In 1979 Bob Marley and the Wailers embarked on the Babylon By Bus tour that took the band through Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. The Japanese leg of the tour included 8 stops throughout Osaka and Tokyo. Those eight shows, the only concerts Bob Marley ever performed in Japan, are frequently credited with igniting a reggae scene in Japan that is still present to this day. More than 30 years later, those eight shows are still meaningful to fans in Japan and around the world. They are also especially meaningful to Marley’s son, Ziggy.
In May 2021, Ziggy played a pair of shows at San Diego’s Petco Park. It was the first weekend that Petco Park had re-opened for concerts after a Pandemic closure. For these special shows, Ziggy decided to do a different kind of tribute to his father’s music. Speaking about the show, Ziggy said, “The whole concert is going to be my father’s music. It’s a live tribute to him. We’ve taken an actual setlist that my dad created in the late ’70s and we’re doing that whole setlist which for me is a whole different experience than just ‘the greatest hits of Bob Marley.’ Playing the actual setlist is an actual connection with reality about what they played at a certain moment in time.”
Of all of the concerts and setlists Bob Marley played in the 1970s, which did Ziggy select for this show? None other than April 5th, 1979 at the Shinjuku Kosei Nenkin Hall in Tokyo. It’s a truly special experience to hear Ziggy playing this setlist, just as his father had written. Now, for the first time since the concert was played live, fans can watch the entire concert on nugs.net. The livestream will air on Febrary 11th at 8PM ET.
I would love to regale you with the exact feeling of the room when the White Stripes rocked the Crocodile Club in July 2001. But I can’t…because I wasn’t allowed into the show. Nevermind that I was travelling with the band and in charge of selling all their merchandise, Seattle’s draconian liquor laws prevented me from even being in the room that night because I was only 19 years old at the time. I’d prepared for the moment, slightly, by bringing my older brother’s ID with me just in case I ran into trouble, but the door guy saw through it and was “kind” (his words) to me by NOT cutting it up.
One of the guys working at the club saw this go down and realizing I had nowhere to go asked if I wanted to go for a ride and just kill time. He had to go back to his crib before the gig, I would’ve literally just been sitting in the van (which I was already getting a good dose of at 5-6 hours a day) so I tagged along.
(Years later by sheer coincidence I would be reintroduced to said guy, Frank Nieto, as he was the publicist for my band the Dirtbombs’ We Have You Surrounded album in 2008. It would be quite some time of working together before we actually figured out that we’d met years earlier)
Instead I went down the street to the Sit ‘n’ Spin, the club a few blocks away where the Stripes had played 13 months earlier AND which had no problem letting me in underage. Truthfully…I’m pretty sure I fell asleep there over a slice of pizza. I got woken up by one of the employees as they were preparing to close for the evening and the guy claimed he remembered me coming in the previous year with the White Stripes.
I walked back to the Croc and from outside was able to hear the faintest twinklings of the Stripes’ first time ever cover of Arthur Lee’s “Five String Serenade” which is probably the best part of the ripper of a gig. Yeah that extended set-opening “Let’s Shake Hands” is a top five performance no doubt, and the undeniably explosive version of “Screwdriver” is likely the hardest dive into white noise Jack and Meg ever took…only to lock into a riffy guitar groove reminiscent of Jack’s part on “Turn Your Little Light Bulb On” by the Go.
But the austere “Five String Serenade”, tackled here without any previously known rehearsals or forays, is just perfect. The Stripes were introduced to the song via Mazzy Star’s version on their 1993 album So That Tonight I Might See. Jack and Meg’s simple, plaintive rendition here is probably my favorite musical moment of the entirety of the 2001 touring. The song just speaks so much while saying so little.
Would’ve been nice if I’d actually SEEN any of it happen, but hell, at least we were able to get it recorded. That’s all that matters in the end.
We often cite the Reunion tour as a demarcation between the “classic” and “modern” Springsteen eras. Yet this April already marks 23 years since the start of the Reunion tour in Barcelona. Do the math, and the E Street Band’s return in 1999 is inching ever closer to being the midpoint of their overall career—a line to be reached in 2026, at which point it will have been 27 years from the start of Reunion; and Reunion itself was 27 years after the band formed in 1972. Time flies.
Springsteen spoke movingly from the stage in 1999-2000 of the band’s rebirth, and we’ve seen that play out in memorable tours and albums ever since. But Reunion was a celebration of what came before and the rediscovery of the breadth and depth of the music Bruce and the E Street Band made together. That exploration manifested in setlists that saw Springsteen performing brilliant “lost” songs finally released on Tracks in 1998, revisiting deep catalog cuts unplayed in decades, changing up the arrangements of familiar material, and still throwing in the occasional surprise cover version.
Anaheim 5/22/00 ticks all four boxes and serves as an exemplar of what the Reunion tour had on offer. This second night of two opens with one of those marvelous outtakes, “Take ’Em as They Come,” recorded for The River. For those of us who purchased dodgy vinyl and traded hissy cassettes of unreleased Springsteen music in the years before Tracks, it is still miraculous to hear “Take ’Em as They Come” in the show, sounding every bit the epic rocker it was always destined to be. The band is hot out of the gate, and the song’s false ending, with Garry Tallent tipping his hat to The Beatles’ “Rain” and Clarence Clemons bringing the song home with his soaring sax, is immensely satisfying.
Following that promising start we get an inviting reading of “The Promised Land,” layered with lovely piano tinkling from Roy Bittan, and a rousing “Two Hearts” that shines the spotlight on Stevie Van Zandt, whose vocal contribution represents the beating heart of the reunited band.
A nasty guitar riff launches “Darlington County,” which nearly veers into the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women” for several bars before Bruce turns the wheel back to his own Born in the U.S.A. lane. Nils shares the mic for the “Hey little girl, standing on the corner” verse, and Van Zandt’s guitar drives a crunchy, extended outro. Once keyboard-dominated, the Reunion “Darlington County” is all about axes.
Another of those lost songs, “Rendezvous,” steps to the plate, reminding us of Bruce’s pop bona fides and the magic in those chiming guitar chords. Patti Scialfa’s vocal turn helps “Rendezvous” rise, and there’s a fun twist in the arrangement towards the end when the band falls out for three bars of, “I want a rendez….I want a rendez…I want a rendezvous.” There’s a sweet section of Danny Federici organ swirls, too, as the song skips to a charming close.
Another recurring thread on the Reunion tour was the introduction of a country music influence in the arrangement of some songs, notably “Factory” (at other shows, Bruce applied similar country strokes to “Mansion on the Hill”). Nils plays lap steel guitar, Danny accordion on this new arrangement that showcases strong duet vocals from Scialfa. , and that Nashville sound extends to create a fresh intro to “Independence Day.” It’s a doleful take on The River’s father-son tale, measured and meaningful, with lovely playing from Bittan and a spirit-lifting solo from Clemons.
The center of the core Reunion tour setlist was the five-pack, and we get a solid one here: “Youngstown,” “Murder Incorporated” (another of the “I can’t believe they’re playing it” outtakes we now take for granted), “Badlands,” “Out in the Street,” and a snippet-laden “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” that dips a toe into Curtis Mayfield’s “It’s All Right,” Al Green’s “Take Me to the River,” Springsteen’s own “Red Headed Woman,” and Sciala’s solo “Rumble Doll.” In Bruce’s sermon, this line in particular stood out: “I want to go to the river of joy and live there.” Easier said than done, as we learned in Springsteen on Broadway.
The de facto second set opens with the first E Street Band performance of Human Touch’s “Roll of the Dice,” co-written, in case you’ve forgotten, by Bruce and Roy. Steve’s call-and-response vocals and The Big Man’s sax solo lend a distinctly River feel to the E Street rendition of the song, which was surely being test-driven for inclusion in the Las Vegas show five days hence. Springsteen appears to love the result, getting his money’s worth by telling the band to go “one more time, take it around.” “Roll of the Dice” has been played but a dozen times by the ESB, making its inclusion here all the more sweet.
Rarer still is the country version of “No Surrender,” which goes even further than “Factory” with Nils on pedal-steel guitar, sparking an arrangement that is more Nashville Skyline than Nashville, and more specifically nods to Bob Dylan’s “I Want You” from Blonde on Blonde, a song Bruce covered back in 1975. The slowed down, wistful arrangement debuted in Cleveland in November 1999 and was only played seven times on Reunion.
It was surprising to learn “Racing in the Street” was only performed 15 times on the Reunion tour, which feels low for such a significant song in the catalog. Bruce sings it a bit differently than previous tours, with a similar vocal cadence to “Thunder Road” circa 1999-2000 that takes some getting used to. Hearing it now, what comes through is a deep weariness as the narrative unfolds like a distant memory. The band sounds sublime, especially Danny, Roy, and Clarence’s rich baritone sax notes.
Time to lift spirits, and “Light of Day” does just that—all the more fun with a brief foray into The Rivieras’ “California Sun” (written by Henry Glover). Rollicking continues in the encore with a loose “Stand on It” (again featuring some twangy slide guitar), a true blue “Bobby Jean” with strong sax work from Clemons, “Born to Run,” “Thunder Road,” and the majestic “If I Should Fall Behind.”
“Land of Hope and Dreams” signals the night is coming to end, but not before one last surprise. Seemingly out of nowhere, the band breaks into Van Morrison’s “Gloria,” which starts with a suitably filthy guitar riff and full-throated vocals from Bruce. Stevie and Clarence join in to sing on the chorus. “Gloria” rolls straight into a long “Ramrod,” powered by Clarence’s fat sax notes, Max Weinberg’s big snare and hi-hat hits, and the big bottom of Garry’s bass.
Given how much fun Bruce and Stevie have singing “Ramrod,” it feels like it might never end, but after seven crunching minutes, like all good things must, “Ramrod” grinds to a close to end the evening.
Lost songs, rare tracks, new arrangements, and covers, Anaheim 5/22/00 has them all and adds yet another phase of the ever-evolving Reunion tour to the Live Archive series.
What a year 2021 has been. Through the ups and the downs, live music has been a lifeline to us all. We want to thank everyone who streamed concerts in the app, shared their favorite jam with a friend, watched a livestream, and all of the other things that make nugs.net possible. We love connecting fans with the live concerts they crave and this year we were thrilled to share some incredible performances. From fresh-off-the-stage recordings to remastered archives, this year was filled with memorable releases.
As we close the book on 2021 and look forward to 2022, we’re looking back at the artists, shows, and songs that nugs.net subscribers enjoyed the most. We’re music fans first and we are thrilled to share our favorite content from 2021 as well. Take a look at our 2021 Year in Review and see if any of your favorites made the list!
When you’re done exploring our 2021 Year in Review, get ready for 2022 by securing a full year of live music streaming on nugs.net for only $50. But hurry, the offer is ending soon! From all of us at nugs.net, thank you for enjoying live music in 2021. We look forward to seeing the concerts you’ll love in 2022.
At its core, the Live Archive series functions as an aural time machine, transporting us back to performances preserved in our memories or, better still, to shows only a few fortunate souls witnessed in person.
Based on that criteria, C.W. Post College, December 12, 1975 announces itself as an exemplar of the Archive series, placing us in the best seat in the house on Long Island to experience a stupefying performance by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the height of their circa 1975 powers.
After wrapping a four-date, European tour in November, the final month of 1975 saw Bruce play his first proper Canadian shows, return to major markets Boston and Philadelphia, and perform at small colleges and universities across the northeast. The C.W. Post concert (along with a show at Seton Hall in South Orange, NJ) was the closest gig to New York City. Judging by the rapturous audience response preserved by this recording, the Gotham fanbase made the trek to Long Island. With audio cabling laid through the auditorium leading to a truck parked outside, it was also clear to those in-the-know that the show was being recorded—one more catalyst for a heightened reaction.
The Archive series holds an embarrassment of riches from late 1975, including New Year’s Eve in Philly; the covers-laden, second London show in late November; and the conversion of Los Angeles at The Roxy in October, each noteworthy in its own way. Yet the C.W. Post performance stands out, somehow marvelously loose and inch-perfect tight at the same time. Tempos are zooming, the mood is celebratory, and if London and Los Angeles were about winning over new fans, C.W. Post aims to blow away the hardcores.
The same can be said today, as this is the Born to Run tour show you didn’t know you needed but unequivocally do. The 24-track, Plangent-Processed analog recording, newly mixed by Jon Altschiller, is 4K vivid, rich in both on-stage detail and event atmosphere. It couldn’t sound any fresher or clearer, and The Beatles Get Back parallels don’t end there.
We start in traditional 1975 tour fashion with the stark, piano-version of “Thunder Road,” a rollicking, pacey “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out,” and “Spirit in the Night.” Immediately, Stevie Van Zandt’s guitar work jumps to the fore, as he improvises atop familiar licks, adding appealing shading and variation throughout an evening where his playing is the first among equals.
“Lost in the Flood” benefits from the aforementioned looseness, as Bruce unwinds the tale a little differently, while the E Streeters enhance the drama, bursting forth after Bruce sings “Jimmy the Saint,” led by Van Zandt’s bending guitar note.
“She’s the One” opens on a long harmonica intro riding Stevie’s guitar-pedal prowess and Roy Bittan’s peerless piano. The band joins full force after the first verse and chorus, another moment of irresistible dynamics as the rhythm section makes their presence known through Garry Tallent’s deep bass and Max Weinberg’s big beat and splashing cymbal work. An outstanding version.
Following “Born to Run” comes the first-ever performance of The Animals’ “It’s My Life,” a cover that would become a cornerstone of Springsteen shows for the next 14 months.. As Brucebase writes, “In the 1987 BBC documentary Glory Days, Max Weinberg spoke about the premiere of ‘It’s My Life’ when he was asked if Bruce had ever launched into a song without telling the band what he was going to play. Max said that the band had never rehearsed the song before playing it in concert, but fortunately they all knew it.”
The recent Beatles documentary is filled with jaw-dropping moments where songs like “Get Back” and “Let It Be” spring to life in real time. Fan accounts confirm “It’s My Life” was not soundchecked at C.W. Post, yet out of thin air it begins, minus the familiar story intro. For the first minute or so, the band feels its way through, the arrangement deferential to the original but being E Streetized right before our ears. Confidence grows, and somewhere close to the middle of the song they realize, “We’ve got this.”
“It’s My Life” would go on to become a setlist staple for the next year and into early 1977. Its sentiment and the story-intro that developed around it set the stage for Bruce’s own “Independence Day.” In the 2000s, the band regularly assayed cover songs suggested by signs in the audience, but this isn’t a one-off—it’s the origin moment for one of the most significant cover versions Springsteen ever performed. Sure, any card-carrying member of the E Street Band knew The Animals’ original, but to drop “It’s My Life” in mid-set, seemingly unhearsed as Weinberg claimed and the C.W. Post arrangement supports, is audacious, joyful, and thrilling to hear.
Be that as it may, Bruce wastes little time segueing into a sprinting “Saint in the City,” and again the E Street Band flexes their musical muscles all the way through to the breakneck conclusion. A passionate “Backstreets” ensues, and one can only marvel at the level of performance by each member of the band. The spotlight justly turns to them for a long “Kitty’s Back” showcase, which finds the E Streeters in fine form not only instrumentally but vocally, too.
“Jungleland,” “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” (including Roy leading a “Hernando’s Hideaway” vamp), and “Sandy” continue an exceptional evening, each rendered as good or better than its 1975 peak. Bruce’s famous cover of “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” follows. The C.W. Post performance was quickly mixed after the show and released to supportive radio stations on tape. In the early 1980s, it was officially released, first on Columbia’s In Harmony 2 children’s compilation and later as the b-side to “My Hometown.”
The new version proves to be virtually identical to the original, save for a charming mix change that lets us more clearly hear the band members’ distinct responses to Bruce’s intro, including Steve’s emphatic, “IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME!”
The encore extends with a cracking “Detroit Medley” that starts with a bang and rides some awesome chugga-chugga guitar riffing from Van Zandt. The stage then clears, and Bruce moves to the piano for a scintillating solo performance of “For You,” dedicated to his then-girlfriend Karen Darvin. The solo “For You” is a high point in the London 11/24/75 Archive release as well, but each reading is unique, and the C.W. Post version is distinctly captivating.
The band returns, and as they get set, Roy does another “name that tune” vamp, this time on “Don’t Be Cruel.” Bruce tells the boisterous crowd, “You guys are nuts!” before counting in “Sha La La.” Once more, Van Zandt lays down a blazing guitar lead and Springsteen’s high-energy vocals reflect his mood, which carries through to the closing number, “Quarter to Three.” The audience response during the song is bananas, perhaps causing the first cracks in the Post Dome that would collapse under the weight of snow in January 1978. It’s possible.
“Quarter to Three” concludes—as it must—with Bruce declaring, “I’m just a prisoner… of rock and roll!” Of that there can be no doubt, vouched for by those fortunate enough to be at C.W. Post on that December night, or the rest of us reliving the experience through this sublime addition to the Archive series.
G.Love is feeling the Christmas spirit this holiday season. Tonight, the grammy-nominated artist is premiering his first-ever Christmas special exclusively on nugs.net. The special is set to include music from G.Love’s 2017 album Coming Home For Christmas and his latest holiday album Coming Back Home For Christmas which was released earlier this year. G.Love will be joined by producer Jon Evans on Upright Bass and Vocals as well as Matthias Bossi on Drums and Vocals as they perform in a cozy living room setting. The wonderful songs and intimate set filled with Christmas decorations are enough to get even Ebenezer Scrooge or The Grinch to sing along with holiday cheer.
Fans can watch the premiere tonight at 8PM Eastern. After the show, it will be available to order and start watching on-demand anytime this holiday season. Additionally, we’ve got great news for fans of Coming Back Home For Christmas. nugs.net’s newly launched contests portal has a *signed* vinyl copy of Coming Back Home For Christmas which will go to one lucky winner on December 28th. The contest is free to enter for all nugs.net subscribers. If you’re not subscribed, sign up when you order the G.Love Christmas Special and you’ll also get 50% off the pay-per-view.
Not every show is life-affirmingly beautiful. Not every show earns a rosy summation with a tidy bow wrapped around it. Not every show is a game-changer. A lot of gigs are rough, a lot of gigs involve a struggle. A lot of gigs teach us about an artist in regards to how they react to adversity.
The White Stripes at the Troubadour on July 16th, 2001 is one of those shows where the disconnect is the likely appeal.
Around summer of 2001, a phenomenon started to become apparent in regards to the White Stripes playing two shows in a row in the same town. Two-night stands, as it were. For a reason that still seems difficult to pinpoint…the crowd at the first night of a two-show run would just be…dull. Still. Disengaged.
That was the perceived state of the crowd in Los Angeles that day. Before the Stripes even hit the stage, the attendees had not gelled with either of the two opening acts. That alone raised Jack’s ire and you can hear it from the moment he steps onstage…barely any noise from the crowd and an immediate on-mic condemnation.
From there, the always incendiary “Let’s Shake Hands” is outwardly even MORE so. Through “When I Hear My Name” and “Dead Leaves” the propulsion is strictly emanating from the attempt to inspire the crowd.
The accentented intro to “Jolene” is a nice deviation and in spite of the applause, there was still a disconnect. In what I’ve titled “Hip Improv” here, Jack and Meg chug along on a straightforward “Boll Weevil”-reminiscent groove before Jack intones “Is this hip enough for you Meg? Ah! Can you feel the hipness blow upon you Meg? Come on now! Oh so cool, so cool. Oh so cool.”
Jack’s guitar fritzing out a handful of times here doesn’t help. The aborted 13 seconds of “Astro” at the end of “Cannon” to me signify the band grasping at straws to try and breakthrough to the audience.
The hot and cold version of “Death Letter” is further evidence of throwing it all against the wall in hopes that something sticks. Following the solid version of “I Think I Smell A Rat” Jack quizzically asks “So how’s the movie? Everybody enjoying the movie?”
The blazing, 62-second version of “Fell In Love With A Girl” feels downright spiteful, especially in foregoing the final verse and chorus of the song. “Wasting My Time” seems like the title could be a manifestation of the feelings on stage at that point. “Southern Can” is tackled at an outright breakneck pace, possibly the fastest it had ever been played.
The protracted accents punctuating the middle of “Screwdriver” feel provocative, yet another attempt to draw something out of those assembled in the room that evening. Toward the end of the song, Jack and Meg are just busting their humps to improvise on the same page. They get there, eventually.
The intriguing part here is, in spite of all the friction, the show is a compelling listen. Thinking back today, I had NO memory of the audience that night. No remembrance of the struggle. No recall of a less-than-ideal performance. I had no significant recollection of the show other than the fact that I met Chris Pontius at the merch table while Eric Erlandson and Mike Mills were floating around the room as well.
Listening back 20 years later, my takeaway here is that whatever the vibe in the room may be at the time, in two decades’ time hardly anyone will even remember. If you remove Jack’s banter here, it kinda just sounds like any other show from the same run. Ultimately, I don’t even know if the feeling in the room even matters once the evening is over. All we will have is the recording, if we’re lucky. Everything else is just perception, and perception is just a nine-dollar word for opinion.
The recently released recordings from 1979’s No Nukes concerts provide a riveting snapshot of a significant moment in time: the transition between 1978’s Darkness on the Edge of Town and 1980’s The River. The crackling electricity the No Nukes recordings emit is due in part to Springsteen packing the energy and excitement of a full show into a mere 90 minutes.
If the No Nukes set was a 13-song sprint, Nassau Coliseum 12/28/80 is a 33-track marathon, but a film analogy—16mm to 35mm—might be the more apt one. At an expansive 3 hours and 25 minutes, the River show captures Bruce and the E Street Band in widescreen, cinematic mode, in both scope and substance.
Given Springsteen was supporting his first double album and its 20 fresh songs, the River shows grew longer out of necessity. But the subject matter itself justified the expansion. “Independence Day,” “Stolen Car,” “Wreck on the Highway,” “Point Blank,” and “The River” are deep, narrative journeys, with Springsteen’s characters confronting existential questions and adulthood’s heaviest inflection points.
As a result, storytelling runs deeper and tone sustains longer in River shows than their predecessors. Songs like “Backstreets” and “Racing in the Street” were second-set emotional showstoppers in 1978, but contrast that with the somber trio of “Stolen Car,” “Wreck on the Highway” and “Point Blank” in the back half of 12/28/80 and there is no debate where lives are truly on the line. The Romances have given way to the Tragedies.
Like the album itself, River shows offer a compelling contrast between explorations of the dark recesses of human existence and life-affirming songs of release—a double feature, if you will, of Bergman and Capra. By way of example, Bruce follows the aforementioned trio of “Stolen,” “Wreck” and “Point” with a resuscitating take of “The Ties That Bind” when the audience needed reviving.
The expanded set also allowed Bruce to retain much of his key canon while still introducing an unprecedented amount of new music to his audience. Nassau 12/28/80 features 13 songs from The River while still carrying more than half of Born to Run, five songs and two outtakes from Darkness, key covers (“Who’ll Stop the Rain,” “Detroit Medley”), classics (“Rosalita,” “For You,” “Sandy”), and a couple of seasonal specials.
One of those, “Merry Christmas Baby,” gets the show off to a (holiday) spirited start, with Bruce channeling Otis Redding’s version in fine, lively voice and Clarence Clemons blowing a great saxophone solo.
Like most “special” shows, the telltale sign of Springsteen’s heightened, feeling-the-moment vocals can be found in many songs including excellent readings of “Darkness” and “Prove It All Night” in the first set, “For You” (such a fun first verse) and even “Ramrod” and “You Can Look” in the second set.
He’s feeling it—and who can blame him? The River just hit No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200, and Bruce was playing the first of three sold-out, impossible-ticket arena shows in his biggest market.
The delightful performance of “For You” in the second set yields to emotive guitar strumming, the prelude to a heart-rending “Stolen Car.” It’s a particularly spare and moving arrangement of one of the saddest songs in Springsteen’s catalog, wonderful to hear so faithfully played. Garry Tallent’s bass part on “Stolen Car” is one of his finest contributions ever.
The trilogy of tears continues with “Wreck on the Highway,” which manages to convey warmth and desolation at the same time. The E Street Band’s delicate touch serves the song well, with Roy BIttan’s piano and Danny Federici’s organ weaving counterparts, while Stevie Van Zandt’s guitar rings dolefully in the right channel. Hauntingly beautiful.
“Point Blank” completes the 20-minute trip through the heart of darkness, its narrative tone resigned and resolute but no less emotionally captivating. “Point Blank” is more overtly dramatic and emotionally detached than “Stolen Car” or “Wreck on the Highway,” which makes it a thrilling showpiece, rendered here with controlled bravado and sublime E Street musicianship.
While each Nassau concert stands on its own, the one song featured in 12/28/80 not played at the next two shows is “Backstreets.” Van Zandt offers novel fretwork in the song’s intro and brilliant playing throughout, distinguishing the River tour versions slightly but meaningfully from prior incarnations. Springsteen sings with full conviction and, together with Max Weinberg’s powerful drumming, “Backstreets” becomes the set’s thematic denouement and sonic crescendo.
A few other songs from the main set merit special mention. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain” is played for only the third time ever, and the excellent Nassau version further cements the song’s status as a hand-in-glove fit with the E Street Band and one of their all-time best covers. Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” premiered this night, with Bruce telling the audience about reading Joe Klein’s book Woody Guthrie: A Life and reminding them that the song was written as “an angry answer to ‘God Bless America.’” We’re also treated to a unique “Hungry Heart” featuring Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, better known as Flo & Eddie, recreating their background vocals from the studio version.
The final hour of Nassau is immensely satisfying, beginning with “Rosalita” followed by a delightful “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” and “Jungleland,” chock full of those heightened Bruce vocals and a distinctive Van Zandt guitar solo, while the big Big Man smashes the first note and never wavers in his own solo spotlight. “Born to Run” and the “Detroit Medley” (including a long chunk of “I Hear a Train”) bring us home and conclude a quintessential River tour performance in all its cinematic glory.
When we look at the pandemic and how it has affected the music industry, perhaps the most defining frame is of response. The resilient ways that artists, crew, and the industry at large took a look at the circumstances and responded. In the initial wave of lockdown, living room livestreams and concert rebroadcasts were among the most popular ways that artists connected with fans and kept live music out there. Jeff Tweedy turned to songwriting. The Wilco front-man was in a unique position to write and record entirely from “home.”
Home in this case was both Tweedy’s physical home and The Loft, Wilco’s studio in Chicago. With the help of his sons, Spencer and Sam, Tweedy responded to lockdown with a truly home-grown record. The album, titled Love Is The King, feels intimately connected to the pandemic. It’s a meditation on human connection: good days, bad days, relationships, mortality, and everything else that crossed our minds these last two years. Love Is The King takes center stage in the latest release of Wilco’s ‘Front of House’ archival concert series.
A first for the series, this concert did not come from a theatre, club, or festival but instead, a drive-in pop-up venue at Bridgeview, Illinois’ SeatGeek Stadium parking lot. It was only fitting that the first release of these songs in their live form is connected to the way artists responded to the pandemic. The bygone drive-in was the miracle that safely got artists out of the living room, back on the road, and into parking lots, farms, and speedways around the country.
The concert, available today on nugs.net, features almost every song from Love Is The King, including hits “Guess Again,” “Gwendolyn,” and the title track. The concert also features Tweedy favorites including “Low Key” and “Summer Noon.” The extended encore begins with “Even I Can See,” a tender testament of marital adoration from Love Is The King. The encore then shifts into covers of material from The Sir Douglas Quintet, Diane Izzo, The Beatles, and Doug Sahm.
The highlight of the encore comes as Tweedy performs Mavis Staples’ “You Are Not Alone,” a song he produced with Staples on her 2010 album of the same name. Though the song is more than a decade old, it evokes the universal feelings of loneliness felt throughout the pandemic. The lyrics are a simple acknowledgment that we are together, even in isolation. “You Are Not Alone” offers a simple encouragement:
You are not alone
I’m with you
I’m lonely too
“You Are Not Alone” and Love Is The King are perfect encapsulations of our collective experience over the last two years. Though the pandemic may not be over, the fact that we can listen to Jeff Tweedy sing these songs on a stage in front of an audience speaks to how far we’ve come. We’ve made it to the other side with a greater realization of the things that connect all of us.
Ween’s “Roses Are Free,” has had an interesting journey over the last 25 years. The Phish.net entry for the song includes Mickey Melchiondo (AKA Dean Ween himself) admitting It wasn’t until Phish added the song to their live repertoire in 1997 that the live potential for the track clicked for Ween. Now Melchiondo says it’s one of his favorite songs to perform in front of a crowd. In fact, “Roses Are Free” remains a regular staple for both Ween and Phish. The song appeared in both bands’ setlists as recently as this past Halloween weekend. It’s that spirit of inter-band influence that makes live music such a special community.
The enduring life of “Roses Are Free” can also be attributed to the fact that it’s simply an amazing song. The track’s groovy feel-good atmosphere was destined to be a jam hit. It’s no surprise Leftover Salmon would select it for their 2021 late-show at Colorado’s Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom following Phish’s performance at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The debut cover’s mix of acoustic and electric instrumentation blends wonderfully to honor the funky, Prince-inspired styling of the original track while keeping within Salmon’s jamgrass DNA. The contagious fun of Leftover Salmon’s version of “Roses Are Free” is a perfect companion to the Ween original and Phish cover that came before it.
Audio from Leftover Salmon’s full Phish after-party performance is now streaming in the nugs.net app.
There’s an old adage that being in a band is one of the closest experiences to being married — not only must you learn to navigate around each member’s individual personality quirks in oftentimes sub-optimal conditions, but you have to do so while attempting to be at your creative peak. It’s no wonder bands break up, lose members, gain members, reform, and break up again on a daily basis.
Although Pearl Jam went through four drummers in its first seven-plus years of existence, the Seattle band’s lineup has been stable since drummer Matt Cameron joined in 1998. At its core, Pearl Jam is built on the personal and creative alchemy of guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament, who met in Seattle and 1983 and have more or less been playing music together ever since: first in the proto-grunge combo Green River, then Mother Love Bone and, finally, Pearl Jam, which formed in October 1990.
It was Gossard and Ament who found solace in another after Mother Love Bone frontman Andy Wood died of a drug overdose, and began writing the material that would eventually be released on Pearl Jam’s debut album “Ten” and the all-star one-off self-titled LP from Temple Of The Dog. It was also Gossard and Ament who invited an unknown vocalist from San Diego named Eddie Vedder to come jam in Seattle after the pair were astonished by vocals he’d recorded atop three of their demo tape instrumentals. The rest, as they say, was rock’n’roll history.
Gossard and Ament’s long-lasting partnership remains central to Pearl Jam in 2021, on the heels of the band’s first performances in more than three years. At Pearl Jam’s third set at the Ohana Festival on Oct. 2, it was on full display during a performance of “Smile” from the 1996 album “No Code.” As Vedder remarked from the stage, “They have been hanging out and collaborating and being great friends — they never went to lover status — but they’ve been together for almost 38 years. Let it be known that loyalty could get you far.”
The audio from that show debuts today on nugs.net; Pearl Jam’s one and only complete performance of “No Code” from Moline, Ill., in October 2014 is also now available on SVOD.
“Smile” is notable in the Pearl Jam catalog for the fact that Gossard and Ament switch instruments when performing it live. Ament wrote the music for the track in the mid-‘90s, and Vedder later added lyrics inspired by a note that Dennis Flemion of Chicago band The Frogs had left tucked inside one of his notebooks. The refrain “I miss you already / I miss you always” is one of the most poignant on “No Code,” and only serves to reinforce the importance of love and friendship, be it in a band or in a relationship.
As Ament told me for the 2011 book “Pearl Jam 20,” he brought the kernel of “Smile” to the “No Code” sessions alongside a handful of other ideas he thought were far more interesting. But as often happens in Pearl Jam, Ament was pleasantly surprised when his bandmates gravitated toward his “two-parter Neil Young nod of the cap” and pushed for its inclusion on the album.
For whatever reason, “Smile” was the last song from “No Code” to be performed live on the 1996 tour in support of the album (“I’m Open” wasn’t debuted on stage until 2006), and to date it has been played the fifth-fewest times (86) of the record’s 13 tracks. But that scarcity makes it an enduring fan favorite. Live, “Smile” is grittier and a bit faster than its recorded counterpart, and includes a repeated, truncated version of the main riff to replace the fadeout on the album. On stage, Ament gets the opportunity for a whammy bar-enhanced guitar solo, and Vedder’s harmonica playing is also a highlight, as it is rarely seen during Pearl Jam shows and conjures an almost campfire vibe.
At Ohana, “Smile” was not actually on the printed setlist and was instead called as a perfect audible between a cover of Brandi Carlile’s “Again Today” (with guest vocals from Carlile herself) and “Porch,” which closed the main set. It’s another potent reminder of the camaraderie from which Pearl Jam was born and continues to power the band past its 30th anniversary.
Start a trial to listen to the Ohana audio and watch the Moline, IL “No Code” show.
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.
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.
The White Stripes performance at the Bottle Rocket in 2001 (their fourth and final performance in Glass City) highlights the first recorded performance of “I Think I Smell A Rat.” The Sisyphean task of appropriately tagging “first-ever performance” of a band’s songs is a lake of fire that I cautiously dip my toes into. As shows earlier that month in Athens, OH and Louisvile possibly featured the song, the fact that no one appears to have captured proof of either leaves the truth lost to the mists of history. But April 20th in Toledo is likely the slowest tempo “I Think I Smell A Rat” was ever performed by Jack and Meg. Whereas the speed would be kicked up noticeably in future performances, the measured approach here feels almost…confrontational. The take on “Dead Leaves” is similarly restrained. A rare exploration of “Death Letter” as a set opener wildly leans into an aggressively delightful distorted ending to “Little Bird” while a charmed misremembering of the lyrics in “Your Southern Can Is Mine” reels with childish warmth.
A crowd small (and audible) enough to hear their specific song requests (the obscure vinyl-only “Handsprings!” or “Hotel Yorba” which hadn’t even been released yet) would not remain that way much longer. The tongue-in-cheek “deepest sympathies” to dear friends (and local blues-punk heroes) Henry and June is followed a few songs later with a more sincere thank you shout-out to the group. The ad-libbed “that’s me!” dropped in after “Jackson” in “Astro”, vocal gibberish resembling the phrase “Third Man” in “Screwdriver” …all these are sweet little chesnuts in this wonderful setlist from the briefest of transitional periods…mixing in, with guile, songs from the impending “White Blood Cells” with choice cuts from the band’s previous efforts.
All that said, over twenty years later and Jack White has not played Toledo under any guise since.
It has been said that after you first tiptoe into the unique musical universe created by Australia’s King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, you may never want to step back into the real world again. nugs.net listeners now have the chance to experience this sensation first-hand with today’s release of nine concerts from the beloved group, including videos of three complete shows from San Francisco, Sydney and Melbourne. Also making its nugs.net debut is the soundtrack to the 2020 concert film “Chunky Shrapnel,” which chronicles Gizzard’s 2019 European tour in all its psychedelic glory.
Formed in Melbourne in 2010, Gizzard has since released 18 studio albums that touch on bad-ass garage rock, full-on ‘80s thrash metal, expansive psychedelia, synth loop-driven, major-key jams, and pretty much every guitar-based form of music in between. These projects are mere launching points for the band’s ever-changing, perpetually sold-out live shows, which are represented in all their glory on this first batch of nugs.net releases. A catalog this varied and extensive may seem daunting, so let us suggest a few highlights to help you ease your way in …
LIVE IN MELBOURNE 2021:
When most of the world was still in lockdown earlier this year, Australia managed to implement effective health and safety procedures that enabled live shows to take place, and on this night, a couple thousand King Gizzard fans in Melbourne were truly the beneficiaries. In just their third show in nearly a year, the group is sizzling from minute one, as Michael “Cavs” Cavanagh’s drum solo whips the audience into a tangible frenzy. An early-set gem is the whiplash-inducing “Rattlesnake,” which hits like Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law’ on a speed bender. Frontman Stu Mackenzie’s vocal lines mirror his frenetic guitar work, conjuring an unlikely earworm as only King Gizzard can. Purple and yellow lights crackle behind the band to offer the perfect accent for the nocturnal adventure “Sleep Drifter,” while closer “K.G.L.W.” (the band’s initials — get it?) is a wicked, riffy monster that will find your brain hanging on for dear life.
LIVE IN SYDNEY 2021:
Three songs in, “Nuclear Fusion” shows why King Gizzard often defies categorization. This swaggering number, written, like many recent Gizzard songs, in the decidedly non-Western microtonal tuning, transports you to a hookah bar in outer space soundtracked by exotic, harmonized guitar leads, wacky, deep grooves, and rapid-fire snare-drum hits that would make James Brown proud. Later on, at this mid-pandemic gig in Sydney, Ambrose Kenny-Smith steps out from behind his keyboard stand to take the mic on the delightfully menacing “Supreme Ascendancy,” while the crackling black-and-white visuals add extra disorientation to the Sabbath-y, stutter-stop stomp of “The Hungry Wolf of Fate.”
LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO 2016:
What better way to salute San Francisco’s rich legacy of psychedelic rock than with a 22-minute closing song? In doing so, “Head On/Pill” features everything that’s right in the King Gizzard world. Building slowly from a positive-vibe, mid-tempo groove, the track explodes into glorious, harmonica-laced boogie rock, retreats back into a bass-driven vamp (with flute!), and emerges again with resplendent, shimmering guitar tones. “Robot Stop” sets the tone right off the bat, with Mackenzie’s guitar lead rapidly descending in pitch like a madman turning an unseen dial. Lyrics such as “Loosen up / time to drop / fuck shit up / don’t forget about it” could very well serve as King Gizzard’s manifesto, so dive right in.
The audio-only albums arriving today are chock-full of goodies as well. On “Live in London 2019,” Gizzard once again saves the very best for the last song of the night. “Float Along – Fill Your Lungs,” from the 2013 album of the same name, is nine minutes of classic rock majesty with a nod to the long, strange trips of vintage Grateful Dead. “Live in Paris 2019” offers a fantastic take on “Muddy Water” — an expert blend of power and mystery. “Head On/Pill” re-appears in a spectacular 29-minute blowout on “Live in Adelaide 2019” and even tips the cap to the diehards by spontaneously rewiring the main riff from “Rattlesnake” in a new, major-key style (the audience quickly begins singing the titular phrase in amazement). “Live in Brussels 2019” has killer versions of several songs from the band’s thrashy 2019 concept album “Infest the Rat’s Nest,” particularly the chugga-wugga “Venusian 2,” which is perhaps the best song Motorhead never wrote. “Live in Asheville 2019” shifts into the highest of gears on “Alter Me III” -> “Altered Beast IV,” which could quite possibly melt even the sturdiest of brains.
Finally, “Chunky Shrapnel” rounds up excellent 2019-era live cuts, highlighted by a scorching “Planet B” and the dark, cinematic “Loyalty.” But the real treat here is Mackenzie’s ambient, studio-born contributions to the soundtrack such as “Anamnesis.” Here, we find the seeds of the music on Gizzard’s latest studio album, “Butterfly 3000,” which was built on synth loops and in so doing takes King Gizzard in an entirely new and joyous direction. Who knows what comes next? Keep visiting nugs.net to find out.
Hometown shows are, oftentimes, a mess. The guest list is a clusterfuck, some weirdo from high school you haven’t seen in a decade monopolizes your time, dinner springs upon you like an unwieldy beast that you’ve never had to tackle previously (despite making it work every day in your “regular” life in town). The benefit though is that the performances are so much more likely to be sublime. And the White Stripes at the Magic Stick (coupled with the Gold Dollar as close as they would ever have to a “home field”) on March 31st, 2001 is absolutely sublime.
As the culmination of three Midwestern dates that weekend (Cleveland and Chicago were the Thursday/Friday shows) the run was hot on the heels of the Stripes breakout performances at South-By Southwest earlier that month. The momentum was building. The shows were only increasing in intensity.
While at this point twenty years later, the setlist is fairly in line with other Stripes’ gigs from that moment, the awkwardness of “Boll Weevil” dropping in the middle of the set will never cease to feel like a glitch in the fabric of time. So clearly is that song supposed to be a set closer. In that same mindset, “Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground” NOT kicking off a show, but tucked in the later third of the set, just smacks of a work-in-progress. The White Stripes were always game to adjust and call audibles and pull things on the fly…but once a move was so clearly perfected, well, there’s a hard time breaking out of that comfort.
A particular treat in this performance is the first and only appearance of the red-and-white Danelectro double-neck guitar. The stock clear pickguards were hand-painted red by Jack himself. With the auxiliary neck strung up in the baritone register, the axe is deployed for the “Astro/Jack the Ripper” medley followed by “The Big Three Killed My Baby”…and then never again. To hear Jack’s thoughts on it at the time, he didn’t feel like he should be doing anything that would explicitly court MORE comparisons to Led Zeppelin.
(For those keeping tabs, that guitar would show up on stage six years later ably utilized by the local Detroit garage band Tin Knocker)
I seem to recall selling copies of the Stripes Sub Pop single at the merch table on this night. Or if we didn’t…we certainly discussed the possibility of doing so. Maybe we only sold a few? For everything I remember in the past 20 years, there’s a thousand I’ve forgotten so the fact there’s a solid VHS video of the gig on YouTube is a nice accompaniment here. Enjoy.
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.
It’d be delusional for anyone to argue that the White Stripes gig at the Troubadour in Los Angeles on July 17th of 2001 was the primary focus for the band that day. Of far more intrigue and excitement was their mid-afternoon recording of a live performance at CBS Studios for the evening broadcast of The Late Show With Craig Kilborn.
So once THAT had commenced and the Troubadour confirmed that they could pull up CBS on the television behind the bar…the rest of the day is just a bonus.
Listening back twenty years later, I have to say that the show feels unmoored without a slide blues interlude of “Death Letter” anchoring it all. I know the band didn’t play “Death Letter” at EVERY show, but damn, at this point in the career, it seems like it was all but a given.
So what a delight it is for off-the-cuff covers like Tommy Johnson’s “Cool Drink of Water Blues” and Gene Vincent’s “Baby Blue” and “Farmer John” by Don and Dewey all to sit comfortably among the standards of the era like “Dead Leaves” and “Little Room” and “The Union Forever.” The accent-based “St. James Infirmary” is always a treat and anytime any song comes after “Boll Weevil” I consider that extra special.
The celebratory feeling of seeing Jack and Meg bash out “Screwdriver” and “Your Southern Can Is Mine” on Kilborn on the modest screen behind the storied downstairs bar was probably the last moment where I most truly thought “there’s no getting bigger than this” for the White Stripes. And the fact that we’re here, now, twenty years later still talking about and sharing these recollections is all the proof I need that the White Stripes are amazingly still relevant and, in many ways, still getting bigger.
The bigger the venue, the more vibe matters. That’s not to say stadium shows in the US and especially Europe aren’t filled with longtime fans hanging on every note. They always represent, holding up signs and requesting songs. But stadium concerts are inherently more inclusive, pulling in the one-show-per-tour types, their friends, and folks who just want a fun night out at the biggest event in town.
An audience composed of those who own Tracks and those who perhaps only own Greatest Hits can spur discord. How do you construct a show that delivers the friendly and familiar while still managing to delight those who know just how many times a particular song has been played on the tour?
Boston 8/15/12 stands as a model of how to satisfy both camps and then some. On a warm (and later wet) night at Fenway Park in Boston, Bruce throws a summer party where all are welcome and those with whom he and the band have a long-term relationship are recognized and rewarded.
Apropos of the venue, the show opens with a recording “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” sending the cue that this is a participatory event. Roy Bittan and Bruce then surprise the Fenway faithful with another prelude: the stripped-down, piano arrangement of “Thunder Road” that opened shows in 1975.
It is fascinating to hear this version of “Thunder Road” (familiar to many as the first song on Live/1975-85) performed 37 years later by the same musicians—reinterpreting yet again their Born to Run tour reinterpretation of the original. In 2012, Bruce’s voice has a distinctly mature timbre, and his cadence and lyrical emphasis have shifted. Roy’s piano playing is less Broadway, still carrying the melody but in a slightly abstract expression. “Thunder Road ’75” is the first of three direct nods Bruce makes at Fenway to the way particular songs were performed in the ’70s.
Out of that sublime opening, Bruce declares, “Let’s start with the summertime hits!” The party has begun. In quick succession, we get “Hungry Heart,” “Sherry Darling,” a cover of Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues,” and a request granted for Bruce’s own “Girls in Their Summer Clothes.” Springsteen’s controlled and precise singing on the Beach Boys-flavored “Summer Clothes” is impressive, especially given he had only performed it once before on the tour.
Boston 8/15/12 also does right by Springsteen’s then-current album, Wrecking Ball, hitting “We Take Care of Our Own,” “Death to My Hometown” and the title track in the first half of the set, plus “Shackled and Drawn” a couple of hours in. Along with “My City of Ruins,” the five songs form the spiritual backbone of the Wrecking Ball set and showcase the rich, rootsy sound of the expanded E Street Band.
Tracks-owning, sign-holding fans certainly got their money’s worth in an extraordinary five-song sequence that kicks off with a request for “Knock on Wood.” “If we don’t know this one we should be castigated,” says Bruce, who can be forgiven for not recalling that the band played “Knock on Wood” once before. At a 1976 show at the Ellis Auditorium in Memphis, Bruce invited “Knock on Wood” writer and singer Eddie Floyd to perform the tune with the E Street Band.
Some 36 years later, mental memories have faded but muscle memory remains, and the band performs “Knock on Wood” with aplomb. Max Weinberg is on point, Stevie Van Zandt channels Steve Cropper, and Bruce has big fun with his vocals. As for the horns, as Springsteen himself says, “Any self-respecting horn section should be able to pull this off.”
Next up, “for our old, old, old, old, old fans,” a marvelous, horn-led “Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?” The sprightly rendition features Bruce calling out the arrangement to the band. There’s even time for a percussion solo from Everett Bradley.
“We’re gonna go further back now,” Springsteen proclaims. “Back in the day we were opening up for a lot of unusual bands. We opened up for Anne Murray…Black Oak Arkansas…Brownsville Station…Sha Na Na…The Eagles…Chicago. Nobody knew who you were…You had to catch people’s ears, so we came up with these very convoluted songs that had a lot of moving parts. This was our first showstopper.”
That early-’70s showstopper, before “Rosalita” began serving the purpose, is the rollicking “Thundercrack.” Its thrilling twists and turns work as well to attract those unfamiliar in a stadium as they did in the clubs back in the day. Bruce gives props to his history in Beantown at the start of the song, saying that, unlike some other cities, “This is Boston, you guys are gonna know this one.” Following ten minutes of “Thundercrack,” Bruce honors another request many of us would co-sign with the second performance of “Frankie” on the tour and only the fourth of the modern era.
“Frankie” dates from the period between Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town, having debuted on stage in early 1976; the song was then recorded, but ultimately not used, for both Darkness and Born in the U.S.A. The lilting, romantic mini-epic was finally released on Tracks and returned to the set for one-off appearances in 1999 and 2003 (at Fenway, in fact) that didn’t quite land.
The Boston performance of “Frankie” is enchanting, rearranged from the ’76 edition to include the horns and feature a new guitar solo in place of Clarence’s original sax break. Like “Thundercrack,” the sweet, hooky “Frankie” has the power to enchant newcomers and satisfy those who have longed to hear it played live.
If “Frankie” wasn’t enough, what came next was the coup de grace. There was a time when it seemed unimaginable Springsteen would play songs he hadn’t performed since the ’70s or early ‘80s. I followed the Tunnel of Love tour for two dozen dates in 1988, a stretch when the setlist remained unusually static and single additions to the show were regarded as momentous.
I’m trying to imagine this conversation taking place in 1988:
Prophetic Person: “In the future, there will be a show in Boston where Springsteen plays these five songs in a row: a cover of “Knock on Wood,” “Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?,” “Thundercrack,” and “Frankie.”
Me: “What? Are you insane? There is no WAY that will ever happen. And I thought you said five songs.”
Prophetic Person: “The fifth is “Prove It All Night” with the 1978 intro.
Me: “SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!”
Springsteen playing songs he hasn’t done in decades is one thing; resurrecting arrangements from a specific tour is quite another. Yet thanks to some superfan in Spain who held up a sign at the Barcelona show in May, Bruce revisited the Darkness tour’s long and legendary piano-guitar intro to “Prove It All Night.”
The Boston show marks the first time the intro has been played in the US since a still-unexplained, two-show resurrection in Los Angeles in 1980. While not as fully developed as the original, the spirit of “Prove It All Night ‘78” remains intact, as brooding piano and searing guitar build to a crescendo to start the song. Coupled with “Thunder Road ‘75,” Boston 8/15/12 is the next best thing to a time machine.
A ’78 double-shot ensues with a bold “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” then a moment of fun. At the start of “Working on the Highway” we hear an extended section of acoustic guitar strumming. What the Archive audio doesn’t capture at that moment is Bruce chugging a beer and snarfing a hot dog, both of which he’d been jonesing for all night.
Before the main set ends, we get another echo of famous song arrangements of the past. Of course it is too much to call it “Backstreets ’78”; Bruce does not revisit the “Sad Eyes” interlude from the Darkness tour. But by incorporating lines from Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream,“ a cover that served as the striking show-closer for much of 2005’s Devils & Dust tour, he does take the middle break of “Backstreets” to a place reminiscent of that same stream-of-consciousness “Sad Eyes” feeling in an epic 10-minute reading.
The Fenway 2 encore opens with a brief, acoustic “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” acknowledging the drops that began falling mid-show, and slips neatly into “Rocky Ground,” the opening chords for which have never sounded more like “One Step Up.” Singer Michelle Moore crushes her vocals, as she did every night “Rocky Ground” was played.
After “Born to Run,” an abridged “Detroit Medley” yields to “Dancing in the Dark” before the tour premiere of “Quarter to Three.” The Gary U.S. Bonds classic is another sign request that Bruce quickly teaches to the backing singers, aided by the audience singing “Doh, doh” before the band has even begun. It’s yet another tip of the cap to the classic era, as “Quarter to Three” has only been played six times since the band reunited, and this might be the best of them.
As history dictates, Bruce shouts, “I’m just a prisoner of rock ‘n’ roll” to end the song, before shifting into “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out.” But there’s still time for one more. The Dropkick Murphys’ Ken Casey joins Bruce at the mic, trading vocals on “American Land” to close a Grand Slam night when Bruce gave the party people and the diehards everything they could have dreamed of.
Bruce Springsteen has enjoyed many a Jersey homecoming: Red Bank 1975; Passaic 1978, Meadowlands 1981, 1984, and 1999; Asbury Park and Freehold 1996, to name only a few. But surely none was bigger than the six-show run Bruce and the E Street Band performed at Giants Stadium in the summer of 1985, arguably the zenith of the Born in the U.S.A. Tour.
Springsteen’s Giants Stadium stand kicked off on Sunday, August 18. It was a tight load-in for the crew (something Bruce acknowledges at the end of this show), as the NY Giants played a preseason NFL game there the night before, making for a quick turnaround from football to on-field concert. As I’m sure at least one of you is wondering: the Giants beat the Green Bay Packers that night by the extraordinarily rare score of 10-2.
Bruce and the band went on to perform at the stadium Sunday and Monday, took Tuesday off, and returned for shows Wednesday and finally this performance on Thursday. All four nights were professionally recorded, with songs from August 19 and 21 later featured on Live/1975-85. This release marks the debut of the August 22 recording. After a brief trip to Toronto for two shows north of the border, the Giants Stadium homestand wrapped with gigs on August 31 and September 1. The remote recording truck did not return for the last two concerts.
Needless to say, each of these Giants Stadium shows was an incredibly tough ticket. Sure, Bruce and the E Street Band were playing a much bigger venue than nearby Brendan Byrne Arena, where they did ten nights the previous summer, but the fanbase had also increased exponentially. The narrative of New Jersey’s local hero returning home as the biggest rock star on the planet was plastered across newspapers, radio, and television.
As such, the mood of the Giants Stadium stand is decidedly celebratory. The people came for a party, they came for Born in the U.S.A., and Springsteen didn’t disappoint. At the 8/22/85 show, he performed ten of the album’s 12 songs, plus the nearly-as-popular b-side, “Pink Cadillac.” Fratello di sangue Stevie Van Zandt re-joined his bandmates for a rollicking encore that only slowed down for the Garden State’s other unofficial anthem, Tom Waits’ “Jersey Girl.” Yet even as he met the fans’ mandate, Springsteen found ways to weave moments of musical beauty into the merriment.
The first set opens big as it had to, with “Born in the U.S.A.,” “Badlands,” and “Out in the Street” giving the people exactly what they came for. Credit Bruce for retaining the mini-Nebraska set established in shows the prior year, even in this enormous setting. August 22 features “Johnny 99” and a crackling “Atlantic City,” the latter marked by a great Springsteen vocal (“Debts that no honest MAN COULD PAY”) and fine guitar work from Nils Lofgren. The kindred “Seeds” fits perfectly with the Nebraska songs, and all three are delivered at stadium scale complementing their acoustic roots.
The contrasting performance of “The River” that follows is more intimate and a standout in the set, riding superb piano work from Roy Bittan. “I’m Goin’ Down” and “Working on the Highway” came into their own in 1985, and these are exemplary versions, perhaps as good as either ever got, with “I’m Goin’ Down” in particular fully developed including some wonderful guitar at the end that you’ll likely find unfamiliar.
“Trapped” sets a new mood and takes the audience on a dynamic ride up, down, and up again—you can feel the entire stadium rise for the song’s exalted crescendos. The remainder of the first set goes down easy, with a fun call-and-response preceding “Glory Days” (the best of which is “Guba, Guba, Guba, Guba”) and an enthusiastic “The Promised Land,” highlighted by backing vocals from Patti Scialfa and an invitation to “Come On!” and join in during the song’s bridge.
That sets the stage for Springsteen’s request for support of local charitable organizations leading appropriately into “My Hometown.” The first set wraps joyfully with “Thunder Road,” and the roar that greets its arrival tells you the good people of New Jersey are having the night they wanted. The chorus to “Thunder Road” seems to acknowledge that, especially when Bruce and Patti’s voices go up extra high as they sing, “Sit tight, take hold, Thunder Road.”
A straightforward but satisfying second set follows the standard 1985 stadium show template, with leaner, more muscular arrangements of songs like “Cover Me” and “Dancing in the Dark” compared to their arena editions. The same can be said for “Downbound Train,” and Bruce adds some appealing vocal tweaks, especially the way he holds the words “downbound train” at the end of the second chorus.
The second-set standout is “Pink Cadillac.” You might remember the long intro with Bruce talking about Adam and Eve, temptation, and the Garden of Eden in New Jersey. He has never spun this fable better. The band holds their own too, laying down a funky synth groove to start, eventually building “Pink Cadillac” into a sinewy, roadhouse banger, with sleazy saxophone from Clarence Clemons and Roy Bittan giving the Killer a run for his money on piano.
Before the final fun begins, there’s a sentimental moment where Bruce dedicates a short, solo acoustic version of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” to his first manager and professional supporter, Tex Vinyard. He also reminds the audience—in words as timely today as ever—that “the promise of what our country was supposed to be about….[is] eroding every day for many of our fellow Americans.” Before an outstanding “Born to Run,” Springsteen utters the memorable phrase that sums up the key to that promise so perfectly: “Nobody wins unless everybody wins.”
Cementing the status of 8/22/85 as a special night, Springsteen invites Stevie Van Zandt to join the band for the remainder of the encore. Having heard the pair perform “Two Hearts” night after night on the Reunion tour, we can underestimate how meaningful Stevie’s appearance and that song would be to the assembled masses in 1985. Another River song, “Ramrod” keeps things jocular, with Van Zandt relishing his vocal contributions, including a couple of solo lines in the final verse.
No Jersey Shore bar band worth their salt would fail to pull out “Twist and Shout” for this occasion. It is rock ‘n’ roll’s ultimate singalong, and within it, Springsteen indulges in a charming bit of adulation baiting with “Do You Love Me?” Finally, “Jersey Girl” serves as the perfect summer-night coda for the Garden State.
That would be more than enough for most, but the expanded band isn’t done quite yet. Bruce goes back to the River one last time to a song he wrote expressly for a summer party, “Sherry Darling,” driving home the band-fan relationship as he sings, “I got you and you got me.”
Springsteen and the E Street Band’s Giants Stadium shows were New Jersey’s answer to the Canyon of Heroes, ticker-tape parades in concert form. In this case, the world-conquering, returning heroes were performing their mighty deeds even as the confetti flew, celebrating with their home-state audience by doing the thing they do best. As Springsteen would sing decades later in “Wrecking Ball,” this is where Giants came to play. Yes they did.
The West Coast run in July of 2001 was arguably the most exhilarating span of tour dates I ever had the pleasure of accompanying the White Stripes on. All the shows were sold out, each night some exciting name would show up at the gig unexpectedly, the band was shit hot on fire and all the building hype and furor was unlike anything we’d ever experienced before and arguably would never experience again.
So the White Stripes fourth San Francisco gig in just over four months was all of those things and more. From my recollection, the previous night’s performance at Bimbo’s was just a hair-off…the supper club-style setting not completely conducive to the vibe the Stripes were putting out on that evening.
It also appeared to be an early example (the earliest?) of a weird phenomenon that befell the Stripes for the rest of their career. When doing a two-night stand in a city… the first crowd is usually…not as enthusiastic as it could be. The second night was almost always more than compensatory for this, but it was something that was consistently observed and talked about and at least attempted to “solve” for years.
This is clearly evidenced by the gig kicking off with “Little Room”, a unique placement in the set for this song which usually operated as an interstitial interlude. “Little Room” is a reaction to the subdued crowd reaction the previous evening AND a great way to kick up the energy for the start of the show.
Of particular interest to me in this set is a nice sixty-second stretch of guitar and cymbal crash hits that is wholly set apart from the songs it is sandwiched between. Similarly, structured hits would oftentimes telegraph the beginning of “Death Letter” but on this date, it exists just as a unique standalone statement. Here it’s been titled “Improvisational Accents” and it’s a nice capture of a little moment that would otherwise be forgotten to the ages.
Additionally, the interpolation of the traditional song “John The Revelator” into “Canon” found Jack lying prostrate, screaming the words through one of the pick-ups of his guitar. Listening here, the unhinged energy of the recording ably conveys the raw, intense vibe in the room on that evening, twenty years ago today.
A left-turn segue into Carl Perkins’ classic “Matchbox” is a rare cover of the 1957 Sun Records gem, which as far as I have an accounting of, is the only time the band ever slipped this nugget into a performance.
Both “You’re Pretty Good Looking” and “Fell In Love With A Girl” are incomplete here and I have to surmise that somewhere between each track’s respective end and beginning there was an encore break. The specifics though seem to be lost to time and I look back thinking about the simple, easy notes I could’ve taken at the moment to more completely illustrate stories like this. But oh well.
It all wraps up conveniently, almost recalling “Improvisational Accents”, with explosive, expressive blasts of guitar and drums at the conclusion of “Jack The Ripper.” For a run of shows that were all captivating in their own way, this Great American Music Hall show definitely still holds its own twenty years later.
Our No Bummer Summer highlights continue this week with four of our favorite summer concerts from Greensky Bluegrass, The Infamous Stringdusters, Yonder Mountain String Band, and Billy Strings. Read all about these shows, give them a listen in the nugs.net app, then get ready to see them on the road this summer!
We can’t wait to return to Camp Greensky in 2022. Greensky Bluegrass’ home festival is a bluegrass mecca that takes place in Wellston, Michigan each year, AKA the most beautiful place in the world to host a summer bluegrass festival. If you’re itching for a taste of Camp Greensky, put on this classic performance from 2019’s festival. Towards the end of the first set, Lindsey Lou lends her vocals to “In Control.” Later, Lyle Brewer joins on Guitar for “Wings for Wheels”, and a wildly fun jam on “Kerosene.”
It’s common knowledge Bluegrass is best enjoyed outdoors and in the summer. With that in mind, an August Infamous Stringdusters concert at Red Rocks might just be heaven on earth. The Dusters are in peak form during this 2018 string-filled performance. Check out their cover of Grateful Dead’s “Tennessee Jed” about halfway through the set and enjoy the full spectrum of jamgrass. One thing’s for sure, we can’t wait to get back to Red Rocks this summer for even more bluegrass.
Summer Camp Music Festival returns this August with a massive lineup of the biggest names in jam, bluegrass, electronica, and more. Even though it’s not happening in May this year, we can still enjoy audio from Summer Camps past, like this classic 2018 performance from Yonder Mountain String Band. There are some great guests on this one including Al Schnier on guitar for “Damn Your Eyes.” Later, Keller Williams provides enough cowbell on “Don’t Fear The Reaper” to satisfy even Christopher Walken.
Billy. Strings. What more is there to say about the ascendent king of bluegrass? No one commands a guitar quite like Billy and every time he takes the stage it’s a mind blowing unique experience. As Billy gets back on the road this summer, listen to audio from his 2019 performance at Blue Ox Music Festival in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. It’s a wild and mesmerizing ride at one of the most fun bluegrass festivals in America. Banjoist Cory Walker joins Billy for a show highlight version of “Black Clouds.” One listen and you’ll understand why you need to see Billy live this summer.
In terms of listening hours, surely no Bruce Springsteen tour has been re-lived more than the 111 shows Bruce and the E Street Band performed between May 23, 1978 and January 1, 1979. Even with entire tours (e.g. The River 2016) being released in recent years, the Darkness tour remains the consumption king for a number of reasons.
The most obvious factor is time — the decades spent playing bootlegs, tapes, and now downloads from 1978. We’ve held the Darkness tour in high esteem since it ended; even earlier, for those who attended. The rest of us who didn’t witness have been swayed by the wide availability of high quality recordings, notably the five live radio broadcasts from West Hollywood (July 7), Cleveland (August 9), Passaic (September 19), Atlanta (September 30) and San Francisco (December 15), all blessedly released in the Live Archive series.
Add in Houston (December 8), plus second nights in Passaic (September 20) and San Fran (December 16), and one might consider the Archive series has the Darkness tour comprehensively covered. Guess again.
Berkeley 7/1/78 is the earliest Darkness tour performance to be released in the Live Archive series and tenders a distinctive, taut performance bristling with the energy of seven sympatico musicians hitting their stride. The main set offers key songs “Night” and “For You” that only featured in the tour’s early months, while the encore boasts the formal arrival of “Because the Night” to the show. Better still, the final frame opens with an unequivocal boon to the Live Archive series: Springsteen’s solo piano performance of “The Promise,” released for the first time in its definitive, show-stopping 1978 arrangement.
The outstanding sonics of Jon Altschiller’s Plangent-Processed, multi-track mix capture the kinetic electricity exchange between band and audience. This isn’t a “we already know and love him” performance, this is an “Okay, we’re ready to be convinced” set. I’m not one to focus too much on audience sound levels in the mix, but trainspotters who do will be thrilled with Berkeley. The atmosphere in the venue is vividly captured, from the quietest moments to the most rapturous, which adds something extra to the recording.
What a treat it is to hear “Night” immediately after “Badlands,” as a month later it would give way to “Spirit in the Night,” the third song of the night in Berkeley. It’s a particularly joyful “Night,” with each member of the E Street Band coming through loud and clear, from Danny Federici’s chiming glockenspiel to Garry Tallent’s lush bass. “Spirit” takes us down the turnpike to the Shore; “Darkness on the Edge of Town” sends us back out searching for meaning.
“Darkness” taps the show’s tension coil, starting spare but igniting with the line, “Well if she wants to see me, you can tell her that I’m easily found.” I never noticed Clarence Clemons’ rich harmony vocals on “Darkness” before. Listen for him at 3:36, the start of the final, long-held “Townnnnnnn,” the crescendo of a magisterial performance. Fun Fact: Though he doesn’t mention him by name, Bruce acknowledges Mystery Train author Greil Marcus in attendance during his “Darkness” intro.
Like “Night,” “For You” was a set-list regular through July, but it only appeared nine times thereafter. The Berkeley take is lyrical and confident. That vibe continues with added urgency for “The Promised Land,” after which there is a relatively long pause and audible anticipation setting the stage for “Prove It All Night.” It was this very performance that was quickly mixed under the supervision of Springsteen and Jon Landau, and played by the pair three nights later on KMET in Los Angeles in a conversation with Dave Marsh and DJ Mary Turner. Setting aside “Circus Song,” released on the Playback promotional single back in 1973, “Prove It All Night” from Berkeley was arguably the first proper live Springsteen recording to make it into the wild.
Over the years Springsteen and others have suggested the songs on Darkness on the Edge of Town were not as fully realized in the studio as they could have been, with the album sometimes cited as a candidate for a new mix. “Prove It All Night” feels like one of the tracks they were referring to, as the live versions are next-level compared to the studio take.
Given that, it makes sense that after airing on KMET, the live “Prove It All Night” was serviced to several radio stations and the King Biscuit Flower Hour, and it was briefly considered for release as a promo 12-inch single, though it never got past the acetate phase. Compared to versions later in the tour, the Berkeley “Prove It” isn’t as intense, the guitar intro at the start not as long, but it is superb just the same and perhaps a plausible example of what “Prove It All Night” could have been on the album.
The first set continues after Bruce acknowledges his parents and sister in attendance, putting the audience on notice to catch his sister Pam when she was “skipping school.” The final songs of the set—“Racing in the Street,” “Thunder Road,” and “Jungleland”—are exemplary expressions, and you’ll lose yourself in them as the Berkeley audience does. When “Jungleland” concludes, the applause rises and even Springsteen seems caught off guard. The conversion is complete.
The second set matches the first pound for pound, commencing in sprightly fashion with the Big Man showcase “Paradise by the ‘C’” (also aired on KMET along with “Prove It All Night”) and the second of the night’s four unreleased originals, “Fire.” With less than two dozen performances to this point, Springsteen still handles the future Clarence line, “But your heart stays cool.”
Like “Darkness” in the first set, this early “Adam Raised a Cain” is exhilarating. The proto-“Adam” touches the transformer for extra juice, especially on electric guitar, with a nasty prelude at the top and squealing, delicious filth throughout. The dynamics that make Springsteen so compelling in concert are on full display when the band peaks and Bruce howls to a stop just before declaring, “In the Bible, Mama, Cain slew Abel.”
The primitive rock ‘n’ roll guitar foray extends into the “Mona” intro to “She’s the One,” another outstanding reading with more edge than we’re used to. Next, “Growin’ Up” brings welcome sweetness, and the Berkeley audience recognizes the song from Roy Bittan’s opening piano refrain. Bruce then sets the stage, recalling his Catholic school days and the nuns telling his parents he needed “psychiatric attention,” his last words before the lyrics to “Growin’ Up” provide the explanation as to why. In the middle of the song, Springsteen addresses his father directly, explaining in endearing fashion how Douglas’ infamous declaration of “turn down that goddamn guitar” connects to this very night. It’s a special moment.
“Sad Eyes” aficionados can rejoice with another entry in the canon of “Backstreets” versions that contain the emotional interlude. Berkeley 2 matches the intensity with the famous Roxy rendition, with subtle changes including a powerful repeated refrain of “Now baby’s back. Now baby’s back.” “Rosalita” follows, lifting the mood, with the band in total command as they bring a masterful main set to a close.
The encore starts with one of the most significant, singular additions to the Live Archive series, “The Promise,” performed by Springsteen on solo piano. I considered devoting this entire essay to “The Promise,” such is its importance as a song, and in this 1978 arrangement and performance. A friend recently referred to it as “one of the two most important outtakes in the history of music,” the other being Bob Dylan’s “Blind Willie McTell.”
Bruce said “The Promise” was the first song he wrote after the Born to Run album, and it carries overt connective tissue to “Thunder Road,” borrowing those words for its chorus and serving as, if not a sequel, the other side of the coin. For me, “The Promise” is the most powerful distillation in song of the key themes Bruce would explore across Darkness and The River. Heard later by those already familiar with the two albums, it can come across as more of the same, but in 1976 or 1978 it was a revelation.
Over time, Bruce revised the lyrics to “The Promise,” and with a rewritten third verse about his father, he dedicates the song to Douglas in Berkeley and delivers a stark, emotional masterpiece. The songwriting, filled with evocative lines like, “I lived a secret I should have kept to myself, but I got drunk one night and I told it” and “When the promise is broken, you go on living, but it steals something from down in your soul,” is Springsteen at his very best.
Through the passing of time, it is also remarkable how some of the song’s deeply personal lines take on new, societal relevance. More than 40 years later, these words ring truer than ever:
When the truth is spoken
And it don’t make no difference
Something in your heart grows cold
We’re so fortunate to have “The Promise” officially released in its most significant form.
While “Quarter to Three” and “Born to Run” more than hold their own, the Berkeley encore delivers history with the proper arrival of “Because the Night.” It is only the second performance of the song with the E Street Band and the first since Boston in May. Bruce likely restored the song to the set as it was the very week of the Berkeley shows that Patti Smith’s version of “Because the Night” peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. The Berkeley version is a thrilling work in progress, with lyric variations in progress and an abrupt, unfamiliar ending. After Berkeley, “Because the Night” was a set-list regular.
Though the Roxy show six days hence would take place in a small club, venue acoustics, performance, and mix combine to make Berkeley 7/1/78 the most intimate Darkness tour document in the Live Archive series. You didn’t think you needed one more 1978 show, but you most assuredly do.
June of 2001 would find the White Stripes playing three NYC gigs in as many nights and the sense of impending greatness felt all but predetermined. The appearance of the likes of Kate Hudson, Chris Robinson, Jon Spencer, Vincent Gallo and PJ Harvey in the crowds at these gigs seemingly confirmed that.
All celeb-spotting aside…Jack and Meg were expressly feeling weighed down by the extent of their press and promotion duties. There’s a photo taken during this time in NYC where Jack is wearing an otherwise plain white t-shirt that says “New York Confuses Me.” Written (at his request) by Meg, the outwardly transparent reckoning of his mounting frustration with publicity scheduling seems almost quaint in hindsight.
The recording here from the June 17th second night at the Bowery Ballroom is a straight knockout…nary an errant move to distract from the supernova captured on tape, all inside a room that was clearly packed beyond its legal limit of 575 patrons. Twenty years to the day since its recording feels like as perfect a time as ever to share this corker with the world.
The opening five songs are unrelenting in energy and bombast…as solid a barrage of introductory rock and roll the duo would ever seem to muster. A curveball of a groove in “The Big Three Killed My Baby” unfurls at the 1:46 point and gives the song an impressive swing to it.
Seven songs into the set and finally the band plays something off of “White Blood Cells.” I find this funny because at that point, I feel like the album was essentially “out there” and released in all but name. “White Blood Cells” was all anyone could talk about! But that delayed unveiling here is indicative of what I consider an extra-sensorily perfect pacing and song selection this evening.
Just barely audible here is Miss Guy (Guy Furrow) from the Toilet Boys jumping on stage unannounced (and uninvited) to proffer intermittent backing vocals on “You’re Pretty Good Looking.” If It wasn’t explicitly called out here…would anyone have noticed or even known about these fleeting couple of seconds during the glory days of George W. Bush’s first term? Almost certainly not. And that is EXACTLY why I mention it.
Later I dig how “St. James Infirmary” crashes into the set with a heavily-accented guitar intro, only to morph into a subdued electric piano variation on the theme.
The entire evening is charmingly ended with “Look Me Over Closely” and while you can’t tell here…another fan crashed the stage to dance to the song and it took all of the band’s collective strength to not make eye contact through the curiously interpretive movements.
Confused or not, the love New York City showed the White Stripes at this point was clearly returned in the form of as solid a performance from 2001 that a fan could ever hope for, not dulled or diminished at all in the intervening two decades.
This week we’ve got four new shows from Snarky Puppy streaming in the nugs.net app. This month’s releases feature 2018 and 2019 performances from The Boulder Theater; The Belly Up; Bitef Art Cafe in Belgrade, Serbia; and O2 Apollo in Manchester, United Kingdom. Alongside the new shows, we talked to Snarky Puppy’s live sound engineer and stage manager, Matthew Recchia, and Assistant Tour Manager, Felicity Hall. Read the full interview below and then check out their favorite tracks from the new shows streaming now in the nugs.net app!
nugs.net: Being a sound engineer for a band as large as Snarky Puppy is no easy task. Was there a big learning curve working with a band of upwards of 19 members, all of whom have varying solos in an improvisational setting?
MR: Absolutely! The first few tours I joined with the band were filled with endless learning experiences. More often than not in the early days, it was deciding how to fit 40+ channels onto 32-channel consoles while keeping the band happy in the process! That, and learning to use whatever equipment and microphones were on hand to the best of my ability. This was before we carried a microphone package and had to rely heavily on the venue’s stock of gear.
nugs.net: Snarky Puppy tours extensively through many varying rooms across the world which of course adds challenges to your job. What venue stands out as a favorite space to mix a live Snarky Puppy show in & why?
MR: I have been fortunate to see some incredible venues through touring with this band. Picking a favorite seems impossible! If I have to pick one- I’m always happy to see the SFJazz Center in San Francisco on our touring schedule. They have a fantastic crew to work with, a well-treated room with excellent acoustics and plenty of PA, and because we usually play multiple nights- only one load in!
nugs.net: What four words describe life on the road with Snarky Puppy?
MR: Bandwiches, Horns, Espresso, Doors
nugs.net: Being involved in the logistics with a 19+ piece band sounds similar to maintaining a circus. How have you been able to maintain organization with such a large team?
FH: I’ve joined the Snarky crew relatively recently, and I’ve been amazed at how smoothly the whole thing runs. The crew know their individual roles inside out, and the logistics of touring are made much easier when you’ve got such a dedicated and knowledgeable crew. Because the band have been together for so long, everybody is pretty responsible when it comes to being where they need to be and when. Since I’ve started touring I’ve also developed a deeply personal relationship with spreadsheets. Lots of them. Allll the time.
nugs.net: Snarky Puppy tours extensively throughout the world. What challenges do you face while touring through various countries, languages & cultures?
FH: Every culture has its own unique problems and difficulties, and some things which one person considers completely normal are a totally alien concept to others. Learning how to understand different cultures when you’re only in a country for a day or two is a skill that comes with time, and each show you do in another country you learn a bit more about that country and have slightly more of an idea what to expect the next time. But of course, there’s always something that happens everywhere you go that throws a curveball into the works!
nugs.net: What four words describe life on the road with Snarky Puppy?
Over the past year, jam bands have been resilient, finding new and creative ways to reach fans craving the music they love. Now, live music is roaring back and the fans are excitedly returning to their favorite venues for summer concerts. We’re continuing our ‘No Bummer Summer’ series this week with five of our favorite summer concerts that will have you ready to return to the lot and catch your favorite jam bands.
A homecoming show makes for a great performance from any band, but it’s not often you get to see a band play a hometown site as scenic as Umphrey’s McGee’s 2019 performance at Chicago’s Lakefront Green. It was a special show, played right next to Lake Michigan during the height of a beautiful Chicago summer. The band took time throughout the show to interact with fans and share memories of living in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. The show kicks off with the band’s debut performance of “Punchable Face”. The ode’s to Chicago are present throughout the show through its end with a Chicago themed performance of “Gulf Stream ” to close out the encore.
Speaking of Chicago, nothing says summer quite like an outing to the windy city’s Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. This performance from Dead & Company is among their best. It’s loose, fun, and played to a packed crowd in one of the most beautiful outdoor venues in America. It gets off to a great start early with Bob Weir leading the band through a version of “Sugar Magnolia ” with a mesmerizing guitar solo from John Mayer. The first set continues with hits including “High Time” (first performed by Dead & Company earlier in the summer), “Friend of the Devil,” and “Mama Tried.” The second set features some incredible jams during “Sugar Magnolia” and a remarkable performance of “Franklin’s Tower” led by John Mayer. The hot summer night show ends with fantastic encore versions of “Ripple” and “One More Saturday Night.”
Goose’s 2019 performance is fast approaching mythical status. A perfect festival concert that propelled the Connecticut jammers to jam-band stardom. There’s a reason the world has Goose fever, and it’s all present in this tight 8-song set. Goose staples like “Madhauvan,” “Time To Flee,” and “Arcadia,” are joined by Grateful Dead’s “Mississippi Half Step” and Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is.” Pay attention during “Wysteria Lane” for some Magic School Bus teases too. The show is closed out with style during the fan-favorite anthem “Hot Tea.” It’s a 90-minute primer to all things Goose and it’s the perfect soundtrack as we get ready for Peach Festival 2021 in just a few short weeks.
This 2018 performance is Widespread Panic at their most Widespread Panic, in the best way possible. Playing at Trondossa, their home music festival in South Carolina, the boys put together the ultimate performance for new fans and old heads alike. From the opening “Porch Song” to the closing “Conrad The Caterpillar,” this one is heaters start to finish. As the first set comes to a close, the band is joined by none other than Sturgill Simpson on guitar for J.J. Cale’s “Ride Me High” and The Beatles’ “Come Together.” Give this show a listen and get back in that Panic spirit because the band is back together in two weeks for the first time since March 2020!
Bisco Inferno’s 2021 return was a thrilling experience. The Disco Biscuits’ famous yearly performances at Red Rocks were extra special this year and the band came ready to play to the mystified audience. The weekend’s finale performance was filled with rare tracks that are sure to blow the minds of Biscuits fans. The show includes only the band’s 11th ever cover of Guns N’ Roses “November Rain,” which features a tease of Genesis’ “That’s All.” Adding to the list of rare covers, The Disco Biscuits covered Grateful Dead’s “I Know You Rider” for the first time in over five years to close out the final set. This show was a clear indication, it’s going to be a No Bummer Summer indeed.
Live music is finally back and as bands return to the road, we’re officially declaring it a No Bummer Summer. What makes a ‘No Bummer Summer’? High temps, hard rock, mesmerizing jams, blazing bluegrass, and crowds of fans singing along to name a few. To get fans in the #NoBummerSummer mindset, we’ve put together lists featuring our favorite summer shows streaming in the nugs.net app starting with Rock n’ Roll. These legendary shows from Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, Pearl Jam, Metallica, The White Stripes, and Stone Temple Pilots will have you amped up and ready to rock the moment summer hits.
As music lovers everywhere get ready for summer shows, we’re highlighting our favorite summer concerts streaming in the nugs.net app. Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, fronted by one of the greatest performers and icons in rock ‘n’ roll history, are providing fans across the globe with a virtual front row seat to their unparalleled live show. The band is streaming their epic 2018 performance at Hellfest, one of the biggest music festivals in Europe held annually in Clisson France, exclusively on nugs.net. Available now as audio and video on-demand in the nugs.net app, the epic concert features a career-spanning set filled with monster hits and fan favorites, including “Bad Reputation,” “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll,” and more.
Standing in the crowd at a Pearl Jam concert in the summer of 1998 was one of the most exhilarating experiences of a lifetime. You can feel that rush for yourself with this classic performance from Los Angeles’ Great Western Forum. It’s filled with hits from ‘Yield’, ‘No Code’, ‘Vitalogy’, ‘Vs’, and ‘Ten’ including everything from “Alive” to “Wishlist.” After 10 minutes with this show, you’ll be transported right back to ‘98 with your CD player and your shoulder-length hair. With two encores and a “Baba O’Riley” finale, this is a must-listen.
Enter a sprawling 1994 summer mosh pit with this vintage Metallica performance. Part of the ‘Summer Shit’ tour, this concert is a rager from start to finish. The sound of metal clashing from Lars’ drum kit will light a fire in your soul as James’ voice belts out to the mystified audience in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Light up this show and scream along to legendary Metallica tracks including “Master of Puppets,” “Nothing Else Matters,” “Fade To Black,” and a wild five-song encore. Unleash your wild summer spirit with this legendary show.
The raw kinetic energy of any given White Stripes show is unmatched, but the band’s final show was truly something to behold. Playing to a roaring crowd in Southaven, Mississippi outside Memphis, The White Stripes laid down a definitive performance for the ages under a hot July Delta sun. It’s a bold, intense performance, and most importantly it’s LOUD. Just listen to the extent that Jack White leans into “Wasting My Time” and you’ll understand why this is one of the greatest rock performances of all time. It’s impossible to listen to this show and not be hyped for the next big summer rock concert. It won’t be long until we’re standing in a packed amphitheater braving 90-degree weather again.
“Flies in the vaseline we are” – Get stuck in this high octane performance from Stone Temple Pilots featuring original vocalist Scott Weiland. The London, Ontario concert from summer 2011 is the perfect music to open your sunroof, roll down the windows, or put the top down as you ride around through town. The show includes a perfect live performance of their mega-hit, “Plush,” with the screaming crowd singing along. You’ll be singing along too.
Get ready for wild summer concerts to return with these shows and tons more legendary rock performances in the nugs.net app.
The weekend had been a whirlwind…the slightly odd outdoor college gig on the Columbus campus of Ohio State at dusk on Friday night followed by the third time in nine months that the Stripes were onstage at Southgate House in Newport, Kentucky on Saturday evening…pretty sure it was the first run of gigs in the brand new 2001 model Dodge van that Jack and Meg had bought from the dealership for straight cash. I sold merch out of the back of the van in Columbus, Weezer’s “Green Album” was listened to on the drive, the band goofed on the Gories’ “Rat’s Nest” on Friday night…these are the few memories that are still retrievable two decades on.
We made our way back to Detroit with a tad bit of urgency, as there was an interview with Ralph Valdez on WDET radio on Sunday night followed by this performance at the Garden Bowl Lounge, booked under the name “John Gillis” with hopes of notifying some people while not tipping off ALL people.
In my memory, Brendan Benson was doing sound or at least some approximation of it. There may have even been a newly purchased PA for the occasion, but still, that room is a hard one to get the sound just right. Compared to previous Jack White performances in this spot, it felt a hair more subdued…no other musicians, no feral screaming, still that same electric hum, but more a calming exercise than some attempt to prove something or win folks over.
Jack first played the Garden Bowl Lounge, solo, in November 1998 and in the intervening three years he would play there no less than five additional times in various configurations. The June 3rd, 2001 show is, seemingly, the last time he’d play this intimate setting where he’d spent so much time, both socially and on stage, that time and the experience gained used to propel himself from local up-and-coming musician to internationally renowned ROCK STAR.
That being said, I am hard-pressed to find or recall ANY set by Jack White, in any incarnation or band, that is as varied and unique as this Garden Bowl gem. A layover, stopoff, way station…in my eyes, something that just had to be done as a means to get to the better things in the not-so-distant future. The metaphorical closing of one door so that fifty more could open.
All these years later, I’m legitimately surprised to find out that this evening is likely the first-ever live performance of “I’m Finding It Harder To Be A Gentleman.” The take here is charmed…almost as if Jack had never even tried to tackle it without the beating heart electric piano that pumps throughout the recorded version…having to find his footing on the fly but never tipping his hand to the struggle.
Coupled with an early live outing of “We’re Going To Be Friends” and solid runs through tried-and-true (at least in Detroit) songs “Hotel Yorba” and “The Same Boy You’ve Always Known” along with “You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket” a good two years before the band would record it and those are the only de facto White Stripes songs shared this evening. The majority of the set is a phalanx of covers which almost reads as a road map as to where the future would lead.
Like “Rated X”…the Loretta Lynn-penned polemic here is plain but pointed, the live from the Hotel Yorba version would be recorded within a week and end up as a b-side from the Stripes come November.
Or “Cold Brains”…on this evening all contemplative and compelling, while just over a year later and an hour up the road Jack would perform it live with its writer Beck at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor.
Or “Baby Blue”…the 1958 Gene Vincent rockabilly gem, which soon after this performance found its way into Stripes sets and in seven weeks time would wrap up, on a lark, their first ever session for John Peel, as earlier that evening Peel had mentioned his appreciation for Vincent in passing.
“Who’s To Say…” had been a staple of Two Star Tabernacle’s sets during their brief 1997-1999 existence. The song was written by White’s Two Star bandmate Dan Miller and would see its debut release via Miller’s group Blanche on a 7-inch on my imprint Cass Records. Released “summer 2003” (I’m terrible with non-Stripes timelines) and complete with a stellar guest guitar solo from White, the Stripes’ version would follow close behind as the flipside to their “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” single in September 2003.
“Fragile Girl” was originally written by Dean Fertita and performed in his group the Waxwings, who joined the White Stripes on their West Coast tour in July 2001. Fertita would later perform with White in the Raconteurs and then as bandmates in the Dead Weather. White’s pre-song anecdote speaks to his endearing mishearing of the lyric “to unveil a vision” as “television” and its ability to break up a couple or bring them closer together.
The middle of the set is thick with blues and folk covers. White’s tackling of “Dying Crapshooter’s Blues” is arguably the highlight of the entire performance. The daft deathbed storytelling is accompanied by insistently accelerating guitar…from slow, to trot, to rollicking…as the listed litany of last requests piles up, the specter of impending death is palpable, as if there’s a rush to get all these thoughts out before Death wields its mighty scythe.
The folk standard “Black Jack Davey” tells its tale with an austerity of words, which would later make an appearance as the b-side to “Seven Nation Army” in roughly two years time.
“In My Time Of Dying” likely shows up on White’s radar via Zeppelin’s 1975 version. In the context of his performance here, both Blind Willie Johnson’s 1927 original (titled “Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed) and Dylan’s well-known take from 1962 seem to figure prominently.
White’s version barely hits the ninety second mark when, right before the start of the third verse, he pivots into Blind Willie McTell’s “Lord, Send Me An Angel.” Curiously, the first word of that third verse is “Lord” and I can’t help but think this was a purposeful connection between the two done on Jack’s part.
For me, being in the crowd for this performance was a treat…these were all songs that kinda felt like they’d just been floating in the ether for the past couple years. Things that’d be goofed on, messed with, maybe never fully explored yet. In the spirit of that, at approximately 3:14 mark of “The Same Boy You’ve Always Known” you can hear my distant voice yell “Hypnotize!” from the bar.
Jack had written the song roughly three years earlier as a “gift” to local band the Hentchmen. He’d come up with the idea that was vaguely in their musical wheelhouse, recorded a demo where he played all the instruments, and then shared it with them to ultimately…end up having the White Stripes do a version for “Elephant.”
Having heard that demo at the time and likely nothing of it in the intervening three years…I was just hoping to hear it again. My request went unanswered and I’d end up waiting another eight months or so before the Stripes started playing it live.
A recording of this show made by taper Brian Rozman seemed to be available in trading circles pretty quickly after the performance. The quality is solid. A few years back when gathering disparate master tapes for our vault, a DAT of this show recorded by Brendan Benson landed on my lap. Having been previously in the dark about its existence, I was happy to hear it was even better quality than the respectable audience tape…yet failed to capture the entirety of the performance.
So with the help of our crack mastering engineer Bill Skibbe, we stitched those two recordings together and gave the whole thing a proper mastering clean up for the audio you listen to today, just two weeks shy of its twentieth anniversary.
The Garden Bowl Lounge looks largely unchanged now from how it was back in 2001. There’s a new coat of paint on the walls, the random black and blue linoleum flooring has been replaced. But if you get in the cozy little nook where Jack was set-up on that calm Sunday night in 2001 and look up, you’ll see the same checker pattern black and white ceiling tiles, having held that spot for Lord knows how long.
It’s the second Wednesday of the month and that means new concerts from Snarky Puppy are now streaming on nugs.net. Alongside this month’s releases, we spoke to Justin Stanton, a man who wears many hats with Snarky Puppy. Read the full interview below and check out Justin Stanton’s Picks, a free playlist in the nugs.net app featuring his favorite tracks from this month’s releases.
nugs.net: Your name is synonymous with the term multi-faceted musician. From keys to horns to composition you clearly have a wide range of talents. Has your approach to each instrument changed at all during your time with the very vast lineup that is Snarky Puppy?
Justin Stanton: Playing in Snarky Puppy has most certainly rearranged my priorities as a musician. Before, I had always considered trumpet my primary instrument and piano a secondary instrument. My first gigs with the band in 2006 were on trumpet when I subbed for Jay. Some months later, Mike asked if I would be interested in playing keys in the band. I tried to politely decline, saying I didn’t think I was anywhere near the level needed to play the gig. In true Mike League fashion, he said, “You’ll be fine!” For a few years, I was the only keyboard player on most of the shows. I definitely wasn’t ready for the responsibility at the time, but I’m glad I was given the opportunity and I’m glad I took it. Of course, the band has evolved so much since those days, and so many great keyboardists have played (and still play) in the band. I’ve learned tons of lessons – musically and personally – from each one of them, and I’ve learned a lot about myself along the way, too. There were a lot of growing pains along the way overcoming insecurities about my musical worth. Rather than comparing myself to my fellow musicians against the yardstick of what made them great, I had to find within myself what was unique about what I had to offer and develop that. I think most musicians would consider themselves multi-faceted. I am enjoying this stage in my development, but I’m excited about how things will evolve as new opportunities present themselves.
nugs.net: When you get back on the road, do you plan to switch up your touring rig? Are there any new pieces of equipment you have been experimenting with during the year off you’ve had?
JS: For years now, there has been a strong preference toward an “analog” sound in the band. We’ve had the good fortune to play a lot of really great instruments not only in the studio but onstage as well. Depending on who else is on keys when we tour, I might be playing Fender Rhodes, Sequential Prophet 6, Minimoog, Mellotron, Clavinet, Nord Stage, or Korg Kronos. Right before the pandemic began, I traveled to Lisbon to visit my girlfriend before a Snarky Puppy tour. Of course, the tour got canceled – along with all of my subsequent obligations in the US. I ended up staying in Lisbon, and I had only packed a suitcase with some clothes. In order to continue working from Lisbon, I had to completely rethink my setup since all of my gear was in New York. So, over the past year, I’ve taken a deep dive into VSTs. It’s been a great learning process, and I’ve found some really powerful instruments. I’m really excited to incorporate them into the fabric of the music going forward because it allows a greater degree of control and accuracy of achieving the sounds from the records. There is an aspect of excitement that stems from the spontaneity of dialing up sounds on the fly on an analog instrument that doesn’t have the capabilities of presets, but I think there’s room in the music for both worlds to exist, so I’m looking forward weaving the new sounds into the mix.
nugs.net: How has the inability to tour affected your ability to compose? Have you felt more or less inspired to write?
JS: Inspiration comes and goes like it always does, but being at home with a constant setup has provided a consistency and grounding that makes the work of composing much easier. It’s not impossible to write on the road, but conditions are inconsistent, and the tools for writing are usually makeshift. Whereas on tour I might find an empty dressing room to tuck away with my laptop and two-octave MIDI controller, all I have to do at home is walk into my room where everything is set up exactly as I left it. I have a nice Yamaha U3 upright piano that’s inspiring to play, a Soyuz microphone to record trumpet and vocals, and an 88-key controller that’s programmed to work seamlessly with my software instruments. It’s not a high-end recording setup by any means, but the consistency and dedicated space make sitting down to work on music a joy.
nugs.net: What four words describe life on the road with Snarky Puppy?
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.
To jump-start the year-long celebration of the 20th anniversary of the White Stripes third album White Blood Cells it felt appropriate to dust off a solid recording from 2001. Recorded at the legendary club Vera in Groningen, Netherlands, the White Stripes were in full stride during this their 2nd overseas trip of the year. Opening the show with the a-side to their first single “Let’s Shake Hands” and ending two encores later with the b-side to that same single (“Look Me Over Closely”) and you’d be hard pressed to find a more representative gig from this run of shows. Seemingly shared amongst tape traders since its recording, now is as good a time as ever to make this high-quality recording officially available to the public.
Snarky Puppy is back with another nugs.net streaming release. Four new shows join the 60+ concerts added to the nugs.net streaming library in March. The band’s keyboardist, Bill Laurance, has picked four of his favorite tracks from this month’s releases and compiled them into a playlist that’s free for anyone to listen to in the nugs.net app and desktop player. We talked to Laurance about Snarky Puppy, collaboration, and more:
nugs.net: How has joining Snarky Puppy and the Ground Up Music Family affected your approach to compositional collaboration?
Bill Laurance: Collaboration is an essential part of the creative process and Snarky Puppy and the GroundUP family hold this at the heart of everything they do. I’ve been fortunate to witness over the years how an openness to collaboration can lead to some of the most unique and unexpected results, gifting the music with a wider and often fresher perspective.
nugs.net: You have had musical collaborations within a wide range of the arts from dance to film to sound production and more. Has your work with these various mediums shaped the way you approach improvisation within the live setting?
BL: Most definitely. Collaborating with filmmakers and choreographers provides a fresh perspective on how to tell a story. These days when I’m improvising on stage, I try to think about the story. About the characters and what they might do or what they might say. Writing for dance and film can make you think again about the narrative in the music and I try to represent this when I’m improvising live on stage.
nugs.net: One of the tracks you highlighted in the latest nugs.net x Snarky Puppy playlist is Lingus from 5/5/17 with Jacob Collier as the special guest. Could you tell us about how the sit-in with Jacob came about?
BL: We first met Jacob for the 2nd family dinner album in New Orleans with Snarky Puppy. He’s such a unique and special talent. I like to think that he understands harmony like Neo understands the Matrix. He also lives in London and so we invited him to come and sit in for the show at London’s Brixton Academy. He’s one of those rare musicians who seems to have no limits so watching him play is always going to be something special.
nugs.net: What are four words that describe life on the road with Snarky Puppy?
BL: Family, lobby calls, always stretching, sleep when you’re dead. (sorry more than four…)
Head to the nugs.net app or desktop player and check out the Bill Laurance’s Picks playlist in the free shows section and explore our full library of Snarky Puppy concerts.
I saw more shows on the Tunnel of Love Express Tour—21, to be exact—than on any Springsteen tour prior or since. As a result, 1988 holds a special place in my heart.
By the time I started my Tunnel run, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky, it was clear these shows were purposefully distinct from that which came before, reflected in everything from the billing (Bruce Springsteen featuring the E Street Band) and the band members’ positions, to the addition of on-stage set elements (the ticket booth, the park bench) and, most notably, a set list that varied by only a song or two if it changed at all.
Setlist consistency has historically been considered something of a demerit for the ’88 tour. As I rolled from town to town, show after show, I’ll admit I initially yearned for changes, though that was more to counter my own unusual circumstances than any sense that “the show needs them.” It didn’t.
I now admire the Tunnel of Love Express Tour for its commitment to Bruce’s creative expression. Back in ’88, once I made my peace with the lack of changes and focused more on what he was playing, I came to appreciate the shows even more. Certain gigs (I’m looking at you, St. Louis), still stand out for their performance energy and connection to the audience.
By the time the tour rolled into Los Angeles for a run of five shows (allowing me to sleep in the same bed for more than two nights), I was fully on board. Any changes, should we get them, were icing on an already delicious cake. The fifth and final LA performance on April 28, 1988 is peak Tunnel tour and, with the addition of one extra special song, warrants inclusion in the Live Archive series.
We have revisited this stand before, as the second show on April 23 was released back in July 2015. The first thing you’ll notice about 4/28 by comparison is that the Man in Black has moved your seat forward about 10-15 rows closer to the stage, revealing more sonic detail and placing you right next to the band.
It remains a memorable show opening, as the E Streeters walk out in pairs, then Clarence Clemons, then Bruce, to take us on a ride through “Tunnel of Love” straight into the resurrection of River outtake and b-side “Be True,” carried so capably by Clarence. 1988 was a great year for “Adam Raised a Cain,” bolder than ever with the addition of the Horns of Love. Each version from ’88 released in the series has its own distinct appeal in how Springsteen sings it. The tone of this night is expressed in the slightly tweaked reading of the line, “From the dark heart, baby, from the dark heart of a dream.”
“Two Faces,” so rarely played after this tour, stands out for its pure songwriting excellence. The sweet “All That Heaven Will Allow” prelude with the Big Man on the park bench is heartwarming, a moment of looking ahead in life, not reflecting on his passing as we do now. Bruce mentions that when the weather turns warm, “Girls dig out all their summer clothes,” clearly making a mental note that would be remembered 20 years later for Magic. Equally prescient, while looking at photos of Clarence’s new baby, Springsteen jokes, “In about 15 years, there’s gonna be an E Street Band Volume Two.” He was off by just ten years and one familial branch, in predicting Jake Clemons joining the band.
There’s serious high voltage in the back half of the first set. Springsteen’s full-throated vocals fuel the tractor pistons of “Seeds,” and this “Roulette” is a candidate for best-ever status. Every musical detail is vivid, in particular Max Weinberg’s drumming and Roy Bittan’s piano. “Roulette” melds into “Cover Me,” and perhaps because of the horns, the ’88 editions of the song are my favorites. “Cover Me” gallops with conviction, pace and power, twisted just a shade darker by a few snippets of the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.”
“Brilliant Disguise” eases off the throttle a little, though one could argue the subject matter is darker still, as desire gives way to self-doubt. Roy and Danny’s gorgeous “Spare Parts” sonata prelude is one of those moments of E Street musical brilliance that never showed up on record but is nonetheless one of their most beautiful contributions to the canon. The full band and horns bring “Spare Parts” to a roaring conclusion that stops on a dime and resets into Edwin Starr’s “War.” Bruce makes sure every line lands, shifting one for extra impact as he swaps “friend only to the undertaker” to “ain’t nothin’ but a widow-maker.”
The first set ends as it did every night on this leg with a fantastic “Born in the U.S.A.” I’ve written before about the emotive guitar solos that marked the long versions of the song performed on the ’88 tour, and this is a case in point. Jon Altschiller’s mix also reveals the multi-part layering of synthesizer and piano sounds by Federici and Bittan that give “Born in the U.S.A.” its staggering keyboard bite. Halftime.
The second set commences with “Tougher Than the Rest,” Bruce’s voice sounding slightly wearier and the swirling guitar sound (from a phaser pedal?) lusher than ever. In “She’s the One,” Springsteen’s vocal command is on point, pushing “She the onnnnnne” to the edge just before the bridge. In the land of malls that was ’80s LA, “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)” resonates, and from there the second set only gains momentum. “I’m a Coward” is goofy fun; “I’m on Fire” offers a radical, alternate view on love to the point of obsession; and “One Step Up” nails one of the bittersweet parts of human relationships, another masterclass in songwriting. “Part Man, Part Monkey” turns the mood playful again, reminding us it’s just evolution, baby.
At this point in the set, Springsteen had most frequently played “Walk Like a Man,” occasionally swapping in “Backstreets.” But for weeks, he and the band had soundchecked Ry Cooder’s majestic “Across the Borderline,” and it finally made the setlist for the last two LA shows.
The song was written by Cooder, Jim Dickinson, and John Hiatt for the soundtrack to the movie The Border, in a version sung by Freddie Fender and featuring background vocals from future Springsteen backing singer Bobby King. Cooder put out his own rendition in 1987.
Despite fewer than a dozen performances ever, you can hear the influence of “Across the Borderline” in music Springsteen wrote for The Ghost of Tom Joad and beyond, as his fascination with the intersection of roots music on both sides of the border continues to this day.
The Sports Arena arrangement adds soulful scope while maintaining the Mexican elements of the original versions. The song fits so well because it feels like Springsteen could have written it himself, but that’s really a testament to the quality of the songwriting of the original. “Across the Borderline” is a welcome and worthy addition to the Live Archive series.
From there, hit the party lights, as, aside from the sublime solo acoustic “Born to Run,” the last ten songs of the set turn into an E Street block party. Of note, “Sweet Soul Music,” in rare standalone, non-medley form, brings a fitting bit of Memphis to a horn-driven show. Equally fun is the rare cover of The Sonics’ “Have Love, Will Travel.”
“Have Love, Will Travel” was written by Richard Perry (who also penned “Louie Louie”) and popularized by Seattle garage-rock standard bearers The Sonics, who released their version in 1965 on the band’s debut album, Here Are the Sonics. As the story goes, back in 1984, a record store employee from Seattle slipped Springsteen a Northwest Garage Rock mixtape that included “Have Love”; Springsteen found the song and it became an encore feature for the last few weeks of the U.S. Tunnel tour.
As he so often does, Bruce makes “Have Love, Will Travel” his own, keeping the chorus of the original, but rewriting the verses to fit the nomadic love themes of the tour, while making the arrangement a showcase for the Horns of Love.
When we regard several shows in a particular stand, setlist changes are often cited to distinguish good from great–the more changes the better being the general rule. Yet the 4/28/88 set differs by only one song from the previously released April 23 show. Even when the addition is as significant as “Across the Borderline,” the takeaway is that setlist isn’t everything, as Tunnel tour fans already know and I learned out on the road 33 years ago.
Described by the local press as “deliciously irresponsible” and the first rock concert ever at the grand Teatro Amazonas Opera House, the performance of June 1st, 2005 was simply incomparable. Featuring a devastating cover of Bob Dylan’s “Love Sick”, two versions (one electric, one acoustic) of “The Same Boy You’ve Always Known,” three versions of “Passive Manipulation” (two sublime, one outstanding), a snippet of Howlin Wolf’s “I Asked For Water,” and ample marimba on “The Nurse,” and what you have is one of the most iconic and memorable shows the White Stripes ever played.
Words do not ably describe the beauty of the Teatro Amazonas nor the furor riled up by the White Stripes appearance there. Not only was there fear that the amplification of the band would cause the plaster in the building to crack and possibly fall and injure attendees, but out of custom/fear/lord-knows-what the crowd remained seated until being explicitly asked to stand from the stage by Jack White himself. If that wasn’t enough, during the show Jack and Meg ventured outside the venue to play an entirely unamplified version of “We Are Going to Be Friends” for the assembled multitude of fans unable to purchase tickets and watching the performance via closed-circuit feed. The resultant melee was arguably a riot and was lovingly and all together what it makes is one of the best true rock and roll moments of recent memory. Heck, Jack White even got married that day.
The best White Stripes show? Some folks might say that. Listen for yourself and you be the judge.
Any Springsteen show is special, and every Springsteen show is a candidate to be extra special when surprises enter the setlist or the performance peaks beyond expectation. For those of us who count the number of Bruce concerts we’ve attended by dozens and decades, there’s something immensely satisfying about attending a show you know will be extraordinary.
Such was the case when Springsteen announced the final stand of the Reunion tour: ten nights at Madison Square Garden. Fans across the country and around the world busted open their piggy banks to book flights for what was an E Street sure thing—inevitably special shows wrapping 14 triumphant months on the road.
The legendary final night, July 1, 2000, is already an integral installment in the Live Archive series. Now we’re treated to MSG show No. 8, June 27, 2000, which coincidentally features nine different songs than the finale set. The range of his song selections speaks to the excitement the Reunion tour spurred through deeper exploration of Springsteen’s catalog.
Night eight opens with “Code of Silence,” for my money one of the best true rock songs Bruce has delivered in the 2000s. It kicks off the show with the urgency and energy “Badlands” did so often on the Darkness tour. “The Ties That Bind” follows, the first of those nine changes from the finale, reinforcing the band-fan bond at the outset. “Adam Raised a Cain” has made it onto several Reunion tour Archive releases, and each performance is distinct. Here it starts measured and moody until the guttural guitar solo, after which Springsteen’s voice markedly shifts intensity as he carries the song to a soaring conclusion.
“Two Hearts” into “Trapped,” the dynamics of which remain stirring, especially in the lead-up to the Big Man’s liberating solo. While nowhere near as striking as its stark 1980 readings, the wistful countrified arrangement of “Factory” seems to shift the song to a distant memory with which the narrator has made his peace.
“American Skin (41 Shots)” continues to flourish in these early outings, introduced plainly as just “a new song” for which Springsteen requests quiet. He sings the lyrics vividly, and as each E Street voice breaks through the effect is haunting, as if to show how the tragedy spreads and touches bystanders — and, by proxy, all of us.
The band makes an unusual musical transition from the despair of “American Skin” to the hope of “The Promised Land,” starting angular and edged before softening abruptly for a warm, comforting version of the Darkness staple.
The Reunion tour five-pack ensues, carrying us through the center of the show from “Youngstown” (this night as much of a showcase for Roy Bittan’s piano as Nils Lofgren’s guitar) through “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out.” The latter offers tasty detours into Curtis Mayfield’s “It’s Alright,” Al Green’s “Take Me to the River,” “Red Headed Woman,” and Patti Scialfa’s mini showcase of her own “Rumble Doll.”
An extraordinary trio of songs follows, cementing this show as a special night indeed. River outtake “Loose Ends” is one of the most deserving songs to be liberated by Tracks. For those of us who cherished our bootleg copies of the song all those years, it is indeed the great in-concert track we always knew it could be.
On a night of highlights, it would be difficult to deny “Back in Your Arms” is the peak. The song was recorded during the Greatest Hits sessions in early 1995 and released on Tracks three years later. Though performed only 15 times with the E Street Band to date, the song enjoys a kind of instant-classic status, so relatable in its subject matter, so appealing in its Stax/Volt arrangement and tone.
I rarely think of a Springsteen song being sung by anyone else, but “Back in Your Arms” so thoroughly invokes Otis Redding, I can imagine how he would interpret it. Beyond Springsteen’s own soulful vocals, Danny Federici’s organ solo shines, as does Clarence Clemons’ saxophone. This particular performance of “Back in Your Arms” is one I will keep coming back to.
If that rarity wasn’t enough, Springsteen fully blows minds with “Mary Queen of Arkansas.” The Greetings track had been resurrected earlier in 2000, at a stop in Little Rock, for its first live reading in 26 years. Curious that when Springsteen toured solo in 1995-97 and again in 2005, he never once performed “Mary.” This is very much a Tom Joad-style arrangement, narratively connecting with that album more than I had previously appreciated. Still a peculiar song, but a great rendition in new light.
“Backstreets” brings the band back in what is an excellent, passionately sung, contemporary version. The E Streeters continue to show their restored prowess with an extremely entertaining “Light of Day.” It starts with a guitar line for the first minute or so that feels like it is lifted from Link Wray or Dick Dale, though I can’t quite place it. (Can you?) Other references are easier to identify: a few riffs from “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” slip in, while later “C.C. Rider” and “Jenny Jenny” form an embedded mini-“Detroit Medley” just before Bruce’s familiar “I’ve Been Everywhere” list of cities conquered.
A robust “Hungry Heart” starts the encore, which hits “Born to Run,” “Thunder Road,” “If I Should Fall Behind” and “Land of Hope and Dreams” as it should, plus one extra treat. Bruce changed his set lists frequently on the River and Born in the U.S.A. tours, and both had their share of setlist surprises. But there was a sense circa 1980-88 that some of Springsteen’s older material wasn’t under consideration. Reunion changed all that. Every song was again a possibility, and “Blinded By the Light” represents that spirit.
I was fortunate enough to attend this show, which started with a brand new song and encored with Bruce’s very first single, the recognition of which was not lost on me then or now. MSG 6/27/00 was extra special, just like we knew it would be.
Snarky Puppy’s full nugs.net catalog is now streaming for the first time ever. In addition to their existing library, new shows from the genre-bending band will be added to the nugs.net catalog on the second Wednesday of every month. We talked to bassist & founder of Snarky Puppy, Michael League about the band, live music, and more:
nugs.net: You’re a formative member of Snarky Puppy, and continue to compose and produce the vast catalog that Snarky Puppy has created. How does the rotating cast of the Snarky Puppy ensemble change your approach to those original compositions within a live setting?
Michael League: We really don’t even try to make the live versions of the songs resemble the studio recordings unless that’s the most effective way to express the song while on tour. It’s about creating the best possible result in the environment in which we are, rather than trying to recreate something that we made in a vastly different environment. And really, the individual players and personalities on stage constantly push the songs in new directions, which for me is the main allure of touring. I love to see the songs grow.
nugs.net: Snarky Puppy’s music transcends the border of the United States, as the live catalog proves. Has the constant international touring affected the live sounds of your performances? Does the culture of the country you are performing in ever lead to live improv inspired by the location?
ML: Absolutely. We named one of our records “Culcha Vulcha” for this reason. Whenever we travel, we try our best in the little time we have to mix and mingle with the great musicians of whatever city we’re in. We’ve spent many late nights and early mornings in places like Brazil, Perú, Turkey, etc. hanging with, listening to, playing with, and taking lessons from the masters of the music from those musical cultures. It’s inevitable that certain things will slip into the music.
nugs.net: Something that stands out to us from the latest batch of Snarky shows on nugs.net is the incredible cast of special guests. It’s an incredible display of cross-cultural commonality. How does Snarky Puppy go about finding each special guest and how do you know each artist will work well with your compositions in a live space?
ML: Most of the guests that join us for live shows are already friends of ours or at least friends of friends. But sometimes we’ll just contact someone we love and respect out of the blue to see if they’d like to join us for a song. The truth is that the music world is very small, so you’re never really more than one degree of separation from a person you respect.
nugs.net: What four words describe life on the road with Snarky Puppy?
A: Family. Food. Growth. Love.
Head to the nugs.net app or desktop player and check out our full library of exciting shows from Snarky Puppy! You can also check out two free playlists curated by Michael League in the free shows section, no subscription required.
The first show of Jimmy Buffett’s Nothin’ But Time 2021 Virtual Tour airs Saturday, March 6th on nugs.net featuring the penultimate date of the 2012/13 Lounging at the Lagoon tour. The “Lounging” tour took Jimmy all over the country from San Francisco to Camden, New Jersey. As the tour came to a close, Jimmy pulled out all the stops for this Mardi Gras week show with 25 songs full of coastal fun.
Taking place on February 5th, 2013 at the Pensacola Bay Center near the Floribama Shore, the show includes rare appearances of “Frank and Lola,” “Floridays,” and more. A highlight of the show, Nadirah Shakoor shines on a reworked “Queen” version of the “King of Something Hot’ to close out the first half of the show.
Midway through the performance, the band goes acoustic for three songs including Will Kimbrough’s “Piece of Work,” “Pencil Thin Mustache,” and Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s “Southern Cross.” After Eddie Vedder was suddenly no longer able to attend New Orleans’ Jazz Fest in 2012, Jimmy was called in sub-in alongside Mac McAnally and Sonny Landreth. The all-acoustic Jazz Fest set was so much fun that it became a nightly feature of the 2012/13 tour dubbed “The Beach Band”. With Mardi Gras in the air, John Lovell brings a special jazz trumpet flare to “Pencil Thin.”
The show is punctuated with an anthemic and beachy take on Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long.” The cover was a staple of the Lounging at the Lagoon tour, only played once outside of 2012/2013 with beautiful horns and Nadirah Shakoor supporting on vocals.
Two encores round out the night. The first catches Mac McAnally taking on “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” before Jimmy Returns to vocals for “Fins.” The second encore is truly something special with a rare tour appearance of “When The Coast is Clear.” It’s a wild and fun Mardi Gras week show from down in the Gulf. Pour your margarita and get ready because we’ve got Nothin’ But Time this Saturday night.
If you can’t make the livestream or want to re-live the experience, this show and every concert from the Nothin’ But Time Virtual Tour will be added to the nugs.net streaming video library for subscribers. For more info and to start a free trial, head to nugs.net/buffett.
By Ben Blackwell, The White Stripes archivist and drummer for Jack White And The Bricks:
I was never legally old enough to enter the Gold Dollar when it was a functioning rock and roll club.
From my first visit on June 6th, 1998 (The White Stripes opening for Dura-Delinquent) until my final time through the front door on August 8th, 2001 (my band the Dirtbombs playing as a kick-off to a West Coast tour) I spanned the ages of 15 through 19. For insurance purposes, the bar was a 21-and-over establishment. But whether by carrying amps, playing the drums or just earnestly convincing whomever was working the door that I legitimately had no interest in consuming alcohol…I was able to see no less than two dozen shows there.
As likely the youngest person to have been a witness/participant in the music scene at the Gold Dollar…I am well aware that I was DAMN lucky to have done so. That may be the coolest thing I am ever even remotely adjacent to and truly embracing it I feel simultaneous both proud and depressed. Most people who peak as teenagers do so as some sort of high school football/cheerleader/big shot on campus bullshit…all things that I was expressly avoiding at that time. Yet, here I am, over twenty years later, still talking about the group that had a half-dozen mildly attended performances within a nuclear blast radius of each other, across five months of 1999 like it’s goddamned “Glory Days” and I’m Bruce stepping back from the mic so that the crowd can shout along the words to the chorus.
Tony Soprano saying “Remember when is the lowest form of conversation” fucked me up more than any other dialog in my life. I feel like I am constantly fighting with myself. Fighting to appropriately appreciate and contextualize the past and at the same time, attempting to downplay it, hoping that I’m currently living something that will be worthwhile to recollect in another twenty years.
While I weirdly never felt like “The Bricks” (a name we’d never called ourselves and were never referred to as when we were actually performing) were a real band, I was, by far, the weakest player in the group of otherwise professionals. I had yet to join the Dirtbombs and prior to my gigs with the Bricks I had played MAYBE three shows in front of a crowd. One of those was a high school battle of the bands. Another in a bowling alley lounge. You know…inconsequential shit. So while an audience recording of this show existed in tape trading circles since immediately after the performance, this multi-track soundboard recording proved revelatory in what had been unheard to my ears since that night. The opening of “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” shined through with Brendan Benson’s striking countermelodies on guitar, all but nonexistent on the audience tape. When the opening lyrics came through I was confused…” Why is Brendan singing?” The delivery is unmistakably him, though through years and years of listening on a lo-fi tape I’d never noticed Brendan sang the first two lines…
Dead leaves and the dirty ground when I know you’re not aroundShiny tops and soda pops when I hear your lips make a sound…
Only to have Jack jump in, with gusto, guts, glory, and the response to Brendan’s call..
When I hear your lips make a sound!
I’m not exaggerating here…when I first heard this, clear as daylight, I choked up a bit. I think it’s beautiful and feels like a truly moving moment just accidentally happened to be caught on tape that night.
Although I play drums here, I have few clear memories of what went down that evening. Royal Trux, the headliners, were late to arrive. I believe they showed up after we’d finished our set. My mom was there. It was a school night. I was seventeen years old. Pretty sure I got paid. That’s about it. My entire time in the band I was just making a very poor attempt to play drums like Patrick Keeler. Why I thought I could approximate his style is beyond me, and I often compare myself to Billy Yule playing drums in the last-gasp iteration of the Velvet Underground. I really shouldn’t have been on stage or in this band, but am forever grateful and happy that I was.
The setlist features a couple of songs that aren’t on the Bricks live recording from the Garden Bowl two months prior, which was released as part of Third Man’s Vault #15 in 2013. “One and Two” is an original Jack White song that never ended up being used or recorded anywhere else, which is odd for him. I particularly enjoy the slippery bass playing of Kevin Peyok on this song and feel like he may well have been the glue that held the band together. “Candy Cane Children” feels odd outside of the context of the White Stripes, especially as they never really performed the song live. “Ooh My Soul” is sloppy sloppy sloppy and in my opinion, the first two chords presage what would come later via “Fell in Love With a Girl.”
All my personal caveats aside, the show is a legitimately fun listen. That weird time in ’99 where Jack just seemed like he had so much music seeping out of him that he had to hurry up and start ANOTHER band after the break-up of Two Star Tabernacle and his ousting from the Go…and that band seeming to be COMPLETELY different from either of those outfits or the White Stripes even. I can’t help but stress here, besides “Candy Cane Children” NONE of these songs would’ve been considered “White Stripes” songs at the time of this performance. They were “Jack White” songs that hadn’t truly found their form or footing in the duo format.
Originally included as part of our 27th Vault package back in the first quarter of 2016, the audio here is newly remastered by Bill Skibbe at Third Man Mastering…a facility only blocks away from the Gold Dollar address at 3129 Cass Avenue.
As part of my duties at Third Man Records, I was able to enter what remained of the Gold Dollar building on “official business” not long after the original release of this show. Clad in a hard hat and joined by folks representing the Illitch family that owned the spot…it was a sad collection of four walls, dirt floor, and collapsing ceiling. The idea was to try and see if there was some sort of collaboration that Third Man could spearhead to rehab the building. But damn…all I could think of was that besides the walls, there was no “there” there. As someone who had MANY formative nights in that space and saw more than my fair share of transformative performances on that stage AND could possibly help revitalize it…I was unmoved. I’d rather let the memories exist as they were than invoke a Ship of Theseus experiment. Though I did take solace in the fact that I had finally entered the building legally.
On July 22nd, 2019, the structure would meet its ultimate demise in a suspected arson, the news of which no less than a dozen people felt compelled to immediately share with me. Developers reached out to me directly asking if Third Man would be interested in trying to rebuild/recreate the spot. Dare I even mention that there was talk of Third Man getting the building for a $1/year lease prior to the fire? And that we weren’t interested then? When asked by the Metro Times to comment on the fire at the time I said, “History like what happened at that club, for me, transcends the buildings it happened in. I’m sure there were probably at least five other fires in Detroit today that were far more tragic. Life goes on. This too shall pass. Memories are all that matter.”
I stand by that statement. I think I was unemotional about the fire because I actually had the vague “closure” of being able to walk through that room one last time. Bar missing, mirrors behind the stage disintegrated, finally able to go backstage for the first time (no one ever told me there was a backstage!)…the only sign music ever happened there being a destroyed Half Japanese / Godzuki / Wild Bunch handbill I’d dug out from underneath where the security monitors were. Otherwise…it was just a space, empty for 15 years, left to the ravages of time and the elements and scrappers and squatters and in desperate need of being demolished. You know…a regular building in Detroit.
So here’s to the memory of the Gold Dollar, to club owner Neil Yee for being wise enough to hit “record” so many times, to the sublime summer of ’99, to peaking early, to electric nights of loose rock and roll, played for no one you didn’t know, figuring it all out in the process, working on mysteries without any clues, crystalline and idealized in my mind, me unaware of how clueless I actually was at the time, feeling like there was nothing but opportunity, potential and promise that lay ahead.
While youth may be wasted on the young, why are teenage dreams so hard to beat? I think memories, true, deep, stay-with-you-the-rest-of-your-life-because-they’re-fundamental-to-your-ever-so-fragile-sentience MEMORIES are only thrust onto those who are both sufficiently eager and receiving. Old guys who only talk about old times have closed off their receptors, failing to continue as memory collectors. Scientists say that humans aren’t the only beings that recollect, that rats can have episodic memory, but I doubt those vermin are ever troubled by it. Yet the tenuous balance between nostalgia and living in the moment shows no signs of subsiding in my consistently evolving superego…with all indications that my final actions, final words, and final thoughts on this mortal coil will almost certainly be some act of reminiscing. I hope when I get older I don’t sit around thinking about it, but I probably will. You know…glory days.
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.
This Saturday Rick Allen, iconic drummer of Def Leppard, will take the stage with Lauren Monroe, the Big Love Band, and a star-studded lineup of rock and country greats to raise money for out-of-work music industry professionals. Guests will include Wynonna Judd, Billy Idol, Allman Betts Band, and tons more.
The Big Love Benefit Concert is available to order now on nugs.net. All proceeds will go to the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, which provides financial assistance to the millions of music industry professionals who are out of work due to COVID-19. Ahead of the big show, we talked to Rick and Lauren about the show and more.
nugs.net: What was the most challenging part of putting together an event like this during a pandemic?
Rick Allen: There have been many challenges. From the COVID Compliances, travel, being in lockdown and with all of the chaos happening in the world.. just getting the word out so that people will understand the dire need. Thankfully, we have had an outpour of individuals and organizations that have come forward to donate and help with services and talent. Its been a real community experience with very dedicated people who love the crews and industry workers who are really getting hit hard.
nugs.net: What do you think makes drumming a healing art during these challenging times?
RA: Rhythm itself is always healing but in challenging times it can be a sanctuary. It’s a place my mind can rest and simply be with the rhythm. It’s a calming medicine, a heartbeat we all are connected to.
nugs.net: What advice do you have for new musicians who can’t perform their craft right now?
RA: Keep practicing, keep playing, and improving your craft. Learn new things, pay attention to how you take care of yourself, and help others. Being of service always inspires me, I highly recommend it. Also, “Act as If” and Get ready because this pause won’t last forever.
nugs.net: How did you go about forming the massive lineup for the Big Love Benefit Concert?
RA: I texted my inspiring friends who I know have big hearts… and they all said yes. They are not only extremely talented people but they are very generous and kind. Very grateful for them.
nugs.net: What drew you to Sweet Relief as the beneficiary of the event?
RA: Lauren and I have friends that have been beneficiaries of Sweet Reliefs care. I’ve heard such great things about the organization. It was Laurens idea to reach out to them and I’m so glad we did. I’m very hopeful that the benefit, the merch, and the auction will help them continue to do their good work and help many people get through this devastating time
nugs.net: Lauren, when you wrote Big Love, did you know the message would be so universally relevant beyond the circumstances that inspired it? Especially over the past year.
Lauren Monroe: Yes, I did. What’s been happening in our country is not an isolated picture, it’s an issue around the world. I feel that the message of love and empathy, in the face of fear and anger, is a global message.
nugs.net: What are you most excited about from the concert?
Rick Allen: Really, I’m most excited to be giving back to the industry that has supported me since I was a teenager. It makes me happy to help them. I’m excited to have audiences watch the show and get to know how important our backstage crew is and how the music industry couldn’t exist without them.
Watch the Big Love Benefit Concert on Saturday, January 23rd at 9:00 PM ET on nugs.net.
2020 changed everything we know about the live music experience. The industry as we know it fell apart, but the live music community is resilient. From the moment band names were pulled off marquees the only question was “how do we get back out there?” We saw an evolution of the live music experience, and the way we listened to and consumed live music changed dramatically.
Thanks to the internet, concerts became more accessible than ever in 2020. Fans of all genres no longer needed to be in a certain city or at a certain venue. It didn’t matter whether the show was in a living room or on the track of a motor speedway, every show was available to everyone. Below is a list featuring some of our favorite shows that highlight the ways music adapted to 2020, and the ways we enjoyed listening to our favorite artists:
Before the pandemic hit, we actually got a few months to revel in the true live music experience. The first few months of the year are usually the time for Island concerts and Beacon runs, so we were lucky to get some truly special shows.
Once it became apparent that live audiences wouldn’t be coming back anytime soon, bands reunited in the studio to record shows and share virtually. BIG Something dubbed their studio series “Escape From the Living Room,” I think we all felt that.
When the weather turned warm, drive in theaters suddenly came back into style in ways not seen in half a century. The ability to play a show to a crowd that is safely inside their cars was the perfect solution to getting live music to live audiences in the age of social distancing.
Eventually, spaces with large outdoor capacities began opening with extremely limited and distanced in-person shows. South Farms in Morris, Connecticut became a space for Twiddle, Warren Haynes, moe., and other artists to play live outdoor concerts that fans could safely enjoy. We’ve come a long way from the living room.