The nugs.net Live Stash is Now a Weekly Podcast

The nugs.net Live Stash is moving from the satellite to the cloud. Previously airing on Sirius XM’s Jam On channel as the Weekly Live Stash, the new nugs.net Live Stash is now available to more people than ever. The podcast, hosted by Brad Serling, will be home to the best live recordings from the last week and an occasional trip into the archives. The first episode is available now featuring music from Dead & Company, Phish, Metallica, and tons more. Keep an eye out for new episodes of the nugs.net Live Stash each week!

That’s When My Love Comes Tumbling Down

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ, September 22, 2012

By Erik Flannigan

Part of what draws us to Springsteen concerts is the range of emotions they deliver over the course of a single evening. Songs of hardship and heartbreak intermix with those of liberation, love, and celebration. But on occasion, the mood leans strongly in one direction. Playing the third of three stadium shows on the eve of his 63rd birthday, and following a 120-minute weather delay, Bruce was of a mind to surprise and delight his hometown fans and set the energy dial to HIGH.

When attempting to describe the E Street Band in peak tour form, as we find them here, it can be difficult to resist cliches. East Rutherford 2012 evokes “well-oiled machine,” the attributes of which are fitting: smooth, powerful, polished, built to last. Jon Altschiller’s vibrant mix spotlights their outstanding playing and grabs the listener right out of the gate, an apt choice of words, as if there were a track announcer at MetLife she would surely be shouting, “They’re off and running.”

East Rutherford 2012 opens with ten straight, dare I say, bangers, ignoring any “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” advice in an effort to rouse fans who had been waiting patiently for hours.

The proceedings commence with the open invitation of “Out in the Street,” and the band-fan partnership is further reinforced via “The Ties That Bind” before a horns-accented “Cynthia” makes clear Stevie had a hand in this appetizing 34-song setlist. Bruce calls the Born in the U.S.A. outtake a Van Zandt favorite and a little bit of “E Street from the Underground Garage,” in reference to his pal’s Sirius XM radio show and channel. Lots of rockers + lots of rarities = Stevie’s unmistakable influence.

Turns out we’re just getting started. From there, “Badlands” into a fine “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” followed by guitar-crunching versions of “Cover Me” and “Downbound Train,” and the new-album three-pack: “We Take Care of Our Own,” “Wrecking Ball,” and “Death to My Hometown.” With that, the ten-track onslaught relents, and we catch our breath during a moving “My City of Ruins.”

The pace of the show picks back up with “It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City,” still packing plenty of heat and preceded by an abridged version of Bruce’s Columbia Records audition story. A double shot with guest Gary U.S. Bonds (in fine voice) is another special treat, and the spirit of ‘81 is in full effect for a duet on “Jolé Blon” and a Bonds lead vocal on “This Little Girl.” The latter, a Springsteen-penned solo hit for Bonds, is performed for surprisingly only the fourth time ever with the E Street Band, which played on the original sessions.

After a Seeger Sessions-inspired “Pay Me My Money Down” come more rarities. As other live download releases have shown, “Janey, Don’t You Lose Heart” is a surprisingly tricky song to nail; this is a good one, riding an excellent Springsteen vocal. After “Janey,” Bruce realizes the clock has struck midnight, which means it is now officially his birthday. He asks the crowd for his song, and a stadium full of fans sings “Happy Birthday” back to him. Then, reaching all the way back to 12/31/80 without a soundcheck safety net, Springsteen summons up Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour,” and damn if they don’t nail it. Sure, any self-respected horn section would know those parts by heart, but one can still marvel that an audible unplayed for more than 30 years can come off so strong.

The spiritual highlight of the night is the first and only Wrecking Ball tour performance of “Into the Fire” from The Rising. With MetLife mere miles from Ground Zero, the vividly detailed lyrics resonate deeply, and the richly layered arrangement, led by Springsteen’s tender, heartfelt vocals, reminds us this is one of his modern classics.

The third reel of this epic New Jersey tale continues apace, with “Because the Night” and “She’s the One” doing heavy lifting, “Working on the Highway” keeping things loose, and “Shackled and Drawn” making sure we’re grounded, too. The denouement arrives in the precious pairing of “Meeting Across the River” and “Jungleland” for the first time on the tour. With the stage bathed in indigo light, Curt Ramm’s bold trumpet refrain and Roy Bittan’s understated piano intertwine achingly, and Bruce’s vocal is on point: rich, measured, and world-weary. The passion surges to crescendo in the ensuing “Jungleland,” and like a dramatic stage revival, the Jersey street opera remains arresting.

“Thunder Road” provides release, “Rocky Ground” solemnity, and then party mode takes over. The rest of a lively encore romps through “Born to Run,” “Glory Days, “Seven Nights to Rock,” and “Dancing in the Dark” before we get to our final memorable moment.

“The boss of bosses has just come on stage,” Bruce says by way of introducing his mother Adele. Along with his in-laws the Scialfas and other family friends, she has come out to deliver a cake and sing a proper “Happy Birthday.” The birthday party ends the only way it could, with “Twist and Shout.”

“Thanks for a memorable birthday,” Bruce tells the crowd as he walks off stage. “My mother is for rent for $2.50 an hour for parties and Bar Mitzvahs.” A pretty good joke for two in the morning, and a funny, fitting end to one of the most electrifying shows on the Wrecking Ball tour.

Dead & Company Tour Recap: Shoreline & Hollywood Bowl

Dead & Company Summer Tour 2019 is here and what a week it’s been! We’ve gotten powerful performances of our favorite songs, a debut of the Grateful Dead’s “High Time”, and so many more special moments from week one. As always we captured every moment in our live webcasts. Before you tune in tomorrow for Dead & Company live at The Gorge, watch some of our favorite moments from the last week’s California shows below:

Order Upcoming Dead & Company Webcasts

Catch every moment from this summer’s tour including the first four shows when your purchase the Unlimited Devotion Pass on nugs.tv! Select the 19 Show package when ordering the webcast and you’ll get access to every Dead & Co. show of the summer.


Shoreline Amphitheatre:

Playin’ In The Band

Scarlett Begonia’s > Fire On The Mountain

Bertha > Good Lovin’

China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider


Hollywood Bowl

Cold Rain And Snow

Iko, Iko

Estimated Prophet

Countdown to Dead & Company Summer Tour 2019: 7 Days

We’re just 7 days away from the Dead & Company Summer Tour kickoff. The tour starts next Friday at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California. To celebrate the start of tour we’re looking back at Dead & Company’s last outing. This January, the band journeyed to Mexico for their Playing in the Sand three day musical experience. These shows took place at the beachfront paradise of Riviera Maya and the experience can only be described as magical. Take a look at our videos from Playing in the Sand 2019 below:

Day 1


Shakedown Street

China Cat Sunflower

Day 2


Deal

Day 3


Sugar Magnolia

Scarlett Begonias

Check out last week’s Dead & Company blog feature for more highlights and videos!

Wilco Joins the nugs.net Family

Wilco’s collection of high-quality live recordings is now available on nugs.net. Dubbed the Roadcases, these shows are the best way to experience Wilco’s live performances anytime, anywhere. Subscribers can stream 65+ live Wilco performances recorded over the last 7 years right in the nugs.net app. Each show is professionally mastered so fans new and old will feel like they’re grooving in the front row. Check out highlights from the Wilco Roadcases below:


Roadcase 001: Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, CO 6/23/2012

Roadcase 023: Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater, Austin, TX – 10/11/2013

Roadcase 045: The Riviera Theatre, Chicago, IL – 12/12/2014

Roadcase 047: Solid Sound Festival, North Adams, MA – 6/26/2015

Roadcase 071: Theatre at Ace Hotel, Los Angeles, CA – 10/08/2018


Check Out Our Full Catalog of Wilco Shows

Umphrey’s McGee Release Anchor Drops Redux

It’s been 15 years since Umphrey’s McGee released their best selling album Anchor Drops. The 2004 album has long been a fan favorite and songs from the 14 track record have become an integral part of the band’s live repertoire nearly every time Umphrey’s McGee takes the stage. To celebrate the album’s 15th anniversary, the band just released Anchor Drops Redux. The new release includes both a remastered version of the original record and a completely remixed version from the original master tapes.

You can download Anchor Drops Redux today on nugs.net or stream it directly in the nugs.net app.

In celebration of the album’s release, Umphrey’s McGee is producing a weekly track by track deep dive into the history of Anchor Drops on YouTube. You can watch the first episode, covering “Plunger,” below:

You can also listen to over 350 live recordings of “Plunger” on nugs.net including this particularly awesome version from Umphrey’s McGee’s 2007 stop in Truckee, California.

Countdown to Dead & Company Summer Tour 2019: 14 Days

We’re just 14 days away from the Dead & Company Summer Tour kickoff. To prepare for the tour, we’re looking back at the best moments from last year’s run. This show comes from the Dead & Co. two night stop at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin. During the first set, the band welcomed their first guest of the tour, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. The Wisconsin native sat in for the back half of the second set which included “Black Muddy River,” “Friend of the Devil,” and “Bird Song.” Vernon previously recorded a studio version of “Black Muddy River” with his old band DeYarmond Edison and Bruce Hornsby for The National’s 2016 “Day of the Dead” charity compilation.

The first set kicked off with “The Music Never Stopped” which was followed by “Easy Answers” and “Alabama Getaway.” Listen to the full set I opener below:

The band returned for their second set with their version of The Band classic “The Weight.” The entire second set was filled with highlight performances from an extended “Shakedown Street” to a superb version of Bob Dylan’s “Along Along the Watchtower.” Watch the set II opener below:

Check out last week’s Dead & Company blog feature for more highlights and videos!

Countdown to Dead & Company Summer Tour 2019: 21 Days

We’re just 21 days away from the Dead & Company Summer Tour kickoff. To prepare for the tour, we’re looking back at the best moments from last year’s run. Today we’re revisiting the Dead & Co. stop at The Gorge on June 29th, 2018. With sweeping views of the Columbia river, this show had a breathtaking backdrop to accompany an evening full of beautiful jams.

The first set got off to a great start with “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo,” which led into powerful versions of “Bertha” and “Tennessee Jed.” The next song was the Dead & Co. debut of “Mr. Charlie.” The early ’70s tune highlighted Jeff Chimenti on keyboard and John Mayer’s vocals and guitar. You can watch the entire “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo” below:

The second set opened with a joyously extended version of “Playin in the Band,” that was later reprised to close out the set. This version was another great example of Dead & Co. wading the classic song into the exploratory. Check out our full video of the “Playin in the Band” set opener below:

Check out last week’s Dead & Company blog feature for more highlights and videos!

NINETY-NINE AND A HALF WON’T DO

Bruce Springsteen

Meadowlands Arena, E. Rutherford, NJ, July 25, 1992

By Erik Flannigan

The 11-night stand at the Meadowlands Arena to kick off the 1992 U.S. tour was a bold statement of intent. It’s surely intentional that it was one show more than the famed ten-show run at the same venue in 1984, the difference being that this time Bruce was coming home with new friends, not familiar ones. Touring for the first time without the E Street Band and playing in front of what are arguably his most diehard fans is a daunting proposition. But with opening night jitters out of the way, the second show on July 25, 1992 offers a hungry, highly entertaining performance that plays to the new lineup’s gospel-meets-roots-rock strengths.

Right from the top, Bruce is wholly committed and in stellar voice, his rich timbre leading the strong show-opening trio of “Better Days,” “Local Hero” (complete with local landmark namechecks to show his Garden State cred remained intact), and “Lucky Town.”

As I wrote in the notes for the 1993 release at the same venue, Bruce’s new musical collaborators “wouldn’t have looked out of place on stage with [Bob] Dylan circa 1978-81,” and that particular Dylan-era frame of reference applies to the music, too, as the approach to both new and old material was to make it more soulful while still rock ’n’ roll. The playing of the core band (Shane Fontayne on guitar, Tommy Sims on bass, and Zack Alford on drums) with a full European tour already under their belts is punchy and tight, while the background singers add gospel gravitas to the proceedings–an appealing combination.

Even on familiar material, these off-E Street versions don’t sound quite as “different” 27 years on, in a good way. The opening set features a first-rate “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” an eloquent reading of “The River” with a long, heart-heavy harmonica outro, and an inspired tour debut for “Open All Night.”

Aimed squarely at this turnpike audience, “Open All Night” starts solo and builds to full band in a manner that may suggest what the unreleased “Electric Nebraska” version sounded like ten years prior. Better still, in the middle of the song, Bruce tells an updated version of the yarn he spun on the Born in the U.S.A. tour, noting the closure of his beloved Howard Johnson’s and a reunion with the waitress at Bob’s Big Boy who reminds him her restaurant is still “open all night.” Good fun.

The first set wraps with four key tracks from the new albums, wrapped around a deeply personal “My Hometown,” introduced with an earnest story about parenting and dedicated from one relatively new dad to all the “moms and pops.” A dynamic performance of “Living Proof” again shows the song to be Bruce’s most powerful from the era. “Leap of Faith” is endearing and infectious thanks in large part to the singers, while the Sam and Dave-style vocal duet with Bobby King on “Man’s Job” raises it from catchy ditty to heartfelt homage. A feature-length “Roll of the Dice” wraps a spirited and undeniably entertaining first act.

After the break, the rarely performed “All or Nothin’ at All” proves a fine set opener and gets the energy of the show right back on track. It’s the one song from Human Touch that sounds like it could be a Born in the U.S.A. outtake, a spiritual cousin to the likes of “I’m Goin’ Down.” The crowd enjoys it too, singing along in full voice when tasked to do so. Having been played in concert fewer than a dozen times, its inclusion here is a welcome opportunity for fresh appreciation.

What follows is another rarity and one of the highlights of the tour, “Ninety-Nine and a Half (Won’t Do),” inexplicably performed only this night (and at a private tour warm-up in June, suggesting it may have been considered for a regular feature in the set at that point). The gospel tune has been covered by everyone from Wilson Pickett to Creedence Clearwater Revival, but Springsteen’s version casts him as a humorous preacher questioning the commitment of men in relationships, while King, Carolyn Dennis, Angel Rogers and the rest of the background vocalists sing like they’re wearing choir robes. The result is amusing, cleverly arranged, and another lost gem rediscovered by the download series.

On the whole, the 7/25/92 performance has aged well, but there are a couple of exceptions. “Real Man” is another rarity, performed on 7/25 for the very last time in concert. Bruce himself admits, “This next song I almost threw off the album because I thought it was too corny, but what can say? It’s how I feel.” Corny we accept, especially from a man in love. More difficult to ignore is the synthesizer that could not sound more dated, though in the end, “Real Man” is interesting if only for the sheer novelty factor of it in the overall canon.

Three recent classics return us to regularly scheduled programming: a spot-on “Cover Me” with fine fretwork from Fontayne, and two Patti Scialfa features, “Brilliant Disguise” and “Tougher Than the Rest,” the latter derailed slightly by those pesky period synths, though Bruce sings all three superbly.

The show’s denouement comes with the pairing of “Souls of the Departed” into “Born in the U.S.A.” “Souls” begins in desert darkness, with news reports of bombs over Baghdad riding desolate guitar strains a la U2’s “Bullet the Blue Sky.” It is a sharp-edged, commanding performance that moves through flourishes of “The Star-Spangled Banner” a la Hendrix into “Born in the U.S.A.” to slam home the point Bruce made so clearly on last month’s release: “War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.”

The show wraps with a run of crowd pleasers–”Light of Day,” “Glory Days,” “Working on the Highway,” “Bobby Jean,” “Hungry Heart”–and the tour’s gorgeous, stripped-down “Thunder Road,” before “Born to Run” and Bruce’s best-ever coda,“My Beautiful Reward,” send us out on a high, hopeful note.

Because of the new band, 1992-93 always carries an asterisk in Bruce’s live history, like a strike-shortened baseball season. But as was the case in the major leagues, they still played the games and the games still counted, especially to Springsteen himself. One can feel his commitment in this performance, joyfully trying to win over the Jersey crowd and largely succeeding.

Countdown to Dead & Company Summer Tour 2019: 28 Days

We’re just 28 days away from the Dead & Company Summer Tour kickoff. To prepare for the tour, we’re looking back at the best moments from last year’s run. June 15th’s performance at New York’s Citi Field, home of the Mets, was one of the most popular stops of the 2018 tour. The entire show was filled with unique jams.

The show opens with a nearly 14 minute version of “Shakedown Street.” The extended jam showcases some of John Mayer’s stellar guitar work. You can watch to the entire opening performance of “Shakedown Street” right now on our YouTube channel:

This show really heats up in the second half. The second set got off to a jazzy start that led into John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” as the opening tune. Following the opener, Mayer got another chance to flex his guitar expertise on an extended guitar solo on “The Other One.” The set continued it’s journey into the exploratory with an extended performance of “Estimated Prophet.” You can watch all three jams below:

Check out last week’s Dead & Company blog feature for more highlights and videos!

Watch Free Webcasts From New Orleans During Jazz Fest Weekend Two on nugs.tv

It’s that magical time of the year where the musical community comes together in Louisiana to perform and collaborate at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Weekend one was filled with amazing performances and collaborations; now it’s time for more. Starting Wednesday May 1st you can watch live shows from venues all over New Orleans exclusively on nugs.tv!

It all kicks off on Wednesday at 9:30 PM CT with Foundation of Funk live at The Fillmore. Starting at 9:45 PM CT we’ll be webcasting Billy Strings with special guest Cedric Burnside at Tipitina’s. Whether you’re in the mood for funk or bluegrass, you’re in luck Wednesday.

Expect plenty of very special guests on Thursday when Ivan Neville takes the stage at Le Petit Theatre. This show will be a journey through his musical history in words, songs, sounds, and stories told through the performance. Galactic are back home at Tipitina’s on Saturday night and if last weekend’s performance told us anything it’s that you’re not going to want to miss this show. The rest of our slate is filled with funk. Dumpstaphunk will be joined by the stellar blues guitarist Marcus King on Sunday night.

Shop Our Jazz Fest Sale!

We’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of Jazz Fest with a 50% off sale on select New Orleans shows from artists like Widespread Panic, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, Dead & Company, and more. Visit the Jazz Fest collection to see all 50 shows on sale!

Check out our full webcast schedule:

Countdown to Dead & Company Summer Tour 2019: 35 Days

We’re just 35 days away from the Dead & Company Summer Tour kickoff! To prepare for the tour, we’re looking back at the best moments from last year’s run! Last July Dead & Co. played two spectacular nights at Folsom Field in Boulder, CO to close out the tour. These shows were a perfect cap on a great summer of music, especially the final night. The performance was magical, the crowd was fantastic, and the setlist was packed full of awesome jams.

The band opened the show with a hypnotizing version of “China Cat Sunflower.” The performance is a must watch. The crowd was having the time of their life while Dead & Co. was in peak jam mode. Watch the full set one opener:

Dead & Company returned for their final set of the 2018 Summer Tour with an absolutely mesmerizing “Scarlet Begonias” set opener that led into “Franklin’s Tower” and a breathtaking “Fire On The Mountain”. At the end of the night the band came back for two encores performing “Uncle John’s Band” and “Ripple” to the close out the tour. Watch the full set two opener:

Be sure to check out last week’s Dead and Co. blog feature for even more highlights and videos!

Throwback Thursday: Red Hot Chili Peppers in Egypt

It’s hard to believe it’s been a month since we hosted the first ever concert webcast from the Egyptian Pyramids with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. This show was a massive undertaking start to finish and the end result was spectacular. Over 3.6 million people tuned in to watch the Chili Peppers make history in front of last wonder of the ancient world. Beyond the massive production and historic setting, the best part of the show was simply how much fun it was. Start to finish, the energy was incredible. You could immediately tell this was a special show, one that would live on forever. The beauty of a webcast is that fans all over the world got to enjoy this legendary show in all its glory from the comfort of their couch. It didn’t matter where you were sitting, we were all at the Pyramids. One thing is for sure, we’ll be asking people “Where were you when the Chili Peppers played the Pyramids?” for a long time.

To take a look back, here are a couple of our favorite photos from the trip:

Creating a stage design worthy of standing with the Pyramids is a tall order, but they delivered that and more

It takes some big-time satellite power to beam a show to 3.6 million screens

It all comes together for the big show

Bonus picture of the show’s setlist

Check out over 270 live Red Hot Chili Peppers shows on nugs.net!

Watch Free Webcasts From New Orleans During Jazz Fest Weekend One on nugs.tv

It’s that magical time of the year where the musical community comes together in Louisiana to perform and collaborate at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. This year Jazz Fest is celebrating its 50th anniversary and we’re expecting an incredible two weeks of live music. You can watch live shows from Tipitina’s, The Fillmore, and Mardi Gras Word!

It wouldn’t be Jazz Fest without some all-star collaborations, and this year is no exception. The fun starts tonight when Anders Osborne hosts an album release show with help from Dave Malone from the Radiators and Amy Helm!

On Friday, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe will be joined by NOLA stars Naughty Professor. We’ll also have an electrifying webcast with TAUK starting at 10:45 PM CT. The late show Friday will be a special treat with a Jazz Fest exclusive performance from The M&M’s! The supergroup is comprised of legends John Medeski, Stanton Moore, Papa Mali, and Robert Mercurio. When these four get together you know you’re in for something special.

On Friday and Saturday we’ll be hosting very special webcasts with Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. The net proceeds from these webcasts will go to Second Harvest Food Band feeding South Louisiana! Enjoy some fantastic jams and support a great cause.

Saturday night, tune in to see Roosevelt Collier join Galactic at Tipitina’s. As the new owners of Tipitina’s, you can bet Galactic have a fantastic show in mind. After Galactic, stay tuned for an awesome late night performance from The Disco Biscuits!

Sunday is all about The Subdudes. They’ll be joined by Andrew Duhon at Tipitina’s Sunday night. There’s no better way to end a weekend than unwinding on the couch and watching a Sunday night concert.

Shop Our Jazz Fest Sale!

We’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of Jazz Fest with a 50% off sale on select New Orleans shows from artists like Widespread Panic, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, Dead & Company, and more. Visit the Jazz Fest collection to see all 50 shows on sale!

Check out our full Weekend One schedule:

SweetWater 420 Fest Recap

This weekend the musical world came together for the 15th annual SweetWater 420 Fest in Atlanta, Georgia and it was one to remember. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were jam-packed with amazing performances from some of our favorite artists like Widespread Panic, Billy Strings, The Avett Brothers, Turkuaz, and more! April 20th may have come and gone, but these shows will live on for a long time.

Friday

Billy Strings Mesmerizes the Crowd

The festival kicked off Friday with a full day of incredible performances, including this show from Billy Strings. The psychedelic infused bluegrass that defines Billy Strings was the perfect match for the 420 Fest atmosphere. Featured in the set is a dreamy cover of The Grateful Dead’s “China Doll” and a nice “Playin’ in the Band” tease after “And Your Bird Can Sing.”

You can listen to the full show on nugs.net or watch our webcast below:

Saturday

BIG Something Brings BIG Thrills

BIG Something was a crowd favorite this weekend. They hit the stage Saturday afternoon and took the audience on a musical journey. To cap off the show, they brought down the house with a fantastic cover Black Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf.” Start to finish, this is a 420 Fest must-listen.

You can listen to the full show on nugs.net or watch our webcast below:

Sunday

(Photo: Dave Vann)

Jason Isbell joins Widespread Panic to Cover ZZ Top

Panic fans were in for a special treat Sunday evening when Jason Isbell sat in for a mesmerizing Easter Sunday cover of “Jesus Just Left Chicago.” Sunday’s performance hits its climax with an incredible “Bowlegged Woman,” followed by “Night” and a three song encore.

You can listen to the full show on nugs.net or watch our webcast below:


Check Out More 420 Fest Webcasts on Our YouTube Channel!

Countdown to Dead & Company Summer Tour 2019: 42 Days

We’re just 42 days away from the Dead & Company Summer Tour kickoff! 42 is of course famous for being baseball legend Jackie Robinson’s jersey number. It’s only fitting then that we revisit Dead & Company’s 2018 stop at LA’s Dodger Stadium, the team Robinson called home.

The band opened the show with “Playin’ in the Band”, a first-time opener for the summer tour. The unique take on the Grateful Dead classic slowly unfolded over 11 captivating minutes. Check out this cut from our webcast of “Playin’ in the Band” in its entirety below:

Dead & Company returned for their second set at a packed Dodger Stadium with a fantastic “Sugar Magnolia.” Check out our video of the jam below:

Watch SweetWater 420 Fest Live on nugs.tv

The 15th annual SweetWater 420 Fest kicks off tomorrow in Atlanta, Georgia! Expect three jam-packed days filled with mesmerizing performances from Widespread Panic, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Keller Williams, Big Something, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, and more!

Can’t make it to Atlanta? No problem, you can watch the free live stream from the festival on nugs.tv. The first show starts @ 1 PM PT. Full schedule below.

420 Sale – 42 Shows for $4.20 Each

We’re celebrating 420 with a huge sale on select MP3 downloads from Dead & Company, Umphrey’s McGee, Greensky Bluegrass, plus Widespread Panic, Billy Strings, Keller Williams, and other artists performing at this weekend’s SweetWater 420 Fest. All shows are only $4.20. Sale starts Friday and ends Sunday at 11:59 PM PT. SHOP THE SALE >

20 Classic Dave Matthews Band Shows Now Available

20 epic shows from Dave Matthews Band’s ‘Live Trax’ series are now available to download and stream. These historic live show compilations were named after the Trax Nightclub where the band found their sound and got their groove, playing over a hundred shows in their early touring years. DMB has been releasing the coveted Live Trax series since 2004. Now we’re making them available to stream for the first time ever! You can hop onto the nugs.net app and listen to classic Dave Matthews Band shows spanning over the course of fifteen years. From a small New York City nightclub in 1993 to the St. Louis Cardinals’ Busch Stadium in 2008, this collection has everything. Be on the lookout for even more DMB Live Trax releases on nugs.net soon!

Highlights

DMB Live Trax Vol. 2: Golden Gate Park – 9/12/2004

The show took place in the Polo Fields of Golden Gate Park and was a benefit concert for Bay Area Charities. From the moment the band hit the stage, the concert immediately became one of the highlights of Dave Matthews Band’s career. Carlos Santana sits in as a special guest for several songs, including the recently written Sugar Will. The 3 disc set also features two additional previously unreleased songs, Joyride and Hello Again.

DMB Live Trax Vol. 6: Fenway Park – 7/7 & 7/8 2006

Memories of the Dave Matthews Band shows in Fenway Park are certain to burn bright for a long while in the minds of the fortunate fans that were in attendence. Dave Matthews Band was on the top of its game in the historic ballpark performing back-to-back nights of shows exploding with energy. Additional highlights of the 7.7 Fenway Park show include the Bartender jam and the high-energy Ants Marching closer. An awesome Don’t Drink the Water, old favorite Dancing Nancies and the crowd-pleasing show ender, Two Step are some of the favorites from the 7.8 Fenway Park show.

DMB Live Trax Vol. 18: GTE Virginia Beach Amphitheater – 6/4/1996

This concert was DMB’s first show in the States after their European tour. Dave notes how the band is still taking in “this thing that’s been going on with us”, referring to the success achieved with the release of Crash. Highlights of the 96 show include Too Much, followed by never-before-released in the Live Trax series, “Deed Is Done” into So Much To Say. Carter’s intro to #36 is also noteworthy. The VA Beach home state show has long been a summer tradition.

DMB Live Trax Vol. 19: Vivo Rio – 9/30/2008

Dave Matthews Band performed at Vivo Rio in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on September 30, 2008 in front of many South American fans seeing the band live for the first time. The audience in Brazil was ecstatic which comes through in the recording and DMB really plays up to their exuberance. Highlights include Carlos Malta on the wood fife in Say Goodbye, his influence bringing a distinct flavor and Brazilian sound. Burning Down the House followed by an arresting Two Step are also noteworthy as is an emotional The Stone. The synergy between the band members is evident throughout the show. Other songs of the note on the Rio release are the show-opener, Bartender as well as Grey Street which makes its first official live release performed by the new formation of band members.

Countdown to Dead & Company Summer Tour 2019: 50 Days

We’re just 50 days away from the Dead & Company Summer Tour kickoff! To celebrate we’ll be sharing some of our favorite moments from last year’s tour. The band opened their 2018 summer tour on the east coast, including a two-night stop in Camden, New Jersey. They opened the show with “Jack Straw”, “Cold Rain and Snow”, and “Deep Elem Blues”. Later in the set the band played a 10-minute “Cassidy” followed by a reprise of “Jack Straw” to close out the first set. You can watch the entire “Jack Straw” set opening performance below:

The band launched into their second set with a cover of The Crickets’ “Not Fade Away” followed by an impressive extended jam on “Dark Star” totaling over 20 minutes. The jam-filled night in Camden continued with “Black Muddy River,” “Drums,” and “Space” all appearing in the second set. You can watch the set opening “Not Fade Away” performance below:

New Releases This Week

The Disco Biscuits

April 9th 1999

We’ve got another 20th anniversary Disco Biscuits release this week. Back in 1999, The Disco Biscuits brought down the house at The Trocadero in their hometown of Philadelphia. The extended jams on “Above the Waves” and “M.E.M.P.H.I.S” will blow you away. The performance was so legendary that the band did an exact recreation of the first three songs of the ‘99 show when they returned to The Trocadero in 2014.


TAUK

Real TAUK Vol. 2

The first leg of TAUK’s Let It Ride tour was a high-energy romp packed with sold-out shows. As excitement builds for the second part of the tour, the band has hand-picked seven of their favorite tracks from the first leg to release for free. These stellar jams come from TAUK’s shows in Ardmore, Baltimore, Boston, and Newport News.


Umphrey’s McGee

March 29th & 30th 2019 – Nashville, TN + VIP Exclusive Set

We’ve got a special release for Umphrey’s McGee fans. In addition to both nights’ audio, we’ve also added their intimate 6 song VIP-only set from before the show on 3/30. The 3/31 show also includes a rare bustout of Led Zeppelin’s “Ten Years Gone” that they haven’t played live in over 15 years.


Widespread Panic

March 29th, 30th, & 31st 2019 – Durham, NC

Returning to Durham for the first time in 25 years, Widespread Panic played three rarity packed shows. On night three (March 31st) they dusted off “Bayou Lena” for the first time in nearly 350 shows. This show is full of classic jams and memorable covers, including their version of the Rolling Stones classic “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”


Twiddle

March 29th 2019 – Rutland, VT

Playing their second sold-out night at The Paramount Theatre in Rutland, Twiddle brought down the house in their home state of Vermont. From “Lost in the Cold” to “JamFlowMan” there’s a lot of hits in this show. To close out the evening, Rick Reddington sat in on guitar and vocals for a cover of The Grateful Dead’s “Eyes of the World.”

TELL YOUR MAMA

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA, September 27, 1985

By Erik Flannigan

Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, 1985 represents the apex of Bruce Springsteen’s mass popularity. No concerts performed before or since represent the same level of mainstream cultural impact inherent in the final four performances that wrapped the mammoth Born in the U.S.A. tour.

According to the LA Times, on September 27, opening night of the sold-out stand, Bruce and the band played to 83,000 people. That means over the course of four sold-out shows, more than 330,000 people clicked the turnstiles at the site of two Olympic Games, to see not world-class athletes but the world’s greatest live performer. Staggering.

Springsteen long factored for the person in the very last row at his concerts, but now that fan was 100-150 yards from the stage. Scaling up production elements at stadiums to deliver a comparable level of band-to-fan connection was crucial, and that affected everything from the sound of Max’s drums and the quality and size of the stage-side video screens to the clothing the band wore on stage, which was brightly colored to help boost the visibility and discernibility of individual members from far away.

Los Angeles 1985 starts as it must with a dazzling “Born in the U.S.A.” Jon Altschiller’s zoomed-in mix (with a notably livelier audience levels) dials in a difficult-to-achieve balance of synthesizer and guitar. The deepest notes of the former provide a sternum-compressing whoosh that anyone who saw a BIUSA stadium show will remember; the latter more forward and clearer than we often hear on 1985 recordings. As Bruce sings, “long gone daddy in the U.S.A.,” we get some real chugga chugga licks, followed later by an extended solo that’s up there with the great ones that append the song on the 1988 Tunnel of Love tour. As for Max Weinberg, he absolutely crushes one of the best live versions of “Born in the U.S.A.” ever released.

At this point of the 1984-85 tour, the E Street Band was a machine in the best sense of that word, operating under both Bruce’s and the individual players’ master control. The transition from “U.S.A.” to “Badlands” is lush with Danny Federici organ swirls, and we can hear every band member in sharp detail right down to Clarence Clemons’ percussion.

LA 1985 is rife with distinct moments worth highlighting: Bruce singing out, “debts that no honest man could pay” with particular passion on “Atlantic City,” and matching that energy again for the last line of “Downbound Train”; the happiness in his voice ahead of “Glory Days” as he talks about turning 36 four days prior; Patti Scialfa’s soaring high notes that raise “Trapped” to full crescendo; Clarence’s under-appreciated solo on the same song releasing the pent-up tension that makes the arrangement so mesmerizing; the heightened peaks of the extended “Cover Me” that finally relent to the breakneck release of “Dancing in the Dark” (the exclusion of which from Live/1975-85 still puzzles); Roy’s best Jerry Lee Lewis impression splashing all over a rip-roaring and rarely played “Stand On It.”

But the E Street MVP this night is Nils Lofgren. LA 1985 is an opportunity for reappreciation of how much of the load he carried on the tour and the many spots when he shined. His intro to “Seeds” oozes dirtier than you might recall, and the hypnotic prelude to “I’m on Fire” alters the tone of the song significantly.

As Nils plays, Springsteen’s spoken introduction to “I’m on Fire” (omitted on Live/1975-85) subtly shifts the song’s narrative, too. He speaks of the struggles endured by his father and mother, and of his fear that, if he didn’t get out, whatever sense of hope and happiness was figuratively dying inside his dad would be his fate as well. Lying awake in bed, thinking dark thoughts like one of the characters he wrote about on Nebraska, the narrator confesses he understands how one could snap. It makes the “Hey little girl is your daddy home” that follows more of a disturbing dream.

What’s commendable given the circumstances and stakes surrounding LA 1985 is that Bruce is still taking risks and using his status to make a statement. The night marks the daring debut of Edwin Starr’s righteous anthem “War,” written by Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield. With lyrics taped to his forearm, Springsteen tears into the anti-war cry, in a version appealingly raw compared to the finished track that would later become the first single released from Live/1975-85. For a man whose messages and political views had been co-opted and misinterpreted of late, “War” allows zero ambiguity, no more so than when Bruce implores, “Tell your mama!” Nils adds another compelling guitar intro here, as Bruce sounds his solemn warning that “blind faith in anything…will get you killed.”

The bulk of LA 1985 is made up of what might be called a refined stadium setlist, optimized for maximum impact in venues of this scale. Over the last 34 years, so-called stadium friendly material suggested something that couldn’t compare to the greatest theater and arena performances that preceded it. Yet listening today, one marvels at how skillfully the band is playing in front of 83,000, not merely showing themselves up to the task of reaching that distant back row but retaining the tightness, power, and nuance that made them the best live act in the world. In other words, don’t sleep on ‘85.

Stadium staples aside, let’s not overlook the second of the night’s world premieres. “Alright, let’s try it” serves as the rallying cry to the live debut of “Janey, Don’t You Lose Heart,” the charming Born in the U.S.A. outtake and “I’m Goin’ Down” b-side that is a kindred spirit to another equally enchanting leftover, “Be True.” Both share a certain mid-tempo melodic romanticism that marks a lot of the songs Bruce often left on the cutting room floor. It’s a winning version that curiously omits The Big Man’s recorded sax solo in favor of piano solo by The Professor. Listen for Bruce hooting encouragement and howling with glee as Roy takes the spotlight. He clearly likes Janey.

The show wraps fittingly with a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Travelin’ Band,” resplendent with Clarence’s baritone sax, Roy’s piano fills, and nearly a dozen tour-stop namechecks. It’s the perfect selection for the end of the line, recalling the mystery train that left the station at a St. Paul arena 15 months earlier and wound up conquering the world by the time it came to a halt in LA, playing to an audience more than five times the size.

Bob Weir and Wolf Bros Tour Recap

Last weekend Bob Weir and Wolf Bros wrapped their second tour together. The legendary Grateful Dead guitarist has been touring with Don Was and Jay Lane since this past fall. For those that have never seen or listened to a Bob Weir and Wolf Bros show, they play a mixture of Grateful Dead classics, Bob Weir solo material, and some awesome covers. These shows are a fantastic listen for Grateful Dead fans new and old. Every show from the tour is now available for download or streaming with a nugs.net subscription. Below we’ve got a recap of some of the best tour highlights:

February 28th: Ithaca, NY – The State Theatre

The trio kicked off their tour in Ithaca, New York by dusting off a pair of rarities. This was the first night Bobby had played “Bombs Away” and “The Winners” in nearly 5 years. The rest of the show was filled with Grateful Dead hits like “Peggy-O”, “Let It Grow”, and “Scarlet Begonias”. There were also a pair of great Bob Dylan covers toward the end of the show with “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”.

March 5th: Detroit, MI – The Fillmore

The next week the band played a special show in Don Was’ hometown of Detroit, Michigan. Playing at The Fillmore on March 5th, the trio were joined by another Detroit native- saxophonist David McMurray. He sat in on five songs throughout the night including “Bird Song”, “Eyes of the World”, and a cover of The Temptations’ “Shakey Ground”.

March 8th: Philadelphia, PA – The Metropolitan Opera House

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead guitarist and vocalist, Tom Hamilton, joined the band in Philly for a rousing Friday night. Hamilton joined the band for 4 songs including a reprise of “Man Smart, Woman Smarter”. The King Radio song made its way into the setlist twice on International Women’s Day. The band opened their second set with the tune and then later brought it back for the reprise with Tom Hamilton toward the end of the show. Our webcast of the set-opening cover is available to watch on YouTube.

March 11th: New York, NY – Blue Note Jazz Club

Arguably the most special night of the tour was the surprise one-night show at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York. The trio announced the show only a day in advance with tickets being distributed via a lottery system. The intimate venue only holds 200 people, notably smaller than the large theaters the band typically plays. To ensure the maximum amount of people got to watch the show, the band rotated audiences between sets. To help out eager fans who weren’t lucky enough to score one of the 400 lotteried tickets, we offered free webcasts of both sets on nugs.tv, YouTube, and Facebook. The setting wasn’t the only unique part of the show- longtime RatDog Saxophonist Kenny Brooks joined the trio for four songs throughout the night. It was a fitting jazz flare for a show at a historic jazz club. You can watch our webcast of the full show right now:

March 13: Red Bank, NJ – Count Basie Theatre

Following the last-minute show in New York, Bob Weir and Wolf Bros made it to New Jersey- and they weren’t done bringing out surprise guests. Sasha Dobson, of Puss N Boots fame, joined the band for the final two songs of the night. Together they performed “Easy Answers” and covered Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”. “Knockin” was the second Dylan cover of the show, earlier in the second set the trio performed their version of “All Along the Watchtower”.

March 26th: Miami Beach, FL –  The Fillmore

Phish fans are in for a pleasant surprise when listening to the second set of the band’s stop at the Fillmore in Miami. Page McConnell sat in with the band at the opening of their second set. The quartet performed two Grateful Dead tunes: “Hell in a Bucket” and “Scarlet Begonias”. To close out the show, Bob Weir and Wolf Bros played a “U.S. Blues” encore.

March 30th: North Charleston, SC – North Charleston Performing Arts Center

This band closed out the tour this past weekend in South Carolina with a pair of new debuts. First, the trio played their take on Bob Dylan’s 1965 track “Desolation Row”. At the end of the night, the band played the Grateful Dead hit “Black Muddy River” for the first time as the show’s sole encore. The only Bob Weir solo piece in Saturday night’s show was “Lay My Lily Down”. To close out the first set, the band played the Jerry Garcia classic “Deal”. This was the perfect setlist to close out the run.

NEW RELEASES THIS WEEK

Jerry Garcia Band ‘Electric on the Eel’

Three shows, three years, one special venue- this massive new release is now available to stream and download on nugs.net. The Jerry Garcia Band made three stops at French’s Camp on the Eel River between 1987 and 1991- each of these electric sets is filled with classic Jerry Garcia jams and longtime collaborators. Joined by band members Melvin Seals, John Kahn, David Kemper, Gloria Jones, and Jacklyn LaBranch- these shows will be music to the ears of Grateful Dead fans new and old.

The release is separated into three shows: August 1987, June 1989, and August 1991 which is being hailed as the “jewel of the collection”. Each set includes signature renditions of classics, standards, originals, and some surprises all performed with the soul, passion, and playfulness the band had become known for.

The Electric on the Eel collection and over 150 shows from the Grateful Dead are available right now on nugs.net.

Widespread Panic

Night Three at the Capitol Theatre

For the first time in nearly three decades, Widespread Panic returned to the Capitol Theatre- and they came back with a bang. The setlist from this show is filled with classic jams that are sure to excite longtime fans. Add all three shows from the three night run to your cart and receive a 15% discount!

The Disco Biscuits

March 27th 1999 – Pittsburgh, PA

20 years ago this week, The Disco Biscuits closed out their Winter/Spring 1999 tour with a legendary east coast performance. You’ve got to check out the extended jam on The Dribble. Be on the lookout for more archival releases from The Disco Biscuits soon!

Spafford

March 24th 2019 – San Rafael, CA

Both sets are now available to stream online and in the nugs.net app. During the performance, the band paid tribute to the Grateful Dead’s “The Other One” while playing at the Phil Lesh owned Terrapin Crossroads.

Red Hot Chili Peppers Live At The Pyramids

Coming off of their Australia / New Zealand run, The Red Hot Chili Peppers will be playing live at the Giza Pyramids in Egypt this Friday. For those of us unable to make it to The Pyramids this weekend, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have a special treat planned. This Friday’s show will stream for free on nugs.tv!

This will be the first time a concert is webcast live from The Pyramids and the band couldn’t be more excited. The Pepper’s founding member and bassist, Flea, expressed his excitement in a recent Instagram post.

“I remember the first time the red hots played outside of la in 1983, I was beyond thrilled. We drove up to San Francisco and performed at I-Beam club. Man, we were international touring superstars I couldn’t believe it and it meant everything me to show those people in Northern California what we were about, to pour my heart out, for us to give every fiber of our beings in the process of bringing our music to life….. Then when we first went to Europe and my mind was blown, all the different cultures, connecting with people who didn’t speak English! And then Russia, and Asia and on and on around the world. Before each new place my body tingled with excitement, a yearning for a new mystery to unfold, a fascination with a new culture, the possibility of new friends, tasting new food, smelling new tastes, absorbing new rhythms. Learning. Learning. Learning. It is happening again right now, my heart is abuzz with joy at the prospect of performing in Egypt. I’m so grateful and humbled for the impending experience.”

To celebrate this historic show we are releasing nine new live shows from the band’s recent Australia / New Zealand tour for purchase today at nugs.net. These shows are packed with high energy and some awesome surprises including the first live inclusion of the 2003 single “Fortune Faded” in nearly 12 years. While in Australia, the band also paid tribute to Aussie legends, the Divinyls.

SONGS OF HOPE AND ETERNAL DAMNATION

Bruce Springsteen
Sovereign Bank Arena, Trenton, NJ, November 22, 2005

By Erik Flannigan

If one were to assign a single attribute to every tour across Bruce Springsteen’s career, audacious would be an apt one for the 2005 Devils & Dust tour.

Over the course of 72 shows, Bruce took the stage alone, surrounded by a phalanx of guitars and keyboards, fearlessly revisiting and reinterpreting every corner of his catalog down to the deepest nook and cranny. Be a song rarely or never played, or often played but never like this, night after night the Devils & Dust tour offered fascinating alternate readings of music we thought we knew inside-out.

Bruce’s new album of the same name, his third solo record, was the jumping off point, full of character-driven stories that fit squarely into what he declares in Trenton are the two types of songs he knows how to write: songs of hope and songs of eternal damnation.

Springsteen had an equally strong body of work in hand for his previous solo tour in support of The Ghost of Tom Joad, but in 1995-97, performing exclusively on guitar and harmonica, he was selective in what complementary tracks were added to the set. In fact, Bruce debuted a number of new original songs in the spirit of Joad over the course of that tour (some, admittedly, more lighthearted than the album, but still akin), while deep cuts were more selective.

The addition of piano and keyboards in 2005 unlocked dozens of other songs for inclusion and opened up tour setlists to remarkable levels. Bruce’s approach suggested the new D&D material connected to everything that came before. In hindsight, there’s a sense of Springsteen on a mission to look back at his songwriting accomplishments and take many of them back out for a ride to see what they would reveal, an early hint perhaps of his budding autobiographical mindset. Without a doubt, the self-effacing candor and humor with which Springsteen addressed audiences on the tour are precursors to the voice he would come to refine for Springsteen on Broadway.

Trenton 2005, the final show of the tour, captures all these aspects of the Devils & Dust journey wonderfully, with a setlist full of bold surprises and striking moments. It begins with Link Wray’s “Rumble,” a tribute to the electric guitar pioneer who helped shape the sound of rock ’n’ roll. On this night, however, acoustic guitar is the stringed instrument of choice, and we get several exceptional performances.

The Rising’s “Empty Sky” gets a strong solo airing, played with thumping purpose and pace. “Saint in the City” is transformed by a radical slide guitar re-arrangement and bullet mic vocals. The song remains one man’s boastful declaration, and there’s still plenty of heat and humidity in the air, but the locale has moved from Shore towns to somewhere along the Mississippi Delta. The result couldn’t feel more different. Bruce is clearly enamored with the approach and walks “Fire” down the same bluesy backporch path, with the bullet microphone giving the song a fitting AM-radio filter.

Reimagination is a touchstone all evening, and the next subject is “All the Way Home.” The solo acoustic rendition on the 2005 tour recalls demos for The River, sharing the spirit of Bruce’s 1979 compositions and the Power Station band version that could have been. Material from Devils & Dust holds its own in such company, with well-honed versions of the title track, “Long Time Comin’,” “Matamoros Banks,” and a beautifully sung “Leah.” He even pulls out a ukulele for a sing-along rendition of “Growin’ Up” towards the end of the set.

Springsteen’s keyboard playing, always carrying with it a seductive hint of performance anxiety, is one of the most memorable aspects of the 2005 tour. His willingness to take the risk again and again on songs he hadn’t played in decades is why Audacious is such an appropriate descriptor.

After a lovely and lilting electric piano version of “All That Heaven Will Allow” (the same instrument on which he so memorably performed “Tunnel of Love” on the previously released Grand Rapids 2005 show), Bruce acknowledges his tentative playing, telling the Trenton faithful that their applause at end of his piano solos was “anxiety clapping” that “he made it through.”

In truth, the passion in Springsteen’s piano and organ playing is much more important than the precision. Limited as he might feel it is, his keyboard expression creates intimate moments between the performer and audience heightened by that touch of uncertainty.

Trenton offers a treasure trove of piano, organ, and keyboard gems. Bruce resurrects “My Beautiful Reward” from Lucky Town with fitting majesty on pump organ and plays “Backstreets” with touching reverence, in one of but three solo piano performances on the tour. “Drive All Night,” revived for the first time in 24 years just a few shows prior, captures the conviction of an artist rediscovering the magic of a forgotten work. “Jesus Was an Only Son” gets an insightful preamble that is right out of the pages of Born to RunAnd who could imagine the three-ring circus that is “Thundercrack” could be tamed into such an entertaining solo-piano rendition and still carry the song’s evocative spirit.

For veteran setlist trainspotters, Trenton has a couple of bombshells. One of Springsteen’s most beloved early outtakes, “Zero and Blind Terry,” had not been performed since 1974 and never as a solo piano piece. It’s one of those romantic fairy tales that could have easily slipped onto Wild & Innocent, a Jersey fable that mythologizes young lovers trying to escape to a better life beyond Route 9. All the more fitting for a show in Trenton, but the idea that the song would be played at all, three decades after it wasn’t released, affirms the Devils & Dust tour mantra: I do not play these songs often. I have not played them on this instrument. I may not play them this way again.

The other shocker debuted the night before but is no less special. After hearing it himself on E Street Radio and thinking, “Hey, that one was pretty good,” Springsteen reignited “Song for Orphans,” not heard since 1973. Collectors know it from a demo recording that predates Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., the album for which it was initially considered, though there is evidence to suggest Bruce considered the song for possible release all the way through Born to RunHere, joined by his otherwise off-stage keyboard accompanist Alan Fitzgerald on piano, Springsteen manages to blend the spirit of ’72 with ’05, rendering “Song for Orphans” and his most recent Devils & Dust material kindred works.

After some fun had with members of the extended Springsteen family on “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” and the Joad-tour arrangement of “The Promised Land,” Trenton comes to its pump organ epilogue. The meditative “Dream Baby Dream” provided the coda to most shows on the Devils & Dust tour and has no analogue in Springsteen performance history, as it builds wave upon wave of organ, synthesizer, and repeated vocal lines imploring us to “keep on dreaming” and “open up our hearts.” That it wouldn’t sound out of place over the end credits to a David Lynch film speaks to its peculiar and relentless brilliance.

Trenton 2005 is both the final show and the perfect summation of the Devils & Dust tour, when Springsteen chose night after night to go “cartwheelin’ up on that tightrope.”

FREE MUSIC THIS WEEK

LEFTOVER SALMON – STRINGS & SOL – PUERTO MORALES, MX – 12/8/18

This show is an epic live performance from Strings & Sol, a festival on the beach in Puerto Morelos, Mexico. Featuring the debut of the song “Everyone’s Talkin”.

DAVEY KNOWLES – OFFICIAL BOOTLEGS

Davy Knowles is a world touring blues guitarist, with a unique sound due to his combined folk-rock songwriting talents. This free compilation showcases his amazing sound. He has toured with The Rhythmy Devils and Gov’t Mule.

DOOM FLAMINGO

At its core, Doom Flamingo is a synthwave dance party featuring retro synthesizer sounds that conjure nostalgia for the music of 1980s pop culture. The project is a side project of Umphrey’s McGee’s bassist Ryan Stasik.

JOE RUSSO’S ALMOST DEAD – RED ROCKS – MORRISON, CO – 08/16/18

This special show from the JRAD crew features an insane cover of “The Bends” by Radiohead plus a number of your favorite Grateful Dead songs. Crack one open and enjoy.

TWIDDLE – PARADISE ROCK CLUB – BOSTON, MA – 12/30/18

 Everything we love about Twiddle appears in this show: long instrumental-improvs, smooth vocals from lead singer Mihali, and plenty of funky rhythms. Have fun head-bopping to this one, we sure did. Make sure you add to your “My Stash” soon because this free offer ends on February 12, 2019.

ASSEMBLY OF DUST – TERRAPIN CROSSROADS – SAN RAFAEL, CA – 04/23/16

Assembly Of Dust is led by former Strangefolk frontman Reid Genauer. This particular show has a smooth, laidback vibe that showcases the group’s rich melodies and meaningful lyrics.

THE STRING CHEESE INCIDENT – TRAVELOGUE – BEST OF 2018

The String Cheese Incident decided to offer fans this free show because it features the best live tracks of 2018. Highlights include special guests Jennifer Hartswick, John Kadlecik, and members of the Motet. Make sure you add to your “My Stash” soon because this free offer ends on February 17, 2019.

THE DISCO BISCUITS – CAMP BISCO – SCRANTON, PA – 07/14/18

In a headlining performance at their own festival, Camp Bisco, this show was picked by the band as one of their favorites from 2018 and it truly showcases their diverse range, melding electronic and jam as only they can. Among a monstrous 3 sets this show features songs done in their unique ‘perfume’ and ‘tractorbeam‘ styles along with a fan favorite ‘wheel set’.

REID GENAUER & FOLKS – NEW ALBUM – CONSPIRE TO SMILE

Reid Genauer, the frontman of Strangefolk and Assembly of Dust, worked with two dozen acclaimed musicians including Jennifer HartswickLEBO, Scott Metzger, and more to create his latest album, Conspire to Smile. A collection of covers and originals, this album contains songs about compassion and positivity, universal messages of love and strength.

AQUEOUS – TWO SHOWS FROM 2018

From Jam Cruise to Summer Camp, 2018 was an epic year for Aqueous and we have two of the bands favorite shows for you.

Crowbar – Tampa, FL – 11/10/18

Mile High Music Hall – Frisco, CO – 12/06/18

Both of these shows truly highlight their unique groove-rock stylings and exploratory jams. Check out the Frisco show then dig into their catalog to explore Tampa and more.

LETTUCE – THE ANTHEM -WASHINGTON D.C. – 11/03/2018

Lettuce brings a new vitality to classic funk, matching their smooth and soulful grooves with a hip-hop inspired urgency and hard-hitting rhythm. This recent show features the extraordinary talents of guest guitarist Marcus King along with a host of special guests from the DC area flexing their unique ‘go-go’ style of funk.

One More Fairytale

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, FL, April 22, 2008

By Erik Flannigan

He was the first to fall.

Just 58 years old, Danny Federici died on April 17, 2008 from melanoma, the skin cancer for which he had been undergoing treatment since 2005. The disease eventually forced him to take leave of the E Street Band in November 2007, vacating a seat he had occupied since 1972.

Despite his nickname “Phantom” and onstage introductions like, “now you see him, now you don’t,” Daniel Paul Federici was a stalwart, symbiotic soldier perched at Springsteen’s side for nearly 40 years, going back to Bruce’s early groups Child and Steel Mill. His swirling organ and glockenspiel parts are as core to the E Street sound as Clarence Clemons’ saxophone. Max Weinberg summed it up perfectly when he described Danny’s role to Rolling Stone: “He was the glue that held the band together.”

Tampa 4/22/08 was the first show after Federici’s funeral, and the performance is as soulful as one would expect. But there’s something more subtle going on that becomes gradually apparent as one listens to Jon Altschiller’s inviting and wide stereo mix: while the audience is an essential catalyst, Bruce and the band are playing for themselves in Tampa.

After a preamble video tribute to Danny (set to the studio version of “Blood Brothers,” included here), the show proper begins on a deeply emotional note with “Backstreets,” played with purpose and conviction in a version that stands among its best contemporary performances. Maybe his throat was just dry, but when Springsteen’s voice catches a couple of times, one suspects the gravitas of the moment was getting to everyone.

A solid “Radio Nowhere” yields to “Lonesome Day,” and “It’s alright, it’s alright, yeah!” never felt more cathartic. Next, “No Surrender” is one of many songs that feel expressly chosen for the occasion and provide a foundation of nostalgia and reflection throughout the set. That being said, this is still the Tampa stop on the Magic tour, and the prevailing mood complements that agenda (even if it reduces the number of songs played from the album).

As it was most nights of the tour, “Gypsy Biker” is a high point. Roy Bittan’s piano playing channels his Power Station finest, while the Bruce and Stevie guitar solo shred-off provides a highly entertaining Listen to This, Eddie moment. Note to trainspotters who quibble about how much audience audio is heard on archive releases: you will be pleased to hear a woman clearly shouting Danny’s name in the left channel at the end of “Gypsy Biker.” You’re welcome.

Later, “Last to Die” soars with pulsating urgency (and more 1979 channeling by Bittan), and the spotlight shines sweetly on Van Zandt for a solo vocal turn towards the end of “Long Walk Home,” which has grown more majestic since Boston ‘07, the last released version from the tour.

In total, Tampa offers 12 setlist changes from Boston, only one of which could be called a rarity, but the allure of this show is a heartfelt performance, not an unusual setlist. Maybe it’s hindsight filtered by the circumstances, but the arrangements of “Atlantic City” and “Brilliant Disguise” sound distinctively restrained, and the band plays warhorses like “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” “Badlands,” “Out in the Street,” “The Promised Land,” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” with marked vigor. As a wise man once said, “It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.”

Moments of direct Danny recognition are just as gratifying, with back-to-back versions of “Sandy” and “Growin’ Up” that begin with Bruce warning an accordion-adorned Bittan, “Roy, you better get this one right now, somebody’s watching.” It’s an especially delicate reading, enriched by the Big Man’s baritone saxophone and Stevie’s joyous mandolin licks.

Introducing “Growin’ Up,” Springsteen says, “Alright, one more fairytale,” acknowledging, as he did on Broadway, his own myth-making and Federici’s invaluable role in the tale, set this particular night in Danny’s hometown of Flemington, NJ.

When it comes time to truly say goodbye to Phantom Dan, instead of reaching for an original, Bruce opts for the gospel standard, “I’ll Fly Away,” in its only Springsteen performance ever. The arrangement is a Seeger Sessions-style hootenanny, with Max out from behind the drum kit on tambourine, Garry W. Tallent on upright bass, and Charlie Giordano filling Danny’s big shoes (as he does capably and respectfully all night) on accordion. The sentiment of death as a pathway to freedom from suffering couldn’t be more fitting, as summed up by the song’s second verse:

When the shadows of this life have gone, now I’ll fly away
Like a bird from these prison walls I’ll fly away, I’ll fly away

“I’ll Fly Away” provides an emotional epilogue, but the denouement of the evening comes six songs before with “Racing in the Street,” presented in a widescreen print not always screened on recent tours. It is patiently paced, sung with sober richness, and played magnificently on piano by Bittan. Like “Backstreets,” this is as good as “Racing” has been performed in the 2000s.

As vital as Danny was to 40 years of Springsteen history, life goes on. The Tampa show is a rumination on both of those undeniable truths, because the stage is “a place where miracles occur,” as Springsteen said at Federici’s funeral the night before the show. “And those you are with, in the presence of miracles, you never forget. Life does not separate you. Death does not separate you. Those you are with who create miracles for you, like Danny did for me every night, you are honored to be amongst.”

FREE MUSIC THIS WEEK

JOE RUSSO’S ALMOST DEAD – RED ROCKS – MORRISON, CO – 08/16/18

This special show from the JRAD crew features an insane cover of “The Bends” by Radiohead plus a number of your favorite Grateful Dead songs. Crack one open and enjoy.

TWIDDLE – PARADISE ROCK CLUB – BOSTON, MA – 12/30/18

 Everything we love about Twiddle appears in this show: long instrumental-improvs, smooth vocals from lead singer Mihali, and plenty of funky rhythms. Have fun head-bopping to this one, we sure did. Make sure you add to your “My Stash” soon because this free offer ends on February 12, 2019.

ASSEMBLY OF DUST – TERRAPIN CROSSROADS – SAN RAFAEL, CA – 04/23/16

Assembly Of Dust is led by former Strangefolk frontman Reid Genauer. This particular show has a smooth, laidback vibe that showcases the group’s rich melodies and meaningful lyrics.

THE STRING CHEESE INCIDENT – TRAVELOGUE – BEST OF 2018

The String Cheese Incident decided to offer fans this free show because it features the best live tracks of 2018. Highlights include special guests Jennifer Hartswick, John Kadlecik, and members of the Motet. Make sure you add to your “My Stash” soon because this free offer ends on February 17, 2019.

THE DISCO BISCUITS – CAMP BISCO – SCRANTON, PA – 07/14/18

In a headlining performance at their own festival, Camp Bisco, this show was picked by the band as one of their favorites from 2018 and it truly showcases their diverse range, melding electronic and jam as only they can. Among a monstrous 3 sets this show features songs done in their unique ‘perfume’ and ‘tractorbeam‘ styles along with a fan favorite ‘wheel set’.

REID GENAUER & FOLKS – NEW ALBUM – CONSPIRE TO SMILE

Reid Genauer, the frontman of Strangefolk and Assembly of Dust, worked with two dozen acclaimed musicians including Jennifer HartswickLEBO, Scott Metzger, and more to create his latest album, Conspire to Smile. A collection of covers and originals, this album contains songs about compassion and positivity, universal messages of love and strength.

AQUEOUS – TWO SHOWS FROM 2018

From Jam Cruise to Summer Camp, 2018 was an epic year for Aqueous and we have two of the bands favorite shows for you.

Crowbar – Tampa, FL – 11/10/18

Mile High Music Hall – Frisco, CO – 12/06/18

Both of these shows truly highlight their unique groove-rock stylings and exploratory jams. Check out the Frisco show then dig into their catalog to explore Tampa and more.

LETTUCE – THE ANTHEM -WASHINGTON D.C. – 11/03/2018

Lettuce brings a new vitality to classic funk, matching their smooth and soulful grooves with a hip-hop inspired urgency and hard-hitting rhythm. This recent show features the extraordinary talents of guest guitarist Marcus King along with a host of special guests from the DC area flexing their unique ‘go-go’ style of funk.

FREE MUSIC THIS WEEK

THE STRING CHEESE INCIDENT – TRAVELOGUE – BEST OF 2018

The String Cheese Incident decided to offer fans this free show because it features the best live tracks of 2018. Highlights include special guests Jennifer Hartswick, John Kadlecik, and members of the Motet. Make sure you add to your “My Stash” soon because this free offer ends on February 17, 2019.

LOTUS – MISHAWAKA AMPHITHEATRE – BELLVUE, CO – 9/21/18

This show is the first night of an epic two night run at Colorado’s beautiful Mishawaka Amphitheatre, featuring in the pocket beats, constant teases, and non-stop grooves to keep the party going. Make sure you add to your “My Stash” soon because this free show offer ends on January 29, 2019.

LEFTOVER SALMON – FARMSTEAD AT LONG MEADOW RANCH – ST. HELENA, CA – 1/15/17

Leftover Salmon hand-picked this special acoustic show to give out to their fans. The 13-minute rendition of “Whispering Water’s” is a highlight of the show, along with an amazing cover of Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up In Blue.” Make sure you add to your “My Stash” soon because this free show offer ends on January 29, 2019.

THE DISCO BISCUITS – CAMP BISCO – SCRANTON, PA – 07/14/18

In a headlining performance at their own festival, Camp Bisco, this show was picked by the band as one of their favorites from 2018 and it truly showcases their diverse range, melding electronic and jam as only they can. Among a monstrous 3 sets this show features songs done in their unique ‘perfume’ and ‘tractorbeam‘ styles along with a fan favorite ‘wheel set’.

REID GENAUER & FOLKS – NEW ALBUM – CONSPIRE TO SMILE

Reid Genauer, the frontman of Strangefolk and Assembly of Dust, worked with two dozen acclaimed musicians including Jennifer HartswickLEBO, Scott Metzger, and more to create his latest album, Conspire to Smile. A collection of covers and originals, this album contains songs about compassion and positivity, universal messages of love and strength.

AQUEOUS – TWO SHOWS FROM 2018

From Jam Cruise to Summer Camp, 2018 was an epic year for Aqueous and we have two of the bands favorite shows for you.

Crowbar – Tampa, FL – 11/10/18

Mile High Music Hall – Frisco, CO – 12/06/18

Both of these shows truly highlight their unique groove-rock stylings and exploratory jams. Check out the Frisco show then dig into their catalog to explore Tampa and more.

LETTUCE – THE ANTHEM -WASHINGTON D.C. – 11/03/2018

Lettuce brings a new vitality to classic funk, matching their smooth and soulful grooves with a hip-hop inspired urgency and hard-hitting rhythm. This recent show features the extraordinary talents of guest guitarist Marcus King along with a host of special guests from the DC area flexing their unique ‘go-go’ style of funk.

I’m Gonna Fight My Way Through All This Goddamn Darkness

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY, May 23, 1988

By Erik Flannigan

Thirty years after it rolled across America and Europe, we continue to view the Tunnel of Love Express Tour as a career inflection point, a period marked by heart-heavy shifts in Springsteen’s life even as the concerts were taking place. Professionally, key relationships were evolving, too, as it is well established that the decision to tour with the E Street Band in support of what was really a solo album was not a foregone conclusion.

Even as Bruce and the band took to the road in February ’88, conscious decisions were made to alter established E Street archetypes. Band members switched their usual spots on stage, swapping sides to presumably shake things up. There was a subtle yet telling change to the billing, too, as the long-standing “Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band” moniker was altered to “Bruce Springsteen featuring the E Street Band.” The core setlist for the tour served as another point of departure from the familiar (more on that to come).

Why making those moves seemed so meaningful at the time we can only infer, but Springsteen’s desire to do things differently was undeniable.

Today, the personal and professional changes surrounding Springsteen at the time (and what was to follow on both fronts) are inextricably tied to the Tunnel era and remain something of a filter through which we view the tour. Less considered is what powerful fuel both provided to 1988 performances.

Whatever switching stage positions or altering the billing effected, make no mistake: this was a full E Street Band outing, and the E Street Band has never played with more self-assurance than they do on the Tunnel of Love tour. The addition of the horn section only boosted the horsepower of their already mighty engine.

While one cannot presume to know what Springsteen was going through that year, an armchair psychologist might suggest that however traumatic and draining such a period of emotional upheaval may be, it can also trigger a profound recognition of what it means to feel alive. As you listen to Madison Square Garden 1988, there is a strong sense of a performer truly living in the moment. Pair that with a band playing at its peak and an ambitious setlist, and you have the stuff of the extraordinary.

How in the moment? Listen to Springsteen’s vocals on the final verse and chorus of “Boom Boom,” which careen between shrieking falsetto and full-throated bluesman. His scintillating guitar solo starting at 5:02 of “Born in the U.S.A.” and carrying on for well over a minute soars with the clarion ring of pure emotional catharsis. On the Darkness and River tours, Bruce laid it all on the line every night to convert the masses. At MSG ‘88, the motivation feels far more personal. Just maybe, performing itself is what provides a path through what he calls later in the show, “the goddamn darkness.”

And then there’s that incredible setlist. The Tunnel tour is notable for featuring so many non-album tracks and cover songs. MSG boasts five Springsteen originals not featured on a studio album: “Be True” (the River b-side, also released on Tracks), “Seeds” (a Born in the U.S.A. outtake, officially released in a live version on Live/1975-85), “Part Man, Part Monkey” (a Tunnel outtake, re-recorded during Human Touch and released as a b-side in 1992 and onTracks in 1998), “Light of Day” (covered by Joan Jett and Michael J. Fox in Paul Schrader’s film of the same name, but never released in studio form by Bruce himself) and “I’m a Coward.” Some may consider “I’m a Coward” a cover, and while it was clearly inspired by Geno Washington’s “Geno Is A Coward” (penned by Ronald Davis), Springsteen’s song bears little musical resemblance to the original and shares only a couple of lyrics (perhaps making it more akin to “Johnny Bye-Bye”). There are no known studio recordings of the song; “I’m a Coward” only exists in its Tunnel tour performances.

All five songs are in the baseline Tunnel setlist, which by Springsteen standards was relatively rigid, especially for the first couple of months of the tour. Things started to loosen up around the time of the five-night LA stand (from which the April 23, 1988 performance was previously released as part of the live download series). As the tour worked its way north up the coast and across the country on its last leg, a few new additions (notably “Have Love, Will Travel” and “Boom Boom”) stuck.

The setlist for the final U.S. show at Madison Square Garden strikes an enthralling balance between core Tunnel tour material, recent adds, and a couple of specials just for the Big Apple. In contrast to opening night of the tour in Worcester in February, there are 13 variations between the two shows.

To those five originals, MSG ‘88 adds seven cover songs: John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom,” Woody Guthrie’s “Vigilante Man,” Edwin Starr’s “War,” The Sonics’ “Have Love, Will Travel,” Arthur Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music,” Eddie Floyd’s “Raise Your Hand,” and Jackie Wilson’s “Lonely Teardrops.” Throw in two full verses and the chorus to Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” inside of “Light of Day,” and the count pushes to eight.

On top of that, Tunnel arrangements of “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)” and “Born to Run” are completely reimagined. “You Can Look” is performed in a rockabilly style similar to its earliest incarnation during the River sessions, while “Born to Run” is played solo acoustic, an affecting arrangement that survived all the way to Bruce on Broadway.

All told, nearly half the Tunnel setlist sits outside the core canon while also boldly eschewing such staples as “Badlands,” “Thunder Road” and “The Promised Land.” In fact, the only song that was a Tunnel tour regular from the stalwart Darkness on the Edge of Town is the pulsing, horn-driven version of “Adam Raised a Cain.” 1988 setlists were truly out of the ordinary, no more so than this night.

Madison Square Garden 1988 also features the first bonus track in the download series with the inclusion of “For Your Love,” recorded during the 5/23 soundcheck. The song was a modest hit for Ed Townsend in 1958. Springsteen’s interpretation moves the tune from earnest R&B ballad territory to something closer to light reggae. While that might seem like a stretch, on the Jersey Shore club scene just a year earlier, Springsteen sat in three times with reggae act Jah Love, and a bit of that vibe comes through here (and for that matter, in “Part Man, Part Monkey”).

“For Your Love,” like so many of the cover songs surveyed during the Tunnel tour, appears to be born from the kinship between Springsteen and the horn section. Led by Richie “La Bamba” Rosenberg, the five-piece Horns of Love brought a shared musical knowledge that made them utterly simpatico with Bruce’s fondness for lost pop treasures. Even as early tour setlists went mostly unchanged, tour soundchecks often featured wide-ranging covers, and eventually some of the songs they were playing for themselves found their way into the set proper.

The Horns of Love are essential to covers like the barnstorming “Boom Boom” and the Northwest garage-rock nugget “Have Love, Will Travel,” but equally so to the unique Tunnel arrangements of songs like “Cover Me” (powerfully tagged with a few lines from the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”), the pile-driving “Spare Parts,” and, most strikingly, the aforementioned “Adam Raised a Cain.” “Adam” had gone un-played since the Darkness tour before being vivified in its 1988 edition. As impressive as the song was every night of the tour, the tag of Muddy Waters’ “I’m a Man” here adds even more declarative grit.

The sonic signature of the Tunnel tour is distinct, too, and Jon Altschiller’s mix accurately pushes Bruce’s and Nils’ guitars forward in the overall wall of sound. But the heart and soul of this Express are the horn section and Clarence Clemons, who together add exceptional texture, punch, and irresistible melodic runs all night long. The Big Man is on his game, and his showcase work on “Be True” remains a tour highlight, reigniting one of Springsteen’s finest b-sides. His hype-man vocal responses during Bruce’s evangelical intro to “I’m a Coward” are another slice of pure joy in MSG ‘88.

Let’s also credit the E Street Band for their sympathetic backing on Tunnel of Love tracks, some of which stand along Springsteen’s best songwriting ever. They may have begun as solo creations, but the live versions of “Two Faces,” “Brilliant Disguise,” “One Step Up” and “Tougher Than the Rest” are splendid, and in some ways more fully realized than their studio counterparts. Kudos, too, for the band’s ability to switch gears seamlessly, tackling Guthrie’s bluesy “Vigilante Man” (featuring Nils Lofgren on pedal steel guitar), Steppenwolf’s hard-rocking “Born to Be Wild,” and Jackie Wilson’s soulful “Lonely Teardrops” with equal flair. Special shout-out to Roy Bittan as well for his captivating piano introduction to “Spare Parts.”

The show goes into celebration mode after “Born to Run,” and even Jon Landau gets in on the fun, joining the band on guitar for the rest of the uplifting encore. The concert ends with “Lonely Teardrops,” one of only three performances ever. It’s a song about yearning and a fitting end to a performance that is equal parts heart-wrenching and exhilarating, two attributes befitting a ride through the Tunnel of Love.

Lights, Camera, Action

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY, September 21-22, 1979

By Erik Flannigan

There’s a case to be made that Bruce Springsteen’s appearance at two MUSE benefit concerts in 1979 mark the moment he truly arrived, when his status as not merely a rock star but THE rock superstar of his era became undeniable. And not unlike similar moments that affected Bruce himself, specifically Elvis Presley and The Beatles appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show, the power of a filmed performance was a major contributing factor. After all, the No Nukes film (released in 1980) and, to a lesser but still important extent, the No Nukes triple album, were the first commercial releases to ever offer live Springsteen performances.

After spending the better part of 1978 playing to ever-growing crowds on the Darkness tour (including arena dates in top markets), Springsteen had become a major touring act. Better still, the legend of his three-hour concerts was spreading, and word-of-mouth reviews sounded like tales of religious conversion. The collective sentiment expressed by those who had been to a Bruce concert to those who hadn’t was simple: You HAVE to see this guy play.

But with the Darkness tour wrapped and the focus shifted to studio recording, it seemed there would be no chance to see Springsteen live in 1979. The pent-up demand to see Bruce in concert, particularly in his NY/NJ homebase where he hadn’t played since September 1978 (save for an on-campus gymnasium show at Princeton in November), was off the charts.

Meanwhile, in March 1979, an accident at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station near Harrisburg, PA, highlighted the risks of nuclear power to the entire nation and further galvanized the already active anti-nuclear movement. MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy) was formed soon after Three Mile Island by a group of like-minded artists and music-industry leaders, including Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, and Bonnie Raitt.

To raise awareness and money, the newly founded organization wasted little time in announcing The MUSE Concerts for a Non-Nuclear Future, five shows at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Two of those would be headlined by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in their only concerts of the year (not counting the final Darkness show, Cleveland 1/1/79). Needless to say, ticket demand for September 21-22, the two nights Springsteen was scheduled to perform, was enormous.

Bruce and the E Streeters had spent much of the spring and summer in the studio at the Power Station on West 53rd, recording songs for what one year later would become The River. In fact, soon after the MUSE concerts, for which they paused to rehearse and perform, they considered stopping recording entirely and turning in a ten-song single album (eventually released in 2015 on The Ties That Bind box set).

While recording for The River would not only resume but carry on well into 1980, Springsteen was at least considering that his new album might be pretty much done when he took the stage on September 21. He was also two days away from his 30th birthday. Combine that with an eight-month layoff from the road, and it is no wonder he and the band played with such passion and ferocity at the two MUSE concerts, both presented/captured here in full.

Jon Altschiller’s new multi-track mix crisply captures the electric anticipation in the air as the band tunes up and blasts into “Prove It All Night” on 9/21, with Max Weinberg in particular adrenalized by being back on stage.

With a limited, 90-minute slot on the multi-artist bill it’s a bang-bang set both nights: “Prove It All Night” into “Badlands,” into “The Promised Land.”  What Bruce performs is in effect a mini Darkness concert that adds an important look to the future with the first-ever performances of his newly written masterpiece, “The River.” Introducing the deeply personal song the first night, Bruce says simply, “It’s for my brother-in-law”; the second night he says it’s for “my mother and my sister.”

While some finer details of the final arrangement of “The River” were yet to come, the emotional core of the song is fully realized. It is thrilling to hear these initial performances and to imagine what it would have been like to experience the song for the first time amongst the No Nukes crowd. My jaw would have been on the floor.

The look-forward to The River continues with “Sherry Darling,” shifting the mood materially with an “end-of-the summer song” and restoring the party atmosphere from the top of the show. From there, it is a race to the finish through “Thunder Road” (the performance from the second night is featured in the No Nukes film), “Jungleland” (a couple of particularly passionate versions), “Rosalita,” and “Born to Run.” All killer, no filler.

The two MUSE performances are relatively consistent, with the second night perhaps slightly less frenetic, as one might expect. The “encore” songs are where the changes come.

Night one we are treated to the delightful rendition of Maurice Williams’ “Stay” featured on the No Nukes album, a song which had been a regular part of Jackson Browne’s sets. Browne and his backup singer Rosemary Butler guest on the E Street version, as smooth a groove as any they’ve laid down. “Detroit Medley” also appeared on the No Nukes album in edited form, expunging some of Bruce’s hilarious “hazardous to your health” warnings and insurance pitching, which are restored here. The show closes with a 100 MPH cover of Buddy Holly’s “Rave On.”

The encore from night two repeats “Stay,” this time with the late Tom Petty sharing lead vocals with Springsteen and Browne, and wraps with a “Quarter to Three” for the ages, material parts of which made it into the No Nukes film.

The footage of “Quarter to Three,” which shows Springsteen giving it his all to point of collapsing on the floor and needing to be revived (in jest) by the band, preserved for all to see the unique magic of Springsteen in concert. The film also shows other artists reacting to the pre-show cheers of “Brooooce” (and acknowledging that Springsteen is the artist the crowd is really there to see), not to mention the incredible performances of “The River” and “Thunder Road” noted above.

Remember, at the time the No Nukes film was released in 1980, there was no MTV. Springsteen had never appeared on American television. You literally couldn’t see him perform without going to a concert until the No Nukes film opened that July. And when it did in the US, and later in the UK and Europe, tens of thousands of future fans saw with their own eyes what they had only read and heard about. Though he only appears on screen for perhaps 15 minutes of the film’s 103-minute run time, No Nukes managed to bottle up for the first time the essence of Bruce Springsteen in concert.

Finally, the No Nukes shows also marked Springsteen’s first overt foray into political activism. During the show, Bruce says it was Jackson Browne’s “sense of purpose and conviction that got me down here tonight,” and Browne’s commitment to the cause continues to this day. To honor that, $2 from each sale of No Nukes 1979 will be donated to Musicians United for Safe Energy, to support nearly 40 years of fighting the good fight.

Thinking Young And Growing Older Is No Sin


Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Roxy, West Hollywood, CA, Oct. 18, 1975

By Erik Flannigan

When the Born to Run tour rolled up to the Roxy in West Hollywood in October 1975, the objective was to break Springsteen in Los Angeles with a high-profile, six-show/four-night residency at the small club, mirroring the famed Bottom Line run in New York in August. Incredibly, Springsteen had yet to play a proper headlining date in LA until the Roxy gigs. His only appearances in the area circa 1973-74 were as an opening act or sharing a bill with other Columbia Records talent at label-sponsored showcases.

The Roxy run came just a few days before Bruce would grace the covers of Time and Newsweek simultaneously, so while it wouldn’t be accurate to say he was flying under the radar, DEFCON 1-level hype was still to come. Though make no mistake, Columbia saw the Roxy shows as their chance to capitalize on the growing buzz.

As legend has it, opening night on October 16 was a show packed with music journalists and industry types, prompting Springsteen to declare the following evening (as broadcast on KWST-FM), “ain’t nobody here from Billboard tonight!” That phrase became the de facto title of one of the earliest Bruce bootlegs, pressed from a recording of the b-cast.

On October 18, night three of the run, Springsteen performed two shows (one early, one late) and Columbia arranged to have Wally Heider’s mobile recording truck parked outside to capture the performances for future release. The engineer was the late Ray Thompson, a legend in live recording, and the man who just a few months earlier had taped the shows that would go on to form the basis of one of the biggest live albums of all time, Frampton Comes Alive!

Though one song from this stand made it onto Live/1975-85, this marks the first-ever release of a full performance from the Roxy ‘75, the early show on October 18. That song was of course “Thunder Road,” which kicks off Live/1975-85 and represents the only pre-1978 track on the box. Though it’s familiar, hearing the performance restored to its proper context opening a full ‘75 show reinforces the audacity of the sublime, piano-first “Thunder Road.” Who opens a show with a completely reimagined version of the first song on their latest album? It’s a gutty and admirable artistic statement.

Following that stunning start, the rest of the band join in and launch into a winning and crisp “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out,” then roll into “Spirit in the Night.” Listening to the truly you-are-there mix by Jon Altschiller (complete with clinking glasses and bottles), one can’t help but recognize the audience’s relative unfamiliarity with the material. If you’ve listened to a lot of live shows, even circa-1975 East Coast crowds knew “Spirit in the Night” inside out; here the reactions to the stops and starts of the tale unfolding sound more intrigued and surprised.

That’s because the tiny Roxy was packed with fans who had never seen Bruce perform before. “[I’d like to] thank the folks that came out and seen us last year and the year before in Santa Monica,” Bruce says, met by nary a clap or cheer. “I don’t know if there is anybody….[Laughs] Nobody made it to that one.”

Aside from the guy who yells, “I was at the Troubadour,” and perhaps a handful of others, the Roxy crowd was the Springsteen-curious, and some of the pleasure of this exquisite recording is that over the course of the show, we get to hear and bear witness to their conversion into fans.

A big first step towards that comes with “E Street Shuffle,” in which every member of the E Street Band shines, but especially those oh-so-sweet swirls from Danny Federici’s organ cabinet. Remember, “E Street Shuffle” is another radical rearrangement from what anyone would have heard on the second album, and after Bruce tags Sam Cooke’s “Having a Party” onto the end, audience applause moves from like to love.

Cover songs were a major feature of Born to Run tour setlists, especially songs from the ‘60s that shaped Springsteen’s musical palette. With the Roxy, we get the first official release of the enchanting “When You Walk in the Room.” Written by Jackie DeShannon and a hit for the Searchers, the song is a perfect vehicle for Bruce and the band to show their Merseybeat-via-Jersey Shore chops. If this performance doesn’t raise a smile, it’s time to resign your fanclub membership.

“She’s the One” and “Born to Run” dial up the intensity, both impeccably performed in powerful, pacey versions that underline the outstanding mid-tour form of the band. When one of the few familiar fans shouts for “Sandy,” Bruce complies, and despite its unusual position in the set (it was typically an encore song in ‘75), the heartfelt version delivers a welcome mid-show change of scenery.

While a hint of vocal raspiness suggests Springsteen may not have started the show feeling 100 percent, you’d never know it from the performance, which was escalating already and goes next-level following “Sandy.” Gorgeous organ, guitar and piano interplay start “Backstreets,” in a performance that evokes the Dylan lyric, “bathed in a stream of pure heat.” There’s no denying the versions of the song performed in ‘77 and ‘78, but this is a tremendous 1975 “Backstreets.”

After wrapping themselves in glory all night, the band steps into the spotlight for “Kitty’s Back.” The small venue and the recording quality combine to reveal gorgeous musical details: every subtle click sound of Danny’s organ keys; Garry Tallent paying homage to Donald “Duck” Dunn; Roy Bittan weaving in the melody of “Fever” (the one made famous by Peggy Lee). Listen around 15:45 for a rare isolated backing vocal by the Professor after Clarence Clemons switches back to sax. Such a treat.

The last song in the set from Born to Run is “Jungleland,” and we’re granted another exquisite reading, highlighted by Stevie Van Zandt’s redolent guitar solo and Danny’s delicate and doleful organ that flows out of the Clemons’ roaring solo. Phantom Dan and the Big Man ultimately yield to Bittan’s stately piano, upon which Springsteen leans into his vocal rasp, spurring some beautiful rephrasing of the song’s fifth verse, notably the line “refusal and then surrender.”

A storming “Rosalita” wraps the main set and leads to chants of “WE WANT MORE” from the newly converted. Who can blame them?

Yet instead of reaching for a standard BTR-tour encore, Bruce opts for a striking and revealing cover. “This is a Carole King song. It was done on one of the early Byrds albums…which is my favorite LA band, I guess….Also Nils Lofgren did a nice job with the song on his last album.”

Goffin and King’s “Goin’ Back” captures the yearning for lost innocence, and given what was going on in Springsteen’s career at the time, the song seems a fitting reflection of his thoughts and feelings in gorgeous, romanticized ballad form. Springsteen debuted “Goin’ Back” with King herself in the audience at the first Roxy show, but he never played the song again after performing it at all six shows in this stand.

Ten years later, standing on the precipice of another major career milestone, Bruce stuck a kindred note with his one-off performance of Brian Wilson’s “When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)” at Slane Castle ‘85, also never played in concert again. We’re lucky such a fleeting moment of emotional transparency is captured so beautifully by this recording.

Earlier in the show, microphones pick up someone shouting that it is Chuck Berry’s birthday, which no doubt prompts the appearance of a rowdy and raucous “Carol” to close the encore and a marvelous set.

The Born to Run tour is well documented by Hammersmith Odeon London ‘75 and Tower Theater 12/31/75. But more than 30 years after the inclusion of a single track on Live/1975-85, Roxy ‘75 gives us all the magic in the night that “Thunder Road” hinted at and our most intimate opportunity to date to hear, in the words of King, “the world the way it used to be.”

 

Maximum R&B


Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
First Direct Arena, Leeds, England, July 24, 2013

By Erik Flannigan

Looking back today, as Springsteen winds down over a year of solo shows in a 975-person theater, the 2012-13 Wrecking Ball tour stands in stark relief. Far from going it alone, Bruce augmented the first E Street Band tour of the post-Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici era with a horn section, back-up singers, and a percussionist for his biggest on-stage line-up since Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom. It was a band built for stadiums, and many did it play, including two runs through Europe in consecutive years.

But upon his return to the United Kingdom in the summer of 2013, it is said Springsteen himself requested that he and the band christen the newly constructed First Direct Arena (also known as Leeds Arena). The 13,000-seater is configured so all seats face the stage, and it boasts superior acoustics because it wasn’t designed for basketball or hockey like most arenas. “This is a great room,” Springsteen tells the Leeds faithful. “You play anything in here, it’s gonna sound good.”

Moving his biggest band indoors from stadiums and in doing so becoming the first artist to play the state-of-the-art “super amphitheatre” would prove to be a tasty recipe for a memorable performance. Leeds 2013 is not only chock full of treats, but it captures Bruce and the band at their road-tested yet relaxed best.

Bruce fires the special-setlist flare right from the start, opening the show with a rare and potent “Roulette.” It’s the first shot in a staggering top of the show that continues with “My Love Will Not Let You Down” into “No Surrender.” With the final note of “No Surrender” still sustaining, the set slides down gorgeously into “Something in the Night,” a performance that reinforces the song’s beauty and majesty. The same can be said for “American Skin (41 Shots),” a tale as relevant, a crescendo as cathartic today as ever. Perhaps it is going too far to call both songs underappreciated, but the pairing here reinforces their stature in Bruce’s songwriting canon.

The mood lightens through “The Promised Land” and “Hungry Heart,” leading to a trio of tour premieres, the kind of sequence many fans dream of, where it feels like anything can (and will) happen. It commences with the delightful “Local Hero” from Lucky Town, a song rarely performed with the E Street Band and arranged here (in its only Wrecking Ball tour appearance) as a best of both worlds, matching E Street muscle with backing vocals a la the 1992-93 tour courtesy of the E Street Choir.

Turns out fans aren’t the only ones who appreciate rare tracks. “Steve always complains that we don’t play anything off this record,” Bruce admits, introducing “Gotta Get That Feeling.” “This is an outtake from Darkness on the Edge of Town…for Steve Van Zandt.” As Springsteen counts the song in, he is interrupted by a spontaneous chant of “Steven! Steven!” as the crowd voices their support for the man and his request. A Stone Pony benefit set and the 2010 promo shoot at the Carousel in Asbury Park notwithstanding, this is the only tour performance of “Gotta Get That Feeling” to date, and the expanded band does it justice, with horns soaring and Steve’s harmony vocals pure soulfire.

Surprises continue, as Bruce heeds a sign suggestion from a traveling Spanish fan for Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising,” arranged on the fly and performed with exuberance and fearlessness earned through months and months of successful rounds of “stump the band.”

“We’re gonna try one more crazy request,” Bruce says, extending the controlled chaos. “‘Thundercrack’…was written to be our first showstopper. This used to end our set when we [would] play for crowds who didn’t know us at all.” After name-checking some of the acts they once opened for (among them Black Oak Arkansas, Sha Na Na, Mountain, and Aerosmith) and warning the audience the middle of the song could prove tricky, Bruce and the band confidently crush “Thundercrack” in its only 2013 outing.

While Leeds boasts ample rarities, Wrecking Ball material gets its due as well, with robust versions of the title track, “Death to My Hometown,” “Shackled and Drawn” (aided by a fine gospel-tinged solo from Cindy Mizelle), “Land of Hope and Dreams,” and “This Depression.” Making its last appearance to date this night (and one of just seven performances ever), “This Depression” impresses through its admirable lyrical candor, gripping arrangement, and affecting musicality. It’s a performance that should win over a few converts, and the coupling with “Because the Night” is another slice of Leeds’ setlist genius.

To the encore, and Springsteen has one more trick up his sleeve, bringing “Secret Garden” back to the set for the first time in 13 years, moody, measured, and matrimonial. Credit Jake Clemons for doing right by his uncle with a poignant sax solo to bring the song to conclusion. Sublime.

A marvelous night in Leeds concludes with a scarce Wrecking Ball tour airing for “If I Should Fall Behind” followed by “Thunder Road,” both performed solo acoustic. Towards the end of “Thunder Road,” Bruce invites the audience to join him in singing, “La da, da, da, da,” which they do in full voice, giving back generously to the performer who gave so much to them all night long.

Leeds may be the fourth archival release from the Wrecking Ball tour, but it stands strongly among those peers on the strength of its distinctive setlist, stellar performance and the sense of Springsteen’s personal motivation to showcase his expanded band in this optimal indoor venue.

We’re Gonna Play Until the Sun Goes Down


Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Olympiastadion, Helsinki, Finland, June 16, 2003

By Erik Flannigan

Come on up for the rising. At long last, the first live archive release from the Rising tour is here: Helsinki, Finland, June 16, 2003.

What took so long? Let’s address that right off the bat.

The detailed answer is quite technical in nature, but in a nutshell, Rising tour recordings were made on what was then a state-of-the-art DSD (Direct Stream Digital) system, the first to offer high-resolution audio in an easily transportable, multi-track recording unit. But 15 years later, the proprietary nature of the software and hardware elements in that system have caused what might best be described as forward-compatibility issues, making it challenging to restore the original recording files. Helsinki is the first successful result of ongoing efforts over the last several years to address the problems.

Listening to the show now, one would never know how difficult it was to recover the multi-track recordings, as Jon Altschiller’s crystalline mix shines brilliantly and brings out fine details in the lush arrangements of the Rising material featured. Helsinki is a Rising showcase, offering nine songs from the album performed with gravitas befitting much of the subject matter.

While but one tour removed, the spirit captured in Helsinki is quite distinct from that of Chicago ‘99 released last month. The playing is equally accomplished, but there is more narrative unfolding, more stories being told in a very intentional manner. It makes the contrast between heavier material like “You’re Missing” and “Into the Fire” and that of lighter fare like “Mary’s Place” stark, with the night’s high-spirited songs offering release and relief, recognition that there is light beyond the darkness. Different tour, different mission.

Exemplary of this solemn and bold approach is “Into the Fire,” which opens with Patti Scialfa’s haunting vocalization and Springsteen’s most direct lyrical reference to 9/11. When the band kicks in majestically before the second verse, we can only marvel at the sympathetic support. Nils’ pedal steel bends expressively throughout, and while she has performed with the E Street Band ever since, Soozie Tyrell’s contributions have never felt more vital. She’s the musical lynchpin of the song, and she pulls significant melodic weight all night long. Even “Dancing in the Dark,” performed in what is otherwise its purest form since the 1984-85 tour, deftly downplays synthesizer in favor of Tyrell’s violin carrying the melody.

It seems apropos that nine Rising songs are paired with seven from Born in the U.S.A. Sure, this is Bruce and the band’s first-ever show in Finland, so drawing from their most popular album makes sense. Yet the incorporation of so many tracks from both records also suggests that their characters and stories are intertwined, that the people who inhabit “My Hometown,” “No Surrender,” and “Glory Days” went on to experience what unfolds across The Rising later in their lives. Hearing so much from both chapters of that narrative makes Helsinki powerful.

Powerful is a word that stays top of mind listening to the full 25-song set, which by Springsteen standards is as focused and straightforward as any I can recall — with the exception of a delightfully shambolic “Ramrod,” which rolls on for more than 12 minutes including an extended piano solo by Roy Bittan.

The evening’s catharsis peaks with “My City of Ruins,” its gospel-tinged musical cleansing perfectly positioned as a restorative in the encore and the ideal segue to the life-affirming “Land of Hope and Dreams.” A potent pairing.

On its debut, the Helsinki audience impresses, singing along and responding passionately, as evidenced by the call and response at the end of “My Hometown.” The same can be said of the band, performing with utter confidence and control.

As for Springsteen himself, he sets the tone for the night at the start with his bluesy, solo-acoustic “Born in the U.S.A.,” a version that is impassioned and world-weary all at the same time. Informed by that prelude, there’s a sense of purpose to this performance, a commitment to telling stories that reflect some of our darkest and lightest moments. And that is the essence of the Rising tour.

Listen To Your Junk Man


Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
United Center
Chicago, IL, September 30, 1999

By Erik Flannigan

It is hard to believe we are fast approaching 20 years since the Reunion tour commenced and the recommitment of Bruce Springsteen, the E Street Band and their many fans was validated night after night across the stages of Europe and the United States.

The archival download series has already given us perhaps the most famous show of the tour, closing night at Madison Square Garden in July 2000, a masterful performance that was appropriately conscious of its place as the culmination of the 132 concerts that came before it. Now, we get a markedly different slice of the Reunion tour and how sweet it is.

Taking nothing away from great shows in E. Rutherford, Philly, Boston and other cities which preceded it or memorable stands in Los Angeles and Oakland to follow, Chicago ‘99 is a barn burner. It actually gains potency from our collective and relative unfamiliarity with the performance and as a result feels deliciously fresh.

It was the last night of three in Chicago as well as the final show of the first U.S. leg of the tour. On the cusp of a two-week break, the mood is buoyant and at times downright joyous. You can hear how excited these musicians are to be playing together again and the confidence they are feeling at this point of the tour is reflected in an adventurous setlist.

To start (and apologies in advance for the language, but it feels wholly appropriate to convey the sentiment), Bruce Springsteen sings the shit out of this show. There are vocal highlights in both expected and unexpected places, many the kind of heightened, upper-range reaches that signal when Bruce is in the zone.

During the last minute of “The Promised Land,” it comes in the form of a sweet, unexpected, soaring “Weeeee-oooo.” At the end of a hard-hitting “Adam Raised a Cain,” it’s a shrieking stretch of vocal improvisation loaded with emotion. In “Thunder Road,” “your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet” rises to a gorgeous high register. And the coup de grace is “Youngstown,” when Springsteen holds the final note of “the fiery furnaces of hellllllllll” a full ten seconds. Time it yourself!

Chicago also presents the opportunity to reassess the altered arrangements Bruce and the band explored in ‘99. At the time, subtle changes to familiar songs may have thrown a few people off a bit, as they were coming in with expectations of how things “used to sound.” Listening now, the explorations prove fascinating.

Played but 15 times on the Reunion tour, “Independence Day” has a distinctly different feel and begins with a lovely guitar and pedal steel intro. Similarly, Bruce bends the first verse and chorus of “She’s The One” (performed only 16 times circa 1999-2000) in unexpected directions before the band arrives with stirring force.

Jon Altschiller’s vivid mix captures band interplay and subtle work from every E Streeter, much of which you may have never noticed before, with the apex coming in the form of “New York City Serenade.” This piano-driven epic had gone unplayed since 1975 before making its momentous return during the Continental Airlines Arena run a month earlier, its first of five appearances on the tour.

“New York City Serenade” is arguably the most challenging piece of music in the Springsteen canon, full of twists, turns and musical nuance. Chicago offers a bravura performance, enriched by the contributions of the band (extra nod to Roy Bittan) and Bruce’s fearless lead vocal. It is by turns majestic, enthralling, even astonishing for 1999, with no strings attached as in more recent performances.

“Serenade” is joined by two other special rarities. The show opens with a fierce “Take ‘Em As They Come,” one of Springsteen’s underappreciated rockers. Mercifully liberated from the vault in 1998 on Tracks (the song is also included on 2015’s The Ties That Bind box set), The River outtake gets a rare outing (it has only been performed ten times) with the band fully locked and loaded. To be fair, they are a bit less so on the likable Born in the U.S.A. era b-side “Janey, Don’t You Lose Heart,” which ends with Bruce chuckling “we gotta practice that one,” though it is still wonderful to hear.

Noteworthy as those rare tracks are, Chicago ‘99 pays dividends song after song, be it common or uncommon to a setlist. It is one of those nights where the versions run long (even “Ramrod” goes seven minutes), the crowd response is huge and the band plays hot. Case in point: Danny’s organ and Clarence’s solo in “She’s the One,” plus the Big Man nailing the final note of “Bobby Jean”; a mini cover “Boom Boom” worked seamlessly into “Light of Day”; Nils and Stevie shining on all types of stringed instruments; Garry and Max electrifying “Atlantic City” and pushing the pace all night; Patti taking her solo turns with aplomb during “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” and “If I Should Fall Behind.” As it did every night on Reunion, the latter song brings the spirit of the band’s rebirth to life in poignant fashion.

As for Springsteen himself, he sounds like he is enjoying every single minute.

More than 20,000 people saw this show in person and have known ever since what a great performance they witnessed. As for the rest of us: Chicago ‘99, we didn’t know what we were missing.

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.