Follow That Dream

Bruce Springsteen 06/05/1981

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Wembley Arena, London, England, June 5, 1981

By Erik Flannigan

Though they performed four concerts there in 1975 to promote Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s 1981 European Tour was the first proper visit to the continent. Those three months and 33 shows would go on to form a bond between band and fans that persists to this day.

“Most of the audiences we played to spoke English, at best, as a second language,” Springsteen writes in Born to Run. “It didn’t seem to matter. We played to crowd after crowd who let us know they felt about music the way we felt about it….Playing for our fans overseas was, and continues to be, one of the greatest experiences of my life. It fully started in 1981, and it’s never stopped.”

European audiences had been waiting years to see Springsteen on stage, hungry to witness what their ears had only heard, indoctrinated by bootlegs of the ‘78 radio broadcasts as much as by the official catalog. They kept the faith when the UK leg, scheduled as the start of the tour in March, moved to May, and bought enough tickets to warrant second shows in Stockholm and Rotterdam.

Springsteen had been waiting, too. Promotion of his 1975 London dates spurred some antagonistic press outlets to question the hype surrounding him. Despite playing what in hindsight were two great shows in London (one of which has since been officially released), Bruce and the band left on a bit of a sour note. Shows outside the U.S. were never seriously considered on the Darkness tour, so after a nearly six-year gap, Europe remained unconquered and unfamiliar territory when the tour kicked off in Hamburg on April 7, 1981.

Many of us have eye-opening experiences the first time we visit other countries. Viewed through the lens of a new culture, that which we call home can look quite different. Based on quotes and comments made by Bruce at the time and thereafter, Europe ‘81 catalyzed an already evolving perspective on the country and culture that shaped him.

At his first show in Paris, Springsteen altered the familiar introduction to “This Land Is Your Land” and spoke not of Woody Guthrie, but of Elvis Presley, telling a condensed version of the “jump the fence at Graceland” tale before reflecting on the last time he saw Presley in concert. There, he didn’t play his “rocking stuff,” but instead songs like “How Great Thou Art” and “American Trilogy.”

“In the end,” Springsteen told the French audience, “it seemed like the songs that were closest to him and that he sang with the most heart [were] about the land that he grew up in and…the God that he believed in, who I guess he hoped would save his soul. This is a song about freedom, [about not] having to die when you’re old in some factory or…in some big million-dollar house with a whole lot of nothing pumping through your veins.”

The next show, again in Paris, an introduction to one of Bruce’s most personal songs, “Independence Day,” also evolved, as he spoke of reading Howard Zinn’s The People’s History of the United States and gaining insight into “how things got to be the way they are today and how you end up a victim without even knowing it.” Seemingly inspired by his own comments the night before, Springsteen opened that second Paris show with a new interpretation of Elvis’ “Follow That Dream.”

Nine weeks later on June 5, 1981, Bruce and the band took the stage for the final night of a six-show stand in London forever changed by the experience of the tour. It’s a triumphant performance that summons up everything which had justifiably earned Bruce his reputation up to that point along with a sense of realtime awakening and fresh perspective fostered on the stages and streets of Europe.

The night gets off to a cracking start with “Born to Run” straight into “Prove It All Night,” the latter notable for the kind of heightened vocal (listen to Springsteen reach for a higher register in the second verse and chorus) that usually signals a special show. The invitation of “Out In The Street” is met with the full support of the crowd and then we downshift to the aforementioned “Follow That Dream.”

Springsteen’s “Follow That Dream” completely re-imagines Presley’s song of the same name (written by Fred Wise and Ben Weisman), transforming the King’s lightweight ditty into a stark, meditative hymn. Bruce blends new lyrics with lines from Presley’s cut, interpolating strains of Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” along the way to create a striking new original.

The London performance captures all of the song’s evocative power and reinforces how Springsteen’s Europe ‘81 performances show early signs of where his songwriting would go next with Nebraska and the demos for Born in the U.S.A., for which he would cut “Follow That Dream.” Its chant-like quality also echoes the Devils and Dust tour’s set-closing cover of Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream.”

Three songs later, after a stirring “Darkness On the Edge of Town” and “Independence Day,” Bruce’s reflections on Elvis’ final days and the “whole lot of nothing pumping through your veins” from the first Paris show have spawned a new song in its own right, “Johnny Bye Bye.”

Like “Follow That Dream,” Springsteen’s eulogy to the King is a pastiche of musical sources, combining lyrics from Chuck Berry’s “Bye Bye Johnny” with music and several lines from his own Darkness outtake “Come On (Let’s Go Tonight)” (later released on The Promise box set) and recently penned words. “Johnny Bye Bye” would eventually be recorded with an revamped melody and a faster tempo for Born in the U.S.A. (where it was issued as the B-side to “I’m On Fire”), but the original live arrangement bears poignancy and solemnity not retained in the later version.

The new songs are but two highlights in a stalwart first set that also features superb covers of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Who’ll Stop The Rain,” Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” and “I Fought The Law,” the latter almost certainly a tip of the cap to The Clash, who so memorably covered the song made famous by the Bobby Fuller Four (and written by Sonny Curtis) two years earlier.

The second set provides a showcase for uptempo River songs, plus the underplayed “I Wanna Marry You” (replete with its “Here She Comes” intro) and a rich “Point Blank” which highlights the interplay of Roy Bittan’s piano and Danny Federici’s organ. Bootleg favorites “Because The Night” and “Fire” are perfectly rendered crowd pleasers. If that wasn’t enough, Springsteen debuts his ardent arrangement of the traditional Cajun song “Jolé Blon,” having recently played on and produced Gary U.S. Bonds’ version from the 1981 comeback album, Dedication. Riding infectious lead vocals, “Jolé Blon” is one of Springsteen’s most charming and perhaps underrated covers.

Springsteen is in complete command as a spot-on “Ramrod” leads into “Rosalita” where Jon Altschiller’s mix neatly positions the audience response with the band introductions, including the always appealing “Spotlight On The Big Man” vamp. Kudos as well to Bruce for putting a UK spin on Rosie’s signature declaration: “This is his last chance, for his daughter to get down, ‘cause the record company, Honey, just gave me the big pounds.”

High-spirits carry over to the encore via an impeccable “I’m A Rocker,” while “Jungleland” provides the show its epic denouement. From there, one last nod to the King with brief, earnest cover of “Can’t Help Falling In Love” and finally “Detroit Medley,” augmented by welcome sprints through “Shake” and “Sweet Soul Music.”

Somewhere near the end of the “Medley,” the multi-track recording of Wembley runs out and a fan recording fills in the rest of the song. It seems fitting that this outstanding performance wraps in the hands of a fan, someone who undoubtedly waited those six long years for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band to come home to Europe.

The Business Of The Unexpected: Roxy ’78


Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
The Roxy, West Hollywood, CA, July 7, 1978

By Erik Flannigan

Imagine yourself at the Fabulous Forum in Los Angeles on Wednesday, July 5, 1978. Bruce Springsteen is playing his first headlining arena show in the area, a culmination of his growing popularity. During the intermission between sets, a rumor swirls that a special show is happening on Friday night at the Roxy in West Hollywood and tickets are going on sale tomorrow morning. With a capacity under 500, seeing Bruce and the E Street Band at the tiny club will be the toughest ticket in town. What do you do? Leaving early means missing the rest of the Forum show when the rumor may not be true. But if you stay, do you miss the chance to see a once-in-a-lifetime intimate performance? A true Sophie’s Choice.

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band 7/7/78 The Roxy, Hollwyood, CA

Perhaps a few did leave before the encores; others rushed straight from the Forum to the Roxy to join the growing queue because the rumor turned out to be true. A small item in Thursday’s LA Times confirmed tickets were going on sale for Bruce’s “first club appearance in nearly three years.” The faith of those who braved the overnight line was likely rewarded as eyewitness reports suggest as many as 1,000 people were waiting when the Roxy box office opened at noon.

“It was like the Beatles when we announced the Roxy,” says Paul Rappaport, Columbia’s west coast promo guy at the time and organizer of the show on behalf of the label. After it quickly sold out, “hundreds of kids showed up in the KMET lobby and at the CBS Records lobby in Century City looking for tickets,” he adds.

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band 7/7/78 The Roxy, Hollwyood, CA

Why KMET? Because the silver lining in the Roxy announcement for those who couldn’t attend was that it would be broadcast live on the radio, the first of five such transmissions on the Darkness tour that helped cement Springsteen’s peerless reputation as a live performer.

Each one --The Roxy, The Agora, Passaic, Atlanta and Winterland -- has its merit. They are compelling shows one and all. But the circumstances surrounding the event and the remarkable, risk-taking performance make the Roxy stand apart.

Rappaport recalls a phone conversation with Jon Landau where they discussed how difficult it was to create breakthrough buzz in LA even given a sold-out Forum show. “It is such a big town and there’s a lot going on, so it is hard to get attention,” he told Landau. The manager in turn suggested the idea of a live broadcast on KMET.

The FM rock radio powerhouse had grown more popular than the biggest Top 40 station in the city. “It’s like that scene in Back to the Future where the guy takes two electrical cords, shoves them together and sparks fly,” Rappaport says. “That’s what happens when you marry the greatest thing in rock ‘n’ roll to the greatest amplifier in Los Angeles…. I told Landau it would be amazing.”

The catch was there were only a few of days to pull it off, including buying out the band already booked to play the Roxy that night, getting Ma Bell to lay special high-fidelity phone lines at the venue to send audio to the radio station, as well as procuring a remote-recording truck to handle the mix and--as we’re fortunate enough to hear today--preserve the concert on multi-track tapes.

Springsteen starts the set by acknowledging the ticket challenges, which he owns with humility, a tenor that then gives away to something akin to a coiled snake. “We’re gonna do some rock ‘n’ roll for ya. A WELL, A WELL, A WELL THE LITTLE THINGS THAT YOU SAY AND DO, MAKE ME ALWAYS WANT TO BE WITH YOU HOO HOO.” Inspired by the recently released biopic, Springsteen opens the set with a thrilling surprise, the band’s stupefyingly tight take of Buddy Holly’s “Rave On.” With it, the breakneck pace for the Roxy is established, never to be vanquished.

How fast? If your digital playback device had a pitch control, you’d probably check the setting during “Candy’s Room,” jet-fueled by Max Weinberg. Every song in the first set teems with confidence and conviction, none more so than the sequence of “Candy’s Room” into a flawless “For You,” followed by the next of the night’s shockers, “Point Blank.” It’s a bold debut for the future River track, stunningly performed with early lyric and arrangement variants.

The caliber of performances in the first set carries on in the second, which opens in high spirits with more unreleased tunes, the instrumental band spotlight “Paradise By The ‘C’” and “Fire.” While the setlist serves as a showcase for Darkness tracks and the Roxy versions are uniformly brilliant, when people suggest the ‘78 radio broadcasts drove thousands of new converts, it is because they captured both the music and the magic.

As the set moves to “Growin’ Up” and its delightful “goddamn guitar” story, enchantment turns irresistible. “Growin’ Up” flows into a scintillating “Saint In The City” and the E Street Band crushes it. The new mix by Jon Altschiller makes Springsteen and Van Zandt’s guitars sabre sharp.

If somehow that weren’t enough to convince, we get “Backstreets,” in a version many cite as one of the very best. The mid-song “Sad Eyes” passage (edited on Live 1975-85) is intact here, restoring this masterpiece to its full grandeur. From the charm of “Growin’ Up” through the emotional catharsis of “Backstreets,” religious conversion is complete.

“In the middle of the show, I stepped out because I needed fresh air,” Rappaport recalls. “It was one of the greatest scenes I have ever witnessed in rock: A couple hundred kids with their ears pressed to the wall outside the Roxy; all of the Sunset Strip listening to this broadcast, car after car, windows down, people singing along. It blew my mind.”

There would be more mind blowing to come. Bruce opens the encore with yet another new song, premiering “Independence Day” on solo piano, a monumental moment. Neither “Point Blank” nor “Independence Day” would be played again until September, which makes it all the more astounding that Springsteen chose to debut them in the broadcast. In fact, over the course of the night he performs five unreleased originals, two of them for the very first time, plus another four unreleased cover songs, two them also live premieres.

All this knowing full well--as he proclaims at the top of the second set--that bootleggers and thousands of fans listening at home would indeed be rolling their tapes. When the stakes couldn’t be higher, Springsteen went all in.

“One of the things I had to do,” Rappaport explains, “was tell the sales branch that I guarantee there will be a bootleg. But we had to do it….It’s one of the greatest live recordings of all time.”

When asked about the audacity of debuting brand-new songs, Rappaport replies, “Bruce understood the platform he had. I think he wanted to play those songs because he was always trying to do something different. He didn’t want to repeat himself. I have never seen a guy work harder than him, ever. ”

Rappaport then recounts a tale told to him by Columbia’s then head of sales, who had seen Springsteen backstage at a big show debating doing another encore when it seemed like he had already given the people all they could want and then some. When asked why we was even considering one more song, Springsteen replied, “I’m in the business of the unexpected.”

With the Roxy, the unexpected was broadcast all over town, and via tapes and bootlegs, ultimately to fans the world over.

The encore rolls on after the sublime “Independence Day” and Bruce and the band push the show as hard as she will go. “Born to Run,” “Because the Night” (which was already a hit for Patti Smith), Eddie Floyd’s “Raise Your Hand” and finally, after 12 minutes of cheering, “Twist and Shout.”

From the band to the audience in the club, from the kids outside the venue to the listeners all over Southern California listening on KMET, anyone who experienced the Roxy performance would concur with Rappaport’s final assessment: “I witnessed rock ‘n’ roll history.”

Down The River We Ride


Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Madison Square Garden, New York, NY, November 9, 2009

By Erik Flannigan

Sometime in the early 2000s, playing full albums in sequence, in concert came in vogue. For the final leg of the 2009 Working On A Dream tour, Bruce Springsteen got in on the fun, announcing that for the band’s five-show stand at Giants Stadium, they would revisit a classic album each night, drawn from Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town and Born in the U.S.A., after test-driving the concept with BTR at a show in Chicago.

For fans, there’s a lot to like about a full-album performance. Hearing those songs in that order hearkens back to how many of us fell in love with the music in the first place, playing the albums over and over until we memorized every note and nuance. For Bruce and the band, it was something novel and different, too, shifting the approach to both the songs and sequencing within a concert dynamic. Case in point, “Badlands” and “Thunder Road” had evolved into key tracks used to wind down or close sets; in a full-album context they reverted to their roles as the starting point of the narrative.

In a run of a dozen or so shows starting at Giants Stadium, Springsteen rotated the three albums into his sets, one each night. In truth, many of the songs were in regular rotation anyway (acknowledging outliers like “Meeting Across the River” and “Streets of Fire”), so the new experience was hearing the songs in order, presented as a whole.

But when it was announced that Springsteen would return to Madison Square Garden and feature one-off, full-album performances of The Wild, The Innocent & the E Street Shuffle and The River, stakes were raised. Considerably.

Both albums contain songs that were not part of the regular or even extended concert repertoire, plus a few that had barely made a set list in decades. The River is also a 20-song double album, so to perform it meant devoting nearly two hours of the show to that material alone. An ambitious prospect, and one that made this an unmissable night, because The River is just as much THE album that got many of us into Springsteen as Born to Run, Darkness and BIUSA are.

The River performance at MSG holds its own today as much as it did in 2009, even given the 2016 River tour first leg which saw the album essayed every night. When Bruce and the band hit the road in January 2016 to start the new River tour in Pittsburgh, they were rehearsed and ready. In November 2009, a better operative word might be game. Firing in peak tour form, they were game to perform their most ambitious studio work as a special, one-time event. “It’s too long to do it again,” Bruce quipped at the time.

For those lucky enough to be there (myself included), the result was a marvelous, in-the-moment experience for band and audience, as rarely played songs like “Crush On You,” “Stolen Car,” “Wreck On The Highway” “Fade Away,” “I Wanna Marry You” and “The Price You Pay” roared back to life, fulfilling long-held fan desires and restating the case for The River’s place in the core canon.

It seems contradictory to feel heightened anticipation for a set where you know what 20 songs are about to be played, but there was an undeniable air of expectancy in the building as Springsteen took the stage for the opener, “Wrecking Ball,” which served to remind us Bruce had history with the building. Indeed, MSG was the site of four epic performances on the original River tour in 1980.

“We’re gonna get right to work now,” Bruce then declared, explaining The River’s place as a transitional record, moving into adult themes later explored on Nebraska and Tunnel Of Love. He also said it was also a conscious attempt to balance the dark with the light, or what Springsteen called, “the music that made our live shows so much fun and enjoyable.”

From there we were off, galloping through both ends of the emotional spectrum with equal aplomb. Stalwarts like “The Ties That Bind” and “Out In the Street” felt freshened by renewed context, while Bruce made a delightful meal out of “Crush On You,” “a hidden masterpiece” only played once since 1980. The charm of mid-tempo romantic gems like “Fade Away” and “I Wanna Marry You” resonated and left one wondering why they lay dormant for so long.

Part of the answer is the absence of Stevie Van Zandt from the two major tours that followed the album. His imprint on The River cannot be understated. Heard in the robust, up-close mix by Jon Altschiller, Van Zandt’s guitar playing (which on this night included 12-string electric) and vocals (backing harmonies and shared leads) are essential to this body of work.

For many, “Stolen Car” was the moment they had been waiting for. With Max Weinberg, Garry Tallent, Charlie Giordano and Roy Bittan in particular providing a gorgeous accompaniment, Springsteen played one of his greatest and saddest songs with heart-wrenching austerity.

The River’s high contrast is truly brought to bear in the sequence of “Stolen Car” into the hydraulic pounding of “Ramrod” followed by the exhilarating declaration of “The Price You Pay,” the latter another high point in the show. For its final act, The River winds down through the slow rising crescendo of devotion pledged in “Drive All Night” and, lastly, the stark humanity of “Wreck on the Highway.” On the 2016 tour, “Wreck” was given a more lush and full-bodied arrangement, ending the album sequence on a different note. The 2009 edition retains more of the somber majesty of the original and serves as a plaintive coda to the overall River story.

When Bruce gathered “the guys that recorded the record” and shouted out their missing comrade, Danny Federici, everyone in the room, be it on stage or off, recognized that this reading of The River was a audacious achievement. Nine years on, it still is.

It’s One Hell Of A Town

Bruce Springsteen
St. Rose of Lima Gymnasium, Freehold, NJ, November 8, 1996

By Erik Flannigan

Even for a career marked by legendary performances, Springsteen’s 1996 return to his hometown of Freehold, NJ stands out as extraordinary. Held in the gymnasium of St. Rose of Lima, the Catholic parochial school Bruce attended growing up, the one-off benefit concert might be the sweetest “prodigal son returns” narrative in rock concert history.

In hindsight, a deeply personal Springsteen solo performance at an intimate venue sounds not dissimilar to his current run on Broadway. Shows like the Christic Institute in 1990 (released as part of the live download series), Freehold 1996 and the Doubletake benefit in Somerville, MA 2003 are antecedents to Bruce On Broadway, juxtaposing Springsteen storytelling at its most personal with special setlists.

What makes Freehold particularly heightened is that Springsteen isn’t playing to his fans per se, he is playing to the people in his hometown (tickets were strictly limited to Freehold residents only), family and relatives and some of the very Sisters and Fathers who oversaw St. Rose of Lima then and now. One might say Bruce was throwing his own acoustic confessional at the scene of the crime.

“I wouldn’t have believed it myself if I wasn’t standing here, right under the cross,” Springsteen admits at the top of the show, “What can I say? Myself, I’ve been excommunicated with the divorce and all, but it’s still great to be here. I told my buddy Steve, ‘I’m playing Friday night.’ ‘Where?’ ‘At my Catholic school.’ And he says, ‘Oh. Revenge!’ I said, ‘No. Well. Maybe just a little bit’.”

With that spirit established, Springsteen begins to masterfully weave together his core Joad tour set and songs for the occasion into a poignant, heartfelt and frequently hilarious performance that runs the gamut from tender recollections of his mother coming home from work to tender advocacy for the relationship benefits of cunnilingus.

The latter was something Bruce included during his intro to “Red Headed Woman” throughout the tour, but given the setting, the subject is even more amusingly unsettling. Can you sing about cunnilingus while standing inside your Catholic school? “I talked to Father McCarron,” Bruce assures. “He said, ‘I’m not sure.’ “I took that as a yes….The Pope says, ‘I can’t, but you go right ahead’.”

The many comedic moments of Freehold shine, and so too the songs. Joad material like “Straight Time,” “Highway 29,” and the title track are in peak tour form, as is the four-pack of “Sinaloa Cowboys,” “The Line,” “Balboa Park” and “Across The Border.” Tour standouts “Adam Raised a Cain,” “Johnny 99” and “Born in the U.S.A.” also hit home with something a little extra this night.

“When You’re Alone” from Tunnel of Love is played for only the second time ever (and one of but 12 public performances) in a pure, beautiful arrangement featuring Soozie Tyrell on violin and Patti Scialfa on backing vocals. It is one of an impressive nine tour premieres in Freehold, some specially chosen like “The River” and “Racing In The Street” (both featuring Tyrell), some audibles, as Bruce tears up the set list mid-show for “Open All Night” and “Used Cars” in their only Joad-tour performances; the same goes for “My Hometown.”

The combination of musical highlights and humorous candor in such a setting makes Freehold one for the ages. So how do you end such a transcendent night? With the world premiere of the song of the same name, “Freehold,” an autobiographical narrative that literally sums up Bruce’s history with his hometown, name-checking many of the places, spaces, events and people that influenced him in those formative years. It even delivers one final uproarious nod to “revenge” in the delightfully contradictory couplet: “Well I got a good Catholic education here in Freehold / Led to an awful lot of masturbation here in Freehold.”

Until a release of Bruce On Broadway, Freehold ‘96 might be the closest substitute, the night Springsteen returned triumphantly to his hometown on his own terms.

Now All That Remains Is My Love For You Brother

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, MA, November 19, 2007

By Erik Flannigan

There is something appealingly workmanlike about the Magic tour. Reunion celebrated the return of the E Street Band and revisited the legacy. The Rising tour was imbued with the spirit of answering the call in the wake of 9/11 (famously, a fan on the street yelled to Bruce, “We need you, now”). In contrast, Magic reads more like, “we made a great record and we’re excited to take those songs on the road.”

That commitment comes through loud and clear on Boston, November 19, 2007, a cracking Magic show that showcases eight of the album’s 12 songs along with several special additions spotlighting one band member in particular.

Springsteen’s final U.S concert of 2007 would prove to be Danny Federici’s last full gig in the E Street Band. Following Boston and ahead of the European tour it was announced that Federici would take a leave of absence to receive treatment for melanoma. Well aware of the pending change, Bruce’s drafted a setlist for the second night in Boston with Phantom Dan in mind and soul, dipping deep in The Wild & The Innocent for three songs and adding the tour debut of “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” another chapter in the band’s origin story. Even the night’s lone track (!) from Born in the U.S.A., “Working on the Highway,” rides a Danny keyboard riff.

Compared to the sprawling, three-and-a-half to four-hour epics to come a few years later on the Wrecking Ball tour, Boston ‘07 looks merely long, clocking in at a tight two hours, twenty-two minutes, and that includes almost 12 spent on “Kitty’s Back.” There’s barely a wasted second and the set derives potency from its taut pacing especially at the start, as Springsteen walks up to the speed bag and starts jabbing: “Radio Nowhere,” cross to “Night,” hook to “Lonesome Day,” uppercut with “Gypsy Biker.” It is a thrillingly breakneck start.

We get a moment to catch our breath with the cautionary ballad “Magic” before Bruce raises his gloves again. The bullet-mic, honky-tonk arrangement of “Reason To Believe” is one of the tour’s signature performances: Bruce blows some mean harp and his distorted singing through the vintage microphone gives this “Reason” it’s deliciously dark and dirty texture. From there, we roll straight into “Darkness On the Edge of Town” (sounding rich and expansive in Jon Altschiller’s guitar-forward, multi-track mix), then the always welcome “Candy’s Room” propelled by Max Weinberg before crunching guitars transition to a crisp “She’s the One.”

That song had barely concluded before Max counts in the next, “Living in the Future,” another tour highlight and a moment Springsteen seemed to relish each night, commanding every corner of the stage as he delivered a song about “sleepwalking through changes that shouldn’t have happened” in our country. One might forget that upon Magic’s release, a few questioned why the album didn’t overtly address the actions of the George W. Bush administration. Metaphorically it did, in spades, and Bruce seemed to be responding to that misunderstanding of his work and his role: “We’re gonna sing about it. We’re musicians! That’s a start and after that, the rest is up to…all of us.”

The Boston show also brought the tour premiere of “This Hard Land” in a fresh full-band arrangement, embellished with solo spotlights for many members; not surprisingly, Springsteen calls on Danny first. But the proper showcase was to follow. “Winner of the Ted Mack amateur hour in 19….not that long ago, Dan Federici,” Springsteen says as Danny comes to the front of the stage, accordion adorned, for a touching and fitting “Sandy.” Staying circa 1973, “E Street Shuffle” slides in for a playful romp through one the band’s most joyful slices of musical myth making.

The rest of the show blends setlist stalwarts (e.g. “Badlands,” “Born to Run”) with the remaining core Magic songs. All sound vital in retrospect, none more so than “Devil’s Arcade.” The performance builds slowly from Soozie Tyrell’s violin to ultimately soar on some of Springsteen’s most evocative guitar soloing this century. The crescendo, rising from the repeated phrase “the beat of your heart/her heart” is captivating, as Bruce pushes and bends his guitar tone sharply before giving way to Max’s repeated drum beat that winds the song to conclusion. A stunner.

The encore brings the night to a highly satisfying conclusion, first with what Bono recently called a song that should have been a hit, “GIrls In Their Summer Clothes.” The aforementioned “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” gives Clarence Clemons a chance to shine, then Springsteen gives the entire band their due with a long “Kitty’s Back” packing solo after solo, kicked off by a full minute of blissful Phantom Dan Federici organ. The show ends on a boisterous note with both Danny and Roy Bittan on accordions at the front of the stage for “American Land.”

The following March in Indianapolis, Phantom Dan made one last appearance as a special guest before passing away on April 17, 2008. Indy was goodbye. Boston is a celebration of Danny’s five-decade role in the E Street Band and damn good Magic tour performance.

I Believe In Your Song

 

Bruce Springsteen
Brendan Byrne Arena, East Rutherford, NJ, August 20, 1984

By Erik Flannigan

Nearly three years ago, Bruce Springsteen’s archival download series delivered a previously un-bootlegged gem: Brendan Byrne Arena, August 5, 1984, the first high-quality Born in the U.S.A. tour soundboard from multi-tracks and opening night of the ten-show New Jersey homecoming run. Now, the stunning complement arrives, August 20, 1984, final night of the Brendan Byrne stand.

Featuring memorable guest appearances by Stevie Van Zandt and the Miami Horns, 8/20/84 is justifiably regarded as one of the best shows of the tour and earns a place on the short list of Bruce’s most celebrated shows of all time as much because of what it represented as the music performed. To understand why requires a bit of mental time travel.

For Springsteen fans, the wait between the final show of the River tour in September 1981 and the start of the Born In The U.S.A. tour in June 1984 felt like eternity. In 1982, we got Nebraska, though no tour, as well as Van Zandt’s Men Without Women, released that October. Stevie’s solo debut planted the seed that his future in the E Street Band was in doubt. With his second album, Voice of America (released but a month before Born in the U.S.A.), the question was answered; soon thereafter Nils Lofgren was announced as his replacement.

Today,18 years beyond the Reunion tour and Stevie’s full return to the band, one can forget how devastating his departure felt back then. Springsteen bid him an emotional farewell in song with “Bobby Jean,” as well as in the album credits to Born In The U.S.A. where he wrote, “Buon viaggio, mio fratello, Little Steven,” which translates roughly to, “Have a good trip, my brother.” Kleenex, please.

All of which leads us to the Meadowlands, summer 1984. Nils had earned his stripes over the tour’s first several weeks, gracefully and capably stepping into Stevie’s shoes Born in the U.S.A. occupied the No. 1 slot on the Billboard Top 200 album chart for the entire month of July. And Bruce and the band were rolling into New Jersey for an unprecedented ten shows. In a career of peaks, the summer of ‘84 was one of the highest.

The previously released first night, August 5, is an excellent show in its own right. But as Bruce acknowledges to start August 20, “Well, tonight’s the night.” He knew it. The audience knew it, too. From there, an alchemy of anticipation, occasion and celebration combine to yield an inspirational performance that showcases the best of the Born In The U.S.A. tour arena era, plus singular moments that still resonate to this day.

The first set, heard here in a muscular, guitar-forward mix from multi-tracks by Jon Altschiller, plays out with the confidence of a new line-up hitting its stride (like Nils, Patti was but a few weeks into the band as well). The powerful, electric version of Atlantic City” might well be definitive, with Max’s gut-punch kick drum leading the way. Also from Nebraska comes “Highway Patrolman”; listen for a rare turn on harmonica by Clarence Clemons. We also gain two BIUSA album tracks not featured on 8/5/84, “I’m Goin’ Down” and “Darlington County” (“Cover Me,” in the second set, is a third), plus two other set changes for the regulars: “Spirit In The Night,” setting a proper Jersey backdrop to the evening, and a powerful “Darkness On The Edge Of Town.” “I know a lot of you guys been here for more than one night,” Bruce concedes later in the show, “almost everybody.”

Springsteen begins the second set with a crowd-pleasing trio of “Hungry Heart,” “Dancing in the Dark” and “Cadillac Ranch” before dropping his first surprise of the evening. I can only imagine the anticipation people felt as microphone stands were set up behind Roy Bittan.  It is genuinely thrilling to hear the Miami Horns (appearing with Bruce first time since 1977) once again blast the opening refrain of “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.” From that delirious high point, we slide to one of the tour’s poignant highlights, the solo acoustic “No Surrender.”  

As evidenced by that transition, the show’s pacing–faithful to the core tour setlist, but brilliantly sprinkled with gems–is part of its charm. One senses both the confidence the band had gained playing new album songs over ten nights for hometown fans and Bruce’s desire to make it a night all of them would never forget by closing a very important loop.

The remainder of the second set finishes as strong as the first, with classic stories teeing up “Pink Cadillac” and “Growin’ Up,” along with a charged “Prove It All Night” before wrapping with “Rosalita.” The encore opens in fine fashion with “Jungleland” and then, the moment arrives. “Tonight’s a special night. Little Steven is gonna come up and play with us tonight.” As captured on tape, those words are met with a roar of pure audience elation.

Springsteen’s song choices for the occasion are spot-on. From his own canon, it could only be “Two Hearts,” performed for the first time on the tour. You can hear Stevie’s guitar join the mix as the song takes a few extra bars before locking in. When the pair share the mic at the start of the second verse, the cheer from the crowd bleeds through behind them. But “Two Hearts” merely set the table.

What follows is one of the best live moments in Springsteen’s entire career. The decision to cover “Drift Away” (written by Mentor Williams and made famous by Dobie Gray) is a masterstroke. “[We] learned something special for you tonight,” Bruce says, and shortly thereafter the song’s stately horn line begins and magic fills the arena.

Williams’ heartfelt lyrics, about seeking solace in music when you feel vulnerable, have always struck a chord, which is part of the song’s inherent greatness. Yet in the context of this night, with Van Zandt rejoining Springsteen on stage for the first time since leaving the band, “Drift Away” feels purpose written for these blood brothers, as they trade fitting line after fitting line.

Bruce takes the first verse, Stevie the second (the last line of which is particularly apropos, “Countin’ on you, to see me through”), and they share a memorable bridge:

Bruce:

And when my mind is free, just a melody can soothe me

Stevie:

Listen Brucie. When I’m feelin’ blue, guitars comin’ through to soothe me

Both:

Thanks for the joy, the 20 years you’ve given me/ I believe in your song/ Rhythm and the rhyme and the harmony/ You help me along, making me strong

The emotion in their voices unmistakable. The arrangement then moves compellingly to the song’s denouement, as Bruce brings the band down and lets voices carry an extended chorus. The Big Man’s rich baritone, Patti’s harmonies, even La Bamba’s piercing falsetto all join in to bring the song to magnificent conclusion. The bond described in “Bobby Jean” comes full circle with this performance of “Drift Away.”

After Van Zandt exits, the encore rolls on in high spirits, and the horns come back one last time to enliven “Detroit Medley” and “Twist and Shout – Do You Love Me,” closing out an unforgettable night of rebirth and reunion. Reliving it in high-quality audio today is what the archival download series is all about.

Any Given Wednesday: Bruce Springsteen Devils & Dust Tour 8/3/05


Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, MI

August 3, 2005

By Erik Flannigan

 

There’s one clear common thread connecting the rock artists whose live recordings are most highly collected. From the Grateful Dead to Phish to Pearl Jam to Bruce Springsteen, when these artists play live, every show is distinct. The setlists they perform change night after night to collectively encompass not only the widest possible swath of their own catalogs, but through covers, the music of other songwriters, too.

That’s admirable in its own right, and it makes seeing multiple nights on a tour all the more rewarding as a fan. But even if one were to see but a single concert by the aforementioned musicians, playing something fresh and different creates palpable presence. Each singular performance benefits from an artist consciously choosing to be in the moment.

I have often said, and nearly as frequently experienced, that part of the seductive appeal of seeing Bruce Springsteen in concert is never knowing what song you might get to hear. This has been true for most of his career, but since the Reunion tour, it is more like an official tenent of his platform. For stretches of the Magic, Working on a Dream and Wrecking Ball tours, audience sign requests and other attempts to “stump the band” evolved to become overt centerpieces of the show.

For me, Springsteen’s ultimate high-wire act in this regard was the 2005 Devils & Dust tour. A solo show, without the collective safety net of the E Street Band, found Springsteen at his most spontaneous and fearless, not merely adding unusual songs to set lists, but often performing them in a one-of-a-kind manner. In fact, over the course of the tour’s 72 shows, Bruce assayed a whopping 139 different songs, 42 of which were played but once or twice. One could say the tour’s unspoken motto was: I do not play these songs often. I have not played them on this instrument. I may not play them this way again.

Case in point, the sublime version of “Tunnel of Love” that opens Grand Rapids. “I’m gonna start with something I haven’t played before,” says Bruce, just before his hands come down on the electric piano and the marvelously muted, swirling chords that only that instrument can make pour forth. Past a tentative first few notes, the confidence in his own playing swells, and the clarion vocal and wistful keyboard begin to interplay, as one lingers and punctuates the other right up to the last 12 resonant chords that end the song so beautifully. We didn’t hear “Tunnel of Love” live, we witnessed a new “Tunnel of Love” being born.

It doesn’t get any more magical than that, and yet, he has never played the song solo again.

What Grand Rapids captures so effectively is Springsteen’s version of this magical alchemy, that on any given Wednesday–not in New Jersey or Los Angeles, not in Milan or Gothenburg, but in his one and only concert ever in Grand Rapids–an unrepeatable performance could be created. And through the magic of the live download series, those of us who weren’t sitting at Van Andel Arena get to hear what what those lucky folks experienced.

While only three days separate Grand Rapids from Columbus, the other archive release from the Devils & Dust tour, to the points above the two shows are as distinct as they are kindred. Around a spine of songs from the album (including a rare outing for one of its least performed tracks, “Black Cowboys”) Springsteen puts his keyboard playing to the fore and the song selections are inspired. The choice of electric piano reinterprets “Sherry Darling,” now as much a melancholy remembrance as a summer party song, and the instrument applies a dreamlike filter to “Nothing Man,” bringing even deeper intimacy to its narrative.

Sequencing “I Wish I Were Blind” on piano to follow suggests an earlier chapter from the life of the same narrator; recontextualized, songs that never felt connected suddenly feel part of a whole. Staying with piano, Bruce delivers a fine rendition of “Racing in the Street,” his playing as majestic as the song warrants, especially the long outro. Later in the night, his final performance on piano, “Jesus Was an Only Son,” is another highlight, set up with a wonderful story of his family and sung with conviction and tenderness.

There are surprises on guitar as well, as Springsteen resurrects “Part Man, Part Monkey,” the amusing evolution tale from the Tunnel of Love tour. That album’s “Ain’t Got You” is delivered in fine form in the encore, as is the tour premiere of “(It’s Hard to Be A) Saint in the City,” sounding as fresh as the John Hammond audition.

Across the night Bruce is chatty, personable, occasionally profane and quite funny, revealing himself as much through his looseness as he does on Broadway with his marvelously crafted storytelling. That in-the-moment candor, a set filled with outstanding performances and an audio mix even more up-close than Columbus makes Grand Rapids a thrillingly unexpected gem.

Down Along The River’s Silent Edge I Soar

Bruce Springsteen
Brendan Byrne Arena, East Rutherford, NJ, June 24, 1993

By Erik Flannigan

In contrast to the periods that preceded it, the Human Touch/Lucky Town era has never established the same kind of collective characterization within Bruce Springsteen’s career narrative. We, the fans, have a consensus of opinion on, say, the Darkness tour or Europe ‘81, but 1992-93 remains more unsettled.

By definition it was an aberration, in that it broke from the norm of always touring with the E Street Band. But in hindsight, the greater aberration would have been if Bruce had never toured with other musicians.

For he was hardly alone in choosing to work without his most familiar and beloved bandmates. Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and Elvis Costello, each to varying degrees, changed up who they recorded and toured with more than Springsteen. And like Dylan had done many times before, the 1992-93 line-up was assembled specifically as a touring band that would have to learn both old and new songs. In fact, it was Dylan’s friend and unofficial musical adviser, the late Debbie Gold who Springsteen turned to for help finding new musicians to fill some very big shoes.

The result was a diverse, multi-generational, big-band line-up that, with its five gospel-trained back-up singers, wouldn’t have looked out of place on stage with Dylan circa 1978-81. In fact, Carol Dennis had toured (and more) with Dylan and Bobby King has recorded with him. Elsewhere, Lone Justice veteran Shane Fontayne stepped in on guitar, while session musicians Tommy Sims (bass) and Zack Alford (drums) formed the rhythm section. They were augmented by multi-instrumentalist Crystal Taliefero and familiar face Roy Bittan on piano and keyboards. Gia Ciambotti, Cleopatra Kennedy and Angel Rogers rounded out the back-up singers. This was the 11-piece new band.

We can only imagine the pressure these musicians felt at the start, with the shadow of E Street looming over them, and, to be fair, when the tour kicked off in June 1992, the cohesion of a band wasn’t there yet. An 11-night run in New Jersey later that summer (not coincidentally one more than the famed 10-night stand in 1984) was a bold statement of commitment to the new, but at times the striving was palpable.

One year later, back at Brendan Byrne Arena for a benefit concert to fight hunger and kick off a two-show wrap-up to the tour, things felt decidedly different. After touring Europe a second time and having not played a stateside show in six months, Springsteen and the his band returned with newfound ease, cohesion and quiet confidence.

The June 24, 1993 show, captured on multi-tracks by Toby Scott and newly mixed by Jon Altschiller, is a fascinating listen and offers a chance to reassess the 1992-93 band at their best. It also documents the blending of past and present, as guests from E Street and adjacent neighborhoods also share the stage on this genuinely special night.

As he had begun doing so effectively in Europe, the show starts with a strong mini-acoustic set. Bruce and Joe Ely had shared each other’s stages in Dublin a month earlier, and Ely makes his first guest appearance of the night dueting on Woody Guthrie’s “I Ain’t Got No Home.” Springsteen then plays sharp solo acoustic versions of “Seeds,” “Adam Raised a Cain” and “This Hard Land” that point the way forward to The Ghost of Tom Joad two years on.

The rest of the first set (this was the last band tour with an intermission) serves as a fine showcase of new and old material and the strengths of the musicians. Soul and gospel flavors run rich in these versions of “Better Days,” “Leap of Faith,” “Roll of the Dice” (with its “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” Solomon Burke coda) and especially the vocal exchange with Bobby King on the in hindsight quite charming “Man’s Job.” The traditional “Satan’s Jewel Crown” is a particular high point and something clearly born from the singers’ gospel heritage. The rock edge is there, too. “Atlantic City” and “Lucky Town” pack the right punch, and though “Badlands” without a saxophone solo still takes some getting used to, it is well played.

The outstanding second set is sharper still, opening with an acoustic guitar and piano version of “Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?” that is worth the price of the download alone. Bruce and Roy intertwine magnificently and it is but one of many moments of Bittan’s masterful playing this night. You’ll hear keyboard and piano parts throughout the show that you’ve likely never noticed before as on many songs Roy leads the way.

Elsewhere in the second set, the strength of the gospel chorus is brought to bear powerfully in compelling arrangements of “Because the Night,” “Who’ll Stop the Rain” and “Light of Day.” Patti Scialfa joins her husband for “Brilliant Disguise” and a terrific, long version of “Human Touch.” But the heart of the set lies in the three-song sequence of “Souls of the Departed,” “Living Proof” and “Born in the U.S.A.”

“Souls of the Departed” is a sober elegy, accented with audio from newscasts about the Iraq war that make its sentiments crystal clear (similar audio augmentation of “57 Channels [And Nothing On] in the first set isn’t quite as effective). It flows straight into “Living Proof,” a song of rebirth and arguably some of Bruce’s finest writing of the period. From that point of hope and renewal, the light darkens again with a Hendrix-flavored “Star-Spangled Banner” preface and “Born in the U.S.A.,” in which Bruce emotionally pleads, in manner not heard on other tours, “I got nowhere to go. I got nowhere to go. I got nowhere to run.”

The legendary encore that would see old friends like Stevie Van Zandt, Southside Johnny, Max Weinberg, the Miami Horns and Clarence Clemons take the stage largely speaks for itself. It sounds just as fun now as it surely was then. To their credit, the new band plays songs like “Glory Days” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” capably, and the performance of Joe Ely’s “Settle for Love” is a surprise highlight. A Springsteen cover of the song wouldn’t have been out of place on High Hopes.

Beyond the undeniable fun of “It’s Been a Long Time,” “Having a Party” and “It’s All Right,” two other encore songs merit attention. Like “Does This Bus Stop,” “Thunder Road” is another Bruce and Roy showcase, this time with Bittan adding sweet organ fills to Springsteen’s acoustic strumming. Finally, if a single song captures the spirit of this era, it the spiritual dream of “My Beautiful Reward,” played here with sparse beauty.

The 1992-93 tour was a shock to the system for fans at the time. But viewed through the lens of nearly two decades of a reunited E Street Band, the expanded Wrecking Ball line-up and the Seeger Sessions Band, this particular period of musical exploration now feels kindred. Meadowlands ‘93 provides a fine snapshot of a hot, soulful summer night when Springsteen’s past and present united.

It’s Just Me and You Tonight


Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Capitol Theater, Passaic, New Jersey, September 20, 1978

By Erik Flannigan

It was a homecoming when Bruce and the E Street Band returned to the Capitol Theater for a three-night run in September 1978. The Passaic shows were the band’s first New Jersey appearances on the Darkness tour, coming at the end of a run that saw Springsteen play 22 shows in 32 nights, nine of which took place within the 14-mile radius encompassing Madison Square Garden (three sold-out nights), the Palladium (another three sold-out nights) and the Capitol Theater. If you’re looking for the heart of the Darkness tour, look no further than the Passaic stand.

To mark the occasion, a special marquee was commissioned for the theater, and, most famously, it was decided that opening night at the Capitol, September 19th, would be broadcast live on FM stations from Maine to Virginia including WNEW-FM in New York City. The Passaic broadcast was a culmination of much of the success that had been earned on the Darkness tour, and, thanks to tapes and bootlegs of the broadcast, it was helped seal the legend of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band live in concert.

But the next night the pressure was off, and that’s what makes the Capitol Theater, September 20, 1978 such an exceptional performance and an essential addition to the archival download series. “It’s just me and you tonight,” says Bruce before launching into the show-opening cover of “Good Rockin’ Tonight.” If night one in Passaic was playing to Bruce’s entire east-coast fanbase listening on the radio, night two was playing for himself and many of his longtime Jersey fans.

What follows is an electric, 22-song performance that delivers much of the core ‘78 tour set along with special selections for those stalwart local supporters, including a long, band-showcasing “Kitty’s Back”; the galvanizing cover of the Animals’ “It’s My Life” (frequently played at 1976-77 shows but uncommon in ‘78); and a very rare live coupling a la the album of “Incident on 57th Street” into “Rosalita” which justifiably brings the house down. Smashing stuff.

As great as those special additions are, Darkness on the Edge of Town material is performed here at its peak, so the versions of “Badlands,” “The Promised Land,” “Prove It All Night” (with its long instrumental intro), “Candy’s Room” and the title track capture Bruce and the band at the height of their powers, augmented by the album outtakes “Fire” and “Because the Night” in equally fine form. If you’re looking for “Racing in the Street,” Bruce subs “It’s My Life” in its place, seemingly to honor an audience request you can make out clearly in the recording.

Add in future River songs “Independence Day” and “Point Blank” and there is no denying the intensity of the September 20 performance and the total commitment of the musicians. Even on tape, you can feel it as much as you hear it.

Yet the magic of a Springsteen concert is the balance of darkness and light. Here, with only 102 shopping days left until Christmas, the playfulness comes as Bruce performs “Santa Claus is Coming To Town” for the first time since 1975. Likewise, the encore is pure release, first firing a turbo-charged “Born to Run,” followed by an ebullient “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out,” “Detroit Medley” and finally, what else but “Twist and Shout.” As the latter comes to an end, a sweat-drenched Springsteen takes off his coat, throws it over his shoulder and shouts triumphantly, “I’m goin’ home!” He was already there.

Line recordings of the September 20 show have circulated for many years, initially in mono (pulled from an in-house video recording) and later in stereo from soundboard tapes. For the first time, this release comes from multi-track reels captured by the Record Plant’s mobile recording unit and mixed by Bob Clearmountain, after restoration by Jamie Howarth at Plangent Processes.

Compared to even the best of the bootlegs, Clearmountain’s mix is next level, fixing instrumental and vocal balance, while adding dimensionality, depth and a polish that this sparkling performance fully deserves. The Darkness tour has never sounded better than this.

Brothers and Sisters Don’t You Cry, There’ll Be Better Times By and By


Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, New Orleans, LA
April 30, 2006

By Erik Flannigan

Some things are meant to be. That Bruce Springsteen’s immersion into roots music, The Seeger Sessions, was released just six days before he and the band of the same name appeared at the first New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival post-Hurricane Katrina had to be an act of benevolent fate. Rarely has the subject matter and style of a particular set of music felt so apropos to a moment.

Often it is the confluence of occasion and performance that distinguishes a great show from an all-timer and on those grounds, Jazz Fest 2006 has come to be considered one for the ages. “This…felt even above and beyond Springsteen’s high performance standards,” wrote LA Times critic Randy Lewis in his contemporary review, “a concert infused with the shout-out jubilation of an unfettered hootenanny.”

Reverent reflections on Bruce’s Jazz Fest performance have continued ever since. “I am not alone in ranking that show as quite likely the best, and certainly most emotional, musical experience of my life,” wrote New Orleans Times-Picyune critic Keith Spera in 2012.

Spera’s opinion is shared by none other than Springsteen himself, who wrote in Born to Run, “There was one show in America that stood out as not only one of the finest but one of the most meaningful of my work life: New Orleans.”

With such heady endorsements, Jazz Fest 2006 fully merits inclusion as the latest release in the archival download series. For those not lucky enough to witness the show in person, the official recording also represents a fresh opportunity to re-experience the performance, previously only available via audience recording.

The sound here, mixed from multi-tracks by Jon Altschiller, is full-bodied and warm, with a wide-stereo mix that gives space to all 20 or so players and singers on stage, and just the right amount of crowd response to capture the full bilateral experience.

“Alright, this is our first gig, let’s hope it goes well,” Bruce says at the top, summing up a spirit that’s equal parts purpose and looseness.

The former comes from being in New Orleans, post Katrina, a subject Bruce addresses head-on, notably in his intro to “How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?,” reflecting on the devastation he witnessed while touring the city the day before the show and calling out the failure of government officials, from then President Bush on down, to address the situation. He goes so far as to dedicate the song to “President Bystander.”

The looseness is there by design in the very act of assembling and bringing this seemingly unwieldy number of accomplished players to the stage to play timeless folk and protest music (save for a few reworkings of Bruce’s own songs) for the first time on the road, as Jazz Fest also doubled as opening night of the Seeger Sessions tour.

The result is a Springsteen performance that’s fully in the moment and delightfully off the cuff. One minute he’s solemnly addressing the difficult times many in the Jazz Fest audience were experiencing, the next he’s mocking his own inability to tune a guitar or having an amusing wardrobe malfunction with his belt.

The music follows the same recipe for catharsis. “We Shall Overcome” is majestic and poignant, “Eyes On the Prize” elegiac and “How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?” triumphant, each brilliantly arranged to showcase the capabilities of the band. Elsewhere singalong songs like “Buffalo Gals” and “Pay Me My Money Down” offer rollicking fun and feel right at home on the Jazz Fest stage. As Springsteen himself wrote in Born to Run: “I finally had a band that I felt would contextually fit Jazz Fest and might be able to pull the weight of that position.”

Of the Seeger-ized originals played here, “Open All Night,” reimagined as a big-band rave-up, is the standout, but another of Bruce’s own compositions, written with this kind of band already in mind, provided the night’s emotional crescendo.

“This is a song I originally wrote for my adopted hometown, Asbury Park,” Springsteen says introducing “My City of Ruins.” “Parts of it look a lot like parts of New Orleans right now….so I wanna sing this and dedicate it to the people and the city of New Orleans tonight.”

The fitting question the song asks, “How will I begin again?”, and the empowering answer, “Come on, rise up,” struck a deep chord with many in attendance. Wrote Spera in his original Times-Picyune review, “Thousands lifted their hands to the sky. I wept, my wife wept. And we were not alone.”

Throughout the set, lyric after lyric from the Seeger Sessions material feels penned for the New Orleans audience. “What happened to you poor folks just ain’t fair,” Springsteen declares in “How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?,” while “O Mary Don’t You Weep” prophesies, “Brothers and sisters don’t you cry, there’ll be good times by and by.” Hearing such words of acknowledgement and hope sung out in such a musically engaging performance translates wonderfully in the Jazz Fest 2006 recording.

Perhaps the LA Times’ Randy Lewis summed it up best: “One concert, of course, cannot even begin to undo such monumental destruction as Katrina left, but Springsteen seemed to understand that even a moment of renewal can make a huge difference.” Amen to that.

The Tunnel of Love Is Open To Everyone


Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Stockholm Stadion, Stockholm, Sweden, July 3, 1988

By Erik Flannigan

Tracing Bruce Springsteen’s career arc from cult artist to superstar, theater to arena headliner, there’s a case to be made that a series of radio broadcasts on the 1978 Darkness On the Edge of Town tour played a significant role. The five home-recorded, fan-traded and oft-bootlegged concerts from The Roxy, The Agora, The Capitol Theater, The Fox and Winterland captured and ultimately spread the magic of Bruce and the E Street Band’s live show, and seemingly converted thousands to fill arenas two years later on the River tour.

Despite that rich history, there were no live broadcasts from the River tour, the Born in the U.S.A. tour or the U.S. leg of the Tunnel of Love tour. Which is why in 1988, after ten years of radio silence, the announcement that a portion of Springsteen’s July 3rd show in Stockholm would be broadcast live via satellite to the U.S. and the world was huge news for fans.

Like many among us, I tuned in that Fourth of July weekend and heard a potent 90-minute first set that wrapped with Bruce announcing plans to join the Amnesty International tour before wrapping the broadcast portion with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Chimes Of Freedom” (later released on the EP of the same name). It was the first of hundreds of listens to follow.

Conveniently apportioned to fill a 90-minute cassette tape, the Stockholm broadcast joined the five ‘78 b-casts as the most played live Springsteen recordings most of us had. There was just one problem: as great as those 14 songs were, 20 other songs were played in Stockholm after the satellite feed came down, and short of a crummy audience tape, few of us have had a chance to hear the full show, until now.

Happily, this complete, multi-track recording validates what we all presumed: the Stockholm show was one of the best on the Tunnel tour, offering a passionate, hyper-focused first-set and–freed from the pressure of a global listening audience–a rollicking, playful second set and encore. Looking for a sign of Springsteen’s mood after the transmission ended? How about the inclusion of Gary U.S. Bonds’ ultimate party track “Quarter to Three” for the first time since 1981.

Fondness for the familiar first set is richly deserved. It starts with Bruce inviting the audience in the stadium and at home to come aboard with a wonderful “Tunnel of Love,” now followed by a horn-blasting “Boom Boom’ (with its unabashed sentiment of “I need you right now” replacing “Be True,” performed in this slot for most of the US leg). The brazen John Lee Hooker cover forms a bond of emancipation with what follows, “Adam Raised a Cain,” again propelled by the five-piece Horns of Love. Bruce hadn’t toured with a horn section since ‘77 and their presence is a critical component in the distinct sound and theatrics of ‘88 shows.

Because the broadcast was limited to 90 minutes, the first set showcased key Tunnel tracks, including a majestic “Tougher Than the Rest,” “Spare Parts,” “Brilliant Disguise” and “All That Heaven Will Allow.” Bruce also featured two killer non-album tracks: “Roulette,” unforgivably left off The River, but resuscitated to sound an alarm on the Tunnel tour; and “Seeds,” another take on the plight of working-class Americans and this time they’re pissed.

Perhaps the surprise highlight of the first set is “Born in the U.S.A.” Separated from its namesake tour and attendant misinterpretations, the song’s deep-seated anger is rekindled. Listen to Bruce’s shrieks of angst before Max’s drum crescendo, echoed later his own impassioned guitar solo. The story has grown more personal, too, as Springsteen adds new flashback lyrics after the final verse: “I just want your arms around me/I see the fire from the sky/I need your arms around me.” A stunning performance.

Set two is a totally different animal, but no less satisfying. I have often wondered how a seemingly long-forgotten song returns to the set, and there is no better example of this than the sudden reappearance of the instrumental “Paradise By the ‘C’” which opens the second set, after premiering four nights earlier in Rotterdam. What prompted its resurrection, after going unplayed since the Darkness tour? Sure, it suits the horns, but then again, there was no horn section in ‘78.

Regardless, it is a welcome showcase for Clarence and the Horns of Love, and sets the tone for a highly entertaining second set that milks the expanded band lineup and staging dynamics for all they are worth on songs like “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)” (which begins with a long, bit of musical teasing and showmanship often referred to as “Don’t You Touch That Thing”), “I’m A Coward” (Springsteen’s comic rewrite of Gino Washington’s ‘60s original) and a chock full o’ horns encore sequence of “Sweet Soul Music,” “Raise Your Hand,” the aforementioned “Quarter to Three,” and the inevitable last song for a show this joyous, “Twist and Shout.”

There are a few serious moments in the back half, among them the fine ‘88 arrangement of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?” into “She’s the One,” the first “Downbound Train” of the tour, and an unflinchingly earnest reading of Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Interestingly, Stockholm ‘88 has a connection to Springsteen on Broadway in that the solo acoustic version of “Born to Run” that Bruce is currently performing was first played in that arrangement on the Tunnel tour, a fine take of which is captured here.

Stockholm ‘88 has always been a fan-favorite because of the simulcast. Now restored to full length and remixed from the master tapes, it rightly joins Springsteen’s other legendary radio broadcasts as one of the best concert recordings of his career and a great representation of the Tunnel of Love tour’s European edition.

Blood Brothers Reunited: MSG 7/1/2000


Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

Madison Square Garden, New York City, July 1, 2000

By Erik Flannigan

Given the hundreds of shows performed since 2000, today one can overlook how momentous the Reunion tour was for fans who had been hoping, waiting and questioning for more than decade if Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band would ever hit the road again.

Eleven years had passed since the last full tour supporting Tunnel of Love and then Amnesty International in 1988. There was a smattering band activity around the release of Greatest Hits in 1995 (for which they recorded a few new songs), but it would take four more years for Bruce to officially summon the E Streeters back (including, for the first time since 1981, Steve Van Zandt) following the release of Tracks.

Even those directly involved would likely concede a tentativeness at the start of the tour in April 1999 and fans felt it, too. Was the Reunion tour a one-off or was the E Street Band back for good? Was it a nostalgic celebration of the past or the beginning of a new chapter?

By the start of the unforgettable ten-night, tour-closing stand at Madison Square Garden in June and July 2000, those questions had been answered. The bond between Bruce and the E Street Band was not only restored, but their status as an on-going concern now felt undeniable. On top of that, over the course of the MSG run, Springsteen performed several brand-new songs that pointed the way forward while changing up setlists to include welcome rarities from the past, playing with a supreme confidence earned through over a year of touring.

All of which raised the stakes for the tour’s final performance on July 1. The show wasn’t merely the culmination of the MSG run or the Reunion tour, but of the spiritual rebirth of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band itself. As such, expectations for the night were sky high, boosted even higher by the outstanding sets at MSG which led up to it. What would Springsteen do for such a special night? Could he top the brilliance of shows 8 and 9 just days before? In the end, he didn’t have to.

The July 1 show stands as a powerful, majestic performance sprinkled with moments of transcendence. Rather than deviate far from script on the last night, Springsteen stuck to the core songs that formed the spine of Reunion tour set: “My Love Won’t Let You Down” and “Murder Incorporated,” the superb Born in the U.S.A. outtakes mercifully liberated on Tracks; “Two Hearts,” Steve Van Zandt’s spotlight number, to which Bruce appropriately adds a few bars of Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston’s “It Takes Two”; “Youngtown,” recast from its acoustic roots into an electrified, Nils Lofgren-powered furnace blast; “Born In the U.S.A.,” which went the other direction, from electric to acoustic, while still packing a wallop; “The River,” more pensive and lonesome than ever; and supercharged crowd-pleasers “Badlands,” “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” and “Light of Day.” This is the material upon which the Reunion tour was built.

To these Springsteen added new songs, opening the show with the urgent rocker “Code of Silence” and bringing “Further On Up The Road” to the encore, where it joined “Land Of Hope And Dreams,” the Reunion tour theme song, which debuted all the way back at the tour rehearsals and was played at every show. But the new song generating the most heat was “American Skin (41 Shots),” written about the shooting of Amadou Diallo the year prior. You can read about the controversy it stoked during the MSG run elsewhere, but suffice it to say that this beautifully arranged and lyrically poetic song is as relevant today as it was at the time of this moving performance.

Of course, there were songs for the occasion, too. In celebration of the band, “E Street Shuffle” is perfectly appropriate, as is Bruce’s solo piano performance of “The Promise” to start the encore, another one of the great, lost songs restored to performance on the Reunion tour. And one can only stand in awe at the ballsy inclusion of “Lost In the Flood,” the musically complex epic not played since the Darkness tour until this night and absolutely nailed by the band, especially pianist Roy Bittan.

The peak of the aforementioned transcendence came at the end of the night, when, for the first time on the tour, Springsteen performed “Blood Brothers,” one of the new songs he recorded for Greatest Hits and something fans thought might be played every show before the tour had started. The sentiment of “Blood Brothers” reflects that spirit of rebirth between Bruce and the band, and on this night, he added a newly penned final verse that appended a touching coda to the entire performance. It was a sublime musical moment and a real-time catharsis for Bruce, the band and the fans, signaling that those lyrics, this night and the entire tour had reformed the bonds between them all.

“I was hoping that our tour would be the rebirth and the renewal of our band and of our commitment to serve you,” Springsteen said, introducing “Land of Hope and Dreams.” “I hope we’ve done that well this year and we´ll continue to try and do so….”

While parts of this show, along with some songs from June 29, were culled for the two-CD set Live In New York City released in March 2001, hearing the July 1 show from beginning to end, as it happened, with all key songs restored is a new and wholly rewarding experience.

Bruce Springsteen: You Can’t Sit Down — The Other Great Shows of the Darkness Tour


Hurricane Relief: Houston, Texas, 12/8/78
A Benefit for MusiCares® Hurricane Relief Fund

By Erik Flannigan

It is nearly impossible to find a Springsteen fan who doesn’t revere the Darkness tour. Those who witnessed one of its 111 shows in person speak of it in language typically reserved for religious conversion. Happily for the the rest of us, either born or converted after January 1, 1979, the palpable sense that Bruce and the E Street Band were laying it all on the line every-single-night is remarkably well preserved in the live recordings, from the official download of the Agora in Cleveland, August 9, 1978, on through the various audience tapes, radio broadcasts and soundboards in circulation among fans ever since.

Our insatiable appetite for the Darkness tour and a truly worthy cause make the audio release of Houston, December 8, 1978 most welcome. Many will be familiar with the show from its inclusion as the live DVD in the 2010 Darkness box set, but this download marks its first release in a more user friendly, audio-only edition. And the show warrants re-appreciation.

A big source of that deep and widely held love of the ‘78 tour stems from the fact that five incredible concerts were broadcast on the radio regionally: The Roxy in Los Angeles, the aforementioned Agora in Cleveland, the Capitol Theater in Passaic, the Fox Theater in Atlanta and Winterland in San Francisco. Hundreds of thousands of fans have been listening to recordings and bootlegs of the ‘78 broadcasts for nearly 40 years, to the point where they are as familiar with those performances as they are with the Darkness album itself. Myself, maybe more so.

Justifiably, all five are held in extremely high regard as some of the best shows Bruce and the band ever played. The Houston show was never available as anything but an incomplete, mediocre audience recording until the DVD. As such, it lacks the kind of decades-long familiarity that makes the five radio-broadcast shows so legendary.

But Houston stands strong on its own merits as a fantastic and vital show representative of the tour’s final leg and boasts an outstanding setlist and performance to match. The city has had a long relationship with Springsteen, as one of the first markets outside of the east coast where he found a following before Born to Run. Bruce is well aware of that history during the show, name-checking Liberty Hall, site of a mini band residency in March 1974, before a scorching “Saint in the City,” and adding the unreleased early burner “The Fever” to the second set.

Those are but two of the highlights in a 27-song setlist packed with them. A look back to ‘74 is complemented by a peek into the future as Springsteen plays what at the time were three unreleased songs from his next album, The River, opening the second set with “The Ties That Bind,” after playing “Independence Day” in the first, and adding an unsettling “Point Blank” later in the show.

If you’re counting, that’s four unreleased songs so far, to which he adds the Darkness outtakes “Fire” and “Because the Night,” for a total of six, seven if you count the snippet of “Preachers Daughter” in the mesmerizing intro to a long “She’s the One” that also contains an unusual mid-song breakdown often referred to as “I Get Mad.”

From the album Darkness we draw another seven tracks to the set, notably “Prove It All Night” with its long, piano-and-guitar intro, a scorching “Streets of Fire” and a fine “Candy’s Room.” The bounty continues with cover songs, first “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town,” as the season demands, and an encore which pays homage to Mitch Ryder with the “Detroit Medley,” Philly’s own Dovells with “You Can’t Sit Down,” and Springsteen hero Gary U.S. Bonds for the show-closing “Quarter to Three.”

You’ve watched the Houston show before. But have you listened? This release gives us all a chance to do so again with fresh ears and revel at Bruce and the E Street Band at the peak of their powers in 1978.

Bruce Springsteen Going It Alone: The Ghost of Tom Joad Revisited


Belfast, Northern Ireland, 3/19/96

Bruce Springsteen. Solo Acoustic Tour.

By Erik Flannigan

Some fans dreamt about that phrase for the better part of two decades, even as they cherished the many band tours therein. Back in 1971-72, before there was an E Street Band, Springsteen dabbled as an acoustic singer-songwriter, gigging around Greenwich Village at tiny venues like Max’s Kansas City. So the solo performer had always been there, it just took some time to resurface.

The first sign came in 1986, when Bruce played Neil Young’s annual Bridge School benefit concert. While he was augmented for much of the show by Nils Lofgren and Danny Federici, the second song of the set was the powerful Nebraska-era arrangement of “Born In The U.S.A.,” and that singular performance showed the power Bruce could harness alone on stage.

Four years later in 1990, Springsteen gave two solo acoustic concerts in Los Angeles to benefit the Christic Institute (both of these truly astonishing sets were released in 2016 as part of the live download series). In hindsight, the Christic shows planted the seeds for the solo Joad tour five years later, blending fresh arrangements of familiar songs, material originally recorded solo and brand new music.

The March 19, 1996 Belfast show at King’s Hall was Bruce’s first ever in Northern Ireland and its recording captures the spirit and soul of the Joad tour brilliantly. We’re around 50 shows in at this point, with Springsteen performing at the most intimate venues he had played since Europe ‘81 and setting the tone that this was no arena concert.

“Just about all the music tonight is real quiet,” Bruce tells his Belfast audience as he did each night of the tour. “So I really need your help in getting that kind of silence.” And if someone fails to heed his simple request? “Politely, with a smile on your face, ask them to…shut the fuck up,” he suggests.

His hilarious admonishment reflects two of the most appealing elements of the Joad tour: first, the return of Springsteen as storyteller, a hallmark in the early years but less so in the ‘80s and ‘90s; second, a new level of candor from the artist that seemed squarely aimed at chipping away the myth and re-introducing us to Springsteen the man.

Some twenty years on, the Joad album and supporting tour performances play like a singular body of work, presented as much on Bruce’s own terms as any phase in his career, the exception being Joad’s kindred spirit, Nebraska. His artistic control is palpable as the Belfast show unfolds, eschewing beloved setlist staples in favor of nine beautifully rendered songs from Joad, many prefaced by self-deprecating stories or contextual background on his narrative subjects.

To the Joad material Bruce adds three at-the-time-unreleased songs played back to back: “The Wish,” a nostalgic ode to his mother’s love and support, introduced in humorous, unflinching language that might cause Adele to plug her ears; “The Little Things,” a chance encounter/hook-up tale, the intro to which challenges our notion of what is and what isn’t autobiographical in Bruce’s yarn-spinning; and “Brothers Under The Bridge,” a stunning addition to Springsteen’s canon of Vietnam Veterans songs, performed with understated, elegiac beauty all the way through its haunting final verse. “Brothers Under The Bridge” is a highlight of the show and stands with his finest songwriting on the subject or otherwise.

A riveting acoustic “Born In The U.S.A.” follows and continues the Vets narrative, and if that wasn’t sobering enough, “Reason to Believe” receives its most bleak reading ever, in a relentless, falsetto-dipped arrangement that pulls no punches, a far cry from the rave-up version heard on recent tours. Also rearranged to stunning effect are “Darkness On The Edge Of Town,” played with urgency and passion on 12-string acoustic, and “Bobby Jean,” recast as a mid-60s Bob Dylan number.

Like most shows on the tour, the main Belfast set closes with a four-song arc of Joad songs “set on the border between California and Mexico” exploring, as Bruce cites, what Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes described as something “more like a scar, than a border.” These tale and characters, observed and imagined during the years Springsteen lived in Los Angeles, form a kind of dark and dusty novella about what happens to those who dare to cross borders, both literal and figurative. The arc ends with “Across the Border,” a reflection on the inextinguishable hope that drives the dreams of those searching for a better life elsewhere.

Springsteen would open his musical aperture later in the tour at magical shows like the homecoming gigs in Freehold and Asbury Park. But Belfast, with its compelling contrast of stark music and challenging narratives offset by Bruce’s often funny, always candid storytelling, presents the Joad tour in pure form.

Lotus – Live at Red Rocks DVD Now Available

Lotus will release its first full concert film, Live at Red Rocks September 19, 2014, on Monday, September 4th. The concert features a set called Talking Heads Deconstructed with guest Gabe Otto singing Talking Heads songs done in Lotus’ signature style.

“The origins of this show start earlier in 2014 when we were approached by a festival to put together a special set. After a few different ideas, we landed on the Talking Heads Deconstructed idea; mixing in our styles and melodies,” states Jesse Miller. “I was little bit wary of the idea initially because the Talking Heads are covered by so many bands in our scene. But, when it all came together, I thought we were able to give these covers a unique spin that really made these songs feel like our own.”

While most Lotus shows include sampled vocals when necessary, the Talking Heads set features Gabe Otto of Denver’s Pan Astral taking on the role of the group’s frontman, David Byrne. “Gabe brought an energy to the stage that took the performance to an even higher level,” says Miller.

The Talking Heads’ music has been a touchstone for Lotus since the beginning. Their early minimalist-CBGB rock style was steeped in groove, and as they added synths, more percussion and African-inspired rhythms, that core groove held strong even as the musical orbit expanded. The same concept holds true for Lotus after being a band for 17 plus years.

Miller says, “I did not envision a three-year long process getting the licensing to use the Talking Heads’ songs on the video, but I am glad our team finally pulled it off and we can share this show.”

Members of Lotus grew up just miles away from Red Rocks Amphitheatre with some even having their high school graduation there. When the band headlined the iconic venue for the first time in 2012, it was the realization of a longtime dream. They become more comfortable as they returned to Red Rocks and quickly made the venue their own.

“For the 2014 production, we used a lighting design that involved draping hundreds of LED bars around the stage. The position of all the bars were mapped into a software program that allowed 3D patterns used. It took so long to set up, but result was unlike any other stage I’ve seen,” Miller recalls.

The DVD is available for preorder at nugs.net.   Buy DVD – $19.95

Audio only of the show is also available in multiple formats at nugs.netBuy Audio

Action In The Streets 1977

Never Heard Before ’77 Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

2/7/77, Albany, NY and 2/8/77 Rochester, NY

By Erik Flannigan

Bruce Springsteen’s national breakthrough came in 1975 with the release of Born to Run. The album’s supporting tour commenced that July and continued in multiple phases through the spring of 1977 when, after playing some 170 shows, Bruce and the E Street Band finally returned to the studio to record Darkness On The Edge Of Town.

Springsteen’s performances in this transitional era represent some of the most fascinating and vital of his career, with evolving setlists that dug deep into his first three albums, embraced inspired cover songs and, by early 1976, began testing new material intended for Bruce’s next album.

The final stretch of the 21-month trek was an eight-week run in early 1977 that saw Bruce and the E Street Band again augmented by the Miami Horns, the four-piece horn section that first joined the tour in August 1976.

While Springsteen’s 1975 performances are captured brilliantly by the official Hammersmith Odeon DVD and live album along with the Philadelphia 12/31/75 download, the 1976-77 stretch of the Born to Run tour isn’t nearly as well documented. In fact, until now, no soundboard tape of the ‘77 tour has ever surfaced among collectors.

Which is what makes this pair of newly recovered and nearly complete soundboard recordings of the tour’s first two shows–Albany, NY, February 7 and Rochester, NY, February 8–such a significant addition to Springsteen’s live performance history. They provide the first high-quality tapes from a compelling period when no multi-track recordings were made. And in the case of opening night in Albany, not even an audience tape has ever circulated before among fans.

Across the two nights we are treated to a trove of significant performances, beginning with Albany’s audacious opener, a true work-in-progress version of “Something In The Night” featuring remarkable alternate lyrics. Another unreleased song, the freshly penned “Rendezvous,” pops up early in both sets, along with the epic cover of The Animals’ “It’s My Life” and the Miami Horns/Clarence Clemons spotlight number, “Action In The Streets.”

Amazingly, this download marks the first ever official release of “Action In The Streets.” The Springsteen original was performed nearly every night of the ‘77 tour, but would never be played again with the E Street Band. There is also no known studio recording of the delightful soul rave-up, making its inclusion on these tapes all the sweeter in a version so embryonic, the chorus does not yet feature the song’s eventual title!

The two shows do vary slightly, with Albany getting a wonderful and spirited “Growin’ Up,” while Rochester pays tribute to Eddie Floyd with a cover of “Raise Your Hand.”

But for many, the indisputable highlight of the ‘77 tour was its stunning performances of “Backstreets,” which featured an expanded mid-song narrative of betrayal that teems with raw emotion and reaches its crescendo, as captured gloriously on both recordings, when Springsteen shouts repeatedly with mesmerizing conviction, “You lied!”

Albany also includes a striking solo-piano led version of “The Promise” (moved to the encore and joined in progress the next night in Rochester), perhaps the greatest Springsteen original penned in the era and yet another gem uncovered on these remarkable Front of House mix tapes recorded by Chas Gerber. While there are a few cuts due to tape flips, between the two shows we get a complete version of every song performed.

Purchase both shows on CD or Download in MP3, Lossless, or Hi Res Formats at live.brucespringsteen.net.

Checkout these other great press clips around this release

 

nugs.net archives: The String Cheese Incident – 10/30/99

The String Cheese Incident – 10/30/99

It is our pleasure to bring to you, handpicked from the archives, one of the classic shows from Colorado’s own: The String Cheese Incident. With a catalog of 535 shows here at nugs.net, you can enjoy countless hours of the cheesiest jams possible. This show proved to stand out from the rest and is a great example of String Cheese showing off their skills and original style. This “Incident” features sit-in performances and some of the best covers this band can muster. After reviewing numerous shows from this run in 1999, we were immediately impressed with this show and its entire set list and had to include it as a featured “from the archive” for y’all.
Opening with a great rendition of “Miss Brown’s Teahouse,” the show keeps going with classic String Cheese songs from their early catalog. 1999 proved to hold some real gems from this band and you can find plenty of them performed in this very show. This show includes some rarities and even Keller Williams sitting in on bass guitar for Keith Mosley on “Suntan.” Any SCI fan can find something to like within this first set of incredible live music. “Suntan” gives way to the classic Steve Miller cover, “The Joker,” but String Cheese makes it their own, adding reggae/island influences to this version.
Set two does not disappoint, opening with an 18 minute performance of “The Chicken” with great solos and flowing jam structures. This version of “I’ve Just Seen A Face” is one the best covers from SCI and is a must-check-out for any diehard SCI fan—it is full of improvisation and danceable riffs that we keep coming back to listen to. “Vacate” includes another sit-in from Keller Williams; he feels like another member of the band during the time period when this show was performed, and even today. This song is a perfect example of Keller Williams and String Cheese meshing together as a cohesive unit. After countless sit-ins with one another, this show still stands out as a topnotch performance. Obviously, whenever Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie On Reggae Woman” is covered, everyone feels like dancing—and this cover is no exception. The encore “Footprints” is a jazz-fusion jam, which is highlighted in this high-quality version. String Cheese continues to go full force with Aerosmith’s ‘70s rock anthem “Walk This Way”; but again they change it up and add their own country-western-bluegrass style.
18 years later, The String Cheese Incident continues to mesmerize audiences with their spectacular live shows. They have even influenced the next generation of jam artists out there today and have pioneered this industry. You can truly hear the change and growth throughout all of SCI’s extensive collection of live shows on nugs.netThe String Cheese Incident has remained in the top echelon of live music because they deliver these amazing performances every time. Sift through the shows yourself—as there’s plenty more worth experiencing—but do check this show out.

nugs.net archive: Panic Halloween ’10

Widespread Panic –New Orleans, 10/30/10

We are kicking off our new blog by diving into the archives to surface some of our favorite high-quality downloads available on nug.net.  With 895 downloads in the archives, it’s hard to choose just one show that encapsulates what Widespread Panic does. Widespread Panic has been a heavy hitter in the Jam community for 30 years and are the heart of southern improvisational music. After narrowing down the many choices of killer shows, we found one that has all the right goods to bring to you. Holiday shows are always a special time with Widespread Panic but nothing comes close to their Halloween runs , which seem to be filled with a never ending supply of sit-ins, covers and rockin’ setlists.

New Orleans, 10/30/10 and the days surrounding it, exemplify what Widespread Panic does best. With great song selections from their own catalog and even a sit-in from Dr. John, the Night Tripper himself; only in New Orleans. This show has it all, with covers of Talking Heads “Papa Legba,” JJ Cale’s, “Ride Me High” and a blazing “Spanish Moon” originally by Little Feat, that is jammed out to extensive proportions.

The show also features Jimmy Herring on lead guitar. While Jimmy was still fairly new to the band after the passing of original guitarist, Michael Houser, Herring took to Panic like a fish in water and he shows his masterful guitar work throughout this entire performance and so does each member of the band, making this show a classic on nugs.net.

Stand out original songs include: a first set, “Dirty Side Down,” a newer song from that performance that has since become a classic. It’s very interesting to hear the development of these songs throughout the years and we can hear these changes within the hundreds of shows in the archives. “Henry Parsons Died” shows jazz flavored solos and incredible bass playing from Dave Schools. The second set opens with an always welcome, “Climb To Safety” as the band says, “climb aboard!” Into “Chilly Water.”

Dr. John enters the stage and plays a great rendition of “Right Place, Wrong Time” that has raw energy and those voodoo vibes that only he can bring. They continue with, “Dream Warrior.” Here Widespread shows what they do best while playing with the jazz/blues legend. The 12 minute “Arlene” is relentless and anytime Panic plays this song watch out, you’re going somewhere! The spectacular show closes with a Grateful Dead staple, “Creampuff War.”

It really doesn’t get much better than this and I am positive there will be many more shows from Widespread Panic in the upcoming posts.

Be sure to check out this recording of Halloween 2010 and so many more on nugs.net.  This soundboard recorded professionally mixed show is available for purchase as downloadable mp3, lossless, and CD shipped to your door.  It’s also available on demand.    Rock ON!

-Jam Band Purist