Now that we’re officially in the 2020s, we are looking back at the best music of the 2000s (so far). nugs.net’s founder, Brad Serling, has cultivated his list featuring some of the most memorable live performances from the last twenty years. You can listen to every song on the latest editions of the nugs.net Live Stash podcast. Brad goes through his full list of favorites in two parts providing commentary on each entry.
By Erik Flannigan
The home stretch of the Darkness tour in late 1978 may look like a victory lap, but its purpose was to return to key markets and seal the deal. The final push raised Springsteen and the E Street Band up from theaters played on previous legs to bigger rooms, with dates in arenas in cities like Cleveland, which closed the tour with a pair of shows at the Richfield Coliseum on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day 1979.
In the Bay Area, that meant graduating from the Berkeley Community Theater and San Jose Center For the Performing Arts, played in the summer, to back-to-back nights at legendary promoter Bill Graham’s Winterland, capacity 5,400.
The first night at Winterland would also serve as the fifth and final live radio broadcast from the Darkness tour, thrilling listeners around the Bay Area on KSAN-FM and strategically extended via simulcast to audiences in Sacramento, Eugene, Portland, and Seattle on their respective rock stations. The simulcast primed the pump in two of those markets, as Bruce would play the Rose and Emerald cities in just a few days’ time.
By that point, Springsteen’s management and Columbia Records had recognized that the Darkness tour broadcasts which preceded Winterland (The Roxy in Los Angeles, Agora in Cleveland, Passaic, and Atlanta) were a powerful marketing tool, not only reaching established fans in core and adjacent markets but converting fence-sitters who were loyal listeners to those all-important rock radio outlets. Live concerts were already a staple of FM radio at the time, including nationally syndicated shows like the King Biscuit Flower Hour and Rock Around the World. Simulcasts of local concerts were equally common on FM stations like WMMR in Philadelphia and WMMS in Cleveland.
But Springsteen’s strategy and tactics were unique. No artist I know of had ever done five live broadcasts from the same tour and simulcast the shows regionally — taking over the airwaves for three hours at a clip, no less. In the process, Bruce built an alliance of rock stations, and their listeners that would remain loyal for years to come. Springsteen had long enjoyed incredible word of mouth about his concerts, but the ’78 broadcasts provided tangible, recordable, and shareable proof.
There was also an idea in the air that the follow up to Darkness on the Edge of Town simply had to be a live album. The broadcasts provided an opportunity to roll in a remote recording truck and kill two birds with one stone, sending the show over the air and capturing it to multi-track tape for potential future release. It just took a few decades longer than expected.
Fans and collectors have spent millions of pixels on message boards discussing and debating which shows were recorded on multi-tracks and wondering why more early Bruce gigs weren’t done. Beyond the expense (which was significant), the act of recording a live concert to multi-track itself was no simple feat circa 1978.
A 24-track, two-inch, reel-to-reel tape recorder is a massive piece of heavy equipment with a large footprint. The recorders are mounted on carts with industrial casters so they can be rolled into position. Two-inch recorders also require a lot of power to operate, and they are extremely sensitive to the conditions of their environment, particularly temperature.
Oh, did I mention you need two of them to record a concert without gaps? Two-inch tape and recorders were designed to record one song in the studio, not a three-hour concert. Given their short tape lengths, a recording engineer had to start a tape going on one machine, wait for it to run most of the way through, then fire up a second overlapping tape on the second machine and so on. Back and forth they would go: loading, recording, and switching tapes in real time on two machines to preserve a full performance. Today, you can record an entire show to multitrack on a laptop and a breakout box that fits in a backpack.
Given the complex logistics, it should come as no surprise that multi-track recording could occasionally go wrong, even with experienced engineers and producers in the truck. Whether there were complications on the night or tapes were lost over time, the surviving multi-track reels of the first night of Winterland cover less than half the show. The inclusion of “Fire” on Live 1975/85 from 12/16, not the better-known 12/15, may be a clue that the problems occurred on the night in question.
Luckily, remote recording units typically carried a third reel-to-reel deck with them as well: a high-quality, 15-IPS, two-track recorder to serve as a back-up/reference capturing the front-of-house mix as it happened. That’s exactly what the Record Plant’s R2R did on December 15, 1978, recording a pre-broadcast stereo feed from the mixing board.
Forty-one years later, we’re fortunate those two-track, 15-IPS masters from the familiar 12/15 show were recently unearthed, along with the complete multitrack masters from the previously unheard 12/16 set. Both sources have been newly transferred via Plangent Process, restored (12/15) and mixed (12/16) by Jon Altschiller and mastered by Adam Ayan to deliver a complete document of the Winterland stand, both the beloved broadcast performance from night one and the fresh-to-the-world set from night two.
A bounty of two peak Darkness concerts should be at the top of anyone’s holiday wish list. Most will know the celebrated 12/15 set like the back of their hand from tapes and bootlegs of the broadcast, but for 12/16, here’s a user guide to this wonderful addition to the live Darkness canon.
1) Bruce changed the set on night two in deference to fans attending both shows, opening with “Good Rockin’ Tonight” and playing “Rendezvous” for the first time on the tour. Incredibly, “Rendezvous” is one of six unreleased originals performed in the 25-song set, along with “Independence Day,” “The Fever,” “Fire,” “Because the Night” and “Point Blank.”
2) Introducing a weighty “Independence Day,” Bruce says, “This is a song I wrote a couple years ago. I was originally going to put it on Darkness on the Edge of Town. This is called ‘Independence Day.’ This is for my pop.” With his parents living in nearby San Mateo, we can assume that Douglas was very likely in the audience for the performance.
3) Bruce tells a completely different and much longer story than night one setting up “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” The tall tale includes entertaining references to Johnny Carson and Kellogg’s Pop Tarts, plus some audible chiming in from Stevie Van Zandt, who wants a new amplifier from Saint Nick.
4) Bruce dedicates “Racing in the Street” to “all the San Francisco night riders,” but after singing “Tonight, tonight, the strip’s just right” he goes totally blank. “I forgot the words,” he says. It is an endearing and rare moment of vulnerability, which he not only recovers from gracefully, but which seems to inject the show with an adrenaline shot: from that point forward, Springsteen and the band are en fuego. “Jungleland” brings the first set to a crackling close, riding the powerful dynamics of Clarence Clemons on saxophone and Van Zandt’s guitar solo, setting the table for a stunning second act.
5) “It’s Hard to Be a (Saint in the City)” is another set list change and serves as a stonking start to a second set for the ages. The guitar tone on this one should be bottled as a stimulant.
6) “Because the Night” begins with what might best be described as an experimental guitar intro that is more a sonic survey of echo, delay, and sustained notes than strumming. It’s the most Frippertronics approach I have ever heard Springsteen explore. Fascinating.
7) How about the version of “She’s the One”? The intro weaves “Mona” and “Preacher’s Daughter,” while Bruce later riffs on Van Morrison/Them’s “Gloria.” Stevie sings soulful retorts all over the performance, all in the service of Bruce’s heightened lead vocal. Listen to the incredible run he takes through, “Just one kiss, she’ll turn them long summer nights, with her tenderness / The secret pact you made, when her love could save you, from the bitterness… WHAAAAHOO!” Holy crap.
8) “The Fever” is focused and luscious, providing a deserved spotlight on the band, especially Danny Federici and the Big Man, who shine ever-so-brightly as they thread their solos around each other. Rest in peace, E Street icons.
9) A slightly shambolic “Detroit Medley” features a rare foray into Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”
10) Finally, connoisseurs of audience noise (and I know you’re out there) should be extremely pleased with the level of fan interaction in Jon Altschiller’s mix. The crowd is ever-present and in full voice throughout the night and who can blame them?
Thanks to former Columbia product manager Dick Wingate for supplying contemporary information and documentation about the Darkness tour broadcasts.
It’s a White Christmas this year with two new archival releases from The White Stripes. The first release stretches back over twenty years to September 1999 in Detroit, Michigan and the second comes from the Seattle Seahawks Stadium Exhibition Center in 2003. Check out Third Man Records’ Co-Founder Ben Blackwell’s write up of both unique shows below.
What an odd show. Part of a mini festival dubbed Gutterfest, organized and emcee’d by local promoter and DJ Willy Wilson (that’s his voice you hear introducing the band), it was a rare event for the Stripes to open a show with a cover song, let alone one they had never played before and would never play again, but that’s the case with the Captain Beefheart classic “Diddy Wah Diddy” kicking off the performance. Followed by “Never Thought That I Could Love You” (sometimes titled “Lucky to Know You”), which holds a unique profile as being a song played by the White Stripes live a handful of times, yet never tackled in the studio and never showing up in any other Jack White outfit ever again. There might be a video kicking around of another show where the band plays this, otherwise, this may be the only time/way you’ll ever get to hear it. Otherwise, the set list is filled with early favorites and most excitingly, TONS of stage banter. I’ve no idea what had Jack so talkative this evening, but it sticks out, hands-down, as my single favorite collection of banter for a White Stripes show. From George Washington, Jack’s opinion on the size of roads, how much free time kids should have, who exactly is the “moon man”, where the street you grew up on got its name from and what exactly makes Wayne Kramer a “legend” are all addressed. In my opinion though, the best comment is after the band finishes playing “Why Can’t You Be Nicer to Me?” the sound man comes over the muffled stage speaker and says “That’s it guys” to which Jack replies, incredulously, “That’s it?!?! I was BORN here man!”
Weird to think about it now, but the Stripes would only perform as an opening act in Detroit ONE more time after this gig. While this show is far from perfect, it feels outright inspiring to see the trajectory Jack and Meg would take from this moment. Ultimately, a fascinating show for anyone with a deep appreciation of the band OR just a casual fan wanting to hear songs that exist nowhere else. – Ben Blackwell, Third Man Records
A dud of a room if there ever was one. I have no idea why they put on shows in this space. I mean all disrespect when I call this space a facility. But when the White Stripes are white hot in the touring behind Elephant I assume you just gotta play whatever room fits the crowd. And fortunately, the shortcomings of this space failed to affect the sound captured or the band’s performance. This show is of particular note as it would be the first time the Stripes would play with Yeah Yeah Yeahs since the YYY’s first-ever show back in September 2000. Having to follow an explosive opening act, the Stripes come out of the gate guns blazing with a bonkers version of “The Hardest Button to Button” which, while somewhat odd to land in as the set-opener, helps establish the mood. My favorite moment on this recording is the extemporaneous version of Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Man” done in a medley with “Astro” and “Jack the Ripper.” Playing a cover in front of the folks who wrote it, to me, is the ultimate sign of respect. Equal parts electric, unhinged, of-the-moment and uncannily compelling. Truth of the matter is that it felt like ALL shows on this 2003 West Coast run were wild. One of the more memorable span of shows for me, the band hitting its stride at the highest of heights. And yes, listening now, it is absolutely totally weird hearing “Seven Nation Army” in the middle of the set, but at the time, I don’t think I felt that way.
Of the 63 or so shows the White Stripes recorded in 2003, this appears to the be the only performance we do not still have multitrack masters on. All audio comes from a CD-r made the evening of the performance with a “Glenn Sound” sticker label attached to it. I know that Glenn Sound is a studio in Seattle where the Stripes did a radio session back in 2002, but am unsure as to what their involvement was for this 2003 show. The CD was left on a table in the band’s tour bus after the show and I was sure to snatch it up, only re-discovering it in my basement mere weeks ago. – Ben Blackwell, Third Man Records
It’s that time of the year where artists are looking back at their favorite highlights from the last 12 months. The String Cheese Incident’s Travelogue 2019 covers some of the most unique moments from the band’s extensive travels over the past year. The selections were handpicked by SCI archivist Larry Fox who included a special message for fans with the collection.
“2019… The String Cheese Incident’s 25th year! In putting together this year’s look-back, I tried to pull together some of the more unique moments from this year’s Incidents. This is not so much a “best-of”, but a “taste” of all the corners of the musical spectrum that the band touches on from night to night. There were a ton of great performances that didn’t fit on the four disc format. There’s a heavy dose of “one-time-played”, as well as a few key “guest artist contributions”. I encourage you to explore the rest of the 2019 catalog on LiveCheese & nugs.net. If you haven’t already signed up for the nugs.net streaming app, you owe it to yourself to try it out! Every show on this site is available for streaming – a miracle of modern technology!
As I say every year, I hope you enjoy listening to this collection as much as I enjoyed putting it together! Hope to see you guys out on the road in 2020! – Larry Fox (SCI Archivist)”
The entire Travelogue 2019 collection is available as a free download and is currently streaming free in the nugs.net app.
Earlier this year we added the Wilco Roadcase collection to the nugs.net catalog. Today, five new shows are being released for the first time ever, exclusively on nugs.net. This release includes four Wilco archives from 1999 – 2004 and a special Jeff Tweedy solo performance from 2005. Check out the details on each show below.
1999: Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, UK
Before embarking the following month on a proper tour in support of the release of Summerteeth (a tour that would last for most of 1999), Wilco played a few “showcase” shows, including this one at Shepherds Bush Empire in London. As evidenced by this recording, as well as the one from New Orleans (which also exists in the nugs.net archive), these shows kept things pretty “close to the vest”, presenting the new material in arrangements that were very close to the recorded versions (in contrast to the looser approach that would prevail later in the year). With Jay Bennett spending more time behind the keyboards, and the continued use of Leroy Bach as an additional sideman, the band was able to reproduce the lush sounds heard on the album, which was released three weeks prior. In addition to the new Summerteeth material, other highlights include powerful versions of “Hotel Arizona” and “Hesitating Beauty”.
2001: The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA
Wilco set out on their fall 2001 U.S. tour with the aggregate weight of the band’s recent lineup change, the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and promoting a new record that was not yet officially released. While earlier shows revealed a band still finding its sea legs (no doubt due, at least in part, to what was happening in the world at the time), by the time they landed in San Francisco for a three-night run at the Fillmore, Wilco was a minimalist yet powerful four-piece. This show, judged to be the best of the run, sees the band playing beautiful, sparse arrangements of nearly all of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, with “Ashes Of American Flags” being a particular standout. Other highlights include what Jeff announces as their first live performance of “Pieholden Suite”, and a crazy, chaotic, and extended “Misunderstood” featuring a gnarly electric guitar loop.
2003: Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing, Philadelphia, PA
Wilco and tour co-headliners Sonic Youth head into Philadelphia’s Penn’s Landing (on the banks of the Delaware River) following two shows at New York’s Central Park. By this time, the Tweedy / Stirratt / Kotche / Bach / Jorgensen five piece lineup had been playing together for about a year, with Mikael now playing a full array of keyboards, resulting in a more dense and intricate sound. Highlights of this show center around the still-formulating arrangements of songs that would later appear on the A Ghost Is Born album, including a very electric version of “Muzzle of Bees” (with some different lyrics) and a bopping take on “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” that splits the difference between the earlier “folk-y” approach and the full-on “Kraut Rock” version to follow. In addition, the encore includes and extended and intense version of “Laminated Cat” featuring frequent collaborator and then Sonic Youth member Jim O’Rourke.
2004: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Following opening sets by Sleater-Kinney and The Flaming Lips, Wilco sets the tone for a raucous New Year’s Eve by taking the stage at New York’s Madison Square Garden (in their pajamas) and opening with the not-so-fist-pounding “Less Than You Think”. Not to worry…party intentions are quickly displayed as the band follows that up with a version of “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” played at breakneck speed. “Come for the repertoire, stay for the covers” is the order of the night, as the band includes, among many others, versions of “Living After Midnight” (Judas Priest), “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” (Blue Oyster Cult) and even “Love Will Keep Us Together” (The Captain and Tennille). Some of these covers would enter into the band’s short-term repertoire, while others were “one and done” for this special event.
2005: Tribeca Performing Arts Center, New York, NY
Jeff Tweedy’s second-ever full solo tour rolled into Lower Manhattan’s Tribeca Performing Arts Center on November 16th and 17th, 2005. Band-mate Nels Cline opened the show on the 16th, and Glen Kotche opened on the following night. In addition to Wilco favorites and deep cuts, these shows also featured material from Jeff’s days in Uncle Tupelo, as well as extended and hilarious “discussions” with “the abyss”…pitch black audience members talking as if they were voices inside his head. But the true highlight are the two Loose Fur songs performed by…Loose Fur. Jeff brings out Glenn to play a few songs with him as he had been doing (and would do) throughout the tour; the difference on this night being that Jim O’Rourke would join them on bass for “Laminated Cat” and the yet-to-be-released “The Ruling Class”. This would mark only the third time that Loose Fur had appeared onstage, with the other two shows also happening in New York, back in 2002.