerts were already a staple of FM radio at the time, including nationally syndicated shows like the King Biscuit Flower Hour and Rock Around the WorldSimulcasts of local concerts were equally common on FM stations like WMMR in Philadelphia and WMMS in Cleveland.

But Springsteen’s strategy and tactics were unique. No artist I know of had ever done five live broadcasts from the same tour and simulcast the shows regionally — taking over the airwaves for three hours at a clip, no less. In the process, Bruce built an alliance of rock stations, and their listeners that would remain loyal for years to come. Springsteen had long enjoyed incredible word of mouth about his concerts, but the ’78 broadcasts provided tangible, recordable, and shareable proof.

There was also an idea in the air that the follow up to Darkness on the Edge of Town simply had to be a live album. The broadcasts provided an opportunity to roll in a remote recording truck and kill two birds with one stone, sending the show over the air and capturing it to multi-track tape for potential future release. It just took a few decades longer than expected. A bounty of two peak Darkness concerts should be at the top of anyone’s wish list. Most will know the celebrated 15th December set like the back of their hand from tapes and bootlegs of the broadcast, but for 16th,

Fans and collectors have spent millions of pixels on message boards discussing and debating which shows were recorded on multi-tracks and wondering why more early Bruce gigs weren’t done. Beyond the expense (which was significant), the act of recording a live concert to multi-track itself was no simple feat circa 1978.

A 24-track, two-inch, reel-to-reel tape recorder is a massive piece of heavy equipment with a large footprint. The recorders are mounted on carts with industrial casters so they can be rolled into position. Two-inch recorders also require a lot of power to operate, and they are extremely sensitive to the conditions of their environment, particularly temperature. Remote recording units typically carried a third reel-to-reel deck with them as well: a high-quality, 15-IPS, two-track recorder to serve as a back-up/reference capturing the front-of-house mix as it happened. That’s exactly what the Record Plant’s R2R did on December 15th, 1978, recording a pre-broadcast stereo feed from the mixing board.

Winterland 15/12/78 offers vital performances of “Prove It All Night, “She’s The One” (feat. snippets of “Mona” and “Preacher’s Daughter”), “Backstreets,” “Fire” and “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” plus future River Album tracks “Point Blank” and “The Ties That Bind,” and an epic resurrection of “The Fever.”

Winterland 16/12/78 is previously unheard save for the inclusion of “Fire” on Live 1975/85, and captures the exhilarating second show in San Francisco, newly mixed from Plangent Processed, multi-track master tapes by Jon Altschiller. Bruce loosens up and reshapes the previous night’s broadcast set, opening in high spirits via “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” giving a tour debut to the infectious “Rendezvous,” summoning a deeply affecting “Independence Day” and absolutely crushing the top of the second set with “(It’s Hard To Be A) Saint In The City.”

1) Bruce changed the set on night two in deference to fans attending both shows, opening with “Good Rockin’ Tonight” and playing “Rendezvous” for the first time on the tour. Incredibly, “Rendezvous” is one of six unreleased originals performed in the 25-song set, along with “Independence Day,” “The Fever,” “Fire,” “Because the Night” and “Point Blank.”

2) Introducing a weighty “Independence Day,” Bruce says, “This is a song I wrote a couple years ago. I was originally going to put it on Darkness on the Edge of Town. This is called ‘Independence Day.’ This is for my pop.” With his parents living in nearby San Mateo, we can assume that Douglas was very likely in the audience for the performance.

3) Bruce tells a completely different and much longer story than night one setting up “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” The tall tale includes entertaining references to Johnny Carson and Kellogg’s Pop Tarts, plus some audible chiming in from Stevie Van Zandt, who wants a new amplifier from Saint Nick.

4) Bruce dedicates “Racing in the Street” to “all the San Francisco night riders,” but after singing “Tonight, tonight, the strip’s just right” he goes totally blank. “I forgot the words,” he says. It is an endearing and rare moment of vulnerability, which he not only recovers from gracefully, but which seems to inject the show with an adrenaline shot: from that point forward, Springsteen and the band are en fuego. “Jungleland” brings the first set to a crackling close, riding the powerful dynamics of Clarence Clemons on saxophone and Van Zandt’s guitar solo, setting the table for a stunning second act.

5) “It’s Hard to Be a (Saint in the City)” is another set list change and serves as a stonking start to a second set for the ages. The guitar tone on this one should be bottled as a stimulant.

6) “Because the Night” begins with what might best be described as an experimental guitar intro that is more a sonic survey of echo, delay, and sustained notes than strumming. It’s the most Frippertronics approach I have ever heard Springsteen explore. Fascinating.

7) How about the version of “She’s the One”? The intro weaves “Mona” and “Preacher’s Daughter,” while Bruce later riffs on Van Morrison/Them’s “Gloria.” Stevie sings soulful retorts all over the performance, all in the service of Bruce’s heightened lead vocal. Listen to the incredible run he takes through, “Just one kiss, she’ll turn them long summer nights, with her tenderness / The secret pact you made, when her love could save you, from the bitterness… WHAAAAHOO!” Holy crap.

8) “The Fever” is focused and luscious, providing a deserved spotlight on the band, especially Danny Federici and the Big Man, who shine ever-so-brightly as they thread their solos around each other. Rest in peace, E Street iconic members

9) A slightly shambolic “Detroit Medley” features a rare foray into Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”

10) Finally, connoisseurs of audience noise (and I know you’re out there) should be extremely pleased with the level of fan interaction in Jon Altschiller’s mix. The crowd is ever-present and in full voice throughout the night and who can blame them?

Thanks to former Columbia product manager Dick Wingate for supplying contemporary information and documentation about the Darkness tour broadcasts

ORDER NOW: 12/29/80 - NASSAU COLISEUM

December 29th, 1980 Night two of the legendary three-show stand at Nassau Coliseum 1980 is a barnstormer. It features the tour premiere of “Night” as the opener and, in its lone River tour performance, an extraordinary “Incident On 57th Street” into “Rosalita” to close the set. Spanning 35 songs, Nassau  29th beautifully blends deep River cuts (“Stolen Car,” “Wreck on the Highway,” “Point Blank”), seasonal nuggets (“Merry Christmas Baby” and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and fan favorites (“Fire,” “Because the Night”).

One of the most thrilling times to be a sports fan is when your team is in the midst of a winning streak. They occur in all sports, but in baseball and especially basketball, winning streaks are irresistible because of the unique way they place team chemistry, a “never give up” mentality, and moments of individual brilliance against a backdrop of ever-rising stakes. Who doesn’t want to tune in to see if your team can push their streak to 17, 21, or 33 in a row?

It could be argued that the entire live performance history of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band is one long winning streak. That acknowledged, and with the benefit of hindsight and live recordings, fan consensus has coalesced around notable E Street streaks: the last two weeks of the 1977 tour with the Miami Horns; the late-’84 stretch of the Born in the U.S.A. tour.; and the final U.S. leg of Magic 2008 to name but a few.

The River tour boasts a few of its own streaks, and without question, Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve 1980 is among the best of them. A staggering run of shows throughout the Northeast culminated in a three-night stand at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. With his first chart-topping album and a Top Five single (“Hungry Heart”) in hand, Bruce and the band closed out 1980 more popular than ever.

Shows that wrapped that leg of the tour offered an intoxicating mix of musician-athletes performing at their peak, newfound confidence drawn from a long-awaited commercial breakthrough, and a continued hunger to prove it all night.

Supporting a double album of new material, that hunger was manifest in the increasing duration of the concerts and the stunning number of songs performed. In fact, until records were broken in 2012, the late-’80 River shows were the longest of Bruce’s career. Other shows and tours have their own distinct qualities, but if you are talking about a run of epic Springsteen concerts, the Thanksgiving-New Year’s ’80 streak is the reference point.

Nassau Coliseum 29/ 12/80 and its sister show 31/12/80 (reissued in a newly remixed and remastered edition) each stretch to 35 or more songs and live up to the legend of Bruce’s four-hour concerts by running close to that (counting the between-sets intermission). There may be other eras where the band played this well, but there is no period where they played better.

Both stunning performances are packed with delicious rarities along with some of the strongest versions of core material ever caught on multi-tracks. With a bounty of more than 70 songs between the two shows, there’s too much good stuff to cover, but here are ten things to listen for as you relive these magical nights.

1.Springsteen debuted his brilliant take on Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain” three shows earlier at Madison Square Garden. It has endured as one of the band’s finest covers, popping up a few times on tours ever since. The versions performed on 29/12 and 31/12 are musically rich and heartfelt, pointing to the musical direction Bruce would explore six months hence on the band’s first proper tour of Europe.

2. Having just read Joe Klein’s biography of Woody Guthrie, Bruce covers “This Land Is Your Land” for the first time during the three-show Nassau stand, calling it an “angry song…an answer to Irving Berlin’s ‘God Bless America’.” With the possible exception of a one-off performance of Bob Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom” in 1978, it is the first protest song Springsteen performed in concert with the E Street Band and signals the start of his public turn toward social and political commentary.

3. The paternal pairing of “Factory” and “Independence Day” on 29/12 is not only an evocative stretch of storytelling, but could pass for a dramatic monologue at a Broadway theater.

4. One of the signature sequences of early River tour shows is Roy Bittan’s mini-suite of “The River” into “Badlands.” 1980 performances of “The River” start with an original piano prelude (echoed by Danny Federici) before Bruce’s plaintive harmonica wail starts the song formally. Shortly after “The River” ends, Bittan starts into his interpretation of Ennio Morricone’s theme from the Sergio Leone filmOnce Upon A Time In The West. As Bittan plays the moving piano refrain, electric guitar chords start to chime in, building energy that crescendos when the intro gives way to an explosive “Badlands.” Magnificent.

5. The River tour is the height of Stevie Van Zandt’s role as backing vocalist, at times reaching the point of co-lead vocals. He’s a marvel at these shows on expected songs like “Two Hearts” and “Prove It All Night,” but listen for him in more unexpected places like the chorus of “Thunder Road” for signs of just how into it he is at Nassau.

6. Bruce’s spirited vocal on “For You” is full of fresh intonations distinct from other renditions.

7. The earnest story that leads into “Stolen Car” on 12/29 might melt your heart; the moving performance itself will have you reaching for a tissue or three.

8. The gorgeous, stripped-down arrangement of “The Price You Pay” on 31/12 starts solo. The band joins softly in the second verse, and we’re treated to the alternate third verse found in the single-disc version of The River included in The Ties That Bind box set. As good as it gets.

9. While we’ve heard the incredible version of “Incident on 57th Street” from 29/12 before (it was released as the b-side to “War” from Live 1975/85), hearing it in context of the show is so much sweeter. “This is a song we haven’t done in a real long time,” says Bruce, as he tests out the chords on his guitar. “No, it ain’t ‘Kitty’s Back.’ I hope I remember all the words….” Roy tinkles out the first few notes, the crowd swoons in recognition of the song, Max comes with his drum intro, and the lead guitar sends us soaring. If that wasn’t enough, after nearly ten majestic minutes, it rolls straight into “Rosalita” as it does on The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle.

10. You want rarities? We got rarities. Beyond the aforementioned, the Nassau shows feature “Rendezvous,” the first-ever version of the “Hungry Heart” b-side “Held Up Without a Gun,” sublime seasonal nuggets “Merry Christmas Baby” and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” plus Happy New Year covers of “In the Midnight Hour” and “Auld Lang Syne.” All that, plus 15 of the 20 songs on The River, including the under-played “Fade Away,” “Wreck on the Highway” and “The Price You Pay.”

A Final Note: Jon Altschiller’s new mix and mastering on 31/12/80 moves the listener from the 40th row to the first, proximity that reveals incredible new detail and musical power.

After electing to Plangent Process 29/12/80 for release, it was clear that 31/12/80 also deserved a Plangent-transferred new mix and mastering to match, as the version released in 2015 was not up to the same standards.
While the Plangent Processed and remixed version of 31/12/80 is being sold as a standalone release, anyone who bought the original can access the new upgraded audio for free via the “My Stash” section of the nugs.net app, which provides streaming access to all shows purchased as downloads or CDs (no subscription required). Previous buyers of New Years Eve ’80 can log in with the account credentials they used to buy the show the first time.

ORDER NOW: 12/31/80 - NASSAU COLISEUM

December 31st, 1980 For the first time, multi-track master tapes of the classic New Year’s Eve 1980 show have been transferred via Plangent Processes and newly remixed by Jon Altschiller for superior sound. This upgraded edition breathes fresh life into a jaw-dropping 38-song performance which is packed with highlights, including “Spirit in the Night,” “Rendezvous,” “Fade Away,” “The Price You Pay,” “Held Up Without a Gun,” “In The Midnight Hour,” “Auld Lang Syne,” “Twist and Shout” and “Raise Your Hand.” The all-time fan favorite has never sounded better.

The Band:

  • Bruce Springsteen – Lead vocal, guitar, harmonica; Roy Bittan – Piano, keyboards; Clarence Clemons – Tenor and baritone saxophones, percussion, backing vocal; Danny Federici – Organ, glockenspiel, accordion; Garry Tallent – Bass; Stevie Van Zandt – Electric and acoustic guitars, backing vocal; Max Weinberg – Drums

Springsteen 11/19/2007

The last U.S. tour stop of 2007 would prove to be Danny Federici’s final show as a full-time member of the E Street Band. Boston ’07 is a fitting farewell to Phantom Dan and catches Bruce and the band firing on all cylinders at the height of the “Magic” tour. Rich with core album tracks including “Radio Nowhere,” “Gypsy Biker,” “Livin’ In The Future” and “Girls In Their Summer Clothes,” Boston also features the tour debuts of “This Hard Land” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” with guest Peter Wolf.

Bruce Springsteen brought the E Street Band to TD Banknorth Garden in Boston for a two-night stand in November of 2007 to end the first leg of a tour in support of Magic.  Springsteen has released an official recording of the concert from November 19th, 2007 which wound up being multi-instrumentalist Dan Federici’s final complete performance with the band.

Federici passed away just fourth months later on April 17th, 2008 due to melanoma. While he would perform with the group for portions of a show in Indianapolis on March 20, 2008; he never played a whole show with The Boss and his famed backing band after that night in Boston. Danny was spotlighted throughout the concert at the TD Banknorth Garden on songs such as “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” “Sandy” and “Kitty’s Back.”

“Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” was a tour debut as was “This Hard Land.” Peter Wolf joined the ensemble to add backing vocals to “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.” Springsteen and his band put an emphasis on material from Magic, which was their new album at the time. In total, eight songs from the LP made the 24-song setlist. to purchase the official recording of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band’s November 19th, 2007 performance in a variety of formats.

  • Bruce Springsteen – Lead vocal, electric and acoustic guitars, harmonica; Roy Bittan – Piano, keyboards, accordion; Clarence Clemons – Tenor and baritone saxophones, percussion, backing vocal; Danny Federici – Organ, keyboards, accordion; Nils Lofgren – Electric and acoustic guitars, pedal steel, backing vocal; Patti Scialfa – Electric and acoustic guitars, backing vocal; Garry Tallent – Bass; Stevie Van Zandt – Electric guitars, mandolin, backing vocal; Max Weinberg – Drums; Soozie Tyrell – Violin, acoustic guitar, percussion, backing vocal
  • Additional musician: Peter Wolf – backing vocal on Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out