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