Coming off of their Australia / New Zealand run, The Red Hot Chili Peppers will be playing live at the Giza Pyramids in Egypt this Friday. For those of us unable to make it to The Pyramids this weekend, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have a special treat planned. This Friday’s show will stream for free on nugs.tv!
This will be the first time a concert is webcast live from The Pyramids and the band couldn’t be more excited. The Pepper’s founding member and bassist, Flea, expressed his excitement in a recent Instagram post.
“I remember the first time the red hots played outside of la in 1983, I was beyond thrilled. We drove up to San Francisco and performed at I-Beam club. Man, we were international touring superstars I couldn’t believe it and it meant everything me to show those people in Northern California what we were about, to pour my heart out, for us to give every fiber of our beings in the process of bringing our music to life….. Then when we first went to Europe and my mind was blown, all the different cultures, connecting with people who didn’t speak English! And then Russia, and Asia and on and on around the world. Before each new place my body tingled with excitement, a yearning for a new mystery to unfold, a fascination with a new culture, the possibility of new friends, tasting new food, smelling new tastes, absorbing new rhythms. Learning. Learning. Learning. It is happening again right now, my heart is abuzz with joy at the prospect of performing in Egypt. I’m so grateful and humbled for the impending experience.”
To celebrate this historic show we are releasing nine new live shows from the band’s recent Australia / New Zealand tour for purchase today at nugs.net. These shows are packed with high energy and some awesome surprises including the first live inclusion of the 2003 single “Fortune Faded” in nearly 12 years. While in Australia, the band also paid tribute to Aussie legends, the Divinyls.
If one were to assign a single attribute to every tour across Bruce Springsteen’s career, audacious would be an apt one for the 2005 Devils & Dust tour.
Over the course of 72 shows, Bruce took the stage alone, surrounded by a phalanx of guitars and keyboards, fearlessly revisiting and reinterpreting every corner of his catalog down to the deepest nook and cranny. Be a song rarely or never played, or often played but never like this, night after night the Devils & Dust tour offered fascinating alternate readings of music we thought we knew inside-out.
Bruce’s new album of the same name, his third solo record, was the jumping off point, full of character-driven stories that fit squarely into what he declares in Trenton are the two types of songs he knows how to write: songs of hope and songs of eternal damnation.
Springsteen had an equally strong body of work in hand for his previous solo tour in support of The Ghost of Tom Joad, but in 1995-97, performing exclusively on guitar and harmonica, he was selective in what complementary tracks were added to the set. In fact, Bruce debuted a number of new original songs in the spirit of Joad over the course of that tour (some, admittedly, more lighthearted than the album, but still akin), while deep cuts were more selective.
The addition of piano and keyboards in 2005 unlocked dozens of other songs for inclusion and opened up tour setlists to remarkable levels. Bruce’s approach suggested the new D&D material connected to everything that came before. In hindsight, there’s a sense of Springsteen on a mission to look back at his songwriting accomplishments and take many of them back out for a ride to see what they would reveal, an early hint perhaps of his budding autobiographical mindset. Without a doubt, the self-effacing candor and humor with which Springsteen addressed audiences on the tour are precursors to the voice he would come to refine for Springsteen on Broadway.
Trenton 2005, the final show of the tour, captures all these aspects of the Devils & Dust journey wonderfully, with a setlist full of bold surprises and striking moments. It begins with Link Wray’s “Rumble,” a tribute to the electric guitar pioneer who helped shape the sound of rock ’n’ roll. On this night, however, acoustic guitar is the stringed instrument of choice, and we get several exceptional performances.
The Rising’s “Empty Sky” gets a strong solo airing, played with thumping purpose and pace. “Saint in the City” is transformed by a radical slide guitar re-arrangement and bullet mic vocals. The song remains one man’s boastful declaration, and there’s still plenty of heat and humidity in the air, but the locale has moved from Shore towns to somewhere along the Mississippi Delta. The result couldn’t feel more different. Bruce is clearly enamored with the approach and walks “Fire” down the same bluesy backporch path, with the bullet microphone giving the song a fitting AM-radio filter.
Reimagination is a touchstone all evening, and the next subject is “All the Way Home.” The solo acoustic rendition on the 2005 tour recalls demos for The River, sharing the spirit of Bruce’s 1979 compositions and the Power Station band version that could have been. Material from Devils & Dust holds its own in such company, with well-honed versions of the title track, “Long Time Comin’,” “Matamoros Banks,” and a beautifully sung “Leah.” He even pulls out a ukulele for a sing-along rendition of “Growin’ Up” towards the end of the set.
Springsteen’s keyboard playing, always carrying with it a seductive hint of performance anxiety, is one of the most memorable aspects of the 2005 tour. His willingness to take the risk again and again on songs he hadn’t played in decades is why Audacious is such an appropriate descriptor.
After a lovely and lilting electric piano version of “All That Heaven Will Allow” (the same instrument on which he so memorably performed “Tunnel of Love” on the previously released Grand Rapids 2005 show), Bruce acknowledges his tentative playing, telling the Trenton faithful that their applause at end of his piano solos was “anxiety clapping” that “he made it through.”
In truth, the passion in Springsteen’s piano and organ playing is much more important than the precision. Limited as he might feel it is, his keyboard expression creates intimate moments between the performer and audience heightened by that touch of uncertainty.
Trenton offers a treasure trove of piano, organ, and keyboard gems. Bruce resurrects “My Beautiful Reward” from Lucky Town with fitting majesty on pump organ and plays “Backstreets” with touching reverence, in one of but three solo piano performances on the tour. “Drive All Night,” revived for the first time in 24 years just a few shows prior, captures the conviction of an artist rediscovering the magic of a forgotten work. “Jesus Was an Only Son” gets an insightful preamble that is right out of the pages of Born to Run. And who could imagine the three-ring circus that is “Thundercrack” could be tamed into such an entertaining solo-piano rendition and still carry the song’s evocative spirit.
For veteran setlist trainspotters, Trenton has a couple of bombshells. One of Springsteen’s most beloved early outtakes, “Zero and Blind Terry,” had not been performed since 1974 and never as a solo piano piece. It’s one of those romantic fairy tales that could have easily slipped onto Wild & Innocent, a Jersey fable that mythologizes young lovers trying to escape to a better life beyond Route 9. All the more fitting for a show in Trenton, but the idea that the song would be played at all, three decades after it wasn’t released, affirms the Devils & Dust tour mantra: I do not play these songs often. I have not played them on this instrument. I may not play them this way again.
The other shocker debuted the night before but is no less special. After hearing it himself on E Street Radio and thinking, “Hey, that one was pretty good,” Springsteen reignited “Song for Orphans,” not heard since 1973. Collectors know it from a demo recording that predates Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., the album for which it was initially considered, though there is evidence to suggest Bruce considered the song for possible release all the way through Born to Run. Here, joined by his otherwise off-stage keyboard accompanist Alan Fitzgerald on piano, Springsteen manages to blend the spirit of ’72 with ’05, rendering “Song for Orphans” and his most recent Devils & Dust material kindred works.
After some fun had with members of the extended Springsteen family on “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” and the Joad-tour arrangement of “The Promised Land,” Trenton comes to its pump organ epilogue. The meditative “Dream Baby Dream” provided the coda to most shows on the Devils & Dust tour and has no analogue in Springsteen performance history, as it builds wave upon wave of organ, synthesizer, and repeated vocal lines imploring us to “keep on dreaming” and “open up our hearts.” That it wouldn’t sound out of place over the end credits to a David Lynch film speaks to its peculiar and relentless brilliance.
Trenton 2005 is both the final show and the perfect summation of the Devils & Dust tour, when Springsteen chose night after night to go “cartwheelin’ up on that tightrope.”
Just 58 years old, Danny Federici died on April 17, 2008 from melanoma, the skin cancer for which he had been undergoing treatment since 2005. The disease eventually forced him to take leave of the E Street Band in November 2007, vacating a seat he had occupied since 1972.
Despite his nickname “Phantom” and onstage introductions like, “now you see him, now you don’t,” Daniel Paul Federici was a stalwart, symbiotic soldier perched at Springsteen’s side for nearly 40 years, going back to Bruce’s early groups Child and Steel Mill. His swirling organ and glockenspiel parts are as core to the E Street sound as Clarence Clemons’ saxophone. Max Weinberg summed it up perfectly when he described Danny’s role to Rolling Stone: “He was the glue that held the band together.”
Tampa 4/22/08 was the first show after Federici’s funeral, and the performance is as soulful as one would expect. But there’s something more subtle going on that becomes gradually apparent as one listens to Jon Altschiller’s inviting and wide stereo mix: while the audience is an essential catalyst, Bruce and the band are playing for themselves in Tampa.
After a preamble video tribute to Danny (set to the studio version of “Blood Brothers,” included here), the show proper begins on a deeply emotional note with “Backstreets,” played with purpose and conviction in a version that stands among its best contemporary performances. Maybe his throat was just dry, but when Springsteen’s voice catches a couple of times, one suspects the gravitas of the moment was getting to everyone.
A solid “Radio Nowhere” yields to “Lonesome Day,” and “It’s alright, it’s alright, yeah!” never felt more cathartic. Next, “No Surrender” is one of many songs that feel expressly chosen for the occasion and provide a foundation of nostalgia and reflection throughout the set. That being said, this is still the Tampa stop on the Magic tour, and the prevailing mood complements that agenda (even if it reduces the number of songs played from the album).
As it was most nights of the tour, “Gypsy Biker” is a high point. Roy Bittan’s piano playing channels his Power Station finest, while the Bruce and Stevie guitar solo shred-off provides a highly entertaining Listen to This, Eddie moment. Note to trainspotters who quibble about how much audience audio is heard on archive releases: you will be pleased to hear a woman clearly shouting Danny’s name in the left channel at the end of “Gypsy Biker.” You’re welcome.
Later, “Last to Die” soars with pulsating urgency (and more 1979 channeling by Bittan), and the spotlight shines sweetly on Van Zandt for a solo vocal turn towards the end of “Long Walk Home,” which has grown more majestic since Boston ‘07, the last released version from the tour.
In total, Tampa offers 12 setlist changes from Boston, only one of which could be called a rarity, but the allure of this show is a heartfelt performance, not an unusual setlist. Maybe it’s hindsight filtered by the circumstances, but the arrangements of “Atlantic City” and “Brilliant Disguise” sound distinctively restrained, and the band plays warhorses like “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” “Badlands,” “Out in the Street,” “The Promised Land,” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” with marked vigor. As a wise man once said, “It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.”
Moments of direct Danny recognition are just as gratifying, with back-to-back versions of “Sandy” and “Growin’ Up” that begin with Bruce warning an accordion-adorned Bittan, “Roy, you better get this one right now, somebody’s watching.” It’s an especially delicate reading, enriched by the Big Man’s baritone saxophone and Stevie’s joyous mandolin licks.
Introducing “Growin’ Up,” Springsteen says, “Alright, one more fairytale,” acknowledging, as he did on Broadway, his own myth-making and Federici’s invaluable role in the tale, set this particular night in Danny’s hometown of Flemington, NJ.
When it comes time to truly say goodbye to Phantom Dan, instead of reaching for an original, Bruce opts for the gospel standard, “I’ll Fly Away,” in its only Springsteen performance ever. The arrangement is a Seeger Sessions-style hootenanny, with Max out from behind the drum kit on tambourine, Garry W. Tallent on upright bass, and Charlie Giordano filling Danny’s big shoes (as he does capably and respectfully all night) on accordion. The sentiment of death as a pathway to freedom from suffering couldn’t be more fitting, as summed up by the song’s second verse:
When the shadows of this life have gone, now I’ll fly away
Like a bird from these prison walls I’ll fly away, I’ll fly away
“I’ll Fly Away” provides an emotional epilogue, but the denouement of the evening comes six songs before with “Racing in the Street,” presented in a widescreen print not always screened on recent tours. It is patiently paced, sung with sober richness, and played magnificently on piano by Bittan. Like “Backstreets,” this is as good as “Racing” has been performed in the 2000s.
As vital as Danny was to 40 years of Springsteen history, life goes on. The Tampa show is a rumination on both of those undeniable truths, because the stage is “a place where miracles occur,” as Springsteen said at Federici’s funeral the night before the show. “And those you are with, in the presence of miracles, you never forget. Life does not separate you. Death does not separate you. Those you are with who create miracles for you, like Danny did for me every night, you are honored to be amongst.”
Thirty years after it rolled across America and Europe, we continue to view the Tunnel of Love Express Tour as a career inflection point, a period marked by heart-heavy shifts in Springsteen’s life even as the concerts were taking place. Professionally, key relationships were evolving, too, as it is well established that the decision to tour with the E Street Band in support of what was really a solo album was not a foregone conclusion.
Even as Bruce and the band took to the road in February ’88, conscious decisions were made to alter established E Street archetypes. Band members switched their usual spots on stage, swapping sides to presumably shake things up. There was a subtle yet telling change to the billing, too, as the long-standing “Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band” moniker was altered to “Bruce Springsteen featuring the E Street Band.” The core setlist for the tour served as another point of departure from the familiar (more on that to come).
Why making those moves seemed so meaningful at the time we can only infer, but Springsteen’s desire to do things differently was undeniable.
Today, the personal and professional changes surrounding Springsteen at the time (and what was to follow on both fronts) are inextricably tied to the Tunnel era and remain something of a filter through which we view the tour. Less considered is what powerful fuel both provided to 1988 performances.
Whatever switching stage positions or altering the billing effected, make no mistake: this was a full E Street Band outing, and the E Street Band has never played with more self-assurance than they do on the Tunnel of Love tour. The addition of the horn section only boosted the horsepower of their already mighty engine.
While one cannot presume to know what Springsteen was going through that year, an armchair psychologist might suggest that however traumatic and draining such a period of emotional upheaval may be, it can also trigger a profound recognition of what it means to feel alive. As you listen to Madison Square Garden 1988, there is a strong sense of a performer truly living in the moment. Pair that with a band playing at its peak and an ambitious setlist, and you have the stuff of the extraordinary.
How in the moment? Listen to Springsteen’s vocals on the final verse and chorus of “Boom Boom,” which careen between shrieking falsetto and full-throated bluesman. His scintillating guitar solo starting at 5:02 of “Born in the U.S.A.” and carrying on for well over a minute soars with the clarion ring of pure emotional catharsis. On the Darkness and River tours, Bruce laid it all on the line every night to convert the masses. At MSG ‘88, the motivation feels far more personal. Just maybe, performing itself is what provides a path through what he calls later in the show, “the goddamn darkness.”
And then there’s that incredible setlist. The Tunnel tour is notable for featuring so many non-album tracks and cover songs. MSG boasts five Springsteen originals not featured on a studio album: “Be True” (the River b-side, also released on Tracks), “Seeds” (a Born in the U.S.A. outtake, officially released in a live version on Live/1975-85), “Part Man, Part Monkey” (a Tunnel outtake, re-recorded during Human Touch and released as a b-side in 1992 and onTracks in 1998), “Light of Day” (covered by Joan Jett and Michael J. Fox in Paul Schrader’s film of the same name, but never released in studio form by Bruce himself) and “I’m a Coward.” Some may consider “I’m a Coward” a cover, and while it was clearly inspired by Geno Washington’s “Geno Is A Coward” (penned by Ronald Davis), Springsteen’s song bears little musical resemblance to the original and shares only a couple of lyrics (perhaps making it more akin to “Johnny Bye-Bye”). There are no known studio recordings of the song; “I’m a Coward” only exists in its Tunnel tour performances.
All five songs are in the baseline Tunnel setlist, which by Springsteen standards was relatively rigid, especially for the first couple of months of the tour. Things started to loosen up around the time of the five-night LA stand (from which the April 23, 1988 performance was previously released as part of the live download series). As the tour worked its way north up the coast and across the country on its last leg, a few new additions (notably “Have Love, Will Travel” and “Boom Boom”) stuck.
The setlist for the final U.S. show at Madison Square Garden strikes an enthralling balance between core Tunnel tour material, recent adds, and a couple of specials just for the Big Apple. In contrast to opening night of the tour in Worcester in February, there are 13 variations between the two shows.
To those five originals, MSG ‘88 adds seven cover songs: John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom,” Woody Guthrie’s “Vigilante Man,” Edwin Starr’s “War,” The Sonics’ “Have Love, Will Travel,” Arthur Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music,” Eddie Floyd’s “Raise Your Hand,” and Jackie Wilson’s “Lonely Teardrops.” Throw in two full verses and the chorus to Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” inside of “Light of Day,” and the count pushes to eight.
On top of that, Tunnel arrangements of “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)” and “Born to Run” are completely reimagined. “You Can Look” is performed in a rockabilly style similar to its earliest incarnation during the River sessions, while “Born to Run” is played solo acoustic, an affecting arrangement that survived all the way to Bruce on Broadway.
All told, nearly half the Tunnel setlist sits outside the core canon while also boldly eschewing such staples as “Badlands,” “Thunder Road” and “The Promised Land.” In fact, the only song that was a Tunnel tour regular from the stalwart Darkness on the Edge of Town is the pulsing, horn-driven version of “Adam Raised a Cain.” 1988 setlists were truly out of the ordinary, no more so than this night.
Madison Square Garden 1988 also features the first bonus track in the download series with the inclusion of “For Your Love,” recorded during the 5/23 soundcheck. The song was a modest hit for Ed Townsend in 1958. Springsteen’s interpretation moves the tune from earnest R&B ballad territory to something closer to light reggae. While that might seem like a stretch, on the Jersey Shore club scene just a year earlier, Springsteen sat in three times with reggae act Jah Love, and a bit of that vibe comes through here (and for that matter, in “Part Man, Part Monkey”).
“For Your Love,” like so many of the cover songs surveyed during the Tunnel tour, appears to be born from the kinship between Springsteen and the horn section. Led by Richie “La Bamba” Rosenberg, the five-piece Horns of Love brought a shared musical knowledge that made them utterly simpatico with Bruce’s fondness for lost pop treasures. Even as early tour setlists went mostly unchanged, tour soundchecks often featured wide-ranging covers, and eventually some of the songs they were playing for themselves found their way into the set proper.
The Horns of Love are essential to covers like the barnstorming “Boom Boom” and the Northwest garage-rock nugget “Have Love, Will Travel,” but equally so to the unique Tunnel arrangements of songs like “Cover Me” (powerfully tagged with a few lines from the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”), the pile-driving “Spare Parts,” and, most strikingly, the aforementioned “Adam Raised a Cain.” “Adam” had gone un-played since the Darkness tour before being vivified in its 1988 edition. As impressive as the song was every night of the tour, the tag of Muddy Waters’ “I’m a Man” here adds even more declarative grit.
The sonic signature of the Tunnel tour is distinct, too, and Jon Altschiller’s mix accurately pushes Bruce’s and Nils’ guitars forward in the overall wall of sound. But the heart and soul of this Express are the horn section and Clarence Clemons, who together add exceptional texture, punch, and irresistible melodic runs all night long. The Big Man is on his game, and his showcase work on “Be True” remains a tour highlight, reigniting one of Springsteen’s finest b-sides. His hype-man vocal responses during Bruce’s evangelical intro to “I’m a Coward” are another slice of pure joy in MSG ‘88.
Let’s also credit the E Street Band for their sympathetic backing on Tunnel of Love tracks, some of which stand along Springsteen’s best songwriting ever. They may have begun as solo creations, but the live versions of “Two Faces,” “Brilliant Disguise,” “One Step Up” and “Tougher Than the Rest” are splendid, and in some ways more fully realized than their studio counterparts. Kudos, too, for the band’s ability to switch gears seamlessly, tackling Guthrie’s bluesy “Vigilante Man” (featuring Nils Lofgren on pedal steel guitar), Steppenwolf’s hard-rocking “Born to Be Wild,” and Jackie Wilson’s soulful “Lonely Teardrops” with equal flair. Special shout-out to Roy Bittan as well for his captivating piano introduction to “Spare Parts.”
The show goes into celebration mode after “Born to Run,” and even Jon Landau gets in on the fun, joining the band on guitar for the rest of the uplifting encore. The concert ends with “Lonely Teardrops,” one of only three performances ever. It’s a song about yearning and a fitting end to a performance that is equal parts heart-wrenching and exhilarating, two attributes befitting a ride through the Tunnel of Love.
There’s a case to be made that Bruce Springsteen’s appearance at two MUSE benefit concerts in 1979 mark the moment he truly arrived, when his status as not merely a rock star but THE rock superstar of his era became undeniable. And not unlike similar moments that affected Bruce himself, specifically Elvis Presley and The Beatles appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show, the power of a filmed performance was a major contributing factor. After all, the No Nukes film (released in 1980) and, to a lesser but still important extent, the No Nukes triple album, were the first commercial releases to ever offer live Springsteen performances.
After spending the better part of 1978 playing to ever-growing crowds on the Darkness tour (including arena dates in top markets), Springsteen had become a major touring act. Better still, the legend of his three-hour concerts was spreading, and word-of-mouth reviews sounded like tales of religious conversion. The collective sentiment expressed by those who had been to a Bruce concert to those who hadn’t was simple: You HAVE to see this guy play.
But with the Darkness tour wrapped and the focus shifted to studio recording, it seemed there would be no chance to see Springsteen live in 1979. The pent-up demand to see Bruce in concert, particularly in his NY/NJ homebase where he hadn’t played since September 1978 (save for an on-campus gymnasium show at Princeton in November), was off the charts.
Meanwhile, in March 1979, an accident at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station near Harrisburg, PA, highlighted the risks of nuclear power to the entire nation and further galvanized the already active anti-nuclear movement. MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy) was formed soon after Three Mile Island by a group of like-minded artists and music-industry leaders, including Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, and Bonnie Raitt.
To raise awareness and money, the newly founded organization wasted little time in announcing The MUSE Concerts for a Non-Nuclear Future, five shows at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Two of those would be headlined by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in their only concerts of the year (not counting the final Darkness show, Cleveland 1/1/79). Needless to say, ticket demand for September 21-22, the two nights Springsteen was scheduled to perform, was enormous.
Bruce and the E Streeters had spent much of the spring and summer in the studio at the Power Station on West 53rd, recording songs for what one year later would become The River. In fact, soon after the MUSE concerts, for which they paused to rehearse and perform, they considered stopping recording entirely and turning in a ten-song single album (eventually released in 2015 on The Ties That Bind box set).
While recording for The River would not only resume but carry on well into 1980, Springsteen was at least considering that his new album might be pretty much done when he took the stage on September 21. He was also two days away from his 30th birthday. Combine that with an eight-month layoff from the road, and it is no wonder he and the band played with such passion and ferocity at the two MUSE concerts, both presented/captured here in full.
Jon Altschiller’s new multi-track mix crisply captures the electric anticipation in the air as the band tunes up and blasts into “Prove It All Night” on 9/21, with Max Weinberg in particular adrenalized by being back on stage.
With a limited, 90-minute slot on the multi-artist bill it’s a bang-bang set both nights: “Prove It All Night” into “Badlands,” into “The Promised Land.” What Bruce performs is in effect a mini Darkness concert that adds an important look to the future with the first-ever performances of his newly written masterpiece, “The River.” Introducing the deeply personal song the first night, Bruce says simply, “It’s for my brother-in-law”; the second night he says it’s for “my mother and my sister.”
While some finer details of the final arrangement of “The River” were yet to come, the emotional core of the song is fully realized. It is thrilling to hear these initial performances and to imagine what it would have been like to experience the song for the first time amongst the No Nukes crowd. My jaw would have been on the floor.
The look-forward to The River continues with “Sherry Darling,” shifting the mood materially with an “end-of-the summer song” and restoring the party atmosphere from the top of the show. From there, it is a race to the finish through “Thunder Road” (the performance from the second night is featured in the No Nukes film), “Jungleland” (a couple of particularly passionate versions), “Rosalita,” and “Born to Run.” All killer, no filler.
The two MUSE performances are relatively consistent, with the second night perhaps slightly less frenetic, as one might expect. The “encore” songs are where the changes come.
Night one we are treated to the delightful rendition of Maurice Williams’ “Stay” featured on the No Nukes album, a song which had been a regular part of Jackson Browne’s sets. Browne and his backup singer Rosemary Butler guest on the E Street version, as smooth a groove as any they’ve laid down. “Detroit Medley” also appeared on the No Nukes album in edited form, expunging some of Bruce’s hilarious “hazardous to your health” warnings and insurance pitching, which are restored here. The show closes with a 100 MPH cover of Buddy Holly’s “Rave On.”
The encore from night two repeats “Stay,” this time with the late Tom Petty sharing lead vocals with Springsteen and Browne, and wraps with a “Quarter to Three” for the ages, material parts of which made it into the No Nukes film.
The footage of “Quarter to Three,” which shows Springsteen giving it his all to point of collapsing on the floor and needing to be revived (in jest) by the band, preserved for all to see the unique magic of Springsteen in concert. The film also shows other artists reacting to the pre-show cheers of “Brooooce” (and acknowledging that Springsteen is the artist the crowd is really there to see), not to mention the incredible performances of “The River” and “Thunder Road” noted above.
Remember, at the time the No Nukes film was released in 1980, there was no MTV. Springsteen had never appeared on American television. You literally couldn’t see him perform without going to a concert until the No Nukes film opened that July. And when it did in the US, and later in the UK and Europe, tens of thousands of future fans saw with their own eyes what they had only read and heard about. Though he only appears on screen for perhaps 15 minutes of the film’s 103-minute run time, No Nukes managed to bottle up for the first time the essence of Bruce Springsteen in concert.
Finally, the No Nukes shows also marked Springsteen’s first overt foray into political activism. During the show, Bruce says it was Jackson Browne’s “sense of purpose and conviction that got me down here tonight,” and Browne’s commitment to the cause continues to this day. To honor that, $2 from each sale of No Nukes 1979 will be donated to Musicians United for Safe Energy, to support nearly 40 years of fighting the good fight.
When the Born to Run tour rolled up to the Roxy in West Hollywood in October 1975, the objective was to break Springsteen in Los Angeles with a high-profile, six-show/four-night residency at the small club, mirroring the famed Bottom Line run in New York in August. Incredibly, Springsteen had yet to play a proper headlining date in LA until the Roxy gigs. His only appearances in the area circa 1973-74 were as an opening act or sharing a bill with other Columbia Records talent at label-sponsored showcases.
The Roxy run came just a few days before Bruce would grace the covers of Time and Newsweek simultaneously, so while it wouldn’t be accurate to say he was flying under the radar, DEFCON 1-level hype was still to come. Though make no mistake, Columbia saw the Roxy shows as their chance to capitalize on the growing buzz.
As legend has it, opening night on October 16 was a show packed with music journalists and industry types, prompting Springsteen to declare the following evening (as broadcast on KWST-FM), “ain’t nobody here from Billboard tonight!” That phrase became the de facto title of one of the earliest Bruce bootlegs, pressed from a recording of the b-cast.
On October 18, night three of the run, Springsteen performed two shows (one early, one late) and Columbia arranged to have Wally Heider’s mobile recording truck parked outside to capture the performances for future release. The engineer was the late Ray Thompson, a legend in live recording, and the man who just a few months earlier had taped the shows that would go on to form the basis of one of the biggest live albums of all time, Frampton Comes Alive!
Though one song from this stand made it onto Live/1975-85, this marks the first-ever release of a full performance from the Roxy ‘75, the early show on October 18. That song was of course “Thunder Road,” which kicks off Live/1975-85 and represents the only pre-1978 track on the box. Though it’s familiar, hearing the performance restored to its proper context opening a full ‘75 show reinforces the audacity of the sublime, piano-first “Thunder Road.” Who opens a show with a completely reimagined version of the first song on their latest album? It’s a gutty and admirable artistic statement.
Following that stunning start, the rest of the band join in and launch into a winning and crisp “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out,” then roll into “Spirit in the Night.” Listening to the truly you-are-there mix by Jon Altschiller (complete with clinking glasses and bottles), one can’t help but recognize the audience’s relative unfamiliarity with the material. If you’ve listened to a lot of live shows, even circa-1975 East Coast crowds knew “Spirit in the Night” inside out; here the reactions to the stops and starts of the tale unfolding sound more intrigued and surprised.
That’s because the tiny Roxy was packed with fans who had never seen Bruce perform before. “[I’d like to] thank the folks that came out and seen us last year and the year before in Santa Monica,” Bruce says, met by nary a clap or cheer. “I don’t know if there is anybody….[Laughs] Nobody made it to that one.”
Aside from the guy who yells, “I was at the Troubadour,” and perhaps a handful of others, the Roxy crowd was the Springsteen-curious, and some of the pleasure of this exquisite recording is that over the course of the show, we get to hear and bear witness to their conversion into fans.
A big first step towards that comes with “E Street Shuffle,” in which every member of the E Street Band shines, but especially those oh-so-sweet swirls from Danny Federici’s organ cabinet. Remember, “E Street Shuffle” is another radical rearrangement from what anyone would have heard on the second album, and after Bruce tags Sam Cooke’s “Having a Party” onto the end, audience applause moves from like to love.
Cover songs were a major feature of Born to Run tour setlists, especially songs from the ‘60s that shaped Springsteen’s musical palette. With the Roxy, we get the first official release of the enchanting “When You Walk in the Room.” Written by Jackie DeShannon and a hit for the Searchers, the song is a perfect vehicle for Bruce and the band to show their Merseybeat-via-Jersey Shore chops. If this performance doesn’t raise a smile, it’s time to resign your fanclub membership.
“She’s the One” and “Born to Run” dial up the intensity, both impeccably performed in powerful, pacey versions that underline the outstanding mid-tour form of the band. When one of the few familiar fans shouts for “Sandy,” Bruce complies, and despite its unusual position in the set (it was typically an encore song in ‘75), the heartfelt version delivers a welcome mid-show change of scenery.
While a hint of vocal raspiness suggests Springsteen may not have started the show feeling 100 percent, you’d never know it from the performance, which was escalating already and goes next-level following “Sandy.” Gorgeous organ, guitar and piano interplay start “Backstreets,” in a performance that evokes the Dylan lyric, “bathed in a stream of pure heat.” There’s no denying the versions of the song performed in ‘77 and ‘78, but this is a tremendous 1975 “Backstreets.”
After wrapping themselves in glory all night, the band steps into the spotlight for “Kitty’s Back.” The small venue and the recording quality combine to reveal gorgeous musical details: every subtle click sound of Danny’s organ keys; Garry Tallent paying homage to Donald “Duck” Dunn; Roy Bittan weaving in the melody of “Fever” (the one made famous by Peggy Lee). Listen around 15:45 for a rare isolated backing vocal by the Professor after Clarence Clemons switches back to sax. Such a treat.
The last song in the set from Born to Run is “Jungleland,” and we’re granted another exquisite reading, highlighted by Stevie Van Zandt’s redolent guitar solo and Danny’s delicate and doleful organ that flows out of the Clemons’ roaring solo. Phantom Dan and the Big Man ultimately yield to Bittan’s stately piano, upon which Springsteen leans into his vocal rasp, spurring some beautiful rephrasing of the song’s fifth verse, notably the line “refusal and then surrender.”
A storming “Rosalita” wraps the main set and leads to chants of “WE WANT MORE” from the newly converted. Who can blame them?
Yet instead of reaching for a standard BTR-tour encore, Bruce opts for a striking and revealing cover. “This is a Carole King song. It was done on one of the early Byrds albums…which is my favorite LA band, I guess….Also Nils Lofgren did a nice job with the song on his last album.”
Goffin and King’s “Goin’ Back” captures the yearning for lost innocence, and given what was going on in Springsteen’s career at the time, the song seems a fitting reflection of his thoughts and feelings in gorgeous, romanticized ballad form. Springsteen debuted “Goin’ Back” with King herself in the audience at the first Roxy show, but he never played the song again after performing it at all six shows in this stand.
Ten years later, standing on the precipice of another major career milestone, Bruce stuck a kindred note with his one-off performance of Brian Wilson’s “When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)” at Slane Castle ‘85, also never played in concert again. We’re lucky such a fleeting moment of emotional transparency is captured so beautifully by this recording.
Earlier in the show, microphones pick up someone shouting that it is Chuck Berry’s birthday, which no doubt prompts the appearance of a rowdy and raucous “Carol” to close the encore and a marvelous set.
The Born to Run tour is well documented by Hammersmith Odeon London ‘75 and Tower Theater 12/31/75. But more than 30 years after the inclusion of a single track on Live/1975-85, Roxy ‘75 gives us all the magic in the night that “Thunder Road” hinted at and our most intimate opportunity to date to hear, in the words of King, “the world the way it used to be.”