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.

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.

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.

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.

The Music Tonight Was Composed With A Lot Of Silence

Bruce Springsteen

LISTEN NOW: Tower Theatre, Upper Darby, PA, December 9, 1995

By Erik Flannigan

The year 1995 is a peculiar one in Springsteen history. It began in early January with word of Bruce reconvening the E Street Band in the studio for what we quickly learned were new recordings released the following month on Greatest Hits. February also featured a semi-impromptu full-band performance at Tramps in New York City tied to the filming of the music video for “Murder Incorporated.” Things were heating up on E Street.

In April, Bruce and the band shot a more formal performance at Sony Studios, playing the new Greatest Hits songs and more. Then in September, they turned up in Cleveland for the opening of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, backing Chuck Berry and throwing an excellent “Darkness on the Edge of Town” in for good measure. It seemed for all the world that after seven long years, Bruce was reuniting with the E Street Band.

Which made the phone call I received in early October from a friend in the retail record business all the more unexpected. Our beloved Mr. Z told me that he was read-in on the new Springsteen album. “Full-band rock record followed by a world tour?” I asked with misguided certainty. Not even close. Z proceeded to tell me that Bruce’s new work was a solo album and largely acoustic. 

“It’s called The Ghost of Tom Joad.” Come again? “Tom Joad, as in the guy from The Grapes of Wrath.” Huh? “And Bruce is playing solo again at the Bridge School concert at the end of the month.”

Three weeks later, I heard Springsteen debut two songs from his new album, “Sinaloa Cowboys” and “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” at Neil Young’s annual benefit concert in the Bay Area. Fast-forward to late November, and I’m sitting in my seat for opening night of the Joad tour at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles, where Buce took the stage with nary an E Streeter in sight.

The way many of us initially experienced the Joad tour was as much about what it wasn’t (an E Street reunion) as what it was. But listening to Upper Darby 12/9/95, the tenth show of the tour and just two weeks removed from opening night at the Wiltern, it is abundantly clear that despite appearances to the contrary, Springsteen had long envisioned how his first solo tour was going to feel and what it was going to sound like.

The antecedent to the Joad tour was Springsteen’s solo appearance at a pair of Christic Institute benefit concerts in November 1990. It was there that Bruce initially broke with his everyman, fans-first persona, memorably telling the audience, “If you’re moved to clap along, please don’t,” and later, more tellingly, answering a call from crowd of “We love you, Bruce!” with the curt retort, “But you don’t really know me.” Ouch.

The Joad tour took the Christic’s conscious myth-shattering and intentional provocation and ran with it.  Springsteen showed us confessional and confrontational sides we had never witnessed before, speaking with newfound candor about relationships, depression, and in Upper Darby, even taking (or not taking) LSD. As for confrontation, a stark “Shut up” in response to shouted requests at the Tower Theater speaks volumes. 

On many levels, Joad was a sequel to Nebraska, though despite being kindred works, only “Mansion on the Hill” from the latter is represented in the 12/9/95 set. The distinct difference between the two albums is Springsteen’s evolved relationship to his own songwriting. 

Introducing the song “Nebraska” at the Christic in 1990, Bruce said, “I don’t even know exactly why I wrote it [in 1982]. I didn’t think anything about whatever its political implications were until I read about it in the newspapers. But something I was feeling moved me to write all these songs at that time, where people lose their connection to their friends and their families, and their jobs and their countries, and their lives don’t make sense to them [any] more, and all the rules go out the window.”

The shift with Joad is that in 1995, unlike 1982, Bruce was fully aware of the political implications of the songs he was writing. In fact, quite the opposite of that Christic quote, several Joad narratives came directly from newspapers and books he was reading at the time. Such hyperconsciousness made his Joad writing distinct from Nebraska, more journalistic than impressionistic. Performing the songs solo (which he never did with Nebraska material until the Christic shows), Springsteen knew that for the Joad songs to connect with his audience, they had to pay attention to the details.

As such, the new troubadour scaled down to theaters and demanded quiet from his adoring fans who could previously do no wrong in the adulation department.  It was jarring but also thrilling to feel so much attention being paid to narrative presentation. On top of that, Springsteen’s guitar, harmonica playing, and vocals were masterful.

Over the 18 months it ran, the Joad tour evolved modestly in terms of setlist changes, hewing close to the vision Springsteen set from the start. But in early shows like Upper Darby, that vision is wholly undiluted. The 12/9/95 set features all 12 songs from Joad — a bold step given its relative unfamiliarity, having been released less than four weeks prior. Catalog cuts like “Adam Raised a Cain” and “Darkness on the Edge of Town” were dramatically and brilliantly reinterpreted, and with the exception of the tour debut of “Blinded By the Light,” bones were not thrown. 

Listening back 27 years later, Bruce’s focused performance is at times mesmerizing and never less than compelling. “Murder Incorporated” grows more harrowing in this stripped-down arrangement, and Joad story-songs like “Sinaloa Cowboys,” “Galveston Bay,” “Youngstown,” and little-played “The New Timer” benefit immensely from the considered context Springsteen offers as he introduces each one. We hadn’t heard Bruce speak this much between songs since the early days, if ever, narrating his own work in a way that presages Springsteen on Broadway.

So different was the Joad tour, that early on it must have occurred to somebody at the label or management that a dose of fan reorientation might be in order. A partial recording of the Upper Darby concerts was quickly mixed and broadcast via radio syndication just a few days later as part of the short-lived Columbia Records Radio Hour. Those ten songs were also serviced to additional radio stations on promotional tapes, actions seemingly aimed at reaching even more of Bruce’s audience with a preview of what they were walking into in theaters across the country.

The Live Archive release of Upper Darby presents the complete 12/9/95 performance for the first time, including the series debuts of “The New Timer” and “My Best Was Never Good Enough,” and the first Joad tour version of “Spare Parts.” 

When Bob Dylan found Jesus and toured in support of Gotta Serve Somebody in 1979, he devoted his entire set to spiritual songs without a single prior work. While the Joad tour didn’t go quite that far, as radical departures go, both Dylan and Springsteen confronted their audiences with bold new works and relentless performances like the one captured brilliantly in the Upper Darby recording.

We Closed Our Eyes and Said Goodbye

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

LISTEN NOW: Tower Theater, Upper Darby, PA, May 17, 2005

By Erik Flannigan

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN, March 20, 2008

Bruce Springsteen called Danny Federici “one of the pillars of [the] sound” of the E Street Band. Clarence Clemons’ spotlighted saxophone solos in “Born to Run” and “Badlands” may be more iconic, but take away Danny’s glockenspiel on the high end, organ on the low, and both songs lose precious layers of their musical magic. 

Great players have a signature sound, and Federici’s organ, glockenspiel, and accordion parts carried his mark. I remember listening to Tunnel of Love for the first time in 1987, fully aware it was a Bruce solo recording with minimal involvement from the E Street Band. But when “Two Faces” came on, there was no doubt who was playing the organ solo.

The start of the Magic tour in 2007 marked 32 years of the core E Street Band line-up of Bittan, Clemons, Federici, Tallent, Van Zandt, and Weinberg, then augmented by Patti Scialfa, Nils Lofgren and Soozie Tyrell. As the first US leg wound to a close in November, it was announced that Danny would take a temporary leave of absence to receive treatment for melanoma. Charlie Giordano from the Sessions Band capably filled in, starting with the European leg that ended the year.

When the next US leg started back up in the spring of 2008, the chances of a full recovery by Federici had diminished. But when the tour rolled into Indianapolis, Danny summoned the energy to play with his bandmates one last time. A month later, he passed away in a New York City hospital room, at only 58 years of age. 

Indianapolis 3/20/08 is both a celebration of and a goodbye to Phantom Dan Federici. He performs on eight songs in the show, and the emotion is palpable each moment he is on stage.

The set gets off to a roaring start with a ripping version of “Night” into “Radio Nowhere.” Later, a sharp “Prove It All Night” carries through to “Gypsy Biker,” for my money the most fully realized song from Magic on the concert stage. Both Soozie Tyrell and Stevie Van Zandt contribute sublime backing vocals, and the drama of lyrics and music coalesce like a long-lost River outtake, heightened by the crescendo of guitar solos that end the song.

The tour debut of “Rendezvous” is an appreciated addition, sounding spry and fresh, and Soozie has another lovely vocal turn on a terrific “Because the Night.” The show has hit its stride, and “She’s the One” is the next to impress. The Born to Run classic has had its share of meaningful resurrections, notably on the Tunnel of Love Express tour in 1988 and here as a Magic tour staple in a pacey, faithful arrangement.

After an always-entertaining “Livin’ in the Future,” we go back to the past. Bruce welcomes Danny to the stage, who resumes his position, stage right, in a graceful handoff from Giordano. An optimistic “The Promised Land” comes first, then Bruce yells, “turn him up!” as Danny weaves the swampy “Spirit in the Night” organ prelude on his own. Perhaps it’s just hindsight, but the gravity of the occasion feels present in the band’s somewhat measured reading of “Spirit.” And who could blame them?

“We can’t let him get away without playing this one,” Springsteen announces ahead of “Sandy.” “We’ll start, just Danny and me.” Sweet accordion swirls around guitar, and the Shore scene comes to life. The deeper meaning of the night comes fully to the fore when Springsteen sings, “For I may never see you again.” A graceful performance of bittersweet beauty.

https://youtu.be/MdjpFDTCqvc

Federici exits (“He’ll be back!”) and the set returns to focused form through the ominous “Devil’s Arcade,” “The Rising,” “Last to Die” (another River outtake that never was), and a cathartic “Long Walk Home,” before closing with a rousing “Badlands.”

Phantom Dan rejoins for a five-song encore that opens with “Backstreets” dedicated to Danny. Like the aforementioned “Born to Run” and “Badlands,” Federici’s organ part is central to the tonal pathos of the song, which Springsteen sings with tender conviction in a truly compelling reading. 

“Kitty’s Back” saunters in from the alley to display the virtuosity of the E Street Band and the depth of its roots back to the early ‘70s. Danny gets a fitting turn in the solo spotlight, but the performance isn’t solely about him—it is a celebration of the extraordinary band he was a crucial part of. As retro as “Kitty’s Back” is, it sure sounds vital in 2008, in what is one of the best performances of the song in the post-Reunion era. 

Glockenspiel rings clear as a bell in a passionate “Born to Run,” ended neatly by Van Zandt’s, five-note descending coda before Bruce rolls exuberantly into “Dancing in the Dark.” For the final song of the night, “American Land,” all three E Street keyboard players share the stage, with Roy and Charlie accordion-dueling up front, and Phantom Dan holding it down from his keyboard perch, his traditional station for so many years.

Sadly, E Street would go on to lose another great, with the Big Man passing just a few years later in 2011. Which only makes the Indianapolis reunion of Danny Federici and his blood brothers all the more meaningful. 

I’ve Never Played It, So I’m Going To Give It a Shot

Bruce Springsteen

LISTEN NOW: Tower Theater, Upper Darby, PA, May 17, 2005

By Erik Flannigan

There was a time when we pondered whether Springsteen would ever undertake a solo tour. 

The release of Nebraska in 1982 spurred the initial idea, as fans understandably wondered if Bruce would perform the album live. Next came the Bridge School concert in 1986 (available in the Live Archive series), his first full acoustic set post 1973, some of it solo, the rest backed by only Nils Lofgren and Danny Federici. That special gig triggered another round of talk about solo shows, in part because things had gotten so big following the stadium concerts in 1985. Wouldn’t it be interesting to boil the whole thing back down to its essence?

The two Christic Institute performances in 1990 (also available in the Live Archive series) proved the power of Springsteen alone on stage, and eventually they also proved to be the precursors to his first solo tour later that decade. Springsteen’s one-man world tour in support of The Ghost of Tom Joad stretched from late 1995 to the spring of 1997. The Joad shows saw Bruce in troubadour mode, performing exclusively on acoustic guitar and harmonica with occasional off-stage keyboard support from longtime tech Kevin Buell. The stripped-down tour hit venues the size of which Springsteen hadn’t played since the 1970s. Some, like the Tower Theater outside Philadelphia, were the very same buildings.

Appealing as those antecedents were, the 2005 Devils & Dust tour is Springsteen’s most fully realized solo expression. He expanded his instrumentation, adding new colors via pump organ, electric and acoustic pianos, and, on occasion, autoharp, dobro, banjo, and ukulele. He expanded his setlists, too, working up thrilling new arrangements of deep cuts from the catalog, some played only a time or two. Intimate performances aren’t effective simply due to venue size. They require a performer to take risks and play in the moment, which Bruce did night after night in 2005.

This Tower Theater concert is from the opening weeks of the D&D tour. Bruce’s personal history with the venue — going all the way back to 1974 — portended something special, and the payoff came early. “My Beautiful Reward,” performed on pump organ, closed most shows in 1992 and ’93; here it is reborn as a reflective opener, and Springsteen’s vocals flow warmly right out of the gate, sliding across notes with confidence. A sweet harmonica coda formally commences the evening.

D&D tour setlists progress in a chapter-like form, often tied to the instrument Springsteen is playing. Bruce moves through tour staples “Reason to Believe” and “Devils & Dust,” then sharp readings of “Youngstown,” “Empty Sky,” and “Black Cowboys” (featuring Alan Fitzgerald on backstage keyboards at the end). Those three had limited runs in 2005, but nothing like the next selection, as Bruce moves to piano for a true WTF moment on a tour filled with surprises.

“In honor of the fabulous Tower Theater I’m gonna do something here,” Bruce says. “This is a song I cut for Darkness on the Edge of Town, but it didn’t make the record, and I’ve never played it. So I’m gonna give it a shot.”


The crowd reacts with enthusiasm, only to be reminded not to get ahead of themselves: “[It’s] probably one of the stinkers we left off. I wouldn’t get over-excited.” Funny. When the first chords play, it sounds like fewer than a dozen people recognize “Iceman,” recorded in 1977 and released on Tracks in 1998.

The intriguing tune is representative of a cluster of early material cut for Darkness including the still-unreleased and kindred “Preacher’s Daughter,” which was recorded around the same time and first surfaced publicly as a snippet in some 1978 performances of “She’s the One.” “Iceman” also shares a key line with “Badlands”: “I want to go out tonight, I want to find out what I got.” Given our familiarity with those words from “Badlands,” it is fascinating to hear Springsteen give them entirely different diction here.

“Iceman” may not approach the lost-masterpiece levels of “The Promise” or “Drop on Down and Cover Me,” but his committed vocal performance (faintly reminiscent of his 1972 demos) and excellent piano playing bring out the best in the somber song. Also intriguing is the shift Bruce makes at 2:41, appending “Iceman” with an unexpected piano coda.

That new piece also turned out to serve as a bridge, allowing Springsteen to go from “Iceman” without warning into “Incident on 57th Street.” It’s an impressive rendition, with strong, dialed-in vocals and fine piano. If you bet the “Iceman”/”Incident” exacta at Joad Downs, your ponies came in, friend.

Upper Darby’s next chapter is on guitar. First up, “Part Man, Part Monkey,” preceded by Springsteen’s timely intro about local governments rethinking “the whole evolution thing.” How quaint that mild questioning of scientific fact seems today. A trio from Devils & Dust follows: “Maria’s Bed,” “Silver Palomino,” and Bruce’s sodomy & sin soliloquy, “Reno.”

Springsteen shifts to electric piano for a moment of musical beauty with “Wreck on the Highway.” The underplayed River closer draws quiet power from the steady, sober telling of the tale. But where Roy Bittan’s piano on the album and full-band versions is widescreen, the electric piano comes across more intimately, as the instrument’s tones ring with sweetness and darkness. It’s a disquieting, captivating performance.

Another unlikely transition, as “Wreck” drops into “Real World,” played as it should be on solo piano. Again Springsteen’s full-bodied vocals and stirring work on the keys combine to create one of the best renditions of “Real World” post-Christic. It’s also, notably, the first to be released in the Live Archive series from the Devils & Dust tour.

He’s on a roll now, fueling excellent interpretations of a refreshed “The Rising,” a convincing “Further On (Up the Road),” and four from Devils & Dust to finish the set. The quartet includes “The Hitter,” which ends with Bruce’s lovely falsetto, and “Matamoros Banks,” which Bruce calls the sequel to Joad’s “Across the Border,” reminding us of the deep connective tissue between the two albums and supporting shows.

The encore opens with an enchanting, Mariachified take on “Ramrod” for the first time on the tour. Quirky but fun. Next, the eternally optimistic “Land of Home and Dreams,” and finally the mesmeric pairing of “The Promised Land” and “Dream Baby Dream,” one of the true highlights of the 2005 tour.

The Ghost of Tom Joad and Devils & Dust both feature Springsteen inhabiting characters. His troubadour persona on the Joad tour afforded a bit of distance from the audience, a stance only punctured at times by tour-debuted originals like “Sell It and They Will Come”” and “I’m Turning Into Elvis,” which felt more personal in nature. The Devils & Dust songs are still character studies, but on the 2005 tour, Springsteen invited the audience on an intimate journey, revealing parts of himself in those new songs and even more through the thrilling exploration of his vast catalog.

Thousands of Miles for Some Rock and Soul

Bruce Springsteen

LISTEN NOW: Boston Gardens, Boston, MA, December 13, 1992

By Erik Flannigan

It has been some time since the Live Archive series revisited Bruce Springsteen’s 1992-93 World Tour in support of Human Touch and Lucky Town. This chapter in his live performance history can be tricky to contextualize, in part because it’s a rare full-band tour that does not list E Street as its home address. As such, there’s no point comparing “Born to Run” played by the 1992-93 band to an E Street Band performance from any year, because there is simply no comparison. That’s okay. It was never their mission.

The selection of Boston 12/13/92 is driven by a setlist that features 16 songs from Human Touch and Lucky Town, many of which never graduated to the Reunion era. Bruce assembled his new, expanded band with that recent music in mind, not “Darkness on the Edge of Town” (though, to be fair, they play the latter rather well). The one constant from E Street to the new crew was Roy Bittan, with whom Springsteen co-wrote “Roll of the Dice” and “Real World” for Human Touch.

I’ve always viewed the 1992-93 band as an attempt to mix roots-rock with gospel-influenced soul music and reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s 1986 True Confessions tour, which saw him backed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers augmented by the Queens of Rhythm backing singers. In fact, it was the late Debbie Gold, a mutual friend of both Dylan and Springsteen, who encouraged the former to work with Petty and helped the latter assemble his 1992-93 touring musicians. 

If anything, Bruce was tipping that mix toward soul. The catch was that much of his new music featured heavy synthesizers and keyboards. Synthesizers and classic soul can mix marvelously (see Aretha Franklin’s “Freeway of Love”), but it requires very particular attributes. There are many words one could use to describe the extraordinary talent of Roy Bittan as a keyboard player, but funky is not one of them. 

Boston 12/13/92 effectively captures the strengths and stretches fundamental to the 1992-93 tour. Listening anew proves refreshing, as several HT/LT songs and other arrangements are distinct from the many E Street Band performances that followed. As fluent as many of us were in the sound of that tour at the time, hearing it now is an entertaining time tunnel to a unique period.

Jon Altschiller’s multitrack mix puts Bittan first chair on the bandshell, and you’ll hear the Professor loud and proud as the show starts winningly with “Better Days,” “Local Hero,” and “Lucky Town.” The aforementioned “Darkness” follows, with Roy hard right channel, guitarist Shayne Fontayne hard left. It isn’t a classic version, but a compelling one just the same, with intriguing vocal rephrasing from Springsteen, a frequent event this night. The song ends not with Bruce’s voice but a gorgeous vocal run from Angel Rogers.

“The Big Muddy” gets an infrequent airing here. It’s a kind of swampy, narrative cousin to “Atlantic City” that rides a big Bruce vocal and sinewy synth work from Bittan. “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)” taps television news audio a la U2’s Zoo TV tour, but the attempt to graft the social issues of a post-Rodney-King-verdict America on to a humorous ditty about modern media remains a difficult sell. 

Things get back on track with an excellent version of “Trapped” that showcases the powerhouse voices Bruce assembled as his choir. I love the way he biblically tweaks, “good conquers evil, the truth sets you free.” “Badlands” is highly credible, too, filled with small arrangement changes that pulled me into a song that has been played the same way by the E Street Band forever.

The emotional heart of Lucky Town is the life-affirming “Living Proof,” written by Sprinsteen after the birth of his first son. Boston gets an excellent performance, vocal nuances reinforcing that Springsteen is in the moment. The same can be said for “If I Shall Fall Behind.” I prefer this arrangement to the Reunion edition, with lush harmonica and dark synthesizer tones along with a robust Bruce vocal. Listen for how the harp and keyboards play off each other at the end.

Bruce makes the title literal in “Leap of Faith.” We can clearly hear when he enters the crowd, with a funny “Whoa, oh!” soon followed by  a surely deserved “Yikes!” The backing singers are at their church-choir best, lending the song gospel gravitas. Bobby King moves front and center for “Man’s Job.” Beneath those period synths a classic soul song is fighting to be heard, one that could have been the uptempo A-side to a “Back In Your Arms” B-side in a parallel universe where Bruce cut singles for Stax.

“Roll of the Dice,” carried by Roy’s memorable piano melody, is the signature sound of Human Touch and in its live incarnation brings out the best of this band. It also provides another showcase for the talented Mr. King—when Bruce says, “Take me to heaven, Bobby,” the singer responds by holding a long, sweet vocal note.


From the sublime to the, er, stretches. “Gloria’s Eyes” is a slight and underpowered set opener, there’s no getting around it. The fact that Springsteen never played the song again after this tour, solo or band, seems to validate that characterization. “Cover Me” gets the second set properly ignited. While it is a synth-soaked arrangement, Bruce does some excellent and distinctive guitar soloing. “Brilliant Disguise,” featuring special guest Patti Scialfa, sounds just like it should, in a pure and emotive reading.

Next comes the vexing case of “Soul Driver,” a fine song in search of the right arrangement. “Soul Driver” debuted at the Christic Institute shows in November 1990 in a memorable, vocal-led acoustic reading. The studio incarnation on Human Touch is an odd, lilting number with a massive snare sound. In Boston, a keyboard sound from somewhere in the marimba/kalimba neighborhood starts the song, then a wailing guitar joins, but no drums or rhythm part to speak of. The result is superior to the album version and paced more like the Christic, but “Soul Driver” remains an unrealized if tantalizing prospect.

The pairing of “Souls of the Departed” into “Born in the U.S.A.,” however, is fully realized. Where “57 Channels” struggled, “Souls” blossoms, news audio setting the stage for the show’s most powerful performance as Springsteen’s lyrics and a hard-hitting arrangement tap into the American darkness of 1992. It was a masterstroke to connect “Souls” to “Born in the U.S.A.” with Jimi Hendrix-inspired strains of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The second set rounds the bend into another arrangement challenge, “Real World,” and the outcome is even more confounding. Again, the stunning solo piano debut performance of “Real World” at the Christic shows in 1990 is the lens through which all other versions are viewed. As on the studio version, synthesizer carries too much of the load in Boston, losing the majesty the piano reading has in spades. 

But the instinct that this song could be a showstopper—an uplifting, full-band anthem—is understandable. In the end, Bruce and the band give “Real World” everything they’ve got, and through sheer willpower and commitment, the song does transcend the arrangement and dated synth sound in an otherwise overlong performance. Ah, what could have been.

The set ends with the good fun of “Light of Day,” and everyone on stage gets the chance to shine. Zack Alford feels especially at home on this one, clobbering his drum kit to drive the “Light of Day” train to the station.

The encore opens with a sharp “Human Touch,” again featuring Miss Patti Scialfa, and manager Jon Landau straps on an axe for “Glory Days,” earning a funny introduction by Springsteen in the process (“The master of managerial disaster”). The 1992-93 arrangement of  “Thunder Road” has aged nicely, with Bruce on acoustic guitar and Bittan offering sweeping organ accompaniment. Bittan’s keyboards also fare well on “My Beautiful Reward,” a lovely coda to the show and to the entire Human Touch/Lucky Town body of work. But maybe there’s time for just one more.

It was only 37 degrees at showtime (“I came thousands of miles through some real shitty weather just to get here,” Bruce points out out during “Light of Day”), but it did make the bonus gift of “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” that much more fitting.

It’s been 28 years since Springsteen toured with the “other band,” but their soulful mission lingers; the Boston 12/13/92 set is unique to the Live Archive thus far for being centered around the songs he packed especially for their journey. While the 1992-93 experiment wasn’t always successful, Springsteen’s attempt to explore a different sound offers refreshment to ears so accustomed to hearing a beloved but familiar style of performance. It is worthy of a deep relisten.

One Minute You’re Right There, And Something Slips

Bruce Springsteen

LISTEN NOW: Palais De Congrès Acropolis, Nice, France, May 18, 1997

By Erik Flannigan

Every Springsteen tour starts with a vision and an underlying narrative. What story is our favorite artist telling through his setlist and presentation? Over time, setlists typically evolve and tours explore new themes, keeping things fresh but sometimes departing significantly from the initial concept.

Springsteen’s solo-acoustic tour for The Ghost of Tom Joad was unwavering in conserving its original vision. Beyond special nights in Freehold and Asbury Park, from the earliest shows in late 1995 through final gigs in the spring of 1997, the core songs from the album served as the spine of the show, while Bruce’s performances stayed steely and steady. Nice, France, a stop from the tail-end of the Joad tour and the first Archive release from 1997, presents an opportunity to reassess this compelling commitment from the little-heard fifth leg.

I had the good fortune to see a couple of the early shows on the Joad tour, at the Wiltern in Los Angeles on November 26 and 27, 1995. With the exception of the final encore (and album closer) “My Best Was Never Good Enough,” Bruce performed the same songs from Joad at the LA shows as he would in Nice, more than 120 performances later. “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” “Murder Incorporated,” “Born in the U.S.A.,” and “This Hard Land” are also intact. Adding “Brothers Under the Bridge,” which debuted the second night at the Wiltern, 13 songs remained in the set, anchoring the tale and tone of this special solo outing.

Which isn’t to say those songs are played exactly as they were in the fall of 1995. The Nice performance is unmistakably honed after a year and a half on the road without a band. Case in point: Springsteen’s guitar playing feels less muscular but more masterly. Because the arrangements largely remain faithful, the differences are subtle, but a song like “Murder Incorporated” has evolved from stark noir to more of a beautifully sung cautionary tale, with Bruce’s guitar weaving an unsettling rhythmic bed that lulls us into submission.

“Straight Time,” “Highway 29,” and the title track play truer to form, but there’s extra weariness in the tone of the protagonists that makes their stories resonate all the more. Heard through a post-Western Stars filter, “Highway 29” feels like a progenitor to that recent mastework, especially its title track. Truest of all is the four-pack that served as the lyrical denouement for show. Nice gets sublime readings of “Sinaloa Cowboys,” “The Line,” “Balboa Park,” and “Across The Border,” and the verb is accurate for these near novellas.

On Broadway, Springsteen set up familiar songs with stories and vice versa, but this storytelling sequence is more like an author reading to an unfamiliar audience. As such, Bruce’s performances of the material place a premium on the vivid details that make the narrative spark to life. For a performer who has earned the position of having his audiences eat out of the palm of his hand, brokering this type of connection with more demanding material must have been a fascinating challenge. Admiration for how he pulls it off night after night is well earned.

Other Joad tour stalwarts are also in top form in Nice. The 12-string reinvention of “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” debuted at the Christic shows in 1990, still sends shivers up the spine. “Brothers Under the Bridge” is perhaps the most underappreciated entry among Springsteen’s Vietnam Veterans material. The song was still unreleased when Bruce performed it on the Joad tour (it eventually came out on Tracks in 1998). The final line, “One minute you’re right there, and something slips,” remains one of the most haunting in the canon.

Nice would also see the final tour performance of “It’s the Little Things That Count.” Bruce revisited the song a couple of times at the Somerville, MA solo shows in 2003, but it has been unheard ever since. The song was written for Joad and later considered for Devils & Dust, but it remains officially unreleased in studio form. Gotta love the transition from “Little Things” to “Red Headed Woman”: “Speaking of tongues…”

Of course Joad tour setlists were not totally rigid. Nice finds Springsteen in something of a nostalgic mood, pulling the kindred “Growin’ Up” and “Saint in the City” into the set, connecting the Joad era to Springsteen’s last turn as a solo artist in 1972. He also takes “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)” out for an entertaining spin in its tour debut. “Working on the Highway” is good fun, too, exposing the Born in the U.S.A. song’s Nebraska roots — listen for  Bruce hitting a particularly impressive high note at the end of “cruel cruel worrrrrld.”

The final reinvention of the night comes with “The Promised Land.” As evidenced by his use of Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream” to close shows on his next solo tour in 2005, Springsteen is attracted to mesmeric arrangements. The transformation of “The Promised Land” could be the most radical of all his reinterpretations and merits reappreciation for sheer performance beauty and vocal control. We’re transfixed until that final percussive thwack breaks the trance of a spellbinding evening and a tour that stayed true to itself from the first show to the last.

Gonna Be A Long Walk Home

Bruce Springsteen and The Sessions Band

Wembley Arena, London, England

November 11, 2006

By Erik Flannigan

How should we view the Seeger Sessions tour in the context of Bruce Springsteen’s storied performance history? Incredibly, 14 years have already passed since the arrival of the album We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions and the tour that followed. That’s roughly the same amount of time as between Bruce’s early 1970 Steel Mill audition for Bill Graham in San Francisco and the release of Born in the U.S.A. (Join me in an unspoken but no less mortified “Yikes!”)

Springsteen’s foray into traditional music is named in homage to legendary folk-music activist Pete Seeger, with whom he had a fond relationship. Bruce was on tour in South Africa when Seeger passed in 2014 at the age of 94. “I lost a great friend and hero last night,” Bruce told the crowd. “We’re humbled to be here tonight in the land of Mandela, a great freedom fighter. We are here tonight in his grace, because he made it possible for us to be here. Pete, back home, was a very courageous freedom fighter also.”

We Shall Overcome surveys the kind of American folk standards popularized by Seeger. The project’s musical approach is often full-on hootenanny, with Bruce backed by a large, loose ensemble of musicians playing with instinct, spontaneity, and just the right amount of reverence. The Sessions Band tour followed a similar blueprint, expanding song selections to include additional folk and roots classics, as well as Springsteen originals re-arranged in kindred styles.

Whether you love folk music or merely appreciate its importance and influence, Bruce’s live performances of that music with this band were undeniably infectious and entertaining. Part of that was down to the man himself seeming as happy as he had ever been on stage, energized by painting with a completely different palette, performing with new companions and a few friendly faces.

The Seeger Sessions album and tour happened in the midst of a fruitful period for Bruce, who released and toured behind Devils & Dust the year before, and would issue and tour in support of Magic a year later and beyond, followed quickly by the same game plan for Working on a Dream. It was an impressive flurry of activity, and because Seeger Sessions was a one-off, perhaps it hasn’t received a deserved reappreciation.

We know it remains near and dear to Bruce. Earlier this year he blessed the YouTube release of the entire New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival performance from April 2006, the first show of the Seeger Sessions tour and one Springsteen cites in this autobiography as among his most meaningful shows ever. 

Jazz Fest was also released in the Archive series, providing a fine document of the tour’s early stages. The official Live in Dublin culls highlights from three shows at the end of the tour. To those bookends we add London 11/11/06, which offers the first complete performance from the end of the Seeger run and includes a number of setlist variations to New Orleans and Dublin.

We commence with a show-opening throwback to Bruce’s first single, “Blinded By the Light.” When Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. was released in early 1973, more than a few critics characterized it as folk rock, making its inclusion here all the more fitting. That being said, while I’m no musicologist, the style in which it is performed here suggests File Under Klezmer. 

The first half of the London show offers a satisfying mix of high-spirited songs from the album (“Old Man Tucker,” “Jesse James,” “Mrs. McGrath”), some of its weightier material  (“Eyes on the Prize,” “Erie Canal,” “O Mary Don’t You Weep”) and Seegerized, story-rich Springsteen originals.

To wit: “Atlantic City” is transformed into a murder ballad rave-up; “Growin’ Up” is appealingly re-arranged with country flourishes and a bit of Dylan influence, too; and “Open All Night” gets something of a juke-joint makeover. The new arrangements cast all three in fresh light that expands our appreciation for each song. “Devils & Dust (which does not appear on the New Orleans or Dublin releases) hues closer to the original arrangement, but it draws upon the chorus of voices in the Sessions band, led by Curtis King and Soozie Tyrell, yielding a beautiful and poignant result.

Late in the show, Springsteen thanks the crowd for “taking a chance on [our] experiment here,” his characterization of the entire Seeger Sessions project. On this night he took that spirit one step further by debuting a brand new song. 

The night before his first London show, Springsteen went to see Lucinda Williams play at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, joining her on stage for two songs. Inspired by her performance of unreleased material, the next night Bruce pulls out one of his own work-in-progress originals, introduced as “Gonna Be a Long Walk Home.”

“She was brave because she played all these new songs,” Springsteen tells the Wembley audience. “Between my whoring and drinking, when I come home after that, I sit up in the hotel room occasionally and I try to write.”

The premiere of “Long Walk Home,” a one-off on the 2006 tour, features a number of lyric variations and extra lines compared to the version eventually released on Magic a year later. The final verse of this unique performance includes a sober couplet on the state of America that feels even more relevant today: “Now the water’s rising ’round the corner, there’s a fire burning out of control / There’s a hurricane on Main Street and I’ve got murder in my soul.”

That kind of risk-taking and the enthusiasm for reinterpreting one’s own work are hallmarks of the Seeger Sessions tour, as is the pure, unbridled joy of the performances.  London 11/11/06 captures those qualities marvelously.  

He Who Doesn’t Get The Whole, Doesn’t Get The Half Either

Bruce Springsteen

Hovet, Stockholm, Sweden, June 25, 2005

By Erik Flannigan

Many nations can lay claim to being Bruce Springsteen’s second home or adopted country. Italy has a strong case, given the ancestral roots of Bruce’s mother Adele (maiden name Zerilli) and a history of special shows that took place there, particularly in Milano. England is in the conversation too, with an incredible run of concerts dating back to 1975, and the passion of Spanish fans is well documented on Live in Barcelona. Australia may be a latecomer, but there’s no denying the love affair between Bruce and the land down under that played out in two major tours in 2014 and 2017.

Yet it would be hard to deny Sweden the symbolic honor of first among equals. Sverige’s history with Springsteen also dates back to 1975, when it was one of three markets Springsteen played on a brief European sojourn on the Born to Run tour. But the special relationship really starts with a pair of shows inside the very building in which this Devils & Dust performance takes place. Then called Johanneshovs Isstadion, the venue was the site of two legendary nights on the 1981 European leg of the River tour, memorialized on the famous vinyl bootlegs Follow That Dream and Teardrops on the City.

Four years later, Gothenburg cemented its place in the narrative with two dates at Springsteen’s home away from home in Sweden, Ullevi Stadium. Legend has it the passionate response of fans in Ullevi actually caused structural damage to the building in ‘85, and Springsteen has played the stadium nine times since that human rumble took its toll. Throw in the 1988 radio broadcast from Stockholms Stadion, the Tom Joad tour at Cirkus, and many other celebrated gigs, and the case is quite compelling. The country’s passion for Springsteen never wanes. Case in point: He sold out three stadium shows in Gothenburg alone in 2016, where it would appear he is as popular now as he was in 1985.

You can hear the special bond with Bruce’s Swedish fans on Stockholm 2005. Jon Altschiller’s mix showcases the audience-artist dynamic and the interplay between the two that makes live performance so special and so missed in these times of social isolation.

One element that made the Devils & Dust tour so bewitching was ever-changing setlists. At nearly every stop, Bruce dusted off a few songs that had been sitting on the shelf awhile and added them to a common core. In Stockholm, he opens with the tour debut of “Downbound Train,” hearkening back to those Ullevi ’85 shows. Boldly, the second song of the night is one of the highlights of that common core, “Reason to Believe.” Springsteen completely reimagined the song on this tour, transforming “Reason to Believe” into a Delta blues stomper with his inventive use of the bullet microphone.

Bullet mics are designed for harmonicas, with intentionally limited frequency range (usually cutting anything above 5,000 khz) and distortion. For his new take on “Reason to Believe,” Bruce played harmonica and sang his vocals through the bullet mic, distorting his voice and crunching down the sound to an eerily narrow slice.

The result sounds like an otherworldly transmission from the Crossroads or a lost Bluebird 78 RPM record spinning in the past. Rearranging his own songs is something Springsteen has excelled at going all the way back to “E Street Shuffle,” but this radical and riveting “Reason to Believe” is one of his most memorable and a standout every night of the Devils & Dust tour.

https://youtu.be/o2GxcTjeu58

“Empty Sky” from The Rising had a second act on the tour as well, making close to two dozen appearances. The mournful tale rides Springsteen’s percussive acoustic guitar and focused vocals. Two guitar songs follow, the heartfelt parental reflection “Long Time Comin’,” which gains poignancy when Springsteen sings off-microphone, and the least-played track from Devils & Dust, “Black Cowboys,” which made 16 setlists in 2005.

Bruce moves to the keys for a rare outing of “The Promise,” in its first ever performance in Sweden. What a moment that must have been for diehard fans, five years before it became the title of the Darkness on the Edge of Town box set. We go down to “The River” on piano as well, with a striking prelude that starts with a single note, builds, swells and then settles solemnly before Bruce sings the evocative first lines.

Though it had been a standard feature on the Tunnel of Love Express tour, Bruce’s entertaining evolution tale, “Part Man, Part Monkey,” had its own second life on the Devils & Dust tour, a narrative befitting the candor Bruce was expressing about human behavior in story and song during the shows, sometimes in deeply contrasting ways. Several Link Wray guitar turns only add to the appeal.

“All I’m Thinking About” is an underrated charmer. Sung in a faltering falsetto, it’s a series of sweet, real-life snapshots (little boys carrying fishing poles, little girls picking huckleberries) set to a simple chorus of devotion (or obsession?). Two songs later in “Reno,” fishing poles and blueberries give way to a price list of front and back door sexual access. Damn.

Snuck in between (no pun intended) is “Across the Border,” played for the first time since the Joad tour, augmented with a rich, accordion-like harmonica. You’d never know Springsteen hadn’t played it in so long, his reading is faultless.

Over to the irresistible eclectic piano we go for “Point Blank,” sounding more haunting and knowing than ever, then a true gift, “Walk Like a Man,” making its second archive appearance this year. Springsteen starts it on electric piano (not unlike the arrangement of “Tunnel of Love” from the previously released Grand Rapids 2005 show) and it unfolds warmly. It’s interesting to note that when he last played the song in 1988, he had no children of his own. Singing it here, Bruce is son and father. The song’s gravitas rises for the final verse as Bruce switches to full piano and the arrangement grows richer and more confident. What a gift to have two incredible live versions in our hands now.

That theme of fatherhood is enhanced with the piano pairing of “Walk Like a Man” with “My Hometown” in a powerful, straight-ahead reading where every line rings true. With that, the first half of the show concludes and we move back to guitar for “The Rising” and an intense take of “Lucky Town,” with Bruce strumming his acoustic with physicality and conviction like “Darkness on the Edge of Town” at the 1990 Christic Institute performances.

The back nine of the show rides his conviction to excellent performances of a trio of story songs, “This Hard Land,” “The Hitter,” and “Matamoros Banks.” One might go so far as to call “The Hitter” the closest thing to an unpublished screenplay Springsteen has penned since “Highway Patrolman” and until Western Stars, where it could have slotted in nicely. As character studies go, it is one of his finest.

As he does so masterfully, Springsteen rounds the bend and lightens the mood with a storming, Seeger-ized “Ramrod,” Dylan-ized “Bobby Jean” and a true-blue “Blinded By the Light,” making its Scandinavian premiere 32 years after its release.

The show wraps with the soul-stirring Devils & Dust tour pairing of “The Promised Land” and a cover of Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream,” both offered in meditative, at times mantra-like arrangements. In “Dream Baby Dream,” the words “keep on dreaming” and “I just want to see you smile” sink into our subconscious, floating on dark-cloud organ notes that brighten as they turn towards heaven. Given the genuine dark clouds that so many of us are weathering, the spiritual power of the “Dream Baby Dream” mantra may provide genuine solace.