Stream The Most Recent Drop of Exclusive Bruce Springsteen Shows

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by Erik Flannigan, Bruce Springsteen Archivist

A fourth wave of Bruce Springsteen concert recordings arrives on nugs.net this September. Belmar is the latest monthly drop adding Springsteen’s Live Archive catalog to the streaming platform.

Belmar is anchored by five shows from the biggest tour of them all, Born in the U.S.A., including three 1984 arena performances in E. Rutherford, NJ and 1985 stadium gigs at Giants Stadium and the Coliseum in Los Angeles. Together they represent some of the most popular performances of Springsteen’s career, and feature not only songs from the chart-topping album, but powerful band performances of Nebraska material as well, including “Atlantic City,” “Highway Patrolman” and “Open All Night.”

Explore the Live Bruce Springsteen concert catalog

The 1984 New Jersey concerts were part of a ten-night stand at Brendan Byrne Arena, the finale to which was the legendary August 20 performance featuring a surprise cameo from Stevie Van Zandt, who had left the E Street Band at that point to pursue his solo career. He returns to share the microphone with Springsteen on an extraordinarily moving cover of Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away.”

Bruce wouldn’t tour again until 1988, but in 1986 he did make a special appearance at Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit Concert where he was joined by Nils Lofgren and Danny Federici. This unique set is also part of the Belmar drop and highlighted by the first ever acoustic performance of “Born in the U.S.A.”

To those six shows Belmar adds the complete North American leg of the 2016 River tour. These 38 concerts featured full-album performances of Springsteen’s 1980 double album The River, plus plenty more in the rest of the set, including choice River outtakes “Meet Me In The City,” “Be True,” “Loose Ends” and “Roulette” The passing of three music icons during the 2016 tour led to an equal number of stirring tribute performances. Opening night in Pittsburgh on January 16 it was “Rebel Rebel” to honor David Bowie. At the next show in Chicago on January 19, an acoustic take of The Eagles’ “Take It Easy” was performed to remember Glenn Frey. In late April, at the final dates in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, Bruce and the band gave a triumphant reading of Prince’s “Purple Rain.”

Erik Flannigan’s Belmar Compilation Album

  1. “Born in the U.S.A.” LA Coliseum, September 27, 1985
  2. “Atlantic City” Brendan Byrne Arena, August 6, 1984
  3. “Open All Night” Brendan Byrne Arena, August 6, 1984
  4. “Highway Patrolman” Brendan Byrne Arena, August 5, 1984
  5. “I’m Goin’ Down” Brendan Byrne Arena, August 20, 1984
  6. “Downbound Train” Giants Stadium, August 22, 1985
  7. “Drift Away ” Brendan Byrne Arena, August 20, 1984
  8. “Born in the U.S.A.” Shoreline Amphitheatre, October 13, 1986
  9. “Meet Me In The City” Madison Square Garden, January 27, 2016
  10. “Roulette” TD Garden, February 4, 2016
  11. “Be True” Times Union Center, February 8, 2016
  12. “Loose Ends” XL Center, February 10, 2016
  13. “Stolen Car” Blue Cross Arena, February 27, 2016
  14. “The Price You Pay” Sports Arena, March 19, 2016
  15. “Rebel Rebel” Consol Energy Center, January 16, 2016
  16. “Take It Easy” United Center, January 19, 2016
  17. “Purple Rain” Barclays Center, April 23, 2016

Note: These concerts are only available to U.S. and Canada subscribers, and can be streamed now with a free trial to nugs.net.

Erik Flannigan is a music archivist, producer, author and manager. He has been writing about Bruce Springsteen’s live performances and recordings for more than 30 years.

Learn more about the previous exclusive Bruce Springsteen audio drops

For audiophiles, we also offer a HiFi tier that allows you to enjoy 24-bit MQA streaming, as well as select Springsteen recordings in immersive 360 Reality Audio. Start your free trial and delve in.

Stream The Most Recent Drop of Exclusive Bruce Springsteen Shows

Start listening today with a free trial. The Live Bruce Springsteen catalog is available exclusively on nugs.net.

by Erik Flannigan, Bruce Springsteen Archivist

More classic Bruce Springsteen concerts come to nugs.net this August with the arrival of Long Branch, the third of five monthly drops bringing Bruce’s Live Archive catalog to the streaming platform. 

Long Branch adds 33 concerts circa 1980 to 2017, starting with six extraordinary nights on the 1980-81 River tour. These include Bruce and the E Street Band’s famed three-show stand at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY, culminating with a 38-song set on New Year’s Eve 12/31/80. From Summer ‘81, there are striking performances at Wembley Arena in London on June 5 and Brendan Byrne Arena in E. Rutherford, NJ on July 9.

Explore the Live Bruce Springsteen concert catalog

The Long Branch drop also showcases five gigs from 2009’s Working On A Dream tour, including three special sets that featured full-album performances of The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle (Madison Square Garden 11/7/09), The River (MSG 11/8/09) and Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ (Buffalo 11/22/09). The 2012-13 Wrecking Ball tour is represented by eight concerts, including tour kickoff at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem, March 9, 2012; a birthday special at MetLife stadium September 22, 2012 (which didn’t end until the wee hours of September 23, Bruce’s actual birthday); and the Springsteen’s longest concert ever at Olympiastadion in Helsinki, Finland on July 31, 2012, which lasted over four hours. Long Branch wraps with Australia/New Zealand 2017, the E Street Band’s last 14 shows to date ahead of their return to arenas and stadiums in 2023.

Erik Flannigan’s Long Branch Compilation Album

  1. “Stolen Car” Nassau Coliseum, December 28, 1980
  2. “Point Blank” Nassau Coliseum, December 29, 1980
  3. “Night” Nassau Coliseum, December 31, 1980
  4. “Follow That Dream” Wembley Arena, June 5, 1981
  5. “Loose Ends” Wachovia Spectrum, October 20, 2009
  6. “New York City Serenade” Madison Square Garden, November 7, 2009
  7. “Restless Nights” HSBC Arena, November 22, 2009
  8. “The E Street Shuffle” Apollo Theater, March 9, 2012
  9. “Frankie” Ullevi, July 28, 2012
  10. “Be True” Olympiastadion, July 31, 2012
  11. “Secret Garden” First Direct Arena, July 24, 2013
  12. “My Love Will Not Let You Down” Perth Arena, January 25, 2017
  13. “This Hard Land” AAMI Park, February 4, 2017
  14. “Long Time Comin’” Brisbane Entertainment Centre, February 16, 2017
  15. “None But The Brave” Hope Estate Winery, February 18, 2017

Note: These concerts are only available to U.S. and Canada subscribers, and can be streamed now with a free trial to nugs.net.


Erik Flannigan is a music archivist, producer, author and manager. He has been writing about Bruce Springsteen’s live performances and recordings for more than 30 years.

Learn more about the previous exclusive Bruce Springsteen audio drops

For audiophiles, we also offer a HiFi tier that allows you to enjoy 24-bit MQA streaming, as well as select Springsteen recordings in immersive 360 Reality Audio. Start your free trial and delve in.

Bruce Springsteen in East Rutherford, New Jersey, 8/19/1984

ARCHIVE RELEASE: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Brendan Byrne Arena, E. Rutherford, New Jersey, August 19, 1984

A Beacon Calling Me In The Night

by Erik Flannigan

As measured by cultural impact and mass popularity, Bruce Springsteen’s 1984-85 World Tour was the apex. Considering its stunning scale, playing multi-night stadium stands, it’s easy to forget that 1984 was a rebirth of sorts, the start of a new era as much as a continuation of what came before it. On the biggest tour of his career, Springsteen was rebuilding the engine while the plane was flying.

Synthesizers like the Yamaha CS-80 had been part of Springsteen’s sonic signature since The River tour, albeit in a subtle manner that was more about background tones and mood. With Born in the U.S.A., synths moved front of the mix (playing lead, so to speak) on the title track and the smash single “Dancing in the Dark.” Fun fact: Did you know a CS-80 tips the scales at over 200 pounds?

When the tour kicked off at the St. Paul Civic Center in June 1984, Springsteen hadn’t performed a proper concert in nearly three years, but he had released two new albums, including Nebraska, his first-ever solo and acoustic effort. How would those songs work on stage with the E Street Band?

There were moves on that Street too, with longtime foil Steven Van Zandt exiting stage left to pursue his own solo career. Nils Lofgren stepped in stage right to take his place, bringing fresh energy and new textures to the band’s already evolving sound, bolstered further by the addition of backing singer Patti Scialfa, restoring E Street’s gender diversity first established by violinist Suki Lahav in late 1974.

The Live Archive series already features the first two shows and the final night of Bruce and the band’s ten-show stand at Brendan Byrne Arena in New Jersey. With the addition of 8/19/84, the penultimate show of the run, we get perhaps our clearest picture yet of Springsteen flying live without a net when the stakes were highest.

While he doesn’t come in for praise as often as other band members given his position in the sonic landscape, Garry W. Tallent is the anchor of the E Street sound, and he stands out especially loud and proud in Jon Altschiller’s new multitrack mix of August 19. His playing is thicker than ever in “Born in the U.S.A,” especially the bridge before the final breakdown, and Garry and Max carry a powerful “Atlantic City” that’s as good as any captured on tape.

ARCHIVE RELEASE: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Brendan Byrne Arena, E. Rutherford, New Jersey, August 19, 1984

Bruce’s own guitar strumming in the opening verse of “Atlantic City” is crystalline crisp. His vocals here and throughout the night are in peak form, a model of power and total control. Tallent’s bass part in the song’s final verse and chorus is sinewy, moody, and, as always, flawless. There’s also fine work from Danny Federici on organ as Bruce sings, “Put on your stockings, babe, ’cause the night’s getting cold.” Lastly, Lofgren’s background vocals in the final chorus ring true just before Bruce yells, “Draw blood!” They crushed it.

The 8/19/84 Nebraska mini-set offers two other striking turns. “Reason to Believe” is the one track from this show featured on Live/1975-85, but it gains additional meaning heard here in context immediately after “Atlantic City” in a different mix that again spotlights Garry Tallent’s superb bass arrangement.

Then there’s “My Father’s House,” in only its second performance ever and one of but five on the entire tour. Bruce introduces the song with a short anecdote about sneaking through the woods at dusk, “and then I had to get home and get by my old man…Sometimes that was scarier.”

In what might be the vocal highlight of the entire show, Bruce sings “My Father’s House” with vivid frankness, backed by the sympathetic support of Tallent on bass, Lofgren on mandolin, Weinberg on brushes, and Bittan on synth. When Springsteen’s rich voice rises with the line, “It stands like a beacon, calling me in the night” you’ll feel the chills. The solo acoustic “My Father’s House” from the Christic benefit show performed in 1990 and released in the Live Archive series is excellent, but this rare band arrangement is stunning.

The rest of the first set remains true to form for the period, with a nice stretch of BIUSA songs coming out of the Nebraska trio and classics like “Badlands” and “Thunder Road”  leading into the break. It’s worth noting that 8/19/84 offers notable readings of “Darkness On the Edge of Town” in the first set and “Prove It All Night” in the second. Both benefit from Springsteen’s stirring vocals and guitar work, and, in Van Zandt’s absence, Lofgren steps up. You can feel him meshing with Bruce, resulting in refreshed performances of two Darkness stalwarts.

The second set is as good as the first, and momentum is building. After the playful trio of “Hungry Heart,” “Dancing in the Dark” and “Cadillac Ranch” coming out of intermission, Bruce taps the Miami Horns for the first time since 1977 on “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” in a preview of their appearance on closing night 24 hours hence. The horns add much joy and vigor to the song, and while he was already having a good night, Clarence Clemons seems to take it up a notch, too.

A tender, solo “No Surrender” is next, then the aforementioned “Prove It All Night” and a stellar, crowd-pleasing version of “Fire.” The crowd certainly knows this one, singing along in full voice, and as good as the Big Man’s saxophone playing is, boy does his baritone voice sound sweet. He and Bruce milk “Fire” for all its worth. “Growin’ Up” keeps the sweetness and local landmarks flowing, complete with Jim the Dancing Bear (who wasn’t done for the night) and massive cheers for “Route 9” and “Toms River” in a tall tale about the early days of Bruce and Clarence on the shore.

Riding in on the emotional nostalgia of “Growin’ Up,”, “Bobby Jean” has heart to burn — and it resonates in a way it hasn’t consistently in recent times, as a standalone song in the encore. Bruce sings it as if Little Stevie were listening (maybe he was in the crowd that night, ahead of his appearance the next evening) and the Big Man lands the solo masterfully.

The set turns back to Darkness again for a pacey “Racing in the Street,” the coda for which is always a showcase for Bittan and Federici, with Bruce adding subtle guitar texture to their interplay. A long, loose “Rosalita” closes the set with extended and particularly funny band intros (e.g. “You may have read [Bittan’s] study of the lost tribes of Hoboken”), and this new model E Street Band is soaring — and most importantly, having fun doing it.

The encore moves from “Jungleland” (with Lofgren stepping up to fill one of Van Zandt’s best-known solos) to “Born to Run” (Federici’s glockenspiel rings out thrillingly) before the Miami Horns return to punctuate “Detroit Medley” and “Twist and Shout – Do You Love Me?” to cap the evening.

Nine nights into a homecoming stand for the ages, 8/19/84 captures Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band sounding different than ever before but every bit as good, their confidence rightly rising on the strength of outstanding performances by the individual players coalescing at the start of a new era.

Stream The Latest Drop of Exclusive Bruce Springsteen Shows

LISTEN NOW: Just added Bruce Springsteen Concert recordings.

Note: These concerts are only available to U.S. and Canada subscribers, and can be streamed now with a free trial to nugs.net.

by Erik Flannigan, Bruce Springsteen Archivist

Live Springsteen streaming on nugs.net expands with Asbury Park, the second of five monthly drops bringing Bruce’s Live Archive catalog to the platform. 

Asbury Park offers an additional 33 shows circa 1978 to 2014, including nine from the legendary Darkness On the Edge of Town tour in 1978. These include new multitrack mixes of the tour’s five beloved radio broadcasts from which spawned several of the most famous Springsteen bootleg of all time: July 7 at The Roxy in West Hollywood; August 9 at The Agora in Cleveland; September 19 at The Capitol Theatre in Passaic; September 30 at The Fox Theatre in Atlanta; and December 15 at Bill Graham’s Winterland in San Francisco.

The Asbury Park drop also features Springsteen’s emotional appearance with the Seeger Sessions Band at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on April 30, 2006 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, plus their inspired set at London’s Wembley Arena on November 11 of the same year. All five shows released to date from the Magic tour are here, notably the late Danny Federici’s last proper show (Boston, November 19, 2007) and appearance (Indianapolis, March 20, 2008) with the E Street Band, plus the rarities-laden penultimate performance from St. Louis, August 23, 2008. Asbury Park wraps with 16 shows from the US leg of 2014’s High Hopes tour, a stretch of concerts that saw fans making and the band delivering on dozens of inspired cover- and rare-song requests.

Erik Flannigan’s Asbury Park Compilation Album

  1. “Backstreets” The Roxy, July 7, 1978
  2. “Darkness on the Edge of Town” The Agora, August 9, 1978
  3. “Racing in the Street” Capitol Theatre, September 19, 1978
  4. “Prove It All Night” Fox Theatre, September 30, 1978
  5. “The Fever” Winterland, December 15, 1978
  6. “How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?” Jazz Fest, April 30, 2006
  7. “Long Walk Home” Wembley Arena, November 11, 2006
  8. “Gypsy Biker” TD Banknorth Garden, November 19, 2007
  9. “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” Conseco Fieldhouse, March 20, 2008
  10. “Growin’ Up” St. Pete Times Forum, April 22, 2008
  11. “Then She Kissed Me” Scottrade Center, August 23, 2008
  12. “Seaside Bar Song” Farm Bureau Live At Virginia Beach, April 12, 2014
  13. “Burning Love” Bridgestone Arena, April 17, 2014
  14. “Brothers Under The Bridge” MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, May 1, 2014
  15. “Be True” HersheyPark Stadium, May 14, 2014

LISTEN NOW: Start a free trial to stream live Bruce Springsteen archives.

Note: These concerts are only available to U.S. and Canada subscribers, and can be streamed now with a free trial to nugs.net.


Erik Flannigan is a music archivist, producer, author and manager. He has been writing about Bruce Springsteen’s live performances and recordings for more than 30 years.

For audiophiles, we also offer a HiFi tier that allows you to enjoy 24-bit MQA streaming, as well as select Springsteen recordings in immersive 360 Reality Audio. Start your free trial and delve in.

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band in Paris, July 4 and 5, 2012

ARCHIVE RELEASE: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band live in Paris, July 4 and 5, 2012

The Hype Is Real

by Erik Flannigan

The Wrecking Ball tour was big on multiple levels, from the length of the shows (eventually reaching four hours, breaking Bruce’s all-time record), to the number of band members on stage (hitting 17 on occasion), to the scale of the venues—especially in Europe, where the 2012 tour hit stadiums across the continent… save for one special stand in Paris.

For reasons that have never been explained, when Springsteen brought the Wrecking Ball caravan to France to open the second half of the Euro leg, he downsized from stadiums back to arena-scale for just one pair of shows that fell on the fourth and fifth of July. Those back-to-back performances, which featured an impressive 44 different songs between them, have long been lauded as some of the best of the tour. In that spirit of bigness and in celebration of the ten-year anniversary of the gigs, it seemed only fitting to add both Paris 2012 shows to the Live Archive series.

The Paris concerts combined offer over seven hours of music and a bounty of special moments and performances. Here are several worth noting.

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band at Palais Omnisports De Paris-Bercy, July 4, 2012

The charms of the expanded 2012 band bear fruit in a delightful, unhurried version of “The E Street Shuffle” performed as a sign request. The song was played more in 2012 than any other year since 1975, when it thrived in a completely different arrangement. The Wrecking Ball tour edition takes advantage of the horn section, Everett Bradley’s percussion, and the E Street Choir on background vocals for a fully realized rendition that follows the original album structure of prelude, main song, and a storming, extended coda. In Paris, the crowd keeps singing the melody after the whole thing ends, indicative of just how into the show they are, and it compels Bruce to start the “E Street Shuffle” back up again for a second coda.

Springsteen keeps the Asbury Park setting, linking “Shuffle” to “Sandy” in his transition: “And then, down from town, about five blocks in on the boardwalk… if you listen hard, you could hear…” He sings the accordion-led, Fourth of July special in a low voice at times, adding a bit of age and wisdom to the tale, which on this night includes the sometimes-omitted third verse about the “waitress who lost her desire for me.” The background singers bring lushness to the final chorus as the sun sets on the boardwalk via Paris.

When Bruce opened his Fourth of July playlist for this show, he clicked them all—which means “Darlington County.” Stevie Van Zandt veers the song towards the edge of the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women” before Bruce sings his first line about that memorable drive he and Wayne took from New York City all those years ago. The Paris take is long, with an extended horn and sax section at the end. 

With Patti back on stage for the first time on the Euro tour, “Easy Money” returns to the set in one of only 18 performances ever. Bruce’s untamed falsetto vocals start things out, and one has to credit the Paris crowd for their consistently high level of participation as they sing along strongly here. Patti’s vocal contributions are a key element to “Easy Money,” which is why the song wasn’t performed without her.

In the most special nod to the occasion, Bruce moves to the piano for a rare solo-piano performance of “Independence Day.” Bruce released a video of this version in 2012 on his official YouTube channel, and it is great to have the audio available through the Live Archive series. Having played the instrument every night of the Devils & Dust tour, Springsteen’s piano playing is more confident than ever. Listen to the fine solo he takes in lieu of Clarence’s memorable sax before the third verse. Like so many older songs performed in this era, the bit of age in Springsteen’s voice only adds gravitas.

No Fourth of July performance would be complete without “Born in the U.S.A.” in its still-awe-inspiring, full-band arrangement. Bruce has no trouble finding his 1984 vocal range “forty years down the road” in a crackling rendition that puts the electric guitars on a level playing field with the synthesizers. Max Weinberg is also up to the task: while the horns add heft to the outro, Max smashes his legendary fills as hard as ever.

ARCHIVE RELEASE: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band live in Paris, July 4 and 5, 2012

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band at Palais Omnisports De Paris-Bercy, July 5, 2012

If anyone needed a sign that the second show in Paris would be materially different from the first, look no further than the top of the set when Bruce and the band reel off six songs in a row not featured the previous night. Deviating from his own written setlist, the band starts what sounds for all the world like “We Take Care of Our Own” only to shift gears into a bright “The Ties That Bind,” led by Roy Bittan’s piano and rich with the voices of the background singers in the chorus and bridge. Jake Clemons takes a sharp solo, too. The stellar reading of “Ties” is followed in bang-bang succession by breathtaking runs of “No Surrender,” “Two Hearts,” “Downbound Train,” “Candy’s Room,” and lastly a scintillating “Something in the Night.” Fans in attendance said the July 5 show was truly something special, and you can hear that imprinted in Jon Altschiler’s full-bodied mix. The six-song start of the second Paris set is as good as it gets in the post-Reunion era.

“Something In The Night,” Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Live in Paris, 7/5/2012

In all, Paris night two boasts 15 changes from the previous show, including three certified epics starting with “Incident on 57th Street.” As vocal as they have been all night, the Paris audience treats the Wild & Innocent masterpiece with fitting reverence. Bruce tells Nils to take the initial guitar lead, which rises above Charlie Giordano’s swirling organ.

“Working on the Highway” and “I’m Goin’ Down” add a dose of levity and self-deprecation to the evening. The horn section and background singers give “Working on the Highway” a big jolt of energy, while the audience does the same for “I’m Goin’ Down,” yielding reinvigorated versions of both songs.

After a solo “Independence Day” on July 4, Bruce sits at the piano bench night two and delivers “For You.” This one is triumphant, reaching the heady heights of the song’s solo outings in 1975 (such as the extraordinary take on the Live Archive release of Greenvale, NY 12/12/75). Like “Indy” the night before, Springsteen plays the piano brilliantly, and he commits to every line of the lyrics to staggering effect. He also hits the last note resoundingly when he sings “When it was my turn to be the God.” As the kids say, “Chills.”

From “For You” straight into evening’s epic denouement, “Racing in the Street”—another time-defying performance. It can be difficult to describe in the written word what it feels like when a performer is in the moment, not simply performing their music, but embodying it, living the words and melodies anew. But you can hear it. That goes for every member of the band, too—special credit to Bittan and Bradley, first among equals in this performance of “Racing.”

The sequence of “For You” to “Racing in the Street,” and the top of the July 5 show as well, all capture Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performing in the moment. For years, they did so more consistently than any other band in concert. On this fantastic recording of Paris 2012, so many years down the road, they undeniably do so again.

ARCHIVE RELEASE: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band live in Paris, July 4 and 5, 2012


Erik Flannigan is a music archivist, producer, author and manager. He has been writing about Bruce Springsteen’s live performances and recordings for more than 30 years.

Stream Exclusive Bruce Springsteen Concert Recordings

LISTEN NOW: Stream our first drop of exclusive live Bruce Springsteen audio.

Note: These concerts are only available to U.S. and Canada subscribers, and can be streamed now with a free trial to nugs.net.

by Erik Flannigan, Bruce Springsteen Archivist

Live Springsteen streaming on nugs.net kicks off with Freehold, the first of five monthly drops. Freehold presents 35 shows circa 1975 to 2014, starting at the legendary Roxy in West Hollywood on the Born To Run tour. Bruce’s October 18, 1975 appearance at the club with the E Street Band featured a rare cover of Carole King’s “Goin’ Back” in the encore.

From later that same year we get the legendary December 12 gig at CW Post College on Long Island, at which Springsteen’s beloved version of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” was recorded. From 1977, a rare pair of shows in Albany and Rochester that extend the BTR tour, but showcase newly written songs like “Something in the Night,” “Rendezvous” and “The Promise.” Freehold includes all six shows released to date from the 1999-2000 Reunion tour with the E Street Band, from September 25, 1999 in Philadelphia (and the first “Incident on 57th Street” performed in 19 years) to July 1, 2000, the final show at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

The Rising tour is represented by the June 16, 2003 show in Helsinki, while 2005’s Devils & Dust tour contributes five concerts, each with a rarities-packed setlist. The start of the 2014 High Hopes tour completes the Freehold drop, offering 14 shows performed in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, a run that included unexpected cover songs like AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell,” The Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” and Lorde’s “Royals.”

Erik Flannigan’s Freehold Compilation Album

  1. “Goin’ Back” The Roxy, October 18, 1975
  2. “For You” Hammersmith Odeon, November 24, 1975
  3. “Mountain of Love” Tower Theater, December 31, 1975
  4. “Something in the Night” Palace Theatre, February 7, 1977
  5. “Incident on 57th Street” First Union Center, September 25, 1999
  6. “Adam Raised a Cain” United Center, September 30, 1999
  7. “Take ‘Em’ as They Come” Staples Center, October 23, 1999
  8. “Empty Sky” Olympiastadion, June 16, 2003
  9. “Real World” Tower Theater, May 17, 2005
  10. “Valentine’s Day” Value City Theatre, Schottenstein Center, July 31, 2005
  11. “Tunnel of Love” Van Andel Arena, August 3, 2005
  12. “Highway to Hell” Perth Arena, February 8, 2014
  13. “Better Days” Adelaide Entertainment Centre, February 12, 2014
  14. “Stayin’ Alive” Brisbane Entertainment Centre, February 26, 2014
  15. “Royals” Mt. Smart Stadium, March 2, 2014

LISTEN NOW: Start a free trial to stream live Bruce Springsteen archives.

Note: These concerts are only available to U.S. and Canada subscribers, and can be streamed now with a free trial to nugs.net.


Erik Flannigan is a music archivist, producer, author and manager. He has been writing about Bruce Springsteen’s live performances and recordings for more than 30 years.

For audiophiles, we also offer a HiFi tier that allows you to enjoy 24-bit MQA streaming, as well as select Springsteen recordings in immersive 360 Reality Audio. Start your free trial and delve in.

Weekly Live Stash Vol. XI, May 21, 2022

Listen to “The Weekly Live Stash” with nugs.net founder Brad Serling every Friday at 5 pm ET on nugs.net radio, SiriusXM 716.

  1. Samson And Delilah
    Billy Strings with Bob Weir
    5/8/22 Nashville, TN
  2. Foolish Heart
    Joe Russo’s Almost Dead
    2/10/22 Philadelphia, PA
  3. Wysteria Lane
    Goose
    4/29/22 Asheville, NC
  4. She’s the One
    Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
    10/18/75 West Hollywood, CA
  5. Freeborn Man
    Billy Strings
    5/13/22 Morrison, CO
  6. Tombstone Blues
    Kitchen Dwellers
    5/10/22 Holyoke, MA
  7. Weather Report Suite
    Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros
    3/18/22 Chicago, IL
  8. Let It Grow
    Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros
    3/18/22 Chicago, IL

Bruce Springsteen Live at Madison Square Garden, May 16, 1988

LISTEN NOW: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – May 16, 1988

In Dreams You’re Mine All Of The Time

by Erik Flannigan

The Tunnel of Love tour again? That’s surely a sentiment some are expressing with this month’s release of New York 5/16/88, the outstanding opening night performance from the final, five-show stand on the US leg of the 1988 tour.

On the surface the POV is understandable, as most shows on the Tunnel of Love Express Tour shared the same narrative arc and core songs. However beautifully realized it was, the argument goes, how distinctive is one Tunnel show from another?

It’s curious that 1988 comes in for such carping when one of Bruce’s most-beloved tours, in support of Darkness on the Edge of Town ten years earlier, followed a similar formula, largely sticking to a consistent group of songs for the core set, augmented by select cover versions and rarities that made a particular show extra special.

Both tours showcased a trove of material not found on Springsteen’s studio albums. In 1988, that included originals “Be True,” “Seeds,” “Part Man, Part Monkey,” “Light of Day,” and “I’m a Coward,” the latter a (nearly) complete rewrite of Geno Washington’s “Geno Is a Coward.” Bruce played those five songs across the US tour. But as the Express rolled on, cover songs—most entirely new to Springsteen setlists—began to appear, seemingly out of nowhere. But behind the scenes, their origin was part of the 1988 journey all along.

While the ’88 main set stayed consistent over the tour’s first two months, Bruce and the band operated as a virtual jukebox during their afternoon soundchecks,, test-driving dozens of cover songs. Eventually, some graduated from these private rehearsals to the main set.

These pre-show performances were explorations of the music Bruce and the band—and importantly, the horn section—grew up on or newly admired. Long soundchecks, like those that took place in Atlanta, Tacoma, and New York, were practically mini-concerts played for their own enjoyment.

On opening night at Madison Square Garden, cover songs born in soundchecks ultimately tip the show from good to great. Now released in brilliant, multi-track audio with one very special bonus track, in the immortal words of Nigel Tufnel, MSG Night One “goes to 11.”

John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” is the first cover of the night, newly added to the set two shows prior in Minneapolis. Gritty guitar and horns combine to give “Boom Boom” swagger, and its inclusion feels topical given the subject matter (“take you in my arms, I’m in love with you”). Bruce tosses in a long, bonus “make loooove” to eliminate any ambiguity.

Between “Boom Boom” and the first set’s other cover, Edwin Starr’s depressingly still-appropriate “War ” we are treated to a number of terrific performances. “Adam Raised a Cain,” reborn in 1988, offers a weighty lead vocal, including a fresh exchange with Nils towards the end. Bruce’s guitar work at the top of “Adam” and later in the solo are fiery, and the horns raise the drama to arena level. “Two Faces” is thoughtfully rendered and thematically resonant, as is “Cover Me”: Bruce dips into lyrics from the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” declaring “I need a little shelter now,” “It’s just a kiss away,” and his own revealing improvisation, “I can’t see no sunshine.” Not surprisingly given the circumstances we get an especially earnest “Brilliant Disguise,” too.

The cracking first set ends with another epic “Born in the U.S.A.,” played at a seemingly pacier tempo and loaded with emotive guitar soloing, synthesizer pitch-wheel bending, and a nifty bit of Max Weinberg cymbal pinging between channels as Bruce’s voice rises to sing, “I’ve got a picture of him in her arms.”

The second set keeps pace with the first, and while there are no surprises per se (those are still to come), the band is playing at their 1988 peak. For highlights, first among equals is “Walk Like a Man,” making its second full-band appearance in the Archive series and sounding more vivid and widescreen than the version captured in Detroit in March. The arrangement features what might be the best work by the Horns of Love of the entire tour. While everyone in the band is playing brilliantly, Garry Tallent’s bass gives the song a lush bed on which the other instrumentation flourishes. It’s a stunner.

The encores on the 1988 tour were consistently strong, and the addition of “Have Love, Will Travel” by The Sonics delightfully balances the Memphis soul of “Raise Your Hand” and “Sweet Soul Music” with Northwest garage rock. “Have Love” is another song that graduated from the encore to the main set, and for the night’s most special moment, Bruce played that hand again. 

“I’m gonna do a song now that’s a favorite song of mine,” he says. “I don’t sing it as good as the guy that originally sang it, but I like it a lot, and this is my night in the big room. I just love this song.”

What follows is a majestic, reverent, and perfectly arranged rendition of Roy Oribson’s “Crying.” Optimized for his vocal range, the performance features Springsteen singing with stunning control. What Orbison brings the song in soaring, operatic notes, Bruce makes up for with power and conviction. What a treat to add it to the master song list of the Live Archive series.

It’s no surprise that Bruce was feeling triumphant at the end of the night, and his band commemorates the moment in the most Big Apple way possible, playing an instrumental “New York, New York” for his walk-off music.

“New York, New York” was the last song of the 5/16/88 show, but it isn’t the final track on this release. We’re gifted a glimpse into those legendary soundtracks with the inclusion of “In Dreams,” recorded pre-show.

Bruce’s Orbison bonafides were well established even before participating in the television tribute special A Black and White Night, shot in September 1987. He had explored The Big O’s music in soundchecks for weeks leading up to New York City. The only E Street Band performances of “Crying” appeared during this MSG run, but “In Dreams” never even made it to the show. 

The Archive has been fortunate to feature two other songs from 1988 soundchecks, “For You Love” from 5/23 and “Reason to Believe” from 3/28. But “In Dreams,” perhaps the most mystical song in the Orbison canon, feels most like we’ve snuck into the venue early and heard something only intended for the musicians on stage. What a treat. When “In Dreams” finishes, Bruce offers a self-review of their performance that I won’t spoil, but you’re sure to smile as I did. 

The first night at Madison Square Garden in 1988 is an outstanding Tunnel of Love performance and, better still, a previously unheard and worthy homage to one of the biggest musical influences in Springsteen’s career.

LISTEN NOW: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – May 16, 1988

nugs.net Expands Live Concert Recording Catalog with Top Artists

nugs.net is thrilled to announce exciting new additions to its catalog of live concert recordings.

Over the past two decades, pioneer live music streaming platform nugs.net has evolved into the leading source for official live concert recordings from the largest touring artists in the world. With an ever-expanding digital archive of more than 25,000 concerts and hundreds of on-demand videos of full shows from marquee acts like Metallica, Pearl Jam, The Rolling Stones, Dead & Company, and Phish, nugs.net provides music fans VIP access to their favorite concerts anytime, anywhere. Throughout April, nugs.net is adding an iconic, genre-spanning collection of new artists and live concert recordings to their massive, unrivaled streaming library, including an epic selection of new and archival shows from Jack White, DARKSIDE, Pixies and more. 

Jack White’s Supply Chain Issues Tour Concert Audio

On the heels of releasing his eagerly awaited new album, FEAR OF THE DAWN, Jack White kicked off his Supply Chain Issues Tour last week with two sold-out shows at Detroit’s Masonic Temple Theatre. The tour, which features White’s first headline shows in four years, will make 50+ stops across North America, Europe, and the United Kingdom through late August. In partnership with nugs.net, White will offer official soundboard audio from every stop on the tour, available to stream exclusively via nugs.net here: nugs.net/jackwhite. Of the new partnership, Third Man Records co-founder Ben Blackwell shares, “While we’ve been recording all Jack White live shows for years, only now did it finally feel right to release all of them quickly after the performance. And with nugs.net as our partner…we couldn’t be happier with the results.”

Six Epic Sets from Psychedelic Duo DARKSIDE

Beginning today, music fans around the globe can enjoy full-length concerts from DARKSIDE, the psychedelic collaboration between electronic producer Nicolas Jaar and guitarist Dave Harrington, who have partnered with nugs.net to bring two visually driven, atmospheric performances, as well as official soundboard audio from five epic concerts to the platform’s extensive streaming catalog for the first time. Watch DARKSIDE’s intimate sunset show overlooking the Manhattan skyline, Psychic Live set at Stereolux in Nantes, and more streaming exclusively on nugs.net here: nugs.net/DARKSIDE.

26 Pixies Archive Concert Recordings

Alt-rock icons Pixies also join nugs.net this month. 26 full-length concerts from the archives, including recordings from 1991 and the band’s 2004 reunion tour, will be available to stream on April 21 at nugs.net/thepixies. All shows feature the band’s original lineup: frontman Black Francis, guitarist Joey Santiago, bassist Kim Deal, and drummer David Lovering. Highlights include Pixies’ first show in 11 years at the intimate Fine Line in Minneapolis, a performance on the mainstage at Coachella, and a 2004 sold-out, four-night run at Brixton Academy in London. 

Immersive 360 Reality Audio

Throughout the month, nugs.net will continue to bring the live concert experience to music lovers worldwide. Stream iconic performances and classic albums by David Bowie, Pink Floyd, and Janis Joplin in immersive 360 Reality Audio, which brings the electricity of live music and the energy of a crowd to you like never before. Experience exclusive live recordings from the Bruce Springsteen Archives, like The Roxy ’75, as if you were in the room with the E Street Band on the Born to Run Tour. Listen to the classic Jefferson Airplane Volunteers album the way it sounded in the studio, and hear David Gilmour play “Wish You Were Here” with the Polish Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra like you’re in the crowd of 50,000 fans. For more information and to start listening visit: try.nugs.net/360.

Listen to Bowie, Springsteen, and More in Immersive 360 Reality Audio

Start listening in 360 Reality Audio.

nugs.net is excited to stream selected shows and albums in immersive 360 Reality Audio, which brings the electricity of live music and the energy of a crowd to you like never before. Using spatial audio technology, 360 Reality Audio captures vocals, instruments, and the sounds of a live audience and brings them to you in spherical sound. 

Stream iconic performances and classic albums by David Bowie, Pink Floyd, and Janis Joplin on the nugs.net app. Experience exclusive live recordings from the Bruce Springsteen Archives, like The Roxy ’75, as if you were in the room with the E Street Band on the Born to Run Tour. Listen to the classic Jefferson Airplane Volunteers album the way it sounded in the studio, and hear David Gilmour play “Wish You Were Here” with the Polish Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra like you’re in the crowd of 50,000 fans. 

Each recording is also streaming in stereo for our Premium subscribers, and select concert videos have been newly mixed with 360 Reality Audio sound for the first time ever and are now streaming on demand.

Start listening on the nugs.net mobile app now with a free 30-day HiFi Tier trial subscription, and stay tuned for more content in 360 Reality Audio coming soon.

Stream Bruce Springsteen in Berlin from 1993

Bruce Springsteen

LISTEN NOW: Waldbühne, Berlin, Germany – May 14, 1993

By Erik Flannigan

Though Springsteen’s 1992-93 World Tour ran a full calendar year, his first outing sans E Street Band carried the sense of a perpetual work in progress for good reason.

Bruce had not one but two albums’ worth of material to integrate from Human Touch and Lucky Town; a challenging balance to strike between familiar and new material; and a bigger, rootsy-er band attempting to hold its own in the shadow of E Street, but from which he could summon the magical vocal power of a gospel choir. As my friend Aaron would say, a tricky biscuit.

The previous Archive release from this tour, Boston 12/13/92, featured 16 songs from the new companion albums. Five months later in Berlin, the main set shifted significantly, as nine songs from Human Touch and Lucky Town are joined by 14 “classics” (six culled from Born in the U.S.A.), five covers, plus a four-song acoustic appetizer to open the show, a unique design feature of the European gigs.

What the result lacks in narrative cohesion it makes up for in distinct, compelling moments as Bruce—alone, and with his new (save for Roy Bittan) companions—walks an alternate musical path through it all. Berlin 5/14/93 serves as an exemplar of the unique period that was Europe ’93.

As the lone keyboard player on the 1992-93 tour, Bittan does a lot of heavy lifting. A greater-than-usual reliance on synthesizers, primarily via Roy’s Yamaha DX7 (the first widely adopted digital synth), is akin to Max Weinberg’s drum triggers on the back half of the Born in the U.S.A. tour.

Both belong to a specific place and time in the sonic landscape, because they are so prominent in the live mix of their respective eras, they can feel obtrusive by today’s standards. If you find yourself bumping on Roy’s DX7, recalibrate your modern ears—this is the sound of 1992-93.

Berlin opens with something we can all agree on: a wonderful, four-song acoustic set that commences with the Christic Institute arrangements of “Darkness on the Edge of Town” and “Adam Raised a Cain.” How thrilling it must have been to see these solo performances in their striking new renditions, and Bruce was just getting started.

The world premiere of “Satan’s Jeweled Crown” follows, with Bruce joined by the backup singers who emphasize the church-pew side of the “country-gospel song” first popularized by the Louvin Brothers. The stately hymn only appeared in the set six times, five in Europe in 1993, making this a rare and welcome addition to the Live Archive series.

If those three tunes to start weren’t enough, how about the shorts-soiling inclusion of unreleased-at-the-time BIUSA outtake “This Hard Land”? When met with a knowing cheer, Bruce responds, “Yeah, you bought the bootlegs. You shouldn’t have done it.” The song was still two years away from its official release on Greatest Hits In 1995, so for hardcore fans, “This Hard Land” in the show was a holy grail.

As noted above, Springsteen taps his classic catalog further in Berlin than he did in 1992, with some tracks translating off E Street more successfully than others. The choir vocals of the backup singers bring a soulful sweetness to songs like “Hungry Heart” and “Working on the Highway.” The 1992-93 band always nails “Badlands” and does here, too.

A spare take of “The River,” which the audience greets with an enormous cheer, is the vocal highlight. Bruce sings it fresh, poignant, and true above Bittan’s gorgeous piano. The peak comes with the trio of “Downbound Train,” “Because the Night,” and “Brilliant Disguise.” The last of these offers unexpectedly intriguing guitar from Shane Fontayne, while Bruce himself tears off a steamy solo in “Because the Night,” which also gains gravitas from the vocalists.

But there’s no mistaking the rise in Bruce’s enthusiasm when he moves from songs like “Atlantic City” and “My Hometown” to Human Touch/Lucky Town material like “Man’s Job” and “Leap of Faith.” Vocal inflection and energy signal his commitment, and, to a song, the recent additions have strong outings in Berlin, with fine performances of “Better Days,” “Lucky Town,” “Human Touch,” and the elegiac, underrated encore high point, “My Beautiful Reward.”

The one place where old and new combine to stirring effect is the denouement coupling of “Souls of the Departed” and “Born in the U.S.A.,” framed by several Jimi Hendrix-inspired bars of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” With Roy Bittan triggering news soundbites of troubles, domestic and foreign, these parallel stories of the human toll taken by such conflicts form one seamless, biting statement that lands harder than anything else in the show.

Bruce’s choice of covers also confers deep resonance on the Berlin performance. The aforementioned “Satan’s Jeweled Crown” is a God-fearing, serious tune and sits right at the intersection of the church and the Opry. “Who’ll Stop the Rain” and “Rockin’ All Over the World” are familiar fare, yet always welcome, especially with big gospel voices adding layers of soul. Those voices come up even bigger on Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross,” presented in straightforward and powerful fashion. It was one of the consistent highlights of these 1993 concerts.

Speaking of resurrections, after four sterling performances on 1988’s Tunnel of Love Express Tour, Springsteen brought “Across the Borderline” back into four 1993 setlists, the last of which was Berlin. The song is most closely associated with Ry Cooder, who wrote it with John Hiatt and Jim Dickson. Like Tom Waits’ “Jersey Girl,” “Across the Borderline” is a leading candidate for the most Springsteen-esque song Bruce has covered but didn’t write. The Berlin version is blessed with the heartfelt vocals of Gia Ciambotti, Carol Dennis, Cleopatra Kennedy, Bobby King, and Angel Rogers, who bring majesty to a predominantly synthesizer- and guitar-led arrangement.

Such 1993 highpoints surely inspired Springsteen to combine the best of both worlds in 2012 as the Wrecking Ball tour brought E Street Band and E Street Choir together. In fact, “Many Rivers to Cross” featured in the last warm-up gig in Austin before the start of the proper Wrecking Ball tour.

Work-in-progress or not, the 1993 European tour, as captured on a May night in Berlin, remains a fascinating exploration of Bruce’s wide, musical aperture, especially when seen as the antecedent for some of what was to come.

TONIGHT’S GONNA BE EVERYTHING THAT I SAID

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH, November 10, 2009

By Erik Flannigan

The start-to-finish performance of an album in concert, despite having so much in common with the music format so many of us were weaned on, is a far different animal than a listening session with the LP or CD itself.

Great concerts thrive on internal mechanics, intentional peaks and valleys that, when done well, take the audience on a journey. Bruce Springsteen famously crafts that journey through setlist choices, dialing in the dynamics that make his concerts so electrifying, while also creating a narrative arc—more pronounced on some tours than others, but always present in some form—from the opening song to the encore closer.

Playing an album like Born to Run from start to finish inside a concert runs the risk of disrupting that journey. For many Springsteen aficionados, some of his most famous songs, “Thunder Road” and “Born to Run” in particular, have become more associated with their historic places in the set than their slots in the album sequence.

Perhaps that’s precisely what makes hearing Born to Run performed front to back in Cleveland so interesting. Relieved of now-familiar in-concert roles and restored to their original context, the songs of Born to Run shift tone. Their storytelling qualities rise as their anthemic, crowd-pleasing function is stripped. It would go too far to say it’s like hearing the music anew, but a chance for reappreciation? Absolutely.

Though recordings from 2014 have been available, Cleveland 11/10/09 brings the album performance of Born to Run to the Live Archive series for the first time—in the context of the Working on a Dream tour, when he began this particular trick. Springsteen opens the show in a familiar fashion for this part of the 2009 tour, with the defiant statement of “Wrecking Ball,” followed by an edgy “Prove It All Night.” The latter is marked by two fine guitar solos, lively Max Weinberg drum fills, and an emphatic vocal turn from Stevie Van Zandt that buoys Springsteen’s own performance.

That dynamic duo slides into “Hungry Heart,” and the Cleveland boys (and girls) are well prepared to sing verse one with gusto. That word also suits “Working on a Dream,” which Bruce and the band play with full conviction. (Does anyone else think of the Beach Boys’ earworm “Kokomo” when they hear “Working on a Dream”?) Jon Altschiller unpacks each player in the mix, letting otherwise background parts like Clarence Clemons’ rich baritone sax shine through. 

Then the eight-song show-within-a-show arrives. ”[We wanted to do] “something special…for the fans towards this last stretch [of the tour],” says Bruce, “so we’ve been playing some of our albums.” He goes on to explain that after failing to break through commercially with his first two LPs, and sensing he had but one more swing at the plate in 1975, “this was the album where we started a lifelong conversation with most of you.”

WIth that, “Thunder Road” and our story begins. It’s been theorized that Born to Run was originally meant to depict a single day from bright morning to the dark of night, and elements of that come through in this setting. “Thunder Road” in Cleveland is on the sprightly side, feeling more like a beginning than a culmination as it is so often in concert. 

High spirits and comradery ensue via “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out,” which remains a celebration of the band itself. Curt Ramm was a returning special guest for this portion of the tour (presaging the full horn section to come in 2012), and his trumpet adds extra juice to the song’s indelible horn hook. “Night” arrives, and we’re moving quickly through side one, with The Big Man leading the way in a fine rendition. Kudos to Charlie Giordano, too, who wraps sinewy organ and chiming glockenspiel around the band’s wall of sound.

The aforementioned shift from peak to valley hits with “Backstreets.” Van Zandt teases out lovely licks in the intro, and a sublime version follows. It may not be realistic for Bruce, at 60 years old, to tap the emotions of his mid-20s self, but his vocals in Cleveland carry gravitas. The mid-song interlude that was once filled by “Sad Eyes” finds Bruce improvising vocally and reprising lines like “you’re an angel on my chest” to beautiful, meditative effect. 

Release comes with “Born to Run,” which delivers hope and elation, however fleeting, to the narrative. Hearing the song come an otherwise odd ninth in the show doesn’t feel as disorienting as it would outside of the album context. As much of an anthem as “Born to Run” has become, standing on its own, it holds a vital place among these eight songs.

For whatever reason, “She’s the One” feels ever so slightly lost, but focus is restored with the pairing of “Meeting Across the River” and “Jungleland.” The album’s least-played track, “Meeting” never established a place in Springsteen’s live shows, having been played only 70 or so times. Curt Ramm’s majestic trumpet is the focal point of the gorgeous performance. Listen for Bruce’s voice crack emotionally as he sings, “It’ll look like you’re carrying a friend.” 

It’s a pleasure to hear “Meeting Across the River” playing its role as the narrative companion to “Jungleland,” and the album-closer takes the handoff and soars. Every member of E Street is locked in, none more so than The Big Man. He takes his famous solo with aplomb and steals this movie’s epic final scene. Curtain.

What follows after Born to Run, to the end of the night, is more WOAD tour excellence, highlighted by the welcome inclusions of the delightfully reworked “Red Headed Woman,” a trumpet-tinged “Pink Cadillac” (why isn’t this song performed more often?), and the coup de grâce, “Back in Your Arms.”

In the song’s rare live appearances, “Back in Your Arms” typically opens with Springsteen asking the audience who among them who has blown it, throwing away love they should have cherished. There’s little doubt he’s speaking from personal experience. In Cleveland, his preamble ends with a spoken-sung line that builds to eventually implore, “Please please please let me have one more chance to show the love I feel in my heart for you.” “Back in Your Arms” has been played only 23 times, so each performance of the song is a special treat, but this one just might be first among equals.

With love on his mind, lost or otherwise, Bruce adds “Can’t Help Falling in Love” to the Cleveland encore, then “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” and “Rosalita,” both featuring Ramm on trumpet, to end the journey as he always does: on just the right note. A great album and a great show, all wrapped up in one great night.

Tonight I Am Going To Be Playing For All Of The Stakes

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Arrowhead Pond Of  Anaheim, Anaheim, CA, May 22, 2000

By Erik Flannigan

We often cite the Reunion tour as a demarcation between the “classic” and “modern” Springsteen eras. Yet this April already marks 23 years since the start of the Reunion tour in Barcelona. Do the math, and the E Street Band’s return in 1999 is inching ever closer to being the midpoint of their overall career—a line to be reached in 2026, at which point it will have been 27 years from the start of Reunion; and Reunion itself was 27 years after the band formed in 1972. Time flies.

Springsteen spoke movingly from the stage in 1999-2000 of the band’s rebirth, and we’ve seen that play out in memorable tours and albums ever since. But Reunion was a celebration of what came before and the rediscovery of the breadth and depth of the music Bruce and the E Street Band made together. That exploration manifested in setlists that saw Springsteen performing brilliant “lost” songs finally released on Tracks in 1998, revisiting deep catalog cuts unplayed in decades, changing up the arrangements of familiar material, and still throwing in the occasional surprise cover version.

Anaheim 5/22/00 ticks all four boxes and serves as an exemplar of what the Reunion tour had on offer. This second night of two opens with one of those marvelous outtakes, “Take ’Em as They Come,” recorded for The River. For those of us who purchased dodgy vinyl and traded hissy cassettes of unreleased Springsteen music in the years before Tracks, it is still miraculous to hear “Take ’Em as They Come” in the show, sounding every bit the epic rocker it was always destined to be. The band is hot out of the gate, and the song’s false ending, with Garry Tallent tipping his hat to The Beatles’ “Rain” and Clarence Clemons bringing the song home with his soaring sax, is immensely satisfying.

Following that promising start we get an inviting reading of “The Promised Land,” layered with lovely piano tinkling from Roy Bittan, and a rousing “Two Hearts” that shines the spotlight on Stevie Van Zandt, whose vocal contribution represents the beating heart of the reunited band.

A nasty guitar riff launches “Darlington County,” which nearly veers into the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women” for several bars before Bruce turns the wheel back to his own Born in the U.S.A. lane. Nils shares the mic for the “Hey little girl, standing on the corner” verse, and Van Zandt’s guitar drives a crunchy, extended outro. Once keyboard-dominated, the Reunion “Darlington County” is all about axes.

Another of those lost songs, “Rendezvous,” steps to the plate, reminding us of Bruce’s pop bona fides and the magic in those chiming guitar chords. Patti Scialfa’s vocal turn helps “Rendezvous” rise, and there’s a fun twist in the arrangement towards the end when the band falls out for three bars of, “I want a rendez….I want a rendez…I want a rendezvous.” There’s a sweet section of Danny Federici organ swirls, too, as the song skips to a charming close.

Another recurring thread on the Reunion tour was the introduction of a country music influence in the arrangement of some songs, notably “Factory” (at other shows, Bruce applied similar country strokes to “Mansion on the Hill”). Nils plays lap steel guitar, Danny accordion on this new arrangement that showcases strong duet vocals from Scialfa. , and that Nashville sound extends to create a fresh intro to “Independence Day.” It’s a doleful take on The River’s father-son tale, measured and meaningful, with lovely playing from Bittan and a spirit-lifting solo from Clemons.

The center of the core Reunion tour setlist was the five-pack, and we get a solid one here: “Youngstown,” “Murder Incorporated” (another of the “I can’t believe they’re playing it” outtakes we now take for granted), “Badlands,” “Out in the Street,” and a snippet-laden “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” that dips a toe into Curtis Mayfield’s “It’s All Right,” Al Green’s “Take Me to the River,” Springsteen’s own “Red Headed Woman,” and Sciala’s solo “Rumble Doll.” In Bruce’s sermon, this line in particular stood out: “I want to go to the river of joy and live there.” Easier said than done, as we learned in Springsteen on Broadway.

The de facto second set opens with the first E Street Band performance of Human Touch’s “Roll of the Dice,” co-written, in case you’ve forgotten, by Bruce and Roy. Steve’s call-and-response vocals and The Big Man’s sax solo lend a distinctly River feel to the E Street rendition of the song, which was surely being test-driven for inclusion in the Las Vegas show five days hence. Springsteen appears to love the result, getting his money’s worth by telling the band to go “one more time, take it around.” “Roll of the Dice” has been played but a dozen times by the ESB, making its inclusion here all the more sweet.

Rarer still is the country version of “No Surrender,” which goes even further than “Factory” with Nils on pedal-steel guitar, sparking an arrangement that is more Nashville Skyline than Nashville, and more specifically nods to Bob Dylan’s “I Want You” from Blonde on Blonde, a song Bruce covered back in 1975. The slowed down, wistful arrangement debuted in Cleveland in November 1999 and was only played seven times on Reunion.

It was surprising to learn “Racing in the Street” was only performed 15 times on the Reunion tour, which feels low for such a significant song in the catalog. Bruce sings it a bit differently than previous tours, with a similar vocal cadence to “Thunder Road” circa 1999-2000 that takes some getting used to. Hearing it now, what comes through is a deep weariness as the narrative unfolds like a distant memory. The band sounds sublime, especially Danny, Roy, and Clarence’s rich baritone sax notes.

Time to lift spirits, and “Light of Day” does just that—all the more fun with a brief foray into The Rivieras’ “California Sun” (written by Henry Glover). Rollicking continues in the encore with a loose “Stand on It” (again featuring some twangy slide guitar), a true blue “Bobby Jean” with strong sax work from Clemons, “Born to Run,” “Thunder Road,” and the majestic “If I Should Fall Behind.”

“Land of Hope and Dreams” signals the night is coming to end, but not before one last surprise. Seemingly out of nowhere, the band breaks into Van Morrison’s “Gloria,” which starts with a suitably filthy guitar riff and full-throated vocals from Bruce. Stevie and Clarence join in to sing on the chorus. “Gloria” rolls straight into a long “Ramrod,” powered by Clarence’s fat sax notes, Max Weinberg’s big snare and hi-hat hits, and the big bottom of Garry’s bass.

Given how much fun Bruce and Stevie have singing “Ramrod,” it feels like it might never end, but after seven crunching minutes, like all good things must, “Ramrod” grinds to a close to end the evening.

Lost songs, rare tracks, new arrangements, and covers, Anaheim 5/22/00 has them all and adds yet another phase of the ever-evolving Reunion tour to the Live Archive series. 

Taking All I Can Get, No Regrets

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Post Dome, C.W. Post College, Greenvale, NY – December 12, 1975

By Erik Flannigan

At its core, the Live Archive series functions as an aural time machine, transporting us back to performances preserved in our memories or, better still, to shows only a few fortunate souls witnessed in person.

Based on that criteria, C.W. Post College, December 12, 1975 announces itself as an exemplar of the Archive series, placing us in the best seat in the house on Long Island to experience a stupefying performance by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the height of their circa 1975 powers. 

After wrapping a four-date, European tour in November, the final month of 1975 saw Bruce play his first proper Canadian shows, return to major markets Boston and Philadelphia, and perform at small colleges and universities across the northeast. The C.W. Post concert (along with a show at Seton Hall in South Orange, NJ) was the closest gig to New York City. Judging by the rapturous audience response preserved by this recording, the Gotham fanbase made the trek to Long Island. With audio cabling laid through the auditorium leading to a truck parked outside, it was also clear to those in-the-know that the show was being recorded—one more catalyst for a heightened reaction.

The Archive series holds an embarrassment of riches from late 1975, including New Year’s Eve in Philly; the covers-laden, second London show in late November; and the conversion of Los Angeles at The Roxy in October, each noteworthy in its own way. Yet the C.W. Post performance stands out, somehow marvelously loose and inch-perfect tight at the same time. Tempos are zooming, the mood is celebratory, and if London and Los Angeles were about winning over new fans, C.W. Post aims to blow away the hardcores.

The same can be said today, as this is the Born to Run tour show you didn’t know you needed but unequivocally do. The 24-track, Plangent-Processed analog recording, newly mixed by Jon Altschiller, is 4K vivid, rich in both on-stage detail and event atmosphere. It couldn’t sound any fresher or clearer, and The Beatles Get Back parallels don’t end there.

We start in traditional 1975 tour fashion with the stark, piano-version of “Thunder Road,” a rollicking, pacey “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out,” and “Spirit in the Night.” Immediately, Stevie Van Zandt’s guitar work jumps to the fore, as he improvises atop familiar licks, adding appealing shading and variation throughout an evening where his playing is the first among equals.

“Lost in the Flood” benefits from the aforementioned looseness, as Bruce unwinds the tale a little differently, while the E Streeters enhance the drama, bursting forth after Bruce sings “Jimmy the Saint,” led by Van Zandt’s bending guitar note.

“She’s the One” opens on a long harmonica intro riding Stevie’s guitar-pedal prowess and Roy Bittan’s peerless piano. The band joins full force after the first verse and chorus, another moment of irresistible dynamics as the rhythm section makes their presence known through Garry Tallent’s deep bass and Max Weinberg’s big beat and splashing cymbal work. An outstanding version.

Following “Born to Run” comes the first-ever performance of The Animals’ “It’s My Life,” a cover that would become a cornerstone of Springsteen shows for the next 14 months.. As Brucebase writes, “In the 1987 BBC documentary Glory Days, Max Weinberg spoke about the premiere of ‘It’s My Life’ when he was asked if Bruce had ever launched into a song without telling the band what he was going to play. Max said that the band had never rehearsed the song before playing it in concert, but fortunately they all knew it.”

The recent Beatles documentary is filled with jaw-dropping moments where songs like “Get Back” and “Let It Be” spring to life in real time. Fan accounts confirm “It’s My Life” was not soundchecked at C.W. Post, yet out of thin air it begins, minus the familiar story intro. For the first minute or so, the band feels its way through, the arrangement deferential to the original but being E Streetized right before our ears. Confidence grows, and somewhere close to the middle of the song they realize, “We’ve got this.”

“It’s My Life” would go on to become a setlist staple for the next year and into early 1977. Its sentiment and the story-intro that developed around it set the stage for Bruce’s own “Independence Day.” In the 2000s, the band regularly assayed cover songs suggested by signs in the audience, but this isn’t a one-off—it’s the origin moment for one of the most significant cover versions Springsteen ever performed. Sure, any card-carrying member of the E Street Band knew The Animals’ original, but to drop “It’s My Life” in mid-set, seemingly unhearsed as Weinberg claimed and the C.W. Post arrangement supports, is audacious, joyful, and thrilling to hear.

Be that as it may, Bruce wastes little time segueing into a sprinting “Saint in the City,” and again the E Street Band flexes their musical muscles all the way through to the breakneck conclusion. A passionate “Backstreets” ensues, and one can only marvel at the level of performance by each member of the band. The spotlight justly turns to them for a long “Kitty’s Back” showcase, which finds the E Streeters in fine form not only instrumentally but vocally, too.

“Jungleland,” “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” (including Roy leading a “Hernando’s Hideaway” vamp), and “Sandy” continue an exceptional evening, each rendered as good or better than its 1975 peak. Bruce’s famous cover of “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” follows. The C.W. Post performance was quickly mixed after the show and released to supportive radio stations on tape. In the early 1980s, it was officially released, first on Columbia’s In Harmony 2 children’s compilation and later as the b-side to “My Hometown.”

The new version proves to be virtually identical to the original, save for a charming mix change that lets us more clearly hear the band members’ distinct responses to Bruce’s intro, including Steve’s emphatic, “IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME!”

The encore extends with a cracking “Detroit Medley” that starts with a bang and rides some awesome chugga-chugga guitar riffing from Van Zandt. The stage then clears, and Bruce moves to the piano for a scintillating solo performance of “For You,” dedicated to his then-girlfriend Karen Darvin. The solo “For You” is a high point in the London 11/24/75 Archive release as well, but each reading is unique, and the C.W. Post version is distinctly captivating.

The band returns, and as they get set, Roy does another “name that tune” vamp, this time on “Don’t Be Cruel.” Bruce tells the boisterous crowd, “You guys are nuts!” before counting in “Sha La La.” Once more, Van Zandt lays down a blazing guitar lead and Springsteen’s high-energy vocals reflect his mood, which carries through to the closing number, “Quarter to Three.” The audience response during the song is bananas, perhaps causing the first cracks in the Post Dome that would collapse under the weight of snow in January 1978. It’s possible.

“Quarter to Three” concludes—as it must—with Bruce declaring, “I’m just a prisoner… of rock and roll!” Of that there can be no doubt, vouched for by those fortunate enough to be at C.W. Post on that December night, or the rest of us reliving the experience through this sublime addition to the Archive series.

In This Darkness I Will Disappear

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

LISTEN NOW: Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY – December 28, 1980

By Erik Flannigan

The recently released recordings from 1979’s No Nukes concerts provide a riveting snapshot of a significant moment in time: the transition between 1978’s Darkness on the Edge of Town and 1980’s The River. The crackling electricity the No Nukes recordings emit is due in part to Springsteen packing the energy and excitement of a full show into a mere 90 minutes.

If the No Nukes set was a 13-song sprint, Nassau Coliseum 12/28/80 is a 33-track marathon, but a film analogy—16mm to 35mm—might be the more apt one. At an expansive 3 hours and 25 minutes, the River show captures Bruce and the E Street Band in widescreen, cinematic mode, in both scope and substance.

Given Springsteen was supporting his first double album and its 20 fresh songs, the River shows grew longer out of necessity. But the subject matter itself justified the expansion. “Independence Day,” “Stolen Car,” “Wreck on the Highway,” “Point Blank,” and “The River” are deep, narrative journeys, with Springsteen’s characters confronting existential questions and adulthood’s heaviest inflection points.

As a result, storytelling runs deeper and tone sustains longer in River shows than their predecessors. Songs like “Backstreets” and “Racing in the Street” were second-set emotional showstoppers in 1978, but contrast that with the somber trio of “Stolen Car,” “Wreck on the Highway” and “Point Blank” in the back half of 12/28/80 and there is no debate where lives are truly on the line. The Romances have given way to the Tragedies.

Like the album itself, River shows offer a compelling contrast between explorations of the dark recesses of human existence and life-affirming songs of release—a double feature, if you will, of Bergman and Capra. By way of example, Bruce follows the aforementioned trio of “Stolen,” “Wreck” and “Point” with a resuscitating take of “The Ties That Bind” when the audience needed reviving.

The expanded set also allowed Bruce to retain much of his key canon while still introducing an unprecedented amount of new music to his audience. Nassau 12/28/80 features 13 songs from The River while still carrying more than half of Born to Run, five songs and two outtakes from Darkness, key covers (“Who’ll Stop the Rain,” “Detroit Medley”), classics (“Rosalita,” “For You,” “Sandy”), and a couple of seasonal specials.

One of those, “Merry Christmas Baby,” gets the show off to a (holiday) spirited start, with Bruce channeling Otis Redding’s version in fine, lively voice and Clarence Clemons blowing a great saxophone solo.

Like most “special” shows, the telltale sign of Springsteen’s heightened, feeling-the-moment vocals can be found in many songs including excellent readings of  “Darkness” and “Prove It All Night” in the first set, “For You” (such a fun first verse) and even “Ramrod” and “You Can Look” in the second set.

He’s feeling it—and who can blame him? The River just hit No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200, and Bruce was playing the first of three sold-out, impossible-ticket arena shows in his biggest market. 

The delightful performance of “For You” in the second set yields to emotive guitar strumming, the prelude to a heart-rending “Stolen Car.” It’s a particularly spare and moving arrangement of one of the saddest songs in Springsteen’s catalog, wonderful to hear so faithfully played. Garry Tallent’s bass part on “Stolen Car” is one of his finest contributions ever.

The trilogy of tears continues with “Wreck on the Highway,” which manages to convey warmth and desolation at the same time. The E Street Band’s delicate touch serves the song well, with Roy BIttan’s piano and Danny Federici’s organ weaving counterparts, while Stevie Van Zandt’s guitar rings dolefully in the right channel. Hauntingly beautiful.

“Point Blank” completes the 20-minute trip through the heart of darkness, its narrative tone resigned and resolute but no less emotionally captivating. “Point Blank” is more overtly dramatic and emotionally detached than “Stolen Car” or “Wreck on the Highway,” which makes it a thrilling showpiece, rendered here with controlled bravado and sublime E Street musicianship.

While each Nassau concert stands on its own, the one song featured in 12/28/80 not played at the next two shows is “Backstreets.” Van Zandt offers novel fretwork in the song’s intro and brilliant playing throughout, distinguishing the River tour versions slightly but meaningfully from prior incarnations. Springsteen sings with full conviction and, together with Max Weinberg’s powerful drumming, “Backstreets” becomes the set’s thematic denouement and sonic crescendo.

A few other songs from the main set merit special mention. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain” is played for only the third time ever, and the excellent Nassau version further cements the song’s status as a hand-in-glove fit with the E Street Band and one of their all-time best covers. Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” premiered this night, with Bruce telling the audience about reading Joe Klein’s book Woody Guthrie: A Life and reminding them that the song was written as “an angry answer to ‘God Bless America.’” We’re also treated to a unique “Hungry Heart” featuring Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, better known as Flo & Eddie, recreating their background vocals from the studio version.

The final hour of Nassau is immensely satisfying, beginning with “Rosalita” followed by a delightful “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” and “Jungleland,” chock full of those heightened Bruce vocals and a distinctive Van Zandt guitar solo, while the big Big Man smashes the first note and never wavers in his own solo spotlight. “Born to Run” and the “Detroit Medley” (including a long chunk of “I Hear a Train”) bring us home and conclude a quintessential River tour performance in all its cinematic glory.

In The Shadow of the Green Monster

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

LISTEN NOW: Fenway Park, Boston, MA, August 15, 2012

By Erik Flannigan

The bigger the venue, the more vibe matters. That’s not to say stadium shows in the US and especially Europe aren’t filled with longtime fans hanging on every note. They always represent, holding up signs and requesting songs. But stadium concerts are inherently more inclusive, pulling in the one-show-per-tour types, their friends, and folks who just want a fun night out at the biggest event in town.

An audience composed of those who own Tracks and those who perhaps only own Greatest Hits can spur discord. How do you construct a show that delivers the friendly and familiar while still managing to delight those who know just how many times a particular song has been played on the tour?

Boston 8/15/12 stands as a model of how to satisfy both camps and then some. On a warm (and later wet) night at Fenway Park in Boston, Bruce throws a summer party where all are welcome and those with whom he and the band have a long-term relationship are recognized and rewarded.

Apropos of the venue, the show opens with a recording “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” sending the cue that this is a participatory event. Roy Bittan and Bruce then surprise the Fenway faithful with another prelude: the stripped-down, piano arrangement of “Thunder Road” that opened shows in 1975. 

It is fascinating to hear this version of “Thunder Road” (familiar to many as the first song on Live/1975-85) performed 37 years later by the same musicians—reinterpreting yet again their Born to Run tour reinterpretation of the original. In 2012, Bruce’s voice has a distinctly mature timbre, and his cadence and lyrical emphasis have shifted. Roy’s piano playing is less Broadway, still carrying the melody but in a slightly abstract expression. “Thunder Road ’75” is the first of three direct nods Bruce makes at Fenway to the way particular songs were performed in the ’70s.

Out of that sublime opening, Bruce declares, “Let’s start with the summertime hits!” The party has begun. In quick succession, we get “Hungry Heart,” “Sherry Darling,” a cover of Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues,” and a request granted for Bruce’s own “Girls in Their Summer Clothes.” Springsteen’s controlled and precise singing on the Beach Boys-flavored “Summer Clothes” is impressive, especially given he had only performed it once before on the tour.

Boston 8/15/12 also does right by Springsteen’s then-current album, Wrecking Ball, hitting “We Take Care of Our Own,” “Death to My Hometown” and the title track in the first half of the set, plus “Shackled and Drawn” a couple of hours in. Along with “My City of Ruins,” the five songs form the spiritual backbone of the Wrecking Ball set and showcase the rich, rootsy sound of the expanded E Street Band.

Tracks-owning, sign-holding fans certainly got their money’s worth in an extraordinary five-song sequence that kicks off with a request for “Knock on Wood.” “If we don’t know this one we should be castigated,” says Bruce, who can be forgiven for not recalling that the band played “Knock on Wood” once before. At a 1976 show at the Ellis Auditorium in Memphis, Bruce invited “Knock on Wood” writer and singer Eddie Floyd to perform the tune with the E Street Band.

Some 36 years later, mental memories have faded but muscle memory remains, and the band performs “Knock on Wood” with aplomb. Max Weinberg is on point, Stevie Van Zandt channels Steve Cropper, and Bruce has big fun with his vocals. As for the horns, as Springsteen himself says, “Any self-respecting horn section should be able to pull this off.” 

Next up, “for our old, old, old, old, old fans,” a marvelous, horn-led “Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?” The sprightly rendition features Bruce calling out the arrangement to the band. There’s even time for a percussion solo from Everett Bradley. 

“We’re gonna go further back now,” Springsteen proclaims. “Back in the day we were opening up for a lot of unusual bands. We opened up for Anne Murray…Black Oak Arkansas…Brownsville Station…Sha Na Na…The Eagles…Chicago. Nobody knew who you were…You had to catch people’s ears, so we came up with these very convoluted songs that had a lot of moving parts. This was our first showstopper.”

That early-’70s showstopper, before “Rosalita” began serving the purpose, is the rollicking “Thundercrack.” Its thrilling twists and turns work as well to attract those unfamiliar in a stadium as they did in the clubs back in the day. Bruce gives props to his history in Beantown at the start of the song, saying that, unlike some other cities, “This is Boston, you guys are gonna know this one.” Following ten minutes of “Thundercrack,” Bruce honors another request many of us would co-sign with the second performance of “Frankie” on the tour and only the fourth of the modern era. 

“Frankie” dates from the period between Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town, having debuted on stage in early 1976; the song was then recorded, but ultimately not used, for both Darkness and Born in the U.S.A. The lilting, romantic mini-epic was finally released on Tracks and returned to the set for one-off appearances in 1999 and 2003 (at Fenway, in fact) that didn’t quite land.

The Boston performance of “Frankie” is enchanting, rearranged from the ’76 edition to include the horns and feature a new guitar solo in place of Clarence’s original sax break. Like “Thundercrack,” the sweet, hooky “Frankie” has the power to enchant newcomers and satisfy those who have longed to hear it played live.

If “Frankie” wasn’t enough, what came next was the coup de grace. There was a time when it seemed unimaginable Springsteen would play songs he hadn’t performed since the ’70s or early ‘80s. I followed the Tunnel of Love tour for two dozen dates in 1988, a stretch when the setlist remained unusually static and single additions to the show were regarded as momentous.

I’m trying to imagine this conversation taking place in 1988:

Prophetic Person: “In the future, there will be a show in Boston where Springsteen plays these five songs in a row: a cover of “Knock on Wood,” “Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?,” “Thundercrack,” and “Frankie.”

Me: “What? Are you insane? There is no WAY that will ever happen. And I thought you said five songs.”

Prophetic Person: “The fifth is “Prove It All Night” with the 1978 intro.

Me: “SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!”

Springsteen playing songs he hasn’t done in decades is one thing; resurrecting arrangements from a specific tour is quite another. Yet thanks to some superfan in Spain who held up a sign at the Barcelona show in May, Bruce revisited the Darkness tour’s long and legendary piano-guitar intro to “Prove It All Night.”

The Boston show marks the first time the intro has been played in the US since a still-unexplained, two-show resurrection in Los Angeles in 1980. While not as fully developed as the original, the spirit of “Prove It All Night ‘78” remains intact, as brooding piano and searing guitar build to a crescendo to start the song. Coupled with “Thunder Road ‘75,” Boston 8/15/12 is the next best thing to a time machine.

A ’78 double-shot ensues with a bold “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” then a moment of fun. At the start of “Working on the Highway” we hear an extended section of acoustic guitar strumming. What the Archive audio doesn’t capture at that moment is Bruce chugging a beer and snarfing a hot dog, both of which he’d been jonesing for all night.

Before the main set ends, we get another echo of famous song arrangements of the past. Of course it is too much to call it “Backstreets ’78”; Bruce does not revisit the “Sad Eyes” interlude from the Darkness tour. But by incorporating lines from Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream,“ a cover that served as the striking show-closer for much of 2005’s Devils & Dust tour, he does take the middle break of “Backstreets” to a place reminiscent of that same stream-of-consciousness “Sad Eyes” feeling in an epic 10-minute reading.

The Fenway 2 encore opens with a brief, acoustic “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” acknowledging the drops that began falling mid-show, and slips neatly into “Rocky Ground,” the opening chords for which have never sounded more like “One Step Up.” Singer Michelle Moore crushes her vocals, as she did every night “Rocky Ground” was played.

After “Born to Run,” an abridged “Detroit Medley” yields to “Dancing in the Dark” before the tour premiere of “Quarter to Three.” The Gary U.S. Bonds classic is another sign request that Bruce quickly teaches to the backing singers, aided by the audience singing “Doh, doh” before the band has even begun. It’s yet another tip of the cap to the classic era, as “Quarter to Three” has only been played six times since the band reunited, and this might be the best of them.

As history dictates, Bruce shouts, “I’m just a prisoner of rock ‘n’ roll” to end the song, before shifting into “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out.” But there’s still time for one more. The Dropkick Murphys’ Ken Casey joins Bruce at the mic, trading vocals on “American Land” to close a Grand Slam night when Bruce gave the party people and the diehards everything they could have dreamed of.

I Got You And You Got Me

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

LISTEN NOW: Giants Stadium, E. Rutherford, NJ, August 22, 1985

By Erik Flannigan

Bruce Springsteen has enjoyed many a Jersey homecoming: Red Bank 1975; Passaic 1978, Meadowlands 1981, 1984, and 1999; Asbury Park and Freehold 1996, to name only a few. But surely none was bigger than the six-show run Bruce and the E Street Band performed at Giants Stadium in the summer of 1985, arguably the zenith of the Born in the U.S.A. Tour. 

Springsteen’s Giants Stadium stand kicked off on Sunday, August 18. It was a tight load-in for the crew (something Bruce acknowledges at the end of this show), as the NY Giants played a preseason NFL game there the night before, making for a quick turnaround from football to on-field concert. As I’m sure at least one of you is wondering: the Giants beat the Green Bay Packers that night by the extraordinarily rare score of 10-2.

Bruce and the band went on to perform at the stadium Sunday and Monday, took Tuesday off, and returned for shows Wednesday and finally this performance on Thursday. All four nights were professionally recorded, with songs from August 19 and 21 later featured on Live/1975-85. This release marks the debut of the August 22 recording. After a brief trip to Toronto for two shows north of the border, the Giants Stadium homestand wrapped with gigs on August 31 and September 1. The remote recording truck did not return for the last two concerts.

Needless to say, each of these Giants Stadium shows was an incredibly tough ticket. Sure, Bruce and the E Street Band were playing a much bigger venue than nearby Brendan Byrne Arena, where they did ten nights the previous summer, but the fanbase had also increased exponentially. The narrative of New Jersey’s local hero returning home as the biggest rock star on the planet was plastered across newspapers, radio, and television.

As such, the mood of the Giants Stadium stand is decidedly celebratory. The people came for a party, they came for Born in the U.S.A., and Springsteen didn’t disappoint. At the 8/22/85 show, he performed ten of the album’s 12 songs, plus the nearly-as-popular b-side, “Pink Cadillac.” Fratello di sangue Stevie Van Zandt re-joined his bandmates for a rollicking encore that only slowed down for the Garden State’s other unofficial anthem, Tom Waits’ “Jersey Girl.” Yet even as he met the fans’ mandate, Springsteen found ways to weave moments of musical beauty into the merriment. 

The first set opens big as it had to, with “Born in the U.S.A.,” “Badlands,” and “Out in the Street” giving the people exactly what they came for. Credit Bruce for retaining the mini-Nebraska set established in shows the prior year, even in this enormous setting. August 22 features “Johnny 99” and a crackling “Atlantic City,” the latter marked by a great Springsteen vocal (“Debts that no honest MAN COULD PAY”) and fine guitar work from Nils Lofgren. The kindred “Seeds” fits perfectly with the Nebraska songs, and all three are delivered at stadium scale complementing their acoustic roots.

The contrasting performance of “The River” that follows is more intimate and a standout in the set, riding superb piano work from Roy Bittan. “I’m Goin’ Down” and “Working on the Highway” came into their own in 1985, and these are exemplary versions, perhaps as good as either ever got, with “I’m Goin’ Down” in particular fully developed including some wonderful guitar at the end that you’ll likely find unfamiliar.

“Trapped” sets a new mood and takes the audience on a dynamic ride up, down, and up again—you can feel the entire stadium rise for the song’s exalted crescendos. The remainder of the first set goes down easy, with a fun call-and-response preceding “Glory Days” (the best of which is “Guba, Guba, Guba, Guba”) and an enthusiastic “The Promised Land,” highlighted by backing vocals from Patti Scialfa and an invitation to “Come On!” and join in during the song’s bridge.

That sets the stage for Springsteen’s request for support of local charitable organizations leading appropriately into “My Hometown.” The first set wraps joyfully with “Thunder Road,” and the roar that greets its arrival tells you the good people of New Jersey are having the night they wanted. The chorus to “Thunder Road” seems to acknowledge that, especially when Bruce and Patti’s voices go up extra high as they sing, “Sit tight, take hold, Thunder Road.”

A straightforward but satisfying second set follows the standard 1985 stadium show template, with leaner, more muscular arrangements of songs like “Cover Me” and “Dancing in the Dark” compared to their arena editions. The same can be said for “Downbound Train,” and Bruce adds some appealing vocal tweaks, especially the way he holds the words “downbound train” at the end of the second chorus.

The second-set standout is “Pink Cadillac.” You might remember the long intro with Bruce talking about Adam and Eve, temptation, and the Garden of Eden in New Jersey. He has never spun this fable better. The band holds their own too, laying down a funky synth groove to start, eventually building “Pink Cadillac” into a sinewy, roadhouse banger, with sleazy saxophone from Clarence Clemons and Roy Bittan giving the Killer a run for his money on piano.

Before the final fun begins, there’s a sentimental moment where Bruce dedicates a short, solo acoustic version of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” to his first manager and professional supporter, Tex Vinyard. He also reminds the audience—in words as timely today as ever—that “the promise of what our country was supposed to be about….[is] eroding every day for many of our fellow Americans.” Before an outstanding “Born to Run,” Springsteen utters the memorable phrase that sums up the key to that promise so perfectly: “Nobody wins unless everybody wins.”

Cementing the status of 8/22/85 as a special night, Springsteen invites Stevie Van Zandt to join the band for the remainder of the encore. Having heard the pair perform “Two Hearts” night after night on the Reunion tour, we can underestimate how meaningful Stevie’s appearance and that song would be to the assembled masses in 1985. Another River song, “Ramrod” keeps things jocular, with Van Zandt relishing his vocal contributions, including a couple of solo lines in the final verse.

No Jersey Shore bar band worth their salt would fail to pull out “Twist and Shout” for this occasion. It is rock ‘n’ roll’s ultimate singalong, and within it, Springsteen indulges in a charming bit of adulation baiting with “Do You Love Me?” Finally, “Jersey Girl” serves as the perfect summer-night coda for the Garden State.

That would be more than enough for most, but the expanded band isn’t done quite yet. Bruce goes back to the River one last time to a song he wrote expressly for a summer party, “Sherry Darling,” driving home the band-fan relationship as he sings, “I got you and you got me.”

Springsteen and the E Street Band’s Giants Stadium shows were New Jersey’s answer to the Canyon of Heroes, ticker-tape parades in concert form. In this case, the world-conquering, returning heroes were performing their mighty deeds even as the confetti flew, celebrating with their home-state audience by doing the thing they do best. As Springsteen would sing decades later in “Wrecking Ball,” this is where Giants came to play. Yes they did.

LOOKING FOR THAT MILLION DOLLAR SOUND

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

LISTEN NOW: Community Theatre, Berkeley, CA, July 1, 1978

By Erik Flannigan

In terms of listening hours, surely no Bruce Springsteen tour has been re-lived more than the 111 shows Bruce and the E Street Band performed between May 23, 1978 and January 1, 1979. Even with entire tours (e.g. The River 2016) being released in recent years, the Darkness tour remains the consumption king for a number of reasons.

The most obvious factor is time — the decades spent playing bootlegs, tapes, and now downloads from 1978. We’ve held the Darkness tour in high esteem since it ended; even earlier, for those who attended. The rest of us who didn’t witness have been swayed by the wide availability of high quality recordings, notably the five live radio broadcasts from West Hollywood (July 7), Cleveland (August 9), Passaic (September 19), Atlanta (September 30) and San Francisco (December 15), all blessedly released in the Live Archive series. 

Add in Houston (December 8), plus second nights in Passaic (September 20) and San Fran (December 16), and one might consider the Archive series has the Darkness tour comprehensively covered. Guess again.

Berkeley 7/1/78 is the earliest Darkness tour performance to be released in the Live Archive series and tenders a distinctive, taut performance bristling with the energy of seven sympatico musicians hitting their stride. The main set offers key songs “Night” and “For You” that only featured in the tour’s early months, while the encore boasts the formal arrival of “Because the Night” to the show. Better still, the final frame opens with an unequivocal boon to the Live Archive series: Springsteen’s solo piano performance of “The Promise,” released for the first time in its definitive, show-stopping 1978 arrangement.

The outstanding sonics of Jon Altschiller’s Plangent-Processed, multi-track mix capture the kinetic electricity exchange between band and audience. This isn’t a “we already know and love him” performance, this is an “Okay, we’re ready to be convinced” set. I’m not one to focus too much on audience sound levels in the mix, but trainspotters who do will be thrilled with Berkeley. The atmosphere in the venue is vividly captured, from the quietest moments to the most rapturous, which adds something extra to the recording.

What a treat it is to hear “Night” immediately after “Badlands,” as a month later it would give way to “Spirit in the Night,” the third song of the night in Berkeley. It’s a particularly joyful “Night,” with each member of the E Street Band coming through loud and clear, from Danny Federici’s chiming glockenspiel to Garry Tallent’s lush bass. “Spirit” takes us down the turnpike to the Shore; “Darkness on the Edge of Town” sends us back out searching for meaning. 

“Darkness” taps the show’s tension coil, starting spare but igniting with the line, “Well if she wants to see me, you can tell her that I’m easily found.” I never noticed Clarence Clemons’ rich harmony vocals on “Darkness” before. Listen for him at 3:36, the start of the final, long-held “Townnnnnnn,” the crescendo of a magisterial performance. Fun Fact: Though he doesn’t mention him by name, Bruce acknowledges Mystery Train author Greil Marcus in attendance during his “Darkness” intro.

Like “Night,” “For You” was a set-list regular through July, but it only appeared nine times thereafter. The Berkeley take is lyrical and confident. That vibe continues with added urgency for “The Promised Land,” after which there is a relatively long pause and audible anticipation setting the stage for “Prove It All Night.” It was this very performance that was quickly mixed under the supervision of Springsteen and Jon Landau, and played by the pair three nights later on KMET in Los Angeles in a conversation with Dave Marsh and DJ Mary Turner. Setting aside “Circus Song,” released on the Playback promotional single back in 1973, “Prove It All Night” from Berkeley was arguably the first proper live Springsteen recording to make it into the wild. 

Over the years Springsteen and others have suggested the songs on Darkness on the Edge of Town were not as fully realized in the studio as they could have been, with the album sometimes cited as a candidate for a new mix. “Prove It All Night” feels like one of the tracks they were referring to, as the live versions are next-level compared to the studio take.

Given that, it makes sense that after airing on KMET, the live “Prove It All Night” was serviced to several radio stations and the King Biscuit Flower Hour, and it was briefly considered for release as a promo 12-inch single, though it never got past the acetate phase. Compared to versions later in the tour, the Berkeley “Prove It” isn’t as intense, the guitar intro at the start not as long, but it is superb just the same and perhaps a plausible example of what “Prove It All Night” could have been on the album.

The first set continues after Bruce acknowledges his parents and sister in attendance, putting the audience on notice to catch his sister Pam when she was “skipping school.” The final songs of the set—“Racing in the Street,” “Thunder Road,” and “Jungleland”—are exemplary expressions, and you’ll lose yourself in them as the Berkeley audience does. When “Jungleland” concludes, the applause rises and even Springsteen seems caught off guard. The conversion is complete.

The second set matches the first pound for pound, commencing in sprightly fashion with the Big Man showcase “Paradise by the ‘C’” (also aired on KMET along with “Prove It All Night”) and the second of the night’s four unreleased originals, “Fire.” With less than two dozen performances to this point, Springsteen still handles the future Clarence line, “But your heart stays cool.”

Like “Darkness” in the first set, this early “Adam Raised a Cain” is exhilarating. The proto-“Adam” touches the transformer for extra juice, especially on electric guitar, with a nasty prelude at the top and squealing, delicious filth throughout. The dynamics that make Springsteen so compelling in concert are on full display when the band peaks and Bruce howls to a stop just before declaring, “In the Bible, Mama, Cain slew Abel.”

The primitive rock ‘n’ roll guitar foray extends into the “Mona” intro to “She’s the One,” another outstanding reading with more edge than we’re used to. Next, “Growin’ Up” brings welcome sweetness, and the Berkeley audience recognizes the song from Roy Bittan’s opening piano refrain. Bruce then sets the stage, recalling his Catholic school days and the nuns telling his parents he needed “psychiatric attention,” his last words before the lyrics to “Growin’ Up” provide the explanation as to why. In the middle of the song, Springsteen addresses his father directly, explaining in endearing fashion how Douglas’ infamous declaration of “turn down that goddamn guitar” connects to this very night. It’s a special moment.

“Sad Eyes” aficionados can rejoice with another entry in the canon of “Backstreets” versions that contain the emotional interlude. Berkeley 2 matches the intensity with the famous Roxy rendition, with subtle changes including a powerful repeated refrain of “Now baby’s back. Now baby’s back.” “Rosalita” follows, lifting the mood, with the band in total command as they bring a masterful main set to a close.

The encore starts with one of the most significant, singular additions to the Live Archive series, “The Promise,” performed by Springsteen on solo piano. I considered devoting this entire essay to “The Promise,” such is its importance as a song, and in this 1978 arrangement and performance. A friend recently referred to it as “one of the two most important outtakes in the history of music,” the other being Bob Dylan’s “Blind Willie McTell.”

Bruce said “The Promise” was the first song he wrote after the Born to Run album, and it carries overt connective tissue to “Thunder Road,” borrowing those words for its chorus and serving as, if not a sequel, the other side of the coin. For me, “The Promise” is the most powerful distillation in song of the key themes Bruce would explore across Darkness and The River. Heard later by those already familiar with the two albums, it can come across as more of the same, but in 1976 or 1978 it was a revelation.

Over time, Bruce revised the lyrics to “The Promise,” and with a rewritten third verse about his father, he dedicates the song to Douglas in Berkeley and delivers a stark, emotional masterpiece. The songwriting, filled with evocative lines like, “I lived a secret I should have kept to myself, but I got drunk one night and I told it” and “When the promise is broken, you go on living, but it steals something from down in your soul,” is Springsteen at his very best.

Through the passing of time, it is also remarkable how some of the song’s deeply personal lines take on new, societal relevance. More than 40 years later, these words ring truer than ever:

When the truth is spoken

And it don’t make no difference

Something in your heart grows cold


We’re so fortunate to have “The Promise” officially released in its most significant form.

While “Quarter to Three” and “Born to Run” more than hold their own, the Berkeley encore delivers history with the proper arrival of “Because the Night.” It is only the second performance of the song with the E Street Band and the first since Boston in May. Bruce likely restored the song to the set as it was the very week of the Berkeley shows that Patti Smith’s version of “Because the Night” peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. The Berkeley version is a thrilling work in progress, with lyric variations in progress and an abrupt, unfamiliar ending. After Berkeley, “Because the Night” was a set-list regular. 

Though the Roxy show six days hence would take place in a small club, venue acoustics, performance, and mix combine to make Berkeley 7/1/78 the most intimate Darkness tour document in the Live Archive series. You didn’t think you needed one more 1978 show, but you most assuredly do.

Every Dream Slips Through Your Hands

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

LISTEN NOW: Sports Arena, Los Angeles, CA, April 28, 1988

By Erik Flannigan

I saw more shows on the Tunnel of Love Express Tour—21, to be exact—than on any Springsteen tour prior or since. As a result, 1988 holds a special place in my heart. 

By the time I started my Tunnel run, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky, it was clear these shows were purposefully distinct from that which came before, reflected in everything from the billing (Bruce Springsteen featuring the E Street Band) and the band members’ positions, to the addition of on-stage set elements (the ticket booth, the park bench) and, most notably, a set list that varied by only a song or two if it changed at all.

Setlist consistency has historically been considered something of a demerit for the ’88 tour. As I rolled from town to town, show after show, I’ll admit I initially yearned for changes, though that was more to counter my own unusual circumstances than any sense that “the show needs them.” It didn’t.

I now admire the Tunnel of Love Express Tour for its commitment to Bruce’s creative expression. Back in ’88, once I made my peace with the lack of changes and focused more on what he was playing, I came to appreciate the shows even more. Certain gigs (I’m looking at you, St. Louis), still stand out for their performance energy and connection to the audience.

By the time the tour rolled into Los Angeles for a run of five shows (allowing me to sleep in the same bed for more than two nights), I was fully on board. Any changes, should we get them, were icing on an already delicious cake. The fifth and final LA performance on April 28, 1988 is peak Tunnel tour and, with the addition of one extra special song, warrants inclusion in the Live Archive series.

We have revisited this stand before, as the second show on April 23 was released back in July 2015. The first thing you’ll notice about 4/28 by comparison is that the Man in Black has moved your seat forward about 10-15 rows closer to the stage, revealing more sonic detail and placing you right next to the band.

It remains a memorable show opening, as the E Streeters walk out in pairs, then Clarence Clemons, then Bruce, to take us on a ride through “Tunnel of Love” straight into the resurrection of River outtake and b-side “Be True,” carried so capably by Clarence. 1988 was a great year for “Adam Raised a Cain,” bolder than ever with the addition of the Horns of Love. Each version from ’88 released in the series has its own distinct appeal in how Springsteen sings it. The tone of this night is expressed in the slightly tweaked reading of the line, “From the dark heart, baby, from the dark heart of a dream.”

“Two Faces,” so rarely played after this tour, stands out for its pure songwriting excellence. The sweet “All That Heaven Will Allow” prelude with the Big Man on the park bench is heartwarming, a moment of looking ahead in life, not reflecting on his passing as we do now. Bruce mentions that when the weather turns warm, “Girls dig out all their summer clothes,” clearly making a mental note that would be remembered 20 years later for Magic. Equally prescient, while looking at photos of Clarence’s new baby, Springsteen jokes, “In about 15 years, there’s gonna be an E Street Band Volume Two.” He was off by just ten years and one familial branch, in predicting Jake Clemons joining the band.

There’s serious high voltage in the back half of the first set. Springsteen’s full-throated vocals fuel the tractor pistons of “Seeds,” and this “Roulette” is a candidate for best-ever status. Every musical detail is vivid, in particular Max Weinberg’s drumming and Roy Bittan’s piano. “Roulette” melds into “Cover Me,” and perhaps because of the horns, the ’88 editions of the song are my favorites. “Cover Me” gallops with conviction, pace and power, twisted just a shade darker by a few snippets of the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.”

“Brilliant Disguise” eases off the throttle a little, though one could argue the subject matter is darker still, as desire gives way to self-doubt. Roy and Danny’s gorgeous “Spare Parts” sonata prelude is one of those moments of E Street musical brilliance that never showed up on record but is nonetheless one of their most beautiful contributions to the canon. The full band and horns bring “Spare Parts” to a roaring conclusion that stops on a dime and resets into Edwin Starr’s “War.” Bruce makes sure every line lands, shifting one for extra impact as he swaps “friend only to the undertaker” to “ain’t nothin’ but a widow-maker.”

The first set ends as it did every night on this leg with a fantastic “Born in the U.S.A.” I’ve written before about the emotive guitar solos that marked the long versions of the song performed on the ’88 tour, and this is a case in point. Jon Altschiller’s mix also reveals the multi-part layering of synthesizer and piano sounds by Federici and Bittan that give “Born in the U.S.A.” its staggering keyboard bite. Halftime.

The second set commences with “Tougher Than the Rest,” Bruce’s voice sounding slightly wearier and the swirling guitar sound (from a phaser pedal?) lusher than ever. In “She’s the One,” Springsteen’s vocal command is on point, pushing “She the onnnnnne” to the edge just before the bridge. In the land of malls that was ’80s LA, “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)” resonates, and from there the second set only gains momentum. “I’m a Coward” is goofy fun; “I’m on Fire” offers a radical, alternate view on love to the point of obsession; and “One Step Up” nails one of the bittersweet parts of human relationships, another masterclass in songwriting. “Part Man, Part Monkey” turns the mood playful again, reminding us it’s just evolution, baby.

At this point in the set, Springsteen had most frequently played “Walk Like a Man,” occasionally swapping in “Backstreets.” But for weeks, he and the band had soundchecked Ry Cooder’s majestic “Across the Borderline,” and it finally made the setlist for the last two LA shows. 

The song was written by Cooder, Jim Dickinson, and John Hiatt for the soundtrack to the movie The Border, in a version sung by Freddie Fender and featuring background vocals from future Springsteen backing singer Bobby King. Cooder put out his own rendition in 1987.

Despite fewer than a dozen performances ever, you can hear the influence of “Across the Borderline” in music Springsteen wrote for The Ghost of Tom Joad and beyond, as his fascination with the intersection of roots music on both sides of the border continues to this day.

The Sports Arena arrangement adds soulful scope while maintaining the Mexican elements of the original versions. The song fits so well because it feels like Springsteen could have written it himself, but that’s really a testament to the quality of the songwriting of the original. “Across the Borderline” is a welcome and worthy addition to the Live Archive series.

From there, hit the party lights, as, aside from the sublime solo acoustic “Born to Run,” the last ten songs of the set turn into an E Street block party. Of note, “Sweet Soul Music,” in rare standalone, non-medley form, brings a fitting bit of Memphis to a horn-driven show. Equally fun is the rare cover of The Sonics’ “Have Love, Will Travel.”

“Have Love, Will Travel” was written by Richard Perry (who also penned “Louie Louie”) and popularized by Seattle garage-rock standard bearers The Sonics, who released their version in 1965 on the band’s debut album, Here Are the Sonics. As the story goes, back in 1984, a record store employee from Seattle slipped Springsteen a Northwest Garage Rock mixtape that included “Have Love”; Springsteen found the song and it became an encore feature for the last few weeks of the U.S. Tunnel tour. 

As he so often does, Bruce makes “Have Love, Will Travel” his own, keeping the chorus of the original, but rewriting the verses to fit the nomadic love themes of the tour, while making the arrangement a showcase for the Horns of Love.

When we regard several shows in a particular stand, setlist changes are often cited to distinguish good from great–the more changes the better being the general rule. Yet the 4/28/88 set differs by only one song from the previously released April 23 show. Even when the addition is as significant as “Across the Borderline,” the takeaway is that setlist isn’t everything, as Tunnel tour fans already know and I learned out on the road 33 years ago.

These Promises We Make At Night

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band

LISTEN NOW: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY, June 27, 2000

By Erik Flannigan

Any Springsteen show is special, and every Springsteen show is a candidate to be extra special when surprises enter the setlist or the performance peaks beyond expectation. For those of us who count the number of Bruce concerts we’ve attended by dozens and decades, there’s something immensely satisfying about attending a show you know will be extraordinary.

Such was the case when Springsteen announced the final stand of the Reunion tour: ten nights at Madison Square Garden. Fans across the country and around the world busted open their piggy banks to book flights for what was an E Street sure thing—inevitably special shows wrapping 14 triumphant months on the road.

The legendary final night, July 1, 2000, is already an integral installment in the Live Archive series. Now we’re treated to MSG show No. 8, June 27, 2000, which coincidentally features nine different songs than the finale set. The range of his song selections speaks to the excitement the Reunion tour spurred through deeper exploration of Springsteen’s catalog.

Night eight opens with “Code of Silence,” for my money one of the best true rock songs Bruce has delivered in the 2000s. It kicks off the show with the urgency and energy “Badlands” did so often on the Darkness tour. “The Ties That Bind” follows, the first of those nine changes from the finale, reinforcing the band-fan bond at the outset. “Adam Raised a Cain” has made it onto several Reunion tour Archive releases, and each performance is distinct. Here it starts measured and moody until the guttural guitar solo, after which Springsteen’s voice markedly shifts intensity as he carries the song to a soaring conclusion.

“Two Hearts” into “Trapped,” the dynamics of which remain stirring, especially in the lead-up to the Big Man’s liberating solo. While nowhere near as striking as its stark 1980 readings, the wistful countrified arrangement of “Factory” seems to shift the song to a distant memory with which the narrator has made his peace. 

“American Skin (41 Shots)” continues to flourish in these early outings, introduced plainly as just “a new song” for which Springsteen requests quiet. He sings the lyrics vividly, and as each E Street voice breaks through the effect is haunting, as if to show how the tragedy spreads and touches bystanders — and, by proxy, all of us.

The band makes an unusual musical transition from the despair of “American Skin” to the hope of “The Promised Land,” starting angular and edged before softening abruptly for a warm, comforting version of the Darkness staple.

The Reunion tour five-pack ensues, carrying us through the center of the show from “Youngstown” (this night as much of a showcase for Roy Bittan’s piano as Nils Lofgren’s guitar) through “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out.” The latter offers tasty detours into Curtis Mayfield’s “It’s Alright,” Al Green’s “Take Me to the River,” “Red Headed Woman,” and Patti Scialfa’s mini showcase of her own “Rumble Doll.”

An extraordinary trio of songs follows, cementing this show as a special night indeed. River outtake “Loose Ends” is one of the most deserving songs to be liberated by Tracks. For those of us who cherished our bootleg copies of the song all those years, it is indeed the great in-concert track we always knew it could be.

On a night of highlights, it would be difficult to deny “Back in Your Arms” is the peak. The song was recorded during the Greatest Hits sessions in early 1995 and released on Tracks three years later. Though performed only 15 times with the E Street Band to date, the song enjoys a kind of instant-classic status, so relatable in its subject matter, so appealing in its Stax/Volt arrangement and tone.

I rarely think of a Springsteen song being sung by anyone else, but “Back in Your Arms” so thoroughly invokes Otis Redding, I can imagine how he would interpret it. Beyond Springsteen’s own soulful vocals, Danny Federici’s organ solo shines, as does Clarence Clemons’ saxophone. This particular performance of “Back in Your Arms” is one I will keep coming back to.

If that rarity wasn’t enough, Springsteen fully blows minds with “Mary Queen of Arkansas.” The Greetings track had been resurrected earlier in 2000, at a stop in Little Rock, for its first live reading in 26 years. Curious that when Springsteen toured solo in 1995-97 and again in 2005, he never once performed “Mary.” This is very much a Tom Joad-style arrangement, narratively connecting with that album more than I had previously appreciated. Still a peculiar song, but a great rendition in new light.

“Backstreets” brings the band back in what is an excellent, passionately sung, contemporary version. The E Streeters continue to show their restored prowess with an extremely entertaining “Light of Day.” It starts with a guitar line for the first minute or so that feels like it is lifted from Link Wray or Dick Dale, though I can’t quite place it. (Can you?) Other references are easier to identify: a few riffs from “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” slip in, while later “C.C. Rider” and “Jenny Jenny” form an embedded mini-“Detroit Medley” just before Bruce’s familiar “I’ve Been Everywhere” list of cities conquered.

A robust “Hungry Heart” starts the encore, which hits “Born to Run,” “Thunder Road,” “If I Should Fall Behind” and “Land of Hope and Dreams” as it should, plus one extra treat. Bruce changed his set lists frequently on the River and Born in the U.S.A. tours, and both had their share of setlist surprises. But there was a sense circa 1980-88 that some of Springsteen’s older material wasn’t under consideration. Reunion changed all that. Every song was again a possibility, and “Blinded By the Light” represents that spirit.

I was fortunate enough to attend this show, which started with a brand new song and encored with Bruce’s very first single, the recognition of which was not lost on me then or now. MSG 6/27/00 was extra special, just like we knew it would be.

Looking For A Moment When The World Seems Right

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

LISTEN NOW: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minnesota, November 12, 2012

By Erik Flannigan

Our nostalgia for great concerts of the past is not dissimilar to that of sports. For over 20 years before it went on-demand, ESPN Classic aired some of the most memorable football, basketball, and baseball games of the last few decades. NBA TV still does. You know the stuff: Buzzer beaters and walk-off home runs in game sevens. Bowl and playoff games with miracle finishes or remarkable individual performances. Retro sports programming helped define what constitutes a classic performance and naturally led to the idea of an “instant classic,” a recent game with the same kind of thrilling dynamics as those revered events of yore.

In live Springsteen concert collecting, a (relatively) clear consensus has been reached as to the all-time great shows from his first three decades on stage. Concerts like Passaic 9/19/78, E. Rutherford 8/20/84, and the Christic Institute benefits from 1990 enjoy near-unanimous agreement as to their exceptional quality. Recent archive releases like London 11/24/75 rise from the vault to join them, gaining appreciation thanks to the availability of incredible new audio.  

Assessment of performances from the reunion era to today tends to be more subjective. One obvious bias for the current audience comes from having attended contender shows in person, which isn’t the case for most people when it comes to ’70’s and ’80s concerts, save for a lucky few. So what constitutes a post-reunion instant classic?

St. Paul 11/12/12 provides a worthy example. This excellent show checks a lot of boxes. Great versions of songs from Bruce’s most recent album? Check. Strong performances of core, classic material? Rare and surprising setlist inclusions? Bruce calling audibles, telling stories and jumping into the crowd? Check, check and check.

I make it a point not to presume the thinking behind a particular decision Bruce makes, but it does feel safe to infer that his decision to audible “I’m a Rocker” to open the St. Paul show—having never opened a set with it before—likely reflected his enthusiasm in the moment. It’s a lively rendition that sends a cue that the audience is in for an especially good time.

Ensuring his point isn’t missed, “Hungry Heart” comes second, with the crowd immediately answering the call to sing their part, verse one, quite capably. Bruce matches them, singing with intention to connect all the way to the back of the hall. He points to Jake Clemons, who makes the “Hungry Heart” solo more his own than his uncle’s.

“No Surrender” extends the “we’re in this together” sentiment, and the band is playing hot already when we arrive at a four-pack that would be a thrill to witness, for those of us who appreciate great songs that lie deeper in the catalog.

“Night” isn’t the rarest song, but its power and precision always resonate, and it has played a role in many a classic show. Jon Altschiller’s mix nicely balances guitars and piano to propel the performance, and here Clemons follows The Big Man’s footprints appropriately.

The final note holds and charges into “Loose Ends,” the outstanding River outtake in only its 25th live appearance. Again, guitars and Roy Bittan’s piano do the heavy lifting, with Garry Tallent’s bass part richly realized as well. Stevie Van Zandt, perhaps THE strongest advocate for performing outtakes, matches Springsteen’s true-to-the-original vocals and helps make this one of the best live “Loose Ends” ever.

Without so much as a breath taken between songs, Bittan starts the moving piano melody that opens “Something in the Night.” The band is locked in, and Springsteen sings with gravelly passion in a gorgeous overall reading. With feelings already heightened by “Something in the Night,” Bruce selects what for my money is the saddest and most emotional song he has ever written, “Stolen Car.” 

In just its second appearance with the band since 1985 (the first being the 2009 River album set at Madison Square Garden), “Stolen Car” is about the recognition of love unraveling. The song’s musical arrangement illustrates the range of the E Street Band to marvelous effect, connecting with as much prowess in the spare grace of their playing on “Stolen Car” as they do in the crescendo of “Born to Run.” “Something in the Night” and “Stolen Car” also carry poignant accents from the horn section, adding new tones and colors to these genuinely profound performances.

Following that memorable quartet we move through the core of the 2012 set with tour-honed versions of “We Take Care of Our Own,” “Wrecking Ball,” “Death to My Hometown,” “My City of Ruins” and “Pay Me Money Down.”

In addition to making his standard band introductions, Bruce addresses the crowd in “My City of Ruins,” telling them he and the band love “repeat customers” (St. Paul was the only market on the fall arena tour with two shows) and, rather amusingly, that special recognition of their status in the Twin Cities can be fleeting. “We are the band that yesterday had two streets named after us right here in the city,” he brags. “Today, nothing! No streets! Back to Butthole Avenue or whatever it was before yesterday.”

Also slipped into the set after “My City of Ruins” is an exuberant version of “The E Street Shuffle,” complete with horn-section tune-up prelude, an Everett Bradley percussion solo that walks the song to the edge of Santana, and a full outro. Perhaps less faithful than the version on the Christmas release from 11/7/09 but no less fun.

With the second St. Paul concert falling on the Veterans Day holiday, Springsteen worked up the first-ever, full-band version of “Devils & Dust.” The solemn and striking arrangement leverages the full capabilities of the expanded line-up: Curt Ramm’s trumpet and Soozie’s violin set the initial tone; Max Weinberg’s drums along with Nils Lofgren’s and Van Zandt’s guitars carry the majestic middle; and the E Street Choir add their graceful voices as the song eventually grows to its fully realized conclusion.

“Youngstown” feels appropriately positioned just after, reminding us of the plight of veterans who return to hometowns as the jobs that long sustained and provided identity to their working class are disappearing. “Murder Incorporated,” 2012 edition, is a horn-led affair in addition to a triple-guitar showpiece.

Sure, the junior vocalist on “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day” may be in slightly over their head, but 2012 also means we have the E Street Choir to ensure the rest of the singing is sweet (they performed the same service in “Hungry Heart,” which also featured audience members on mic). Choir voices also further enliven “She’s the One” and provide backbone to “Shackled and Drawn.”

“The Rising” and “Badlands” both stick their landings, and the main set concludes with “Land of Hope and Dreams” calling on the horns and extra voices for additional heart and soul power. For the encore, Jake steps into the biggest of the Big Man’s shoes and delivers his own soul power to “Jungleland,” soloing impressively above Bittan’s fluid piano runs. “Born to Run” sustains its crescendo an extra long time, with horn blasts keeping the tension building. “Dancing in the Dark,” “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” and “American Land” send everyone home happy and inspired, as well they should.

Perhaps “instant classic” is a term best left in the sports realm, but contemporary subjectivity acknowledged, what more could one want from a Wrecking Ball tour performance than what Bruce delivers on the second night of St. Paul?

I CAN STAND UP AND FACE THE WORLD AGAIN

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

LISTEN NOW: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY, November 7, 2009

By Erik Flannigan

For Bruce Springsteen, 2009 began with the Super Bowl and wrapped with a series of memorable full-album performances.

First, a brief history. 

Complete, in-sequence album performances date back to the ‘70s, when Pink Floyd played Dark Side of the Moon in order on the band’s 1973-75 tours. In 1989, R.E.M. played all of their first album, Murmur, and their then-new album Green at a special benefit concert. In 1994, Phish began their tradition of “wearing a musical costume” for Halloween shows, covering The Beatles’ White Album end to end and doing the same for albums by Talking Heads, Velvet Underground, and Little Feat in subsequent years.

The full-album trend really took off in the 2000s. One of the catalysts was The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, who began performing the band’s seminal Pet Sounds in 2000 and released a live recording of his recreation in 2002. From there, the practice became common for bands of all stripes through the rest of the decade and beyond.

Two months after the Super Bowl XLIII Halftime performance, Springsteen kicked off the 2009 Working on a Dream tour. After a European jaunt that wrapped mid-summer, Bruce and the band returned to the States for another round of shows, where it was announced that at select dates they would join the club and play one of three classic albums: Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town or Born in the U.S.A.

Those full album sets were warmly received, but leave it to Springsteen to raise the stakes. With nearly two years of touring coming to an end and an extended break sure to follow, he wanted to do something special for the fans AND the band. And so it came to be that two shows in New York and a third in Buffalo would showcase the other three albums from the band’s first 12 years. Buffalo got Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ, and the second night in New York hosted The River, both since released in the Live Archive series. We now hit the trifecta with Madison Square Garden 1 and the first complete reading of The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle as performed on November 7, 2009.

While you can’t beat the thrill of a surprise inclusion in the setlist, there’s a different and equally thrilling anticipation to a show where you know what you’re going to hear but still can’t believe you will. Such was the case with this concert. There is a palpable buzz in the building, amped up as Bruce emerges, turns the time machine dial to 1973, and sets the stage for the evening with “Thundercrack,” the delightful second-album outtake.

“Seeds” is unexpected but works as the follow-up, with Springsteen fully engaged in the narrative. The pace is brisk as we jump to “Prove It All Night,” and the era-hopping extends to “Hungry Heart” — included, I suspect, to ensure the crowd understands their participatory role in the evening. “We need you to bring the noise,” he implores during “Working on a Dream.” And how heartwarming is it to hear Clarence Clemons’ encouraging verbal responses in the background as Springsteen speaks?

With the crowd warmed up, it is time for the main event. “Something that’s never been done before!” Bruce announces before explaining that Wild & Innocent is divided between songs about his New Jersey home and his fantasies about the big city across the river.

The conductor taps, we hear horns warming up, and a perfect “E Street Shuffle” ensues, true to the original album arrangement with Springsteen’s voice hearkening the spirit of the Shore circa the Nixon administration. We’re going in order, so “Sandy” comes next, its poignancy striking an immediate contrast to “Shuffle.” It’s a lovely reading with the right amount of distance, Bruce singing it fully in the moment but with memories in the lyrics still vivid. 

“Kitty’s Back” rips like it should, with fantastic accents from the horn section and every player taking their solo spotlight like a boss. Perhaps the rarest song from the album in recent times, “Wild Billy’s Circus Story” is spun as a folk tale, and like “Sandy,” its details are sharply drawn. 

Every “Incident on 57th Street” is a cause for celebration and tonight’s is no exception. Close listening reveals especially fluid bass runs from Garry Talent, while the guitar solo riffs on the original but the tone is distinct, accenting a weariness perhaps, and as result feels fresh and moving.

The magical transition out of “Incident” leads us to a joyfully traditional “Rosalita,” played like the album without band introductions. While we associate “Rosie” with set closing, tonight it introduces the final scene and a tour de force performance of “New York City Serenade.”

“New York City Serenade” is arguably the most musically ambitious song to perform in the Springsteen catalog. Much of that weight is carried by the emotive piano playing of Roy Bittan, who leads the way through this rendition, followed by Springsteen’s own guitar work. The song builds at just… the… right… pace, and we hear the congas come in, courtesy of special guest Richard Blackwell — the very percussionist who played on the original sessions — along with Tallent’s lush bass. Then at 3:40, when the Sam Bardfeld-led violin section bows their first note, we’re enraptured. “New York City Serenade” is fully reborn in what has to be one of the finest musical moments of the post-Reunion era.

How do you follow-up 12 minutes of sublime, musical majesty? With “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day,” of course, which acts as a sort of plunge pool as the show shifts tone for a largely upbeat final 90 minutes marked by several notable highlights. 

We dip into Bruce’s first album for another Big Apple special, “Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?,” followed by an undeniable request (“It must be done!”), “Glory Days.” It hadn’t crossed my mind that playing one’s old albums is on some level a “Glory Days” move, but taken at face value, it’s just a great version of the song, tagged with several New York Yankees namechecks.

“Human Touch” is another standout, now fully owned by the E Street Band and highlighted by strong vocals from Patti Scialfa. Stevie Van Zandt hits some lovely note sequences around the 5:00 mark that underscore the build to Bruce’s crescendo “Hey Now!” vocal. The extended ending further marks this version as excellent.

The end of the set and the primary encore stay true to the 2009 tour for the most part, moving through “Lonesome Day,” “The Rising,” “Born to Run,” a welcome “Wrecking Ball” with Curt Ramm on trumpet, “Bobby Jean,” “American Land” (again featuring Ramm plus Bardfeld on violin) and “Dancing in the Dark.”

But a show this special deserves a fabulous finale, and we get one with a cover of Jackie Wilson’s “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher.” The aforementioned guests join in, including Richard Blackwell, while Bruce shares lead vocals with Elvis Costello. The song famously wrapped another set of shows before an extended break (Boston Music Hall 1977) and was resurrected for the last run of 2009. What a message to share with your audience on a night when Bruce and the E Street Band reached back to their past and soared.

The New Jersey Hustle

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Hammersmith Odeon, London, England, November 24, 1975

By Erik Flannigan

Performing under pressure can bring out the best in us, but it can also skew perception. The long-standing narrative surrounding Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s four-stop European tour in 1975 was that response to opening night in London on November 18 was mixed, in part because the hype leading up to the show was at Second Coming levels — too much for anyone to live up to, even Springsteen.

The official release of that show in the Born to Run box set on video and subsequent standalone audio blows the myth out of the water, as the performance is excellent and every bit as good as the gigs Springsteen played in the States in the weeks prior.

But the London ’75 narrative was a two-parter, the other half being that the response to the first London show motivated an extraordinary second performance by Springsteen and the band at Hammersmith Odeon six days later, on November 24. Whether or not there is a causal relationship between the reception to the first gig and the resulting second show, the myth is right about one thing: London 11/24/75 is brilliant.

After performing 16 songs at Hammersmith 1, Bruce and the band unleash 22 killer cuts at Hammersmith 2, making eight overall changes to the set, a whopping seven of which are cover versions. The mindset seems to be, bust out the full arsenal and hit ’em with everything we got. Boy do they ever, giving a musical history lesson in the process and performing some of the best live versions of material from Springsteen’s first three albums, shifting effortlessly between full tilt and slow, nuanced majesty.

The latter aptly describes the show opener, “Thunder Road,” with just Roy on piano, Danny on glockenspiel, and Springsteen on vocals. It remains a bold and vulnerable choice to start a show, and the performance is sublime. (Five points to the first person to identify who introduces Springsteen to the stage.) The shift to breakneck pace is on full display as the E Street engine turns over and Bruce pushes the gas pedal to the floor on “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out.”

Jon Altschiller’s mix, taken from Plangent Processed, 24-track analog master reels, moves beyond HD to something closer to 4K, not merely widescreen but razor-sharp, with tremendous spatial depth and ideal balance between band and fans. It’s a step above “you are there.”

Many pixels have been spent on the topic of Archive releases of shows that “we already have in great quality,” with some questioning the need. True, a mostly complete two-track soundboard recording of Hammersmith 2 has been in circulation for many years. But if there were ever a demonstration of the merit of putting out the best shows out in the best quality, London 11/24/75 is it. Comparing the old bootleg to the new multitrack edition is like comparing Charli D’Amelio to Misty Copeland. Sure, they both dance….

The London audience roars its approval as Bruce shifts the setting to New Jersey for “Spirit in the Night,” with the band warmed up and soaring, Stevie Van Zandt and Max Weinberg notably in fighting form. Bruce is getting into it, too, and his vocal intonation gets more expressive by the middle of the second verse as he sings, “By the time we made it up to Greasy Lake.”

“Lost in the Flood” made its tour debut at Hammersmith 1, and this night is one of the song’s finest live outings. The swirling sound of Danny Federeci’s Leslie speaker sets the haunting mood, and Roy comes in ever so delicately on piano. As the song grows and expands, striking guitar work slices through the tension before the flood crests at 5:23 with Springsteen’s high-pitched scream, the crescendo before Roy’s final melodic refrain. 

Hammersmith 2 moves briskly from song to song and doesn’t feature lengthy chatter. “She’s the One” and “Born to Run” are examples of letting the music do the talking. The former is played at a humming clip, the latter goes full Wall of Sound, especially Springsteen’s rapid fire guitar in the bridge. “Growin’ Up” and “Saint in the City” serve to catch up the crowd on the early chapters of the Springsteen story.

“Pretty Flamingo” takes the place of “E Street Shuffle” from Hammersmith 1 but retains its soulful spirit. The languorous version allows us to hear the room and the audience as they clap along, embracing the vibe. “Backstreets” is straightforward and strong, then we shift back to fifth gear as “Sha La La” attempts a land speed record, kicking up delicious guitar licks in its dust.

Perhaps as a result, “Jungleland” struggles to find its bearings but ultimately delivers drama and impact. “Rosalita” closes the set with a sense of release that sets up what’s to follow — but only after a bit of fun. When Bruce shouts, “Gimme ten!” in the breakdown, listen for a guitar note that seems to bend into a question mark. The band hangs there for longer than we expect. The audience goes nearly silent, unsure what happens next. Finally, chiming guitar chords and the onslaught continues, pounding the crowd with E Street power, Stevie and Max again leading the charge.

We move to a jaw-dropping encore that opens with an evocative version of “Sandy,” resplendent with Danny’s accordion and the Big Man’s baritone sax. Bruce paints a picture with his words, singing every line with vivid conviction. This is as good as “Sandy” gets.

From there, it’s time for an E Street Jukebox session that is the stuff that built the legend. The tour debut of “Wear My Ring Around Your Neck” gets us started, with Bruce turning up the juice on the Elvis Presley tune (written by Bert Carroll and Moody Russell). This is the first release of the storming song in the Archive series and one of only 14 known performances.

Next, we’re on to the “Detroit Medley” and a special disco dance lesson, as Bruce teaches Londoners the “New Jersey Hustle.” That wraps the first encore. The band leaves the stage and Bruce returns for a solo piano performance of “For You.”

Holy shit.

Over the course of nearly nine rhapsodic minutes, Springsteen reinterprets “For You” to wonderous effect. Everything changes, from vocal intonation to phrasing to tempo. “You could laugh, you could cry, in a single sound” — I’ve never heard Bruce utter the line quite like this before, and similar reimagining happens throughout the performance. The clarity of the recording is remarkable.

It isn’t just his singing, either, as he thrillingly speeds up the piano behind lines like, “Your strength was devastating in the face of all these odds,” and later when he concedes, “So you left to find a better reason than the one you were living for.” This first appearance of the solo piano “For You” in the Live Archive series is an essential addition.

“When You Walk in the Room” brings pure elation, the Searchers cover soaring and showing the UK group’s influence on the E Street sound, which can be heard all the way up through the River sessions.

The encore continues with “Quarter to Three,” and whatever audience uncertainty was there in “Rosalita” is gone. Springsteen has Hammersmith eating out of the palm of his hand. The show could have easily ended with the Gary U.S. Bonds classic, as many Springsteen shows have before and since, but no. Turns out there’s gonna be an after-party, and Bruce and the band are gonna pull out ALL the stops. 

Bruce says he learned to play “Twist and Shout” “out of a Beatle book,” and he uses it to work up the crowd even further as he stops mid-song on “doctors orders,” only to be revived by his bandmates. 

Two minutes of sustained applause compels a third encore, and pushing the C1 button brings up Chuck Berry’s “Carol” in its final 1975 appearance. Stevie Van Zandt seizes the occasion for more guitar heroics. That sonic depth noted above can be especially felt when Bruce calls for Clarence’s “big notes” on baritone sax. 

Do yourself a favor this holiday season and put a proper stereo on your wishlist. Computer speakers, AirPods, and — God forbid — the speaker on your phone are no way to listen to Bruce Springsteen live.

The epic Hammersmith performance seems to be over, but Springsteen can’t quite walk away, calling out the key of A and breaking into a spontaneous version of another Berry classic, “Little Queenie.” Collectors know the song’s famous premiere at the Milwaukee “bomb scare” show in October 1975; this one shares that same ragged-but-right spirit, along with an unmistakable sense that on this climatic night in London, the end of Bruce’s first-ever visit to Europe, he simply didn’t want it to end.

We Made It Through The Heart Of A Hurricane

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina

April 28, 2008

By Erik Flannigan

Loss is one of life’s most challenging experiences. There is no universal path to solace, no prescriptive behaviors to mitigate its pain. But as we process the death of a loved one, at some point in the days and weeks that follow, the one undeniable truth of the situation is eventually revealed: Life goes on.

Just 11 days removed from the passing of Danny Federici, Greensboro opens with a video tribute to the band’s fallen comrade set to the music of “Blood Brothers.” But from there the mood shifts markedly. At the first four shows performed after Federici’s funeral, setlists dipped back to Springsteen’s first two albums for songs like “Blinded By the Light,” “Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?” and “Growin’ Up” in tribute to Phantom Dan. There would be time for that this night too, but to open Greensboro, something more cathartic was delivered.

The pairing of “Roulette” into “Don’t Look Back” rivals the best one-two punch from any Springsteen show in any decade. Two stunning, underplayed rockers—one haunting, one life-affirming—blow off the doors of the Greensboro Coliseum, and the release of energy is unmistakably liberating for all.

As the diehard collectors well know, “Roulette” has a very tricky arrangement, especially as a one-off, and here it is played with full conviction in what has to be one of its best modern performances. How convicted? Listen to Bruce declare, “They say they wanna help me but with the stuff they keep on sayin’, I think those guys just wanna keep on playin’.” The guitar solo is searing as well, and Max crushes one of his signature drum parts.

The same can be said for “Don’t Look Back,” which faithfully follows the 1977 arrangement in its only live outing circa 2000-2012 and one of only 31 performances ever. Short-listed for, but ultimately left off of Darkness on the Edge of Town, “Don’t Look Back” remains one of Springsteen’s greatest non-album tracks. In fact, “Don’t Look Back” was so “ready” for Darkness, it is the only song that wasn’t newly remixed for Tracks in 1998. The performance in Greensboro is a faultless rebirth.

One could argue the top of the show isn’t merely a perfect pairing, but a trio, quartet, or even quintet of brilliantly linked performances. The momentum of “Roulette” and “Don’t Look Back” pushes kindred spirit “Radio Nowhere” to new heights. “Out in the Street” (a phrase also uttered in “Don’t Look Back”) bears renewed vivacity and “The Promised Land” brings us home, riding Roy Bittan’s piano and Stevie’s guitar.

Bruce finally catches his breath as we move into Magic territory with a solemn (and timely as ever) reading of the title track with Soozie subbing admirably for Patti. “Gypsy Biker” was a Magic tour highlight every night and continues to deserve consideration as one of the finest E Street Band songs of the 2000s. A heartfelt story follows, as Bruce describes meeting Danny for the first time, preceding a momentarily tentative but ultimately winning “Saint in the City.”

Setlists on the Magic tour were notably tight, and that bang-bang approach is in evidence as Bruce steers “Saint” left into a very fine “Trapped” and follows that with graceful right turn into the Nils Lofgren (and Soozie, too, in Ms. Scialfa’s absence) showcase, “Because the Night.”

The night’s crackling atmosphere sparks a terrific “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” Jon Altschiller’s mix positions piano and guitar ideally. The performance is anchored by an impassioned Springsteen vocal that drops in defeat when he sings the slight variant, “I lost my faith when I lost you,” only to rise to that arresting heightened register to deliver the rest of the verse starting with, “Tonight I’ll be on that hill, ‘cause I can’t stop.” “Darkness” and the “She’s the One” that follows are equal parts vintage and in-the-moment.

By the halftime arrival of “Living in the Future,” the score Bruce has put on the board is at MJ/Lebron levels. And to continue the analogy, those games still make for great, memorable wins, even if the superstars don’t hit quite as many downtown three-pointers or monster dunks in the second half.

The return of a newly streamlined “Mary’s Place” registers as another highlight. “Let’s see if we remember this one…debut on this tour. Come on, let’s try it,” says Bruce with undeniable glee. There is something fresh about “Mary’s Place” mk2, with more echoes of the kind of updated “Thundercrack” or “Santa Ana” vibe that he seemed to be going for in the first place, compared to what the song morphed into on the Rising tour.

Sure, there is something peculiar about spending your sign request on “Waiting on a Sunny Day.” The motivation may have had more to do with being picked for the singalong (which, as it turns out, didn’t even happen for this tidy performance), but we’ll excuse it as well-meaning if slightly misguided. From there, Greensboro moves through a solid back ten that may lack a bit of the first half’s urgency but holds its own, especially the Magic songs: “Last to Die, “Long Walk Home,” and “Devil’s Arcade.” The last of these and “Magic” make their first appearances in the Live Archive series from 2008 performances.

Springsteen and the band ultimately bring Greensboro home in fine form through a long and lively “Badlands,” a musically rich and beautifully sung “Backstreets,” the fitting farewell of “Bobby Jean” (kudos to Clarance for nailing the solo), and the high-spirited finale, “American Land” with Charlie Giordano eloquently deputizing for Danny on accordion.

The recent release of Letter to You on record and film reinforces that life does go on for the E Street Band, and equally that the spirit of those who have departed continue to inspire those who carry on. Greensboro is a wonderful reflection on the process of loss and the power of perseverance. 

Walk Over To Your Dial, Turn It Up As Loud As It’ll Go

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band

Fox Theatre, Atlanta, GA, September 30, 1978

By Erik Flannigan

I’ve written before about the role the Darkness tour radio broadcasts played in the career development of Bruce Springsteen. Broadcast live from the Agora in Cleveland, the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, The Roxy in West Hollywood, and Winterland in San Francisco, those concerts were recorded off air by thousands of people listening at home in 1978. In the years that followed, many wore out their tapes, playing them again and again as the only “official” live Springsteen product until Live/1975-85 was released in 1986.

Through the “magic of bootlegging,” home recordings wound up on illicit vinyl pressings like Piece de Resistance and Live in the Promised Land. Copies of those LPs made their way to Europe, which wasn’t visited by the Darkness tour itself, so overseas fans at least got to hear Springsteen on stage. He and the band wouldn’t return to those shores until 1981; for such Bruce-starved fans, those recordings were manna from heaven.


Without question, the familiarity fans have with the broadcast recordings of shows like The Roxy and Capitol Theatre cemented their status among Bruce’s greatest performances ever. But what if there were another?

It would be an exaggeration to call Atlanta 9/30/78 “the lost broadcast.” But compared to the other four, which were pressed multiple times on vinyl and CD bootlegs, Atlanta is the least familiar, having no meaningful history on bootleg vinyl and a limited one on CD.

The home recording enthusiasts alluded to above were certainly more plentiful in the Tri-State area, for the Passaic broadcast, than in the Southeast for Atlanta. Other broadcasts got wider distribution (the Agora show was syndicated to FM rock stations around the country after the fact) or were simply bigger events to begin with (Bruce’s Roxy appearance was the most buzzed-about show in Los Angeles in 1978). On the other hand, Atlanta and the Southeast were more of a development opportunity for Springsteen that year, and legend has it, stormy weather in the region on 9/30/78 caused reception problems for those who did record.

All of which explains why, as fans traded tapes and bought bootlegs in the ’70s and ’80s, the quality of the Atlanta broadcast, if it could be found at all, was inferior to the other four broadcast recordings, hence its outlier status. But one listen to Jon Altschiller’s new mix from Plangent Processed, 24-track analog master tapes and Atlanta is an outlier no more.

The 9/30/78 set captures the Darkness tour “picked at the peak of freshness,” as the old commercial used to say. It’s like getting a lost episode of Seinfeld, shot but never aired during Season 5. The official release of this Fox Theatre show gives us the chance to fall in love all over again with a spectacular slice of Springsteen ’78.

After a great intro to the stage, the show smashes to a start with “Good Rockin’ Tonight” straight into “Badlands.” Each E Street Band member quickly shows they are in it to win it this night, with first-among-equals Roy Bittan carrying the melodic load with aplomb, as he will throughout the night. “Spirit in the Night” sets the band-fan tenor. “Darkness on the Edge of Town” is flawless, and Bruce sings with total conviction — no more so than on a subtle lyric change, replacing “Where nobody asks any questions or looks too long in your face” with, “You can drive all night, and never make it around.”

Sonically, Atlanta offers crystalline clarity. In the stately “Independence Day,” which Bruce introduces as the “flipside to ‘Adam Raised a Cain’,” the level of instrumental detail — from Danny’s glockenspiel to Max’s hi-hat, Garry’s bass to Stevie’s delicate strumming — is breathtaking and immersive. It pulls you into what just might be your new favorite version of “Independence Day,” a sentiment you are likely to feel across several Atlanta performances. Yes, the audience is mixed just right, too.

The rest of the first set holds to the same gold standard as we move from a faultless “The Promised Land” to a scintillating, extended “Prove It All Night” that’s as good if not better than any version you’ve heard from this tour — and that’s saying something. 

The same goes for “Racing in the Street.” Listen for a gorgeous and distinct bit of interplay between Danny and Roy around the 2:05 mark. The first set wraps with the peerless pairing of “Thunder Road” and “Jungleland.” It doesn’t get any better than this.

“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” opens the second half of the show in jolly spirits, and because the fake snow that fell needed to be swept up by stagehands, Bruce and the band vamp by paying tribute to one of Atlanta’s adopted sons, James Brown. They play the Godfather of Soul’s “Night Train” so well, one would think the song was in the set every night of the tour. In fact, this is the only performance ever of “Night Train.”

“Fire” extends the frivolity before the tone turns dramatic via “Candy’s Room.” Danny and Roy again weave around each other in stunning fashion in the long intro to “Because the Night,” which includes a superlative guitar solo in yet another “name a better one” version. The second River preview of the night, “Point Blank,” surely sent anticipation soaring for Springsteen’s next album, with Danny and Roy intricately swirling behind the striking original lyrics.

E Street Band vocals in the “Not Fade Away/Gloria” intro to “She’s the One” have never sounded livelier, the guitar licks never more Link Wray than this terrific extended reading, another reminder of how special it is to re-live such a beautifully recorded document of the tour. “Backstreets” provides a tour de force denouement, with the middle section a Van Morrison-inspired, mind-blowing melange of “sad eyes,” “Drive All Night,” “you lied,” and “we’ve got to stop.” Listening to the Atlanta version will reaffirm everything you love about the song, this tour, and these musicians.

Even venerable “Rosalita” gets an intriguing instrumental introduction more than two minutes long. There are so many moments in Atlanta 9/30/78 that are just a little different from the Darkness shows we know best, and it is all the more compelling because of it.

The traditional but no less exceptional Darkness tour encore of “Born to Run,” “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” and “Detroit Medley” brings us home, and the night ends with one of only eight tour performances of “Raise Your Hand,” far fewer than you’d guess because all five broadcasts are counted among those eight renditions.


With the release of Atlanta, the quintet of 1978 broadcasts in the Live Archive series is now complete, representing not only some of the greatest Bruce Springsteen performances of all time, but arguably the greatest live concert recordings in rock history. 

The Time Is Right For A Palace Revolution

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Brendan Byrne Arena, E. Rutherford, NJ

August 6, 1984

By Erik Flannigan

When the Born in the U.S.A. tour kicked off in late June 1984, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band had been off the road for more than two and a half years — or eternity, by Springsteen standards. Contrast that with their previous longest hiatus from the road, 21 months that passed between the end of the Darkness tour (January 1, 1979) and the start of the River tour (October 3, 1980). Prior to that, Bruce and the band had played a significant number of shows every year since 1972.

Not only did 1981-84 represent the longest gap between proper concerts, but the Born in the U.S.A. tour also marked the first personnel changes within the band in ten years, as Stevie Van Zandt stepped out, Nils Lofgren stepped in, and Miss Patti Scialfa expanded the E Street Band from six to seven full-time members.

The song catalog was growing, too. As a double album, The River contributed many new tracks to 1980-81 setlists, but in 1984, Bruce was again supporting two albums’ worth of new material, with one of them a true departure: the solo acoustic Nebraska.

All of which is to say that the early weeks of the 1984 tour marked a period of material change and recalibration to the established Springsteen live show. We can hear that process thrillingly in progress with the release of 8/6/84.

This concert was the second night of an unprecedented ten-show stand at the Brendan Byrne Arena in E. Rutherford, NJ. The sold-out run was strategically placed seven weeks into the tour, which gave the new line-up and material time to gel. With but two exceptions (Montreal and Saratoga Springs), all dates prior to the Jersey stand featured two or three nights in a given market.

Multi-track recordings from 1984 are limited to this Brendan Byrne run, and the Live Archive series has already released two of its finest shows, opening night (8/5/84) and closing night (8/20/84), each worthy in its own right.

What makes 8/6/84 distinct from its predecessors is that it represents what fans in 1984 referred to as the “B” or alternate set. Famous for ever-shifting setlists, when Bruce would play a second or third show in a given city in ’84, he typically changed out songs in the Nebraska mini-set and encores, as well as selected others throughout.

The setlist on 8/6/84 offers eight such changes to the opening night 8/5 setlist (nine if you count, and we should, “Do You Love Me?”). Collectively, they expand our overall perspective of the tour as represented through the Archive releases.

First up is the tour premiere of “Spirit in the Night,” a staple in 1978 that was omitted for all but three airings circa 1980-81 and resurrected here as a surefire crowd-pleaser for the New Jersey homecoming. It’s the third pre-Born to Run song to be featured in a 1984 setlist up to this point, joining “Growin’ Up” and “Rosalita.” The version is a fine one, with the Big Man’s saxophone on point.

After a bang-up “Atlantic City,” “Open All Night” makes its Archive Series debut from this tour. It offers one of most entertaining moments in these early ’84 shows thanks to Bruce’s introduction to the song, a tale of late-night driving on the NJ turnpike and racing the gas gauge needle (hovering around E) before getting pulled over by a highway patrolman. The officer seems to sympathetically recognize Springsteen, only to then drop the hammer on him with the memorable line, “Son, you’re in a lot of trouble.”

When I think of “Open All Night,” this is the arrangement permanently saved in my memory banks, and it is wonderful to have it for the first time in Archive quality. I can say the same for “Nebraska,” and while this is the version released on Live/1975-85, context is everything. This candidate for a definitive reading of the song sounds even better complete with Bruce’s prescient introduction (absent on the 1986 box set) about new technology making people feel isolated from their jobs, families, community, and government. The E Street Band provides perfect, subtle support, with Danny Federici’s glockenspiel and Roy Bittan’s Yamaha CS80 synthesizer adding disquieting, ethereal layers to the track.

“Trapped” is also the previously released version we know from the We Are the World album and Essential. Following “Nebraska” and still riding Bittan’s CS80, it comes off like the cathartic final scene of the mini-set, release coming via Clarence’s sax solo and the soaring voices that carry the chorus.

The end of the first set and start of the second stay true to the core ‘84 setlist, with “Because the Night” the next change from night one, with Bittan brilliant on piano and Patti stirring on the chorus. After a “Pink Cadillac” ride comes a flawless “Fire,” with Clemons’s rich baritone voice in full duet with Bruce’s lead vocals.

The main set comes to a close with “Racing in the Street,” a song that would evolve considerably as the tour wears on, truly coming into its own with a stunning synthesizer-backed story intro in October, November, and December ‘84 performnaces. Those elements aren’t here yet, but as Bittan carries the song through its epic conclusion, we get beautiful, fresh guitar interplay between Nils and Bruce that suggests the song is undergoing a rebirth.

As we move to the encores, Springsteen’s mood is summed up by the “whoop, whoop, whoop” vocal he drops around the 1:50 mark of “Rosalita,” perhaps a simple utterance of joy that night two of this most important 10-show stand was nearly in the books. But not before a few other highlights.

“I’m a Rocker” is a fantastic addition to any encore, and the ‘84 edition gets its due here. And yes, that’s Roy Bittan’s voice you hear loud and clear in the right channel of the chorus. Danny’s faux Farfisa sounds great, too.

But they saved the best for last. Arguably this show’s greatest contribution to the Live Archive series comes in the form of a song only performed on this tour.

Springsteen covered the Rolling Stones’ classic “Street Fighting Man” 28 times, all but one in the summer and fall of 1984 (the last was London 7/6/85). This marks the first official release of the song by Bruce and the E Street Band.

Paired brilliantly in a doubleshot with a potent “Born to Run,” “Street Fighting Man” declares, “What can a poor boy do, except to sing for a rock and roll band,” a sentiment Springsteen was likely feeling as the biggest rock star in America during an election year. “Street Fighting Man” is a call to arms, telling us the “time is right for a palace revolution” against those in power. Its inclusion in the set is a not-so-subtle suggestion of where Springsteen stood just a few months ahead of the 1984 Presidential election.

A year later, Bruce famously introduced his cover of Edwin Starr’s “War” by stating,“blind faith…in your leaders…will get you killed.” “Street Fighting Man,” first played on opening night of the tour, and “War,” debuted at the final L.A. shows in ’85, can now be viewed as thematic bookends questioning U.S. leadership, something Springsteen continues to do in 2020.

The more I listen to this performance of “Street Fighting Man,” the more electrifying it sounds. Bruce carries the way with his impassioned vocals, but the band’s contributions are integral, as Garry channels his inner Bill Wyman, Nils finnesses an intricate guitar lead, and Patti pulls the chorus up to the next level.

One song later, Bruce asks the audience, “Do You Love Me?” After hearing “Street Fighting Man” again 36 years later, in an even more important election year, the answer is: now more than ever.

I Heard the Voices of Friends Vanished and Gone

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

First Union Center

September 25, 1999

By Erik Flannigan

It’s all about moments.

For those of us fortunate enough to have seen many Bruce Springsteen concerts and multiple tours, particular shows stand out for any number of reasons, from the people with whom we attended to favorite songs that made the setlist that night. But the most indelible memories often come down to a special, unexpected moment.

Prior to this show, Bruce hadn’t played “Incident on 57th Street” since December 29, 1980, a gap of nearly 19 years, and a performance that itself proved to be a one-off on the original River tour. Hell, the song only got played five times on the Darkness tour. Three decades later, the Reunion tour became a catalyst for the revival of many dormant classics, none more beloved or longed for than “Incident.”

I can only imagine the tears of joy and quivering chins that sprang forth when Springsteen commenced his sixth and final show in Philadelphia with this magisterial reading of “Incident on 57th Street.” I would have been a puddle, overwhelmed by the caliber of the performance. While he would go on to play the song three additional times on the Reunion tour and revisit it on special occasions ever since, if Philadelphia ‘99 had been the song’s only modern airing, it would be held in the same regard as the officially released one from Nassau ‘80.

Despite a long show the night before at the Spectrum (unfortunately not recorded on multi-track due to the venue change for the rescheduled date), 9/25//‘99 finds Bruce in particularly strong voice. On “Incident,” he finds a connection to those vintage versions, singing with real passion, taking his time and sending the song soaring. The E Street Band is also up to the task, needing but that day’s soundcheck to nail the epic. The performance of “Incident” is not a recreation (listen to the fresh edge on the guitar tone) but a thrilling revival of one of Bruce’s early classics.

Springsteen’s vocal prowess continues and the versions of “The Ties That Bind” and “Prove It All Night” that follow ring particularly true across the board: singing, playing, intention. There are already great Reunion shows in the Archive Series, but Philadelphia ‘99 will sound fresher than you expect, as new details jump forth. For example, Jon Altschiller’s sonorous stereo mix treats us to a fantastic Stevie and Bruce vocal exchange on “Prove It.” 

The show’s first half runs from strength to strength, with peak Reunion takes of “Two Hearts,” “Atlantic City” and “Factory.” “Point Blank” arrives with a captivating organ and saxophone intro in what is its first Reunion tour performance released in the Archive Series. “Point Blank” is not a song you think of as a Clarence Clemons showcase, but his textures start the song on an appropriately unsettling note, and later, Steve’s guitar solo is similarly edged.

“Youngstown,” “Murder Incorporated,” “Badlands,” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” (which also bears some tasty fret work from Van Zandt) are strong as they were night after night in 1999, with “Tenth” dropping in on “Red Headed Woman” and a very sweet verse and chorus from The Temptations’ “My Girl.”

The party atmosphere extends with “a little last taste of summer for you,” “Sherry Darling,” another showcase for the musical and vocal chops of the E Street Band who are in collective top form.

The tone shifts movingly with the first full-band performance of “Streets of Philadelphia” in its namesake city. The modern Springsteen masterpiece is beautifully rendered, Van Zandt’s background vocals adding richness.

The evening enters the rarified status of hosting not one but two circa 1973 epics, with “New York City Serenade” (itself only recently revived after a 24-year slumber), delivered in stunning fashion in what might be its strongest ‘99 performance. Each E Streeter wraps themselves in musical glory: Stop it Stevie. Stop it Big Man. Stop it Roy. You’re killing us with your melodic beauty.

The set winds down in largely expected fashion, but Philadelphia ‘99 does add two additional songs to the Reunion tour Archive roster. Clarence Clemons’ great night extends to his most famous saxophone solo in “Jungleland,” which is spot on. I can’t imagine the band has played “Jungleland” better than this in the modern era. The other new addition is the show-closer, “Raise Your Hand,” played as the pure soul classic it is and celebrating the band-fan bond that Philadelphia has offered since the very beginning. 

If you’re looking at Philadelphia ‘99 and thinking it is “only” 22 songs long, remember six of those tracks top the ten-minute mark on this night of epic performances. I’ve heard longer Reunion tour shows, but I’ve never heard stronger.


Thank You Guys For Making This Really Seem Like Home

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Brendan Byrne Arena, East Rutherford, NJ, July 9, 1981


By Erik Flannigan

I was 15 years old in the summer of 1981. My friend Marc had just turned 16 and obtained his driver’s license. The previous October, my father took Marc and me to the Seattle Center Coliseum to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and that changed everything.

My parents subscribed to Rolling Stone magazine, which ran a Random Notes item that Springsteen would be doing a return leg of the River tour over the summer. With only that single data point to go on in the pre-Internet days, Marc and I would get up early and drive to the local mall every Sunday in June and July to see if, by chance, a line had formed and Springsteen tickets were going on sale. The Seattle ’80 show had gone up with no prior warning on a Sunday morning. We figured, better safe than sorry.

A Seattle ’81 show never materialized, but the story illustrates the heightened levels of anticipation for Springsteen’s summer return. If Marc and I were going to all that trouble in hopes of getting tickets to a Seattle concert that was never even contemplated, imagine what it must have been like in New Jersey when it was announced that Bruce and the E Street Band would christen the newly constructed Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford with a six-show stand to kick off their post-Europe victory lap.

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

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

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

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

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

Carrying on, “Independence Day” revisits Springsteen’s father-son narrative, but this time with a new chapter recognizing the need to say the things that need to be said, now, while there’s still time. The sentiment couldn’t be more timely in the Covid-19 era.

“Who’ll Stop the Rain” has never sounded bigger or bolder than this terrific rendition, and Jon Altschiller’s mix offers incredible instrument separation. The acoustic and electric guitar interplay is marvelous — and listen for the electric to kick in again, quite thrillingly, five seconds into “Two Hearts.” What a great version. The same can be said for “The Promised Land,” as heightened vocal phrasing brings the song to another level.

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

Word of this incredible new song “Trapped” had even reached me on the other side of the country (again, likely through Rolling Stone). I had to hear it. Through the magic of mail order, I bought a bootleg LP called Prisoner of Rock and Roll that included “Trapped,” and I was gobsmacked. The simple start, the build, the intensity, the crescendo, then again and AGAIN, with the final release coming as Springsteen shouts “I’M TRAPPED” and the last note sustains. Mesmerizing and unlike any Springsteen song that had come before it. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tonight I Wanna Feel The Beat Of The Crowd

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Ullevi

Gothenburg, Sweden – July 28, 2012

By Erik Flannigan

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

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

Au contraire mon frère.

The core idea Fripp articulates is undeniably true: Nothing can fully replace or replicate being at a concert in person, as it happens. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Archival live recordings are, as Ma Bell used to say, “the next best thing to being there.” (For those too young to remember, that’s what AT&T was affectionately called when it was a national telecom monopoly.)

As undeniably magical as live concerts can be, they are by nature fleeting, real-time experiences. Yes, they live on in our memories, but what’s the larger cultural value of these unique performances? When the technology was invented in the 1870s to record and preserve audio, after the spoken word, the earliest recordings captured on those cylinders were of musicians performing live. Preserving performances is arguably the fundamental underlying purpose of recording technology.

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

Gothenburg 7/28/12 allows fans who weren’t there at Ullevi to travel through time and space to hear one of the best nights on the Wrecking Ball tour in a closing run of European concerts that was, to quote Stevie Van Zandt’s predictive tweet before the show, “one for the ages.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://youtu.be/cqHBazBq51s

Sure, special songs help make special nights, but Gothenburg is more than its rarities. The performance of “Backstreets” shines as a particular standout, taking its time and accented with vocal nuances that don’t occur in every outing. I don’t think Bruce can sing it any better in this century. Boom, “Badlands” kicks in, and the show runs through the end of the main set via “Land of Hope and Dreams” and the band-spotlighting “People Get Ready” outro.

The encore might best be described as one of release. Start with Bruce’s final vocal line in “Thunder Road,” as he wavers for effect on “we’re pulling out of here to wiiiiiiin.” The contrast of “Thunder Road” into “Born in the U.S.A.” is compelling “40 years down the road” with the horns adding anthemic overtones to the song’s conclusion. The energy stays high for “Born to Run,” “Ramrod,” “Dancing in the Dark,” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” before we reach the emotional apex of the night: The return of “Jungleland.”

“Clarence was a special part of Sweden,” Bruce tells the crowd. “So tonight, we haven’t done this one in a long time, and we haven’t practiced it. This is for the Big Man and for you for giving him a home for quite a few years.”

Roy and Soozie kick it off a la Main Point ‘75. The band turns the burners to high. Steve’s guitar solo is on point. As we arrive at The Moment, Bruce’s vocals are passionate, stretching out “Just one look and a whisper, they’re gaw-aw-one” before Jake Clemons hits that transcendent note. Having never listened to fan recordings of the show, I didn’t know what to expect from this resurrection, but Jake, Bruce, and the band really deliver. That first note of the solo might bring a tear to your eye, and when Jake’s spotlight ends, you hear the appreciation and recognition of what just transpired from the audience.

How does one follow up such a moment? The only way Bruce knows how, with “Twist and Shout.” Nothing can follow that, yet even after 12 minutes the audience is still “whoa, whoaing” the melody to “Badlands.” No wonder these Euro 2012 shows were so long: the audiences, Bruce, and the band just didn’t want it to end. 

Gotta Sing A New Song, That’s My Job

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, MI, March 28, 1988

By Erik Flannigan

The 1988 Tunnel of Love Express Tour was marked by material changes to the Springsteen concert baseline in place from 1978-1985. The band changed on-stage positions, setlist warhorses like “Badlands” and “Thunder Road” took a breather, and Bruce drafted in a horn section for the first time since 1977. But the true differentiator separating the ’88 tour from every other is its original narrative arc. A Tunnel performance was a blend of song selections, sequencing, and even on-stage elements that took the audience on a journey through the complex and nuanced world of adulthood and relationships: romantic, fraternal, and familial.

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Bruce started Tunnel shows with an invitation along the lines of, “Are you ready to ride?” The visual metaphor on stage was that of an amusement park, implying a night of thrills, chills, and spills. Marketing for the tour intoned “This is not a dark ride,” but as Bruce wrote in “Tunnel of Love,” “the house is haunted and the ride gets rough.” Does it ever.

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The Tunnel set, in story and song, explored adult life’s emotional ups and downs and the hard questions that arise when you recognize being in a deep committed relationship requires acknowledging your doubts and vulnerabilities.

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At the time, the tour’s setlist rigidity raised eyebrows from longtime fans, though it did loosen up as the tour wore on. But in hindsight, the initial core setlist in the tour’s first several weeks can be seen one of Bruce’s most fully realized artistic visions. Detroit 3/28/88 captures the Tunnel of Love Express Tour in its purest form.

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The first set in Detroit borders on perfection, opening with a stellar version of “Tunnel of Love” into “Be True,” the latter released as a live b-side from this performance. The River-era selection serves as a showcase for the Big Man, Clarence Clemons, who was at the top of his game on the tour and blows “Be True” beautifully. Patti Scialfa’s vocals are also on point.

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The resurrection of “Adam Raised a Cain” for the first time since the Darkness tour is a long-awaited return, especially with the Tunnel of Love Horns adding heft to the performance and Bruce’s guitar pushed to the fore. In terms of familial relationships, “Adam” is one end of a father-son thread that will come back later in the show with “Walk Like a Man.” But before that there is other provocative ground to cover: introspection (“Two Faces”), companionship (“All That Heaven Will Allow”), oppressive outside forces (“Seeds,” “Roulette”), shelter from those storms (“Cover Me”), self-doubt (“Brilliant Disguise”), a mother’s doubt (“Spare Parts”), and lastly the lingering impact of the Vietnam War (“War,” “Born In the U.S.A.”).

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The sequencing of the set is so strong that the transitions between tracks are as memorable as the songs themselves. “Tunnel” gives way to the soaring “Be True.” “Roulette” ends but “Cover Me” rises from the mist in the same key. The haunting keyboards that end “Cover Me” flow straight into “Brilliant Disguise.” Every song change has been thought through and rehearsed, or in some cases newly written. The stirring piano and synthesizer suite that serves as the music bed to the introduction of “Spare Parts” is one of my favorite musical elements of the entire tour, cinematic in scope and poignant in expression. Kudos Mr. Bittan and Mr. Federici.

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The set ends with a brilliant “Born in the U.S.A.,” again showing that 1988 versions of the song are the most potent, driven by Bruce’s additional lyrics and storming guitar solo.

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“Tougher Than the Rest” opens the second set on a majestic note and reminds us of its place among the very best songs Bruce has ever written. After a foray into longing via “Ain’t Got You” and “She’s the One,” the mood lightens with the playful and self-effacing “You Can’t Look (But You Better Not Touch)” and Gino Washington cover-turned-original (and ’88 tour exclusive)  “I’m a Coward.” The pairing of “I’m on Fire” with “One Step Up” is a trip into a particular male psyche, perhaps even the same character at two different stages of life.

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“Part Man, Part Monkey” offers a humorous take on animal instincts before the overall narrative arc reaches its dénouement with “Walk Like a Man,” revisiting the father and son from “Adam Raised a Cain.” The resplendently detailed yet understated arrangement is augmented by horns and shows off the band’s vocal chops, too. Bruce’s singing stays true to the original, and there’s a real power in the sincerity of his performance.

The set ends with “Light of Day,” in a less refined, more exploratory form than later versions in ‘88. In fact, rather than bring closure, this “Light of Day” seems more a celebration of uncharted waters — the line that really stands out now, “Don’t ask me what I’m doing buddy, I don’t know,” lands like an overall commentary on the narrative that preceded it. 

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Standouts in the encore include “Love Me Tender,” which teeters on wedding band territory until you realize that Bruce is singing the hell out of it, and a free-flowing “Detroit Medley,” with Bruce calling out key changes and the band showing off their turn-on-a-dime prowess. The medley features “Sweet Soul Music,” which gives La Bamba & Co. one of the all-time great horn parts to chew on.

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For dessert, we’re treated to the second soundcheck bonus track in the live archive series, “Reason to Believe.” While Tunnel of Love setlists had fewer variants than a typical Springsteen tour, 1988 soundchecks were often wide-ranging affairs, loaded with cover songs (some of which eventually found their way into the set) and other material. As cool as those covers could be, “Reason To Believe” is even more compelling.

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The song regularly featured on the Born in the U.S.A. tour but was dropped when the show moved to stadiums. Here, Bruce and the band test drive a moody, horn-accented arrangement that is reminiscent of what they would do with Woody Guthrie’s “Vigilante Man” two months later at Madison Square Garden. Springsteen’s vocals and harp are resolute, the music swampy, and the end product a beguiling alternative take on one of Springsteen’s best and, as later versions attest most mutable songs.

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Highs, lows, pathos, comedy, sin, redemption—the Tunnel of Love Express tour had it all, and on stage in Detroit, Bruce shared as much of himself in these rich, satisfying performances as he would do three decades later on Broadway. 

Expressway To Your Heart

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band

Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY, May 4, 2009

By Erik Flannigan

With the Super Bowl just completed, social media reminded us anew about Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s turn in the halftime spotlight back in February 2009. That gig speaks for itself (and will never be confused with Shakira and J-Lo’s even with knee slides), but it also proved to be the catalyst for one of the busiest periods in modern Springsteen history.

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With massive TV exposure beckoning, Bruce greenlit a new album and tour mere months beyond the conclusion of his last cycle. After putting out Magic in September 2007 and touring it for the better part of 12 months, Bruce began 2009 with the drop of another studio album, Working on a Dream, followed a week later by the Super Bowl, his most widely viewed performance ever. Barely catching their breath, Springsteen and the band kicked off the WOAD tour on April 1, which would run through November, albeit with new wrinkles. 

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Nassau Coliseum 5/4/09 presents the first opportunity in the archive series to revisit the WOAD tour in its purest form, the first leg, before the full-album shows of the fall and on a night when Max Weinberg played drums the entire performance. 

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Max’s son Jay had been drafted to take his sticks while the Mighty One was fulfilling his day job leading the house band for Conan O’Brien’s short-lived stint hosting The Tonight Show. Because he was training his understudy, Max shared the drum stool with Jay for the preceding eight concerts. Max’s full participation at Nassau may be one of the factors energizing this excellent performance which offers a winsome mix of recent material, welcome returns, and a few true surprises. 

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

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

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

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

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Six-string pyrotechnics continue with a showcase for Lofgren on “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” completing the so-called “recession pack” of songs that started with “Seeds.” Thanks to Jon Altschiller’s revealing mix, the song is also a showcase for Roy Bittan, who, unbeknownst to most of us until now, plays a beautiful piano part behind Nils’ soaring solo.

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Another distinguishing feature of the WOAD tour was the impact of song-request signs made by the audience. The acknowledgment of these signs organically evolved the show to feature a moment where, during “Raise Your Hand,” Bruce collected signs and decided what requests to grant.

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Kismet was definitely in play for the first request granted, the one and to-date only performance of “Expressway to Your Heart,” a minor hit for the Soul Survivors in 1967 written by the legendary Philadelphia songwriting and producing team Gamble & Huff. Anticipating the request, Springsteen and the band rehearsed and soundchecked the song, which helps explain why their one-off version is so bloody good.

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Bruce has a rich history of covering minor hits (“Double Shot of My Baby’s Love,” “Little Latin Lupe Lu,” “Mountain of Love”) and making them his own, and “Expressway to Your Heart” joins the pantheon of the best of them. With its irresistible hook and infectious chorus, the song is an instant E Street classic cover worth the price of admission. 

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The request section goes from strength to strength as a well-oiled “For You” follows “Expressway,” then the tour premiere of “Rendezvous,” an asset to any set list. This wonderful sequence concludes with a fizzing version of “Night.” What more could you want?

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The back nine of Nassau 5/4/09 holds up its end of the bargain, too. Some consider “The Wrestler” to be the signature performance on this leg of the tour, and the case is made strongly tonight. The song’s rustic, fleeting majesty is on full display (does anyone else hear hints of U2’s “Kite”?), with Bruce’s voice rough-edged and full of emotion. In hindsight, the story told by “The Wrestler” echoes some of the sentiment expressed first-person in Bruce’s autobiography and Broadway show. 

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

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A trio of 2000s songs (“Radio Nowhere,” “Lonesome Day” and “The Rising”) carries us to “Born to Run” and the encore, where Bruce speaks nostalgically about how “these old buildings” — arenas like Nassau Coliseum, the Spectrum in Philadelphia, and the Sports Arena in Los Angeles — are “great concert halls” that are being torn down one by one. Springsteen’s history in Nassau Coliseum alone, site of the epic New Year’s Eve 1980 set among others, is significant and resonates through this final performance in the original arena which has since been renovated.

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The encore ends, as it should, in joy mode, with “Dancing in the Dark” (in which Garry Talent keeps the time very tight indeed) and “Rosalita.” And surely any performance of “Jungleland” from Clarence’s final tour should be treasured. But it is the first line of a song unique to the WOAD tour, “Hard Times (Come Again No More),” that lingers: “Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears.”

*

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

Walking in a Wonder Winterland

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band

Winterland Arena, San Francisco, December 15 and 16, 1978

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.

https://youtu.be/FVjPMq8TwDw

A Place Where You Could Find Yourself

Bruce Springsteen

Paramount Theatre, Asbury Park, NJ, November 24, 1996

By Erik Flannigan

Three decades on, one can underestimate the significance of the Ghost of Tom Joad tour. Fans had been talking about the prospect of a solo acoustic tour since Nebraska, a dream reinforced by the Bridge School appearance in 1986 and the sublime sets Springsteen turned in at the Christic Institute concerts in 1990. (The Bridge and Christic shows are available for download as part of the live archive series.) But it would be another five years for Bruce to go it alone for real, starting his first solo tour in December 1995 and continuing well into 1997.

Not only was he playing on sans band, but he was performing in theaters the size of which he hadn’t seen since the Darkness tour. The period is also notable for the debuts of several original songs (e.g. “It’s the Little Things That Count” and “There Will Never Be Any Other for Me But You”) in a set that grew more exploratory in assaying Bruce’s back catalog as the tour carried on.

Then came a series of remarkable hometown bookings. In November 1996, Bruce played his old high school, St. Rose of Lima, in Freehold, NJ (also available in the live download series). Later that month, a three-show stand at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, which was not only the namesake of his debut album, but the city whose clubs had served as a finishing school for the young musician and his future bandmates. Based on available information, Springsteen had not played Freehold in the E Street Band era, and he hadn’t done a proper concert in Asbury Park since sometime in 1973.

Given the so-called trilogy of recent projects looking back at his life (the book Born to Run, Springsteen on Broadway and Western Stars), one could suggest the November 1996 Shore shows were the first steps in literally revisiting his history.

Armed with that awareness, the first thing Bruce says as he takes the Paramount Theatre stage is, “Greetings, from Asbury Park.” We’re treated to three tracks from the album: a shambolic “Blinded By the Light,” plus lively takes of “Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?” and “Growin’ Up.”

“What the hell was I thinking about when I wrote all that stuff?” he asks with a hearty laugh as he wraps the trio. One likeable hallmark of the Joad tour is an unmistakable streak of humor, darker in tone and language, that seemed to intentionally contrast with a more earnest persona that had become the de facto depiction of our hero.

When someone shouts for “Mary Queen of Arkansas,” Bruce’s candor is priceless. “No. I ain’t gonna be playing that tonight. I tried to play that at home a few nights ago, and I couldn’t figure out what it’s about.”

The top of the show is appealingly loose but turns more meaningful with a distinctive reading of “Independence Day.” The song’s only tour performance is lightly Joad-ified and resolute, as the protagonist tells the tale with wistful distance and perspective. The 12-string “Darkness on the Edge of Town” is captivating as always, and “Johnny 99” is excellent — it, too, carries a tinge of reflection.

All four Shore shows featured supplemental musicians, and this night showcased the critical contributors: Danny Federici, Patti Scialfa and Soozie Tyrell. Phantom Dan sneaks on stage appropriately in a rare outing for “Wild Billy’s Circus Story,” while Soozie and Patti bring one of those aforementioned deep cuts to life in an exquisite version of the criminally underplayed “When You’re Alone” from Tunnel of Love. The deceptively simple rumination on the loss of love remains as poignant as ever.

Staying in the hidden gems lane, all three contribute to one of Springsteen’s songwriting masterpieces, the “Born in the U.S.A.” b-side “Shut Out the Light.” Introduced as a song he wrote shortly after Nebraska, “Shut Out the Light” pulls another narrative thread on returning Vietnam veterans and the war they brought home with them. Bruce recalls the draft board in Asbury Park in the late ’60s and acknowledges his luck in getting out (a story told in greater detail in his autobiography) as he introduces a song about someone who wasn’t as lucky.

The homestretch of the set sticks to the established and powerful Joad-tour core, including “Born in the U.S.A.,” “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” and “Sinaloa Cowboys.” But Bruce makes one fascinating and to some degree unlikely inclusion, placing “Racing in the Street” between “The Line” and “Across the Border.” Not unlike the earlier performance of “Independence Day,” “Racing” carries subtle notes of retrospection and world weariness as it rides Soozie Tyrell’s melancholy violin. It’s not a long rendition like it would be in the hands of the E Street Band, but composed, potent, and unique to this tour.

Every live version of “Across the Border” and the story which precedes it truly capture the heart of Tom Joad. Bruce movingly recounts seeing John Ford’s movie Grapes of Wrath and the moments in the film that so deeply affected him, calling out specific scenes and camera framing with a director’s eye and quoting key lines of dialogue that form a sort of outline for the questions Bruce explores on the album and tour.

For the encore, the mood turns upbeat, starting with “Working on the Highway” and continuing with a fine “This Hard Land,” again featuring Danny Federici on accordion. Of course Danny returns two songs later as well for Bruce’s ultimate boardwalk homage, “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy),” introduced with a sweet remembrance of the music scene and players that were there from the beginning. What comes in between is the tour debut of “Rosalita,” in a highly uncommon acoustic arrangement that makes up in liveliness what it lacks in musicality.

We end with the powerfully reimagined “The Promised Land.” While “Dream Baby Dream” was more of a pure mantra in the same set position on the Devils & Dust tour, “The Promised Land” a la Joad is a hymnal, too. Bruce’s acoustic guitar thump serves as the rhythm track propelling a reinterpretation that transports the song from exaltation to something more humanistic.

In the two nights that followed, Springsteen was joined by more guests and debuted a host of other rarities as the tone shifted ever more festive. But at his first show in Asbury Park in more than 30 years, recognition of a return to the place of origin is a compelling presence in nearly every song.

A Meeting In The Town Tonight

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA, October 23, 1999

By Erik Flannigan

Any longtime fan who has seen their fair share of Springsteen shows has at some point played the Time Machine game: If you could go back in time and see any Bruce concert, which would it be? A wish to witness tours and performances well before our time is a charming fantasy. More painful is taking stock of the shows you could have seen but didn’t. Yet another level is more haunting still: concerts you were supposed to attend until life got in the way.

Los Angeles 10/23/99 is my cross to bear. I was living in the Northwest at the time, which the Reunion tour wouldn’t visit until April 2000. That meant my closest chance to see the reconvened E Street Band were shows in Oakland and Los Angeles, the latter a four-night stand. A fortuitously timed work trip allowed me to catch the second night at the newly opened Staples Center on 10/18, and I was holding tickets for the final show on 10/23, for which I would fly back to LA.

On 10/22, the flu hit me hard. After much deliberation and soul searching, I conceded I was just too sick to travel, canceled my trip, and gave away my tickets.

On the morning of 10/24, I got on the Internet to check the setlist of the show the night before and realized what a terrible choice I had made, shouting the following between several choice expletives: “He played ‘Take ‘Em as They Come’?!” “Incident on 57th Street?!” “For You?” “Blinded By the Light?” “The Promise?” “SOLO PIANO?!” Motherclucker!

That nagging regret has not relented to this day, and the release of 10/23/99 confirms it is justified. The final LA ‘99 show is an outstanding Reunion tour performance, from the moment “Reverend” Clarence Clemons implores, “Brothers and Sisters, all rise” to start the show. There’s something special about Reunion sets that open with the “Meeting in the Town Tonight” preamble, and going from that straight into “Take ‘Em as They Come” is irresistible. The River outtake/Tracks highlight is one of those songs I never imagined I would hear in concert back when it was but a hissy song on a cassette I got mail order via a classified ad that ran in the back of a music magazine like Goldmine or Trouser Press.

For me, that’s one of the elements that made the Reunion tour so enthralling. The band was back together for the first time since ‘88, but they were also playing unreleased songs I never dreamed possible in a Springsteen concert. Add to that the return of songs unplayed since the ‘70s and you had the intoxicating belief that any song could find its way into a Reunion tour setlist.

The first half of the set nails the ‘99 blueprint, with the notable inclusions of an excellent “The Ties That Bind” following “Take ‘Em,” a resolute “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” and one of the best takes of “Factory” on the tour. It’s fascinating how distinct this “Adam Raised a Cain” is compared to the performance from the Chicago ‘99 archive release recorded less than a month before, putting more muscle into thick guitar where Chi-Town soared on incredible vocal dynamics.

Then there’s the humor. I’m not sure Bruce has ever been more deadpan than delivering jokes expressing his disdain for the corporate branding of LA’s state-of-the-art arena. “Good evening office supply lovers,” he says. “I’ve been searching for Mr. Staples.” On opening night of the run, he called out the building for its triple-decker skyboxes that start where upper bowl of a typical arena would be. “They don’t call ’em middle-of-the-room boxes,” he added, before invoking a line he famously uttered at The Roxy 21 years prior: “I don’t play no private parties anymore.” True to his word, despite Staples Center being the newest and biggest arena in Los Angeles, Bruce has not played another concert there to this day.

Every archive release provides an HD window to hear details otherwise lost on bootleg recordings and 10/23/99 is no exception. Though they are but a few seconds each, I love hearing Danny Federici’s organ swells at the start of “Murder Incorporated” and “Incident on 57th Street.” HD quality also shines a light on Roy Bittan’s lovely playing on the aforementioned “Factory,” not to mention Bruce and Patti’s lilting harmonies that wind down the song.

The back half of 10/23/99 is sensational. By request, we get “Incident on 57th Street.” This Wild & Innocent fan favorite returned to the set in Philadelphia on 9/25/99 for the first time since Nassau ‘80, but its appearance here is arguably even more special. Based on available setlists, Springsteen had never played the song on the west coast, let alone LA, going all the way back to 1974. For all but a lucky few, this was its Pacific Time Zone debut.

“Incident” is followed by an essentially perfect “For You,” which couldn’t be played better in ‘99 (maybe any year) than this. The pacing, the vocal intonation, the band, the spirit, Max’s cymbal work, the Big Man’s sax… all are spot on. A divine performance.

Of all the regrets I have about missing this show, “The Promise” stands as the biggest. The feeling of seeing the band leave stage and Bruce walking back to Roy’s piano by himself had to be an all-time “Holy Shit” moment for many, and I still wish I could be counted among them. Hearing the performance here made me appreciate it all the more, starting slightly tentative on piano then gaining composure. Bruce sings with a touch of weariness, taking time to let his words land and ultimately restoring one of his greatest compositions to the canon. So very special.

Bruce could do no wrong from that point forward, and he didn’t. Like “For You,” we’re gifted a remarkably timeless “Backstreets,” steeped with Bittan’s expressive piano. Setlist normalcy returns for the end of the set and the encore, delivered with high-gear intensity. “Light of Day” is extra fun, with a quick romp through “California Sun” (made famous by The Rivieras) by way of the memorable guitar riff from Johnny Rivers’ “Secret Agent Man.”

As the last show in LA, 10/23/99 is definitely a “one more song” kind of night. To the delight of every office supply lover in the building, we’re treated to “Blinded By the Light,” in only its second performance since 1976. Though arguably Bruce’s most famous song pre-Born to Run (largely because of the Manfred Mann cover), the song has a spotty performance history even back in the day. Its celebratory, playful appearance seals the night with a fitting E Street kiss goodnight.

The Boss Homes Home

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ, September 19, 1978

By Erik Flannigan

Like all great live performers in rock history, Bruce Springsteen has been heavily bootlegged on vinyl and CD, and the five live radio broadcasts from the Darkness tour were manna for home tapers and bootleggers alike. Bruce acknowledged as much himself during the July 7, 1978 Roxy broadcast in Los Angeles (the city at the epicenter of the bootleg business) when he declared: “Bootleggers out there in radioland, roll your tapes!”

Those legendary transmissions began to appear on illicit wax the following year, 1979. Live in the Promised Land (Winterland, San Francisco, December 15, 1978) was first, followed by Piece De Resistance, which pressed the Passaic 9/19/78 radio broadcast to six hot sides of vinyl in a box set. Bootleg historians say Piece De Resistance is almost certainly the best-selling Springsteen title of all time, which makes sense given that the show aired in his biggest East Coast markets.

When Live/1975-85 was announced in 1986, many presumed the legendary Passaic broadcast would provide the bulk of the Darkness tour material, but in fact, nothing from the show made the box set. The Roxy and Winterland 12/16/78 proved to be the sources for all 1978 tracks featured on Live/1975-85.

The wait is finally over. Passaic 9/19/78 arrives in its glorious entirety, newly remixed by Jon Altschiler from multi-track, Plangent Processed master tapes. It offers a fresh take on the familiar broadcast version, crackling with energy and putting Bruce and the band so close you might reach out and try to touch the Big Man’s sax. It’s not a first-row seat; it is a first-row seat directly in front of the PA speakers.

Bruce is introduced with an exclamation: “The Boss comes home!” Indeed, this was a homecoming. The three Passaic dates were Springsteen’s first proper concerts in New Jersey since 1976, and the culmination of a NY-NJ Metroplex residency that included a trio of gigs at Madison Square Garden in August (his first-ever headlining the legendary arena) and three shows at the Palladium in the city just prior to Passaic. Following that introduction, it was off to the races.

“Badlands” bursts out of the gate, with more meaty guitars in the mix than we’ve heard before and Max’s drum rolls and trills snapping like someone lit a firecracker strip. Longtime fans will have heard the start of this show hundreds or maybe thousands of times before, but that familiarity coupled with the freshness of the mix makes for a thrilling listening experience. The sense of release “Badlands” delivers has never felt more tangible.

The first set features exemplary versions of core Darkness tracks “Streets of Fire,” “The Promised Land,” “Prove It All Night” with its tension-building instrumental intro, “Racing in the Street,” and the title track. We also get a preview of where Bruce is going next through “Independence Day,” played for only the fourth time in a still-evolving arrangement. The song was recorded for Darkness, and Bruce mentions it should end up on the next album. Another future River track, “Point Blank,” makes a spellbinding appearance in set two. 

Along with “Fire” and “Because the Night,” Passaic 9/19/78 features four Springsteen originals that were not released at the time. While we have come to take the live performance history of these songs for granted, Bruce is virtually alone in featuring so much unreleased music in his sets, and the inclusion of songs you can only hear at the shows was part of the magic that defined the live Springsteen legend.

The first set ends with a special and apropos “Meeting Across the River.” It is the live version I’ve heard the most and my all-time favorite performance of the song, sounding moody and marvelous as Bruce spins the tale accompanied by Roy Bittan and Garry Tallent. “Meeting” into “Jungleland” (as they are sequenced on Born to Run) to close the first set is the coup de grâce for 80 minutes of sheer perfection.

Bruce begins the second set with “one for all the folks in Philadelphia listening in,” “Kitty’s Back.” The resplendent E Street showcase cooks for 13 minutes and has not sounded this crystal clear since Sally left the alley. The same can be said for a stunning “Candy’s Room,” as Steve’s backing vocals soar — you can even pick out Clarence’s baritone voice in the left channel as Bruce sings “what…she…wants…is…me.”

Riches abound as we move through “Because the Night,” “Point Blank,” a long “Not Fade Away” into “She’s the One,” and a sublime, luscious “Backstreets” before the set closes with a pacey “Rosalita.” The encore slows down to mythologize the Shore with “Sandy,” and the moment when Bruce sings, “the boys from the casino dance with their shirts open,” then asks, “is that you out there?” is a charming reminder that Passaic 9/19/78 is indeed one for the locals.

Incredibly, the encore sustains and at times exceeds the energy level of the main set. “Born to Run” is taken at breathless full speed. “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out’ downshifts slightly in tempo, though Bruce remains fully committed to his wide-ranging vocal gymnastics. “Detroit Medley” presents one final opportunity to showcase the band’s chops (tune into the right channel for Stevie Van Zandt’s guitar lick masterclass) in a full-frontal rock ’n’ roll assault.

Because there always has to be one more, a final encore of Eddie Floyd’s soul classic “Raise Your Hand” closes the night, a lyrical reminder that Bruce and the band are there in service of the audience, be they inside the Capitol or listening at home in the markets Springsteen namechecks.

Though he couldn’t have known it at the time, 41 years later, Bruce gives us another chance to experience Passaic in the comfort of our own homes and marvel at the prowess of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band playing their hearts out for longtime fans.

The Snake That Came Around and Began To Eat Its Tail

Bruce Springsteen feat. Danny Federici and Nils Lofgren

Bridge School Benefit Concert

Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, CA, October 13, 1986

By Erik Flannigan

Less than a month before the release of his physically and sonically mega box set Live/1975-85, Bruce went completely the opposite direction, stripping down to play his first all-acoustic set since 1972 at what would become Neil Young’s annual Bridge School Benefit Concert.

During a guest DJ session on E Street Radio, Nils Lofgren recounted getting a call from Bruce to join him for the Bridge (Lofgren was also on the bill as a solo artist). Along with Danny Federici, the trio worked up and rehearsed the set in a New York City studio in early October 1986. But as Nils tells it, in an anecdote that conveys deep admiration for the confidence and prowess of his bandleader, on show day at Shoreline, Bruce called a major setlist audible. It wouldn’t be enough to merely play acoustic; Springsteen would go one step further and open the show a capella.

Here was the biggest rock star in the world, last seen 12 months earlier wrapping his staggeringly successful Born in the U.S.A. tour in front of 85,000 fans at the LA Coliseum, taking the stage and singing “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)” accompanied only by his snapping fingers. Nils described Bruce’s audacious performance as Elvis-like in its physicality, and grainy bootleg video of the show confirms that. What an entrance.

The Bridge ’86 is a special show. The short but oh-so-sweet set reconnected Springsteen with acoustic performance and can be viewed in hindsight as helping spur a decade or more of solo appearances like the Christic concerts and acoustic recordings like The Ghost of Tom Joad that followed.

The line-up for the inaugural Bridge benefit included Bruce, Nils, Don Henley, Robin Williams (who briefly referenced his famous “Elmer Fudd does Bruce Springsteen” bit during his stand-up set that night), Tom Petty, and host Neil Young (who had his own special guests in Crosby, Stills & Nash). Not unlike the M.U.S.E./No Nukes shows, another benefit where some of these same artists shared a bill, “Broocing” throughout the concert made it clear who most of the audience had come to see.

Following “You Can Look,” Bruce delivers an astounding rebuttal to the jingoistic appropriation that surrounded the title track of his last album. “This is a song about the snake that came around and began to eat its tail,” Bruce says introducing his first public airing of the original solo acoustic arrangement of “Born in the U.S.A.” Any misconstruing of or ambiguity as to the song’s meaning is vanquished over the next five minutes in a spellbinding performance. Until the Bridge, one could only speculate as to what “Born in the U.S.A.” would have sounded like on Nebraska. Now we know.

Nils and Danny then take the stage, and we get an exquisitely rare outing for this E Street Trio. What magic they weave. “Seeds” arrives as a companion to “Born in the U.S.A.” Angry and defiant in 1985, the 1986 model of “Seeds” is instead weary and knowing, sounding like a tune from a bygone era. “Darlington County” is next, preceded by a mini-edition of the story that introduced “Open All Night” in 1984 of Bruce getting pulled over on the turnpike. Nils provides charming harmony vocals throughout the show, none better than what he offers here, as “Darlington” takes its time driving down from New York City.

Strumming and singing brightly, Lofgren shines again on “Mansion on the Hill,” as does Federici. Danny first vamps a little “Lady of Spain,” as Bruce gets his guitar ready, then adds rich accordion swells that paint the song an emotionally tinged hue.

“Fire” will be familiar to those who own Video Anthology on VHS or DVD, where the Bridge version was showcased. Before it starts, Danny is again tapped to fill time due to minor technical difficulties, and he drops a dose of Duke Ellington’s “Satin Doll.” Uncannily, Federici used the song in much the same manner in the earliest E Street days circa 1973-74. Though “Fire” is rightly remembered as a Clarence Clemons showcase, the acoustic version, carried by Bruce’s deep vocal, is pure delight, peaking when Lofgren and Springsteen raise their voices way up to sing, “your words they liiiiiie.”

“Dancing in the Dark” rides a particularly passionate lead vocal along with some fine accordion work from Federici in the final third that pushes the Shoreline audience towards rapture. “Glory Days” always had a bit of a campfire singalong vibe underneath it, and that comes through in this charming take that has the swooning audience joining in.

Serving as something of an encore, “Follow That Dream” lends poignancy to the evening as Springsteen dedicates the song to Neil and Pegi Young. In its River tour incarnation (as heard on the London ’81 archive release) “Follow That Dream” is stark and solemn. In 1986, it transforms into an uplifting song of hope, performed less as a mediation and more as an instruction.

For the final song of the set, “Hungry Heart,” the trio is expanded with backing vocals and guitar from special guests David Crosby, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, and Young, putting a spirited ending on just under an hour of acoustic enchantment. 

Bridge School ’86 is a significant moment in the rebirth Springsteen as an acoustic artist. Since that show, Bruce has done two fully acoustic tours and a Broadway run that carried on in the spirit of ’86. Perhaps someday, Bridge School ’86 could still inspire an E Street Trio tour as well.

My Brand New Record, Rosie, Made It All The Way To Number One

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY, December 29 and 31, 1980

By Erik Flannigan

One of the most thrilling times to be a sports fan is when your team is in the midst of a winning streak. They occur in all sports, but in baseball and especially basketball, winning streaks are irresistible because of the unique way they place team chemistry, a “never give up” mentality, and moments of individual brilliance against a backdrop of ever-rising stakes. Who doesn’t want to tune in to see if your team can push their streak to 17, 21, or 33 in a row?

It could be argued that the entire live performance history of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band is one long winning streak. That acknowledged, and with the benefit of hindsight and live recordings, fan consensus has coalesced around notable E Street streaks: the last two weeks of the 1977 tour with the Miami Horns; the late-’84 stretch of the Born in the U.S.A. tour.; and the final U.S. leg of Magic 2008 to name but a few. 

The River tour boasts a few of its own streaks, and without question, Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve 1980 is among the best of them. A staggering run of shows throughout the Northeast culminated in a three-night stand at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. With his first chart-topping album and a Top Five single (“Hungry Heart”) in hand, Bruce and the band closed out 1980 more popular than ever.

Shows that wrapped that leg of the tour offered an intoxicating mix of musician-athletes performing at their peak, newfound confidence drawn from a long-awaited commercial breakthrough, and a continued hunger to prove it all night. 

Supporting a double album of new material, that hunger was manifest in the increasing duration of the concerts and the stunning number of songs performed. In fact, until records were broken in 2012, the late-’80 River shows were the longest of Bruce’s career. Other shows and tours have their own distinct qualities, but if you are talking about a run of epic Springsteen concerts, the Thanksgiving-New Year’s ’80 streak is the reference point.

Nassau Coliseum 12/29/80 and its sister show 12/31/80 (reissued in a newly remixed and remastered edition) each stretch to 35 or more songs and live up to the legend of Bruce’s four-hour concerts by running close to that (counting the between-sets intermission). There may be other eras where the band played this well, but there is no period where they played better.

Both stunning performances are packed with delicious rarities along with some of the strongest versions of core material ever caught on multi-tracks. With a bounty of more than 70 songs between the two shows, there’s too much good stuff to cover, but here are ten things to listen for as you relive these magical nights.

1.Springsteen debuted his brilliant take on Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain” three shows earlier at Madison Square Garden. It has endured as one of the band’s finest covers, popping up a few times on tours ever since. The versions performed on 12/29 and 12/31 are musically rich and heartfelt, pointing to the musical direction Bruce would explore six months hence on the band’s first proper tour of Europe.

2. Having just read Joe Klein’s biography of Woody Guthrie, Bruce covers “This Land Is Your Land” for the first time during the three-show Nassau stand, calling it an “angry song…an answer to Irving Berlin’s ‘God Bless America’.” With the possible exception of a one-off performance of Bob Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom” in 1978, it is the first protest song Springsteen performed in concert with the E Street Band and signals the start of his public turn toward social and political commentary.

3. The paternal pairing of “Factory” and “Independence Day” on 12/29 is not only an evocative stretch of storytelling, but could pass for a dramatic monologue at a Broadway theater.

4. One of the signature sequences of early River tour shows is Roy Bittan’s mini-suite of “The River” into “Badlands.” 1980 performances of “The River” start with an original piano prelude (echoed by Danny Federici) before Bruce’s plaintive harmonica wail starts the song formally. Shortly after “The River” ends, Bittan starts into his interpretation of Ennio Morricone’s theme from the Sergio Leone film Once Upon A Time In The West. As Bittan plays the moving piano refrain, electric guitar chords start to chime in, building energy that crescendos when the intro gives way to an explosive “Badlands.” Magnificent.

5. The River tour is the height of Stevie Van Zandt’s role as backing vocalist, at times reaching the point of co-lead vocals. He’s a marvel at these shows on expected songs like “Two Hearts” and “Prove It All Night,” but listen for him in more unexpected places like the chorus of “Thunder Road” for signs of just how into it he is at Nassau.

6. Bruce’s spirited vocal on “For You” is full of fresh intonations distinct from other renditions.

7. The earnest story that leads into “Stolen Car” on 12/29 might melt your heart; the moving performance itself will have you reaching for a tissue or three.

8. The gorgeous, stripped-down arrangement of “The Price You Pay” on 12/31 starts solo. The band joins softly in the second verse, and we’re treated to the alternate third verse found in the single-disc version of The River included in The Ties That Bind box set. As good as it gets.

9. While we’ve heard the incredible version of “Incident on 57th Street” from 12/29 before (it was released as the b-side to “War” from Live 1975/85), hearing it in context of the show is so much sweeter. “This is a song we haven’t done in a real long time,” says Bruce, as he tests out the chords on his guitar. “No, it ain’t ‘Kitty’s Back.’ I hope I remember all the words….” Roy tinkles out the first few notes, the crowd swoons in recognition of the song, Max comes with his drum intro, and the lead guitar sends us soaring. If that wasn’t enough, after nearly ten majestic minutes, it rolls straight into “Rosalita” as it does on The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle.

10. You want rarities? We got rarities. Beyond the aforementioned, the Nassau shows feature “Rendezvous,” the first-ever version of the “Hungry Heart” b-side “Held Up Without a Gun,” sublime seasonal nuggets “Merry Christmas Baby” and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” plus Happy New Year covers of “In the Midnight Hour” and “Auld Lang Syne.” All that, plus 15 of the 20 songs on The River, including the under-played “Fade Away,” “Wreck on the Highway” and “The Price You Pay.”

A Final Note: Jon Altschiller’s new mix and mastering on 12/31/80 moves the listener from the 40th row to the first, proximity that reveals incredible new detail and musical power.

After electing to Plangent Process 12/29/80 for release, it was clear that 12/31/80 also deserved a Plangent-transferred new mix and mastering to match, as the version released in 2015 was not up to the same standards.
While the Plangent Processed and remixed version of 12/31/80 is being sold as a standalone release, anyone who bought the original can access the new upgraded audio for free via the “My Stash” section of the nugs.net app, which provides streaming access to all shows purchased as downloads or CDs (no subscription required). Previous buyers of New Years Eve ’80 can log in with the account credentials they used to buy the show the first time.

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.

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.

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.