Posts Tagged ‘Stevie Van Zandt’

The Summer Tour of ’81 was a U.S. victory lap that marked Springsteen’s triumphant return from Europe. It began with the christening of the brand new Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, NJ. Recorded July 9th, Brendan Byrne 1981 was the final show of the six-night stand and catches Bruce and the E.Street band at a River Tour performance peak. The set list mixes riveting new songs and a summer Shore party including “Follow That Dream,” “Trapped,” “Johnny Bye Bye,” “The Ties That Bind,” “Sherry Darling” “Jersey Girl” the “Detroit Medley” featuring “Shake” and “Sock It To Me, Baby,” plus a guest appearance by Gary U.S. Bonds for the songs “This Little Girl” and “Jolé Blon.”

Imagine what it must have been like in New Jersey when it was announced that Bruce and the E Street Band would christen the newly constructed Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford with a six-show stand to kick off their post-Europe victory lap.

Though only 32 dates in total, the Summer ’81 tour is one of the most celebrated in Springsteen’s long performance history. The epic-length sets of the previous winter had tightened up, giving the shows a sharper focus. The summer run also came after Springsteen’s first extended tour of Europe, an inflection point in his musical development that, with the introduction of three vital new songs to the set, brought with it the first indications of where his music might be going.

East Rutherford 7/9/81 is the final night of the Brendan Byrne run and a moment of culmination for Springsteen and the E Street Band. Their confidence and a new sense of purpose developed on the stages and streets of Europe drives this outstanding performance, and the audience is there to meet them. Even when Bruce assays new songs, the crowd sounds fully on board. Listen to the sympathetic clapping they add to “Follow That Dream”; the live archive version from London a month earlier has no audience participation at all.

The 7/9/81 show wastes no time getting to the meat of the matter, opening with “Thunder Road” into “Prove It All Night” and “The Ties That Bind.” Playing his sixth show in nine nights, Bruce’s voice needs a little warming up at the start, but his passion is already dialed in at 10. By “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” Bruce and the band lock into gold medal form, and the song spotlights Stevie Van Zandt’s critical vocal contributions in this era.

“Follow That Dream” is the first of the new songs, all three of which blur the line between cover song reinterpretations and originals. The Elvis Presley reinvention retains its stark, meditative arrangement debuted in Europe and closes on one of the most disquieting, chilling notes in the Springsteen catalouge.

“Follow That Dream” has an especially curious place in the canon in that it feels like an extremely significant song in Bruce’s evolution as a songwriter, despite having never had an official studio release (it was recorded for Born in the U.S.A. in 1983). It’s only been performed 15 times since the Bridge School Benefit in 1986, but it shows up in every decade, as recently as Australia 2017, the last E Street Tour to date. Is there a more meaningful unreleased song?

Carrying on, “Independence Day” revisits Springsteen’s father-son narrative, but this time with a new chapter recognizing the need to say the things that need to be said, now, while there’s still time.  “Who’ll Stop the Rain” has never sounded bigger or bolder than this terrific rendition, and Jon Altschiller’s mix offers incredible instrument separation. The acoustic and electric guitar interplay is marvelous — and listen for the electric to kick in again, quite thrillingly, five seconds into “Two Hearts.” What a great version. The same can be said for “The Promised Land,” as heightened vocal phrasing brings the song to another level.

There’s an intriguing break in the mood as Bruce begins the harmonica intro to “This Land Is Your Land” only to be interrupted by the explosion of a firecracker (heard clearly in the right channel). Condemnation is immediate. “Whoever just threw that firecracker, you can do me a big fucking favor and don’t do it,” he says with total convinction. “Whoever you are, you are no friend of mine. This is a song about that respect; it’s about having respect for yourself, for the land that you live in.” Pure conviction powers Springsteen through the daunting take of “The River” that comes next as he attempts to reset following the firecracker, leading to one of the highlights of the night — if not the whole of the 1981 tour.

Word of this incredible new song “Trapped” . I had to hear it. Through the magic of mail order, I bought a bootleg LP called Prisoner of Rock and Roll that included “Trapped,” and I was gobsmacked. The simple start, the build, the intensity, the crescendo, then again and AGAIN, with the final release coming as Springsteen shouts “I’m Trapped” and the last note sustains. Mesmerizing and unlike any Springsteen song that had come before it.

“Trapped” is a cover (originally recorded by Jimmy Cliff), not an original. Cliff’s lyrics are basically intact, and fundamental melodic elements are there, too. But how Springsteen listened to this and developed the arrangement he performs in New Jersey is the alchemy of a musical genius. Hearing the song in this context—following the firecracker incident, “This Land Is Your Land” and a tentative “The River”—“Trapped” offers unmistakable catharsis.

Set one wraps with a high energy “Out in the Street” and full-tilt “Badlands,” rich with Van Zandt vocal accents, Roy Bittan piano, and plenty of Max Weinberg propulsion.

East Rutherford 7/9/81 is marked by its new songs, but it was also a summer Shore party as the second set makes clear. The festivities begin with “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch),” replete with some interesting lyrical additions where our protagonist is “going downtown, gonna buy a gun.” Love the guitar mix on this one.

From there, bang bang into “Cadillac Ranch,” Bruce’s ultimate party song “Sherry Darling,” and “Hungry Heart” (with the audience taking the first verse capably) before we’re treated to a guest appearance. Gary U.S. Bonds, whose Springsteen-Van Zandt-produced album Dedication was released that April, duets with Bruce on the traditional “Jolé Blon” (which Springsteen introduced to his own sets in the UK), and Bonds takes the lead vocal on his hit single, the Springsteen original “This Little Girl.”

The third and final new song of the show, “Johnny Bye Bye” follows. Bruce offers a eulogistic rumination on Elvis Presley to introduce the song, which, like “Follow That Dream,” draws potency from its spare arrangement. It is a compassionate farewell to The King. Paired together, “Racing in the Street” extends the elegiac sentiment in a resplendent reading led by Bittan on piano.

Time to party. “Ramrod” low rides into an extra playful “Rosalita,” as Clarence Clemons set the scene with the opening lines from Lloyd Price’s “Stagger Lee”: “The night was clear, and the moon was yellow. And the leaves came tumblinggggggggg.” Band intros are on point, accented by tasty Stevie guitar licks throughout and concluding, of course, with The Big Man himself, who Bruce posits could be the next Governor of New Jersey. “Sounds like a good idea. Clarence Clemons Arena, I like that,” he says, referencing the new arena named for Governor Byrne. All of which leads to “Spotlight on the Big Man” and its brief vamp on “Sweet Soul Music.”

For the encore, the most Bruce Springsteen song Bruce didn’t write, “Jersey Girl.” This performance of the Tom Waits classic is the one that would be officially released as the b-side to “Cover Me” three years later, but I don’t recall that mix bringing Van Zandt’s guitar so charmingly to the fore. A superb “Jungleland” accompanies, with sublime soloing from Stevie and Clarence, along with a pacey “Born to Run” with Bruce soaring for “girl I’m just a scared and lonely rider.”

The New Jersey homecoming wraps with an extended “Detroit Medley” which takes several exciting detours as it careens along the turnpike. The first is “I Hear a Train,” then a rare romp through Mitch Ryder’s “Sock It To Me, Baby!” (written by Bob Crewe and Russell Brown), another scoop of Arthur Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music,” and finally a generous slice of Sam Cooke’s “Shake” in what might constitute the best “Detroit Medley” ever.

The phrase “giving the people their money’s worth” would be an apt description for the final night at Brendan Byrne Arena 39 years ago. Now, it is time to return the favor. All net proceeds from the sale of the East Rutherford 7/9/81 will be donated to the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund.  Words Erik Flanagan.

Setlist:

Thunder Road, Prove It All Night, The Ties That Bind, Darkness on the Edge of Town, Follow That Dream, Independence Day, Who’ll Stop The Rain?, Two Hearts, The Promised Land, This Land is Your Land, The River, Trapped, Out in the Street, Badlands, You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch), Cadillac Ranch, Sherry Darling, Hungry Heart, Jolé Blon, This Little Girl, Johnny Bye-Bye,
Racing in the Street, Ramrod, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), Jersey Girl, Jungleland, Born to Run, Detroit Medley,

The Band:

  • Bruce Springsteen – Lead vocal, guitar, harmonica; Roy Bittan – Piano, synthesizer; Clarence Clemons – Tenor and baritone saxophones, percussion, backing vocal; Danny Federici – Organ, glockenspiel; Garry Tallent – Bass; Stevie Van Zandt – Electric and acoustic guitars, backing vocal; Max Weinberg – Drums
  • Additional Musicians: Gary U.S. Bonds co-lead vocal on “Jolé Blon,” lead vocal on “This Little Girl”

If there was ever a time to appreciate archival live recordings, that time is now.

Many years ago, I heard the brilliantly talented and famously cantankerous guitarist Robert Fripp of King Crimson posit a provocative position on the subject of live recordings. “Of the many, many performances [I’ve seen] over four decades,” he told an audience at SXSW in Austin, “I have [never] left and felt I wished to have it on tape. There was nothing in my experience of any of [those] events which were other than available to my experience. And if I wasn’t there, I missed it. And if I missed it, photographs, recordings, nothing could bring this back to me.”

The core idea Fripp articulates is undeniably true: Nothing can fully replace or replicate being at a concert in person, as it happens. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Archival live recordings are, as Ma Bell used to say, “the next best thing to being there.” As undeniably magical as live concerts can be, they are by nature fleeting, real-time experiences. Yes, they live on in our memories, but what’s the larger cultural value of these unique performances? When the technology was invented in the 1870s to record and preserve audio, after the spoken word, the earliest recordings captured on those cylinders were of musicians performing live. Preserving performances is arguably the fundamental underlying purpose of recording technology.

Hearing a show you attended can stir memories back to life. Amazing as that is, live recordings even allow time travel and can place us at the Tower Theater in 1975, the Roxy in 1978 or Wembley Arena in 1981 when we couldn’t have possibly been there any other way. Is it the same as having had Bruce stand on your cocktail table during the middle of “Spirit in the Night?” No, but close your eyes, let your imagination flow, and it is awfully close.

Gothenburg 28th July 2012 allows fans who weren’t there at Ullevi to travel through time and space to hear one of the best nights on the Wrecking Ball tour in a closing run of European concerts that was, to quote Stevie Van Zandt’s predictive tweet before the show, “one for the ages.”

There’s something about rainy shows that brings out the best in Bruce and the E.Street Band. The show opener, a cover of Creedence’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain?” is a bellwether for great things to come, with crunchy guitar leading the way. Fan-band bonds are solidified through sparkling takes of “The Ties That Bind” and “Out in the Street” (with extra long intro) before we move to the less-traveled corners of Born in the U.S.A. with an excellent “doubleheader” of “Downbound Train” and “I’m Goin’ Down.” The former extends the guitar-richness of the show’s opening salvo and benefits from the heft of the horn section; the latter restores a bit of often-missing edge to the self-deprecating tale.

The aforementioned guitar tone extends seamlessly into a sharp “My Lucky Day” in one of only four Wrecking Ball tour performances. Special nights are built on special songs, and Gothenburg has particularly juicy ones.

What is it about “Lost in the Flood?” Bruce and the band can let it lie dormant for ages, then nail it as they did in NYC 2000. “Flood” had gone unplayed for three years prior to Gothenburg, wasn’t soundchecked, yet the mighty E Street Band is more than up to the task. “In the key of E minor,” says Bruce, “then we’re gonna hit the big chord.” Do they ever. The big chord that follows Roy’s prelude smashes forth an electrifying version that sounds as vital and fresh as it did four decades prior. Bruce vocals are especially gritty, evidenced by this not-so-subtle lyric change: “Hey man, did you see that? Those poor cats were sure fucked up.” Damn.

The energy generated by “Lost in the Flood” propels the ensuing three-pack from Wrecking Ball (“We Take Care of Our Own,” “Wrecking Ball,” “Death to My Hometown”) plus kindred spirit “My CIty of Ruins.” Pick your cliche—firing on all cylinders, in the zone, killing it—all would apply, and doesn’t the horn section sound fantastic? Despite the stadium scale of the show, Jon Altschiller’s mix is tight and close, with Roy’s piano and Max’s high-hat in particularly sharp focus.

“Frankie.” Merely typing the song title brings a smile. The marvelous, lost-and-found Springsteen original premiered on the Spring 1976 tour, his first new song after the release of Born to Run. It was performed around a dozen times that year and cut for Darkness a year later (despite Bruce’s introduction saying The River). It was recorded again for Born in the U.S.A. in 1982, and that version was eventually released on Tracks in 1998.

The song’s live outings in modern times are equally limited. One-off attempts in 1999 and 2003 showed “Frankie” deceptively tricky to get right; something about the song’s lilting quality and mid-tempo pacing proved elusive. But after working through the arrangement in soundcheck, Bruce unlocks the wondrous heart of “Frankie” and lets it wash over Gothenburg in a spellbinding performance.

The show’s second act begins with slightly off-kilter take of “The River,” though normal service is restored in a crisp “Because the Night” and on through “Lonesome Day,” “Hungry Heart,” “Shackled and Drawn,” and “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day.” We step back into special-show territory with another great pick from Tracks, the rollicking River outtake “Where the Bands Are” dedicated to the fans who had travelled from show to show around Europe. It is the last performance to date of the irresistible track.  Thanks for the words Erik Flanagan

The Band

Bruce Springsteen – Lead vocal, guitar, harmonica; Roy Bittan – Piano, keyboards, accordion; Nils Lofgren – Guitar, lap steel, backing vocal; Garry Tallent – Bass; Stevie Van Zandt – Electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, backing vocal; Max Weinberg – Drums; Jake Clemons – Tenor saxophone, percussion, backing vocal; Charlie Giordano – Organ, keyboards, accordion; Soozie Tyrell – Violin, acoustic guitar, percussion, backing vocal; Everett Bradley – Percussion, backing vocal; Curtis King – Backing vocal, percussion; Cindy Mizelle – Backing vocal; Michelle Moore – Backing vocal; Barry Danielian – Trumpet; Clark Gayton – Trombone; Eddie Manion – Baritone and tenor saxophone; Curt Ramm – Trumpet

After putting out Magic in September 2007 and touring it for the better part of 12 months, Bruce began 2009 with the drop of another studio album, Working on a Dream, followed a week later by the band’s Super Bowl, his most widely viewed performance ever. Barely catching their breath, Springsteen and the band kicked off the WOAD tour on April 1st, which would run through November .

Nassau Coliseum 4th May 2009 presents the first opportunity in the archive series to revisit the WOAD tour in its purest form, the first leg, before the full-album shows of the fall and on a night when Max Weinberg played drums the entire performance. Max’s son Jay had been drafted to take his sticks while the Mighty One was fulfilling his day job leading the house band for Conan O’Brien’s short-lived stint hostingThe Tonight Show. Because he was training his understudy, Max shared the drum stool with Jay for the preceding eight concerts. Max’s full participation at Nassau may be one of the factors energizing this excellent performance which offers a winsome mix of recent material, welcome returns, and a few true surprises.

The first half of the show is straight fire. There’s a real sense of purpose and focus right out of the gate with a punchy “Badlands” straight into “No Surrender.” Familiar territory, yet sounding mighty fresh indeed, buoyed by the E Street Band in especially fine voice (a good example of details you can only hear in the archive series recordings). Listen for lovely vocals from Soozie and Patti at the top of “No Surrender” and clear evidence of the night’s high spirits: after Bruce sings “Hearts of fire grow cold,” Clarence shouts an affirmative, “YEAH!”

With the show clipping along, Bruce goes all-in for “Outlaw Pete,” and damn if it doesn’t work, as his conviction brings the hokum narrative to life. Springsteen and the band have a rollicking good romp through the mini Western epic, and there’s even a quick nod to “Be True” in the final solo.

A snappy “She’s the One” makes an unusually early and appreciated appearance in the set, continuing the cool E Street vibes. Like “Outlaw Pete,” Bruce digs deep for “Working on a Dream” in what has to be one of the best versions of the song, sounding vital and rich, once again resplendent with background vocals from the band. One of the tour’s hallmarks was Springsteen’s preacher rap in the middle of the title track, and his gospel will surely move you, especially with the The Big Man’s call-and-response intonations so clear and heartfelt.

“Seeds” made a much-appreciated reappearance in 2009, the first E Street Band turn for the song since the Tunnel of Love Express Tour and played in a potent, straightforward arrangement that wraps with inspired guitar soloing. “Johnny 99” marks another WOAD tour return in a full-band version that bears an unmistakable Jerry Lee Lewis flavor. There’s no mistaking the blast the band is having, with Nils taking a sinewy slide guitar solo and Soozie and Patti singing sweet, train whistle “Woo Hoo”s.

Six-string pyrotechnics continue with a showcase for Lofgren on “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” completing the so-called “recession pack” of songs that started with “Seeds.” Thanks to Jon Altschiller’s revealing mix, the song is also a showcase for Roy Bittan, who, unbeknownst to most of us until now, plays a beautiful piano part behind Nils’ soaring solo. Another distinguishing feature of the WOAD tour was the impact of song-request signs made by the audience. The acknowledgment of these signs organically evolved the show to feature a moment where, during “Raise Your Hand,” Bruce collected signs and decided what requests to grant. Kismet was definitely in play for the first request granted, the one and to-date only performance of “Expressway to Your Heart,” a minor hit for the Soul Survivors in 1967 written by the legendary Philadelphia songwriting and producing team Gamble & Huff. Anticipating the request, Springsteen and the band rehearsed and sound checked the song, which helps explain why their one-off version is so bloody good.

Bruce has a rich history of covering minor hits (“Double Shot of My Baby’s Love,” “Little Latin Lupe Lu,” “Mountain of Love”) and making them his own, and “Expressway to Your Heart” joins the pantheon of the best of them. With its irresistible hook and infectious chorus, the song is an instant E Street classic cover worth the price of admission. The request section goes from strength to strength as a well-oiled “For You” follows “Expressway,” then the tour premiere of “Rendezvous,” an asset to any set list. This wonderful sequence concludes with a fizzing version of “Night.” What more could you want?

The back nine of Nassau holds up its end of the bargain, too. Some consider “The Wrestler” to be the signature performance on this leg of the tour, and the case is made strongly tonight. The song’s rustic, fleeting majesty is on full display (does anyone else hear hints of U2’s “Kite”?), with Bruce’s voice rough-edged and full of emotion. In hindsight, the story told by “The Wrestler” echoes some of the sentiment expressed first-person in Bruce’s autobiography and Broadway show.

Beckoning Patti to the mic, Bruce changes the mood with a soaring “Kingdom of Days,” pledging his partnership in full voice in this underappreciated song, rare for celebrating love not at its inception, but further on up the road.

A trio of 2000s songs (“Radio Nowhere,” “Lonesome Day” and “The Rising”) carries us to “Born to Run” and the encore, where Bruce speaks nostalgically about how “these old buildings” — arenas like Nassau Coliseum, the Spectrum in Philadelphia, and the Sports Arena in Los Angeles — are “great concert halls” that are being torn down one by one. Springsteen’s history in Nassau Coliseum alone, site of the epic New Year’s Eve 1980 set among others, is significant and resonates through this final performance in the original arena which has since been renovated. The encore ends, as it should, in joy mode, with “Dancing in the Dark” (in which Garry Talent keeps the time very tight indeed) and “Rosalita.” And surely any performance of “Jungleland” from Clarence’s final tour should be treasured. But it is the first line of a song unique to the WOAD tour, “Hard Times (Come Again No More),” that lingers: “Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears.”

Following Bruce’s comments about the value of old buildings like Nassau Coliseum and his suggestion to the audience to support Long Island Cares (founded by Harry Chapin), the sentiment of “Hard Times” — making its live archive debut here — is fitting. In early 2020, a time marked by national travails and reminders of how precious and fleeting life can be, the 166-year-old lyric sounds even more like a directive all should heed.

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

Words by Erik Flannigan

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