10 Years In, The Nth Power Is Just Getting Started

The Nth Power. Photo by Cedric Pilard.

By B. Getz

LISTEN: Stream The Nth Power live concert recordings.

Impassioned purveyors of spiritualized dance music, The Nth Power makes a beeline straight for the soul. The torrid trio defies expectation and eschews industry norms, enjoying a profound emotional connection with fans that probes far deeper than surface levels.

“We want to be the biggest band on the planet, you know what I mean?” declares drummer Nikki Glaspie, co-founder of The Nth Power. “Who doesn’t want that for their band? But even more so, we want to make a positive difference in people’s lives.” 

Celebrating their 10th anniversary in 2022, The Nth Power is an anomaly in today’s musical landscape: a band whose mission is completely predicated on the healing power of music, and the concept of spreading love through song. Striving to be a genre-bending outfit, the unit thrives in the live setting, searing stages without sacrificing a modicum of integrity nor authenticity.

Infusing an amalgam of rooted elements — funk, soul, R&B, gospel, jazz and folklore — into their mellifluous elixir, The Nth Power’s infectious exploits have been described as “psychedelic church music wrapped up in heavy metal soul.” 

A decade into the game, this has proven to be an accurate assessment of sorts. Born as a quartet, swelling to a five-piece and eventually distilling to a tectonic trio, The Nth Power is on a prodigal path of righteousness, spreading joy, numbing pain, and making people dance their chaos away.

“The majority of our songwriting incorporates ideas that are both spiritual and timeless in equal measure,” says Nick Cassarino, guitarist/vocalist/co-founder of the ever-blossoming crew he leads with Glaspie and Nate Edgar (bass).  

Riding high on the heels of 2021’s critically acclaimed full-length LP Reverence, The Nth Power is experiencing a resurgence of sorts. Ably assisted by luminaries like Maceo Parker, Dumpstaphunk’s Ivan Neville, Nick Daniels III, and late, great mentor Kofi Burbridge, Reverence was nearly four years in the making, and reflects a leveling up in their writing, a band stepping into their maturity.

“We learned so much from being around Kofi,” laments bassist Edgar, ruminating on the memories of the dearly-departed keyboardist/flutist, who passed away in 2019 after a long illness. “Kofi taught us about ‘oneness’ — in the music, and just with each other as a unit, as a family. He showed us a lot, and we loved hanging out with Kofi. We miss him every day.”

With ten years now in the rearview mirror, there’s quite a bit to look back on along The Nth Power’s fantastic voyage thus far. It’s been a rollercoaster of a ride, not without its diversions and disappointment, trials and tribulations. Yet theirs is ultimately a thunder of triumph, a story told in music, art, community, family, and something bigger than the individuals making sounds onstage or those soaking them up in the audience.

Glaspie, Cassarino, and Edgar can trace their humble roots back to fertile Crescent City soil. The Nth Power famously first coalesced at the Maple Leaf Bar, way uptown in New Orleans, in May 2012 during one of the marathon all nighters that go down at Jazz Fest after dark. The well-worn origin story tells that the founding members were booked to perform in something of an all-star crew behind Jennifer Hartswick, the trumpet player and vocalist best known from Trey Anastasio Band. 

420 Fest, Atlanta, Georgia. May 1, 2022 featuring Jennifer Hartswick. Photo by Adam Berta.

An electrifying frontman and guitarist, Cassarino had been working with Hartswick since their days in the Green Mountain State; the jazz-schooled guitarist a contributor to various incarnations of her solo band. Cassarino has always wielded a bit of punk rock energy with his mojo; he’d also rocked with golden-era emcee Big Daddy Kane, as part of live hip-hop ensemble The Lifted Crew.

Glaspie is a veteran of several iconic bands over the past two decades; in the early 2000s she first hit the jam scene with funk-sax hero Sam Kinninger. Soon the powerhouse was drafted to drive the beats for Beyonce’s all-female backing band Suga Mama for five years. In the dizzying tailwind of numerous world tours with the R&B superstar, Glaspie jetted down to the Bayou to power the slammin’ grooves of Dumpstaphunk, Ivan Neville’s greasy New Orleans institution. 

Glaspie’s connection with Hartswick also dated back nearly a decade; when the drummer first approached the then-fledgling trumpet star on her home turf in Vermont, she inquired where to find some cannabis. Glaspie scored no smoke but made an important new friend, one who would call her for a gig that would swiftly change her career trajectory and her life. 

A multi-hued stylist on the bass guitar, Edgar is a virtuoso steeped in the fertile 90s/early 00s jam scene of the Northeast, most notably logging time with Groovechild and seminal American reggae band John Brown’s Body. Rather serendipitously, Edgar got the call from Glaspie and dropped everything to decamp to New Orleans and shred tunes for the Hartswick late-night performance at the Maple Leaf. 

On that fateful first night the three musicians were also joined by Nigel Hall, a talented keyboardist/vocalist and Lettuce/Soulive affiliate who’d recently relocated to New Orleans. In a matter of moments, the group would gel together mightily, and quickly prove adept at pushing grooves deep into the night, as is custom down there at that time of year. 

Yet as early as soundcheck before the gig, there was a certain spark in the air, an undeniable electricity between these seasoned players. Almost immediately, the four musicians realized there was something more profound within their midst. 

“We sorta knew that there was something there, almost right away. This was a connection that felt different. It felt powerful,” reflects Edgar, remembering the band’s somewhat spontaneous inception. “It felt like… us.”

Drummer Nikki Glaspie. One Eyed Jacks, New Orleans. April 28, 2018. Photo by Marc Millman.

Glaspie too felt the pull of something spectacular, and she left the bold-font bookings of Dumpstaphunk behind to start over at square one with a new vision called The Nth Power. She was willing to forgo sure-shot opportunities and a measure of security in this business to build something brand new, because she believed in it — and it was the band’s to grow from the ground up.

“You only get one life… at least that we know of. And we don’t actually get a lot of time in this life. The time that we spend here…is extremely valuable,” said Glaspie. “Each of us knew, like, right away that we had to do this.”

With that magical onstage alchemy established, The Nth Power was born to the world. 

When they first announced embarkation, the band was swiftly branded a “supergroup” side project, something they themselves may have initially considered. However it didn’t take long for the inspired group to refocus their attention wholly on this newly-divine endeavor.  

“Earth Wind & Power” tribute set. April 28, 2016. Photo by Marc Millman.
L to R: Courtney Smith, Kofi Burbridge, Oteil Burbridge, Farnell Newton, Nick Cassarino, Nikki Glaspie, James Casey, Natalie Cressman, Ian Neville, Weedie Braimah

In its infancy, The Nth Power channeled the grown and sexy vibes, wielding a fiery passion for funky R&B, touching on everything from Frankie Beverly & Maze to Earth Wind & Fire and Steely Dan to disco-era Four Tops. All of the classics were interpreted with an effortless swagger native to this assembly and their captivating sonic brew. 

The first handful of original Nth joints set a blueprint for what this band’s early sound would reveal: spirituality, sensuality, and unpredictability. Cassarino immediately stepped up with intricate, intimate songs, soon markedly enhanced by the cosmic contributions of his new bandmates. The squadron stopped at nothing to learn them inside and out, each adding their own specialized sauce to the stew. 

Weedie Braimah was the next to join the fold, hopping onboard in 2013. The renowned djembefola and percussionist proved a mighty addition; Braimah propelled the band’s ample musical and geographical wingspan to expand even wider. Vintage R&B jams were electro-charged with undercurrents powered by ancient African rhythms and drum languages. The Nth Power revealed oscillating, layered multi-part vocal harmonies, embedding them within their songs alongside funky jazz chords and uplifting invocations.  

Thanks to Braimah, a 100-plus generation ancestral djembe master, The Nth Power began to incorporate polyrhythmic elements to their gospelized gumbo, stunning elitist purists and hooking wide-eared funkateers alike. Some of the band’s ambitious, nascent explorations can be heard on their debut EP Basic Minimum Skills Test, released independently in 2013.

“We’re not building rockets over here, so it’s OK to veer off the usual path. Extending solos and going wherever feels natural in the moment onstage. Each composition has certain sections where we can flex in terms of improvisation. But, for the most part, we try to convey a complete idea and tell a whole story through a song,” Cassarino explains.

When tensions flared within and Hall departed in 2015, The Nth Power added keyboardist Courtney Smith to the fold, plucked from Braimah’s St. Louis-based contingent Kreative Pandemonium. With this change of personnel, their original songs and improvisational styles took a turn for the folkloric, incorporating more traditional and international influences to the recalescent tunes. 

Braimah left the group the following year rather amicably; he sought to pursue The Hands of Time, his own international all-star band curated in the folkloric tradition. Keys wiz Smith stayed on a while longer; The Nth Power continued to push the envelope on debut full length LP Abundance, released in 2016. This quartet configuration took ample advantage of Smith’s prominent church influence, as well as his sturdy R&B chops and elastic vocal range. 

The Nth Power trucked onward and upward with their patented brand of gospelized funk and throwback soul, while occasionally traversing toward the quiet storm of the 80s. This stylistic cross-section is best heard on vibrant live record Live to Be Free, released in 2017.  

Regardless of who is onstage alongside Glaspie, Edgar, and Cassarino — and these days it’s often just the power trio alone — The Nth Power still brings its stirring spirituality to the stage. The band’s aspirational medicine music continues to offer an opportunity for fans to receive something more profound than just a beat to boogie to.

“Throughout our time as a band, the intention has always been to put a focus on the healing power of music,” Edgar concurs. The Nth Power’s impassioned live shows are often so gripping that audience members regularly break out in tears. 

“We want to make music for people to dance to. Because not everybody wants to come to a show and start crying,” Cassarino admits. “I love it when people cry, because it means we’ve touched them deeply. But we also want them to have fun, too.” 

In addition to the rather unavoidable emotional quotient pulsating through their performances, the energy and messages within reveal an optional pathway for one to connect – or reconnect- with something bigger than ourselves, whatever that may mean to the individual. The Nth Power’s music is reverberating with such connection, yet devoid of any religious-type dogma, preaching, or judgements. 

“There’s Spirit swirling all around us, and as a band, we’re in touch with that,” Glaspie says. “We all believe in different things, but we all believe in something that’s more important than the physical realm. And it’s in the music.”

In addition to a catalog of scintillating original music, the group’s smattering of heavenly tributes to the likes of Earth Wind & Fire, Bob Marley & the Wailers, Steely Dan, Nirvana, and Marvin Gaye have raised the bar considerably for concerts of this kind. (The Nth Power’s 2018 Nirvana tribute show is now streaming on nugs.net.) Most often performed in New Orleans during Jazz Fest, or at assorted summer camping festivals around the country, The Nth Power’s trademark tribute sets have leveled up what’s possible in this capacity. 

Each concert is performed by a custom-curated ensemble of some of the finest players in the game. The faithful fashion in which they inhabit the legendary artists they’re covering — and the spirit of their songs — enables the band to reimagine iconic songbooks with a verve and panache that belies their relative youth. 

A prime example of this peerless tribute prowess can be heard on their live release Rebel Music: A Tribute to the Message of Bob Marley, an invigorating gallop through a smattering of Nesta’s most inspired cuts. 

In April 2022 The Nth Power unveiled a different look, taking the hallowed Amphitheater Stage at Spirit of Suwannee Music Park on a joyride through the annals of jam-rock history as part of the unprecedented The Nth Power Ball. In May, the group is bringing back the famed Earth, Wind & Power set with a new lineup for Jazz Fest 2022.

Yet the current day focus of The Nth Power is the core trio of OGs: Glapsie, Cassarino, and Edgar; a rock-solid musical family who’ve persevered through adversity without condition nor reservation. Each player continues to elevate their game with each emotionally-resonant chapter of their story. 

Brooklyn Bowl, New York, NY. Dec. 4, 2014. Photo by Marc Millman.
L to R: Nigel Hall, Nick Cassarino, Nikki Glaspie, Nate Edgar, Weedie Braimah 

A living, breathing organism, The Nth Power has taken numerous shapes and iterations over their unique evolution as a band. They’ve added and subtracted players, mounted all-star ensembles, performed and reunited in various lineups and incarnations. The extended musical family has become something of a collective. 

“It’s interesting to see how the band has shifted, evolved. We’ve taken all these different ebbs, flows and turns through our career,” notes Edgar. 

In recent years, Glapsie, Cassarino and Edgar have found their way back to working with Hall and Braimah, reuniting as The Original Nth Power for select engagements and unearthing several long-shelved classics from the early days.

“We’re like a family,” the bassist continues. “And you might have an estranged bro or something, but they’re gonna hopefully come back sometime, you know what I mean? And we get to hang out again and play music again.”

The Nth Power loves you. They tell you so all the time, the message is in the music. Ten years in, it still feels like they’ve only just begun. Thank you for the light.

B.Getz is a music-culture reporter and podcaster hailing from the Philly area who’s called northern California home for nearly a decade. Senior Correspondent at Live For Live Music, longtime contributor to JamBase, formerly with Everfest/Fest300, and host of The Upful LIFE Podcast — check out all things B.Getz at www.UpfulLife.com 

nugs.net Adds Genre-Spanning Collection of New Artists and Live Concert Recordings to Catalog

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

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

Jack White’s Supply Chain Issues Tour Concert Audio

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

Six Epic Sets from Psychedelic Duo DARKSIDE

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

26 Pixies Archive Concert Recordings

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

Immersive 360 Reality Audio

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

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

Start listening in 360 Reality Audio.

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

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

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

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

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

Start listening in 360 Reality Audio.

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

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

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

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

Golden Smog Reunites For Two Nights At First Avenue

Golden Smog Reunion- First Avenue, Minneapolis

By Tyler Asay

The supergroup Golden Smog was first formed in Minneapolis in 1989. The band was always seen as a rotating cast of musical characters from the Midwest dedicated to alternative country and superior songwriting and has included members of all your favorite bands: Big Star, The Replacements, Soul Asylum, The Jayhawks, Wilco, and more. They have put out four records as Golden Smog since 1995 and hadn’t performed live since 2019. 

These Golden Smog reunion shows were originally scheduled for April of 2020 but were obviously postponed due to the pandemic. Over the weekend, Golden Smog got back together for two nights to perform at Minneapolis’s legendary First Avenue with Jeff Tweedy from Wilco, Gary Louris & Marc Perlman from The Jayhawks, Dan Murphy from Soul Asylum, Kraig Johnson, and Jody Stephens from Big Star.

Night one, Saturday, April 2nd, had the band take the stage in great spirits to open with “Looking Forward To Seeing You” from 1998’s Weird Tales. The band sounded great together; a bunch of old pals getting back together like they were high schoolers in a garage (except with probably combined 50+ years of touring experience under their belts). 

The charm of Golden Smog comes down to everyone taking turns at the mic. Like a Gen X Traveling Wilburys, it’s exciting to hear Louris sing a cover of David Bowie’s “Starman” before  Tweedy goes right into “Walk Where He Walked.” The encore on night one started with Tweedy & Louris as a duo singing “Radio King” from Down By The Old Mainstream

Night two featured similar setlists with some important differences: Different covers were performed each night (night one had the Brian Wilson classic “Love And Mercy” and night two includes a take on The Kinks’ “Strangers”). Both nights featured Jeff Tweedy’s son, Sammy, joining for a cover of Neil Young’s “Helpless”. To have these old friends back together, playing this music that is absolutely timeless, has got to be one of life’s most special gifts. To quote “Radio King”:

“Your music fills my car
And your voice breaks every time
I’m still wonderin’
If I know who you are
I hang on every line”

Setlist (Night 1):
Looking Forward to Seeing You
Lost Love
To Call My Own
V
Yesterday Cried
Glad & Sorry (Faces cover)
Red Headed Stepchild
Starman (David Bowie cover)
Walk Where He Walked
He’s a Dick
Pecan Pie
Ill Fated
Long Time Ago
Signed D.C. (Love cover)
I Can’t Keep From Talking
Won’t Be Coming Home
You Make It Easy
Love and Mercy (Brian Wilson cover)
If I Only Had a Car
Corvette

Encore:
Radio King
Listen Joe
Helpless (Neil Young cover) (Sammy Tweedy on lead vocals)
Until You Came Along

Setlist (Night 2):
Looking Forward to Seeing You
Lost Love
To Call My Own
V
Making Waves
Glad & Sorry (Faces cover)
Red Headed Stepchild
All the Same to Me
Easy to Be Hard (Galt MacDermot cover)
Frying Pan Eyes
Listen Joe
Long Time Ago
Pecan Pie
You Make It Easy
Ill Fated
Strangers (The Kinks cover)
Scotch on Ice
She Don’t Have to See You
Won’t Be Coming Home
I Can’t Keep From Talking
If I Only Had a Car

Encore:
Please Tell My Brother
Radio King
Helpless (Neil Young cover) (with Sammy Tweedy)
Until You Came Along (with Sammy Tweedy)

Encore 2:
Revolution Blues (Neil Young cover)

You For My Soul Reach Down

Bruce Springsteen

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

By Erik Flannigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ultimate Hang With Wilco (The Band) At The Royal Theatre

Wilco Front of House Series 21

Wilco

LISTEN NOW: The Royal Theatre, Victoria, BC – February 10, 2010

By Tyler Asay

Wilco is a band. Wilco (The Album) is a record by the band Wilco. Released in June of 2009, Wilco’s self-referential seventh studio album brought Wilco (The Tour) to about 140 cities throughout ‘09 and ‘10, including a stop at Victoria, British Columbia’s Royal Theatre (Capacity: 1,416) on February 12th, 2010. 

The Chicago band, led by singer/songwriter Jeff Tweedy, has always been notorious for riotous live shows that tow the line between full-hearted American rock and roll with jammy interludes and a sweet, sensitive delicacy that always promotes musicianship. This show at the Royal Theatre shows Wilco at the peak of their powers; a band that has found their groove that they will ride all the way to present day, and they haven’t lost a step since. Listening back twelve years later, and you can hear this beloved rock act delivering the goods to a crowd that truly cares.

The show opens with “Wilco (The Song)”, the album’s (and band’s) title track. “Wilco love you, baby” winks the chorus, with a proto-Siri styled voice announcing the band members to the crowd: “On bass, John Stirratt; on keys, Mikael Jorgensen; multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone; on drums, Glenn Kotche; on guitars, Nels Cline; & and on lead vocals and guitar, Jeff Tweedy

“Ladies & Gentlemen, Wilco.”

Wilco immediately follows up with the bombastic opener from their classic 2002 record Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart.” In comes the noise, in comes the drums, in comes the acoustic guitar. “I am an American aquarium drinker,” sings Tweedy over a cacophony of whirling guitars, and the show is on. “What was I thinking when I said…” is answered by an ecstatic fan:

“HELLO!” 

In 2010, Wilco was at the point of their career where every song, including deep cuts, felt like a hit parade. Seven albums in and jumping back and forth between the rollicking jam “Bull Black Nova” and the total groove of Sky Blue Sky’s “You Are My Face” feels absolutely natural, especially since the band has settled into this natural live setting. Even though the band is known for their ever-changing studio evolution record to record, this six-piece pulls these songs apart and pieces them back together. Perfect example: A song like “A Shot In The Arm,” from 1999’s power pop leaning Summerteeth, retains its sunshine bright harmonies but leans into the darkness a little, especially when played up against the bitter and beautiful “At Least That’s What You Said.”

Before launching into “Nothing’severgoinastandinmyway(again)”, Tweedy told the audience that Victoria has “Shot up their list of favorite places” and mentioned the only way to get to the city is by boat. This was Wilco’s first time playing in Victoria, BC. The band played at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle two nights before (February 10th, 2010) and at David Lam Park in Vancouver the night after (February 13th).

The communal vibe of this Wilco show was ever present in a “Jesus, Etc.” singalong which Tweedy described as a “litmus test to see if we should come back to a city.” Through laughter, applause, and pure joy heard in the voice of the crowd, you can hear Tweedy’s positive response. “That was good! That was great, that was better than good!”

2010 was a raw and ragged period for the live version of Wilco, and this show presents a portrait of the band hitting their stride and playing loose with the setlist and arrangements. Towards the end of set one, the band knocked all of their “fan favorites” out of the way in a row: a super slick seven minute “Impossible Germany” (“This is the first time Nels ever worn tennis shoes on stage, and I think he just dunked on you guys” – Jeff Tweedy) goes right into a blissful “California Stars.” Wilco is rounding the bases here, it’s all a homerun.

The main set reaches a climax with Wilco (The Album) deep cut “Sonny Feeling,” a spirited jangle doused in sunshine bright harmonies. Tweedy reflects on the hypocrisy of suburbia and sharp wordplay with lines about “mini-mart clerks” and “Eminem’s suburban gangster flow” while the band rockets through a power pop bounce and a classic Nels Cline ripper of a solo. Tweedy sings in an skeptical but optimistic voice,

I’m on my way home

From my high school

I’m always contemplating

Why the kids are still cruel

Oh, the kids are still cruel

Wilco then brings it home with the Beatles-styled strut of Sky Blue Sky’s “Hate It Here” and “Walken”, before closing out with live classic “I’m The Man Who Loves You.” After a brief break and cheering applause, the band returns to the stage with a surprise: a cover of Buffalo Springfield’s epic “Broken Arrow.”

“Broken Arrow”’s construction reflects its title: a fractured tower of razor sharp melodies, masterfully pieced together by one of the few modern bands who could feasibly do it. Wilco’s take is a little heartier than Buffalo Springfield’s original, with Nels Cline’s beefed up guitars and some heavy, soupy layers of synth. It’s cut in the middle with a spirited take on “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” before Tweedy returns with:

Eighteen years of American dream

He saw that his brother had sworn on the wall

He hung up his eyelids and ran down the hall

His mother had told him a trip was a fall

And don’t mention babies at all

Did you see him?

Did you see him?

The first encore closes out with a raging 12-minute “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” and an upbeat “Hummingbird,” both from 2004’s A Ghost Is Born. After an absolutely rousing round of applause, Wilco returned to the stage for a second encore of older classics. “Heavy Metal Drummer” burns right into the one-two punch of “Red-Eyed And Blue” and “I Got You (At The End Of The Century)” from their landmark double LP, Being There

Wilco is a band aware of their place in the history of American rock and roll, especially when it comes to live music, and they are eternally selfless and courteous to their fans. Going to Wilco show is like hanging out with old friends, and their February 12th, 2010 performance at the Royal Theatre in Victoria, BC is the ultimate hang.

Setlist:

​​Wilco (The Song) 

I Am Trying to Break Your Heart

Bull Black Nova 

You Are My Face 

One Wing 

A Shot in the Arm

At Least That’s What You Said

Nothing’severgonnastandinmyway(again)

Jesus, Etc.

Misunderstood

Handshake Drugs

Deeper Down

Impossible Germany

California Stars

Sonny Feeling

Hate It Here

Walken

I’m the Man Who Loves You

Encore:

Broken Arrow (Buffalo Springfield cover)

Spiders (Kidsmoke)

Hummingbird

Encore 2:

Heavy Metal Drummer

Red-Eyed and Blue

I Got You (At the End of the Century)

Hoodoo Voodoo (Billy Bragg & Wilco cover)

I’m a Wheel

You can see Wilco live in concert this April in Chicago and New York, and headlining the Solid Sound Festival in May before they head to Europe in June! 

TONIGHT’S GONNA BE EVERYTHING THAT I SAID

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

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

By Erik Flannigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Third Man Thursday: Jack White Live in Paris 2012

Jack White

LISTEN NOW: L’Olympia Bruno Coquatrix, Paris, France – July 2nd, 2012

By Ben Blackwell

With his trusty all-male backing band the Buzzards, Jack White’s July 2012 solo debut in Paris is chock full of reimagined White Stripes/Raconteurs/Dead Weather favorites sprinkled amongst gems from the just-released Blunderbuss. Throw in choice covers of songs originally by Hank Williams and Dick Dale and a guest appearance by show openers First Aid Kit on “We’re Going To Be Friends” and the end result is a 23-song performance that runs the gamut from blistering to brash to breaking hearts. 

Setlist
Black Math
Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground
Missing Pieces
Weep Themselves To Sleep
Love Interruption
Tennessee Border
Hotel Yorba
Two Against One
I Cut Like A Buffalo
Trash Tongue Talker
Blunderbuss
Hypocritical Kiss
The Same Boy You’ve Always Known
Top Yourself

Encore
Nitro
Sixteen Saltines
Cannon
Blue Blood Blues
I Guess I Should Go To Sleep
We’re Going To Be Friends
Carolina Drama
Catch Hell Blues
Seven Nation Army

The Music Tonight Was Composed With A Lot Of Silence

Bruce Springsteen

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

By Erik Flannigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The White Stripes LIVE at Crocodile Cafe, 7/11/2001

The White Stripes

LISTEN NOW: Crocodile Cafe, Seattle, WA – July 11th,2001

By Ben Blackwell

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.

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

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

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

By Erik Flannigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The White Stripes LIVE at The Troubadour 7/16/01

The White Stripes

LISTEN NOW: The Troubadour, Los Angeles, CA – July 16th,2001

By Ben Blackwell

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.

In This Darkness I Will Disappear

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

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

By Erik Flannigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Latest Wilco Front of House Release Focuses on Jeff Tweedy

Wilco Front of House Series 20

Jeff Tweedy

LISTEN NOW: Drive-In at SeatGeek Stadium, Bridgeview, IL- June 4, 2021

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. 

You can see Jeff Tweedy live in concert this December in Chicago and Los Angeles: 

12/22/2021 Chicago, IL – Metro

12/23/2021 Chicago, IL – Metro

12/28/2021 Los Angeles, CA – Largo

12/29/2021 Los Angeles, CA – Largo

12/30/2021 Los Angeles, CA – Largo

Listen to Leftover Salmon Cover Ween’s Roses Are Free

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.

We Closed Our Eyes and Said Goodbye

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

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

By Erik Flannigan

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN, March 20, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://youtu.be/MdjpFDTCqvc

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

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

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

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

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

The White Stripes Live in Toledo, 2001

The White Stripes

LISTEN NOW: The Bottle Rocket, Toledo, OH – April 20th,2001

By Ben Blackwell

What’s so wrong with being sent to Toledo anyway?

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. 

Thunder From Down Under: nugs.net Welcomes King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard 

Image: Maclay Heriot

by Jonathan Cohen

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.

The White Stripes Live at The Magic Stick, 2001

The White Stripes

LISTEN NOW: The Magic Stick, Detroit, MI – March 31st,2001

By Ben Blackwell

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.

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

Bruce Springsteen

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

By Erik Flannigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The White Stripes Live at the Troubadour, 2001

The White Stripes

LISTEN NOW: The Troubadour, Los Angeles, CA – July 17th,2001

By Ben Blackwell

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.

In The Shadow of the Green Monster

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

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

By Erik Flannigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: “SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Got You And You Got Me

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

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

By Erik Flannigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now Streaming: The White Stripes: Live in San Francisco, 2001

The White Stripes

LISTEN NOW: Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA – July 15th, 2001

By Ben Blackwell

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.

LOOKING FOR THAT MILLION DOLLAR SOUND

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

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

By Erik Flannigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When the truth is spoken

And it don’t make no difference

Something in your heart grows cold


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

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

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

The White Stripes Live At The Bowery

The White Stripes

LISTEN NOW: The Bowery Ballroom, New York City, NY – June 17th, 2001

By Ben Blackwell

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.

Jack White Live at Garden Bowl Lounge, 2001

Jack White

LISTEN NOW: Garden Bowl Lounge, Detriot, MI, June 3rd, 2001

By Ben Blackwell

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.

Jack White’s preparatory setlist for the evening

Jack White’s transcription of “Dying Crapshooter’s Blues” lyrics

Jack White’s transcription of “Fragile Girl” lyrics

Metro Times review of the performance

Thousands of Miles for Some Rock and Soul

Bruce Springsteen

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

By Erik Flannigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The White Stripes Live At Vera Club

The White Stripes

LISTEN NOW: Vera Club, Groningen, Netherlands – November 23rd, 2001

By Ben Blackwell

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.

Every Dream Slips Through Your Hands

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

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

By Erik Flannigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The White Stripes Under The Amazonian Lights

The White Stripes

LISTEN NOW: Teatro Amazonas Opera House, Manaus, Brazil – June 1st, 2005

By Ben Blackwell

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.

These Promises We Make At Night

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band

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

By Erik Flannigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ARE TEENAGE DREAMS SO HARD TO BEAT?

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.

-Ben Blackwell

February 17th 2021

One Minute You’re Right There, And Something Slips

Bruce Springsteen

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

By Erik Flannigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking For A Moment When The World Seems Right

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

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

By Erik Flannigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I CAN STAND UP AND FACE THE WORLD AGAIN

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

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

By Erik Flannigan

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

First, a brief history. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turkuaz 8 nugs of Hanukkah are Here

Photo: Keith Griner

It’s the final night of Hanukkah and the final day of Turkuaz’s ‘8 nugs of Hanukkah’. This year’s holiday celebration brought us audio from live performances, studio sessions, and virtual sessions. Each beautifully unique show will delight both longtime fans and those wanting to get to know Turkuaz for the first time. Check out information on each show and happy Hanukkah from all of us at nugs.net.

Studio 54 “Dopakuaz” 

In one single rehearsal in a tiny, cramped rehearsal room in Brooklyn just days before Catskill Chill 2015, all 14 of us (Turkuaz, Dopapod and Johnny Durkin) gathered together and hammered out these 14 songs from the Studio 54 disco era. This was a big set for us and the pressure was on. We proceeded to have one of the best times we’ve ever had on stage. This is one we will never forget!

“The Ball Drop” NYE 2019/2020 

Every year since 2014 Turkuaz has celebrated New Year’s Eve with an event called “The Ball Drop”. This was the first time doing it away from the east coast, in Boulder, CO at the Boulder Theater with our good friend, Swatkins as our guest. The show was sold out and the energy was high. You can hear our high hopes for 2020 mentioned throughout the set, which of course feels strange now. But it’s nice to relive the best part of this crazy year.

Sly and the Family Stone Cover Set 

Another Catskill Chill favorite. That festival was always so special to us, and this set was one of the most exciting things we’d done at this time way back in 2014. I (Dave) ended up being so incredibly sick with a cold or flu of some kind, and I napped in our van until moments before we went onstage. But then the music started and the energy just exploded. This isn’t our highest quality recording or our most flawlessly executed performance, but the energy is HIGH and we gave it everything we had. Still one our favorites to this day. 

Virtual Festival Season 2020 

This year we all learned new ways to make music in quarantine, and this is the culmination of all the virtual festival sets we put together for the year, including all of L4LM’s virtual events, and Bonnaroo’s Virtual Roo-ality. For Bonnaroo we performed Talking Heads music and our newest single with Jerry Harrison and Adrian Belew. Considering our Remain in Light tour got postponed, it was great to be able to collaborate with these guys and keep the arrangements fresh in our heads. Even though none of us were in the same room for any of this music, we still had a blast and felt like we were collaborating. 

The Beatles Quarantine Set 

This one we approached less as a live performance, and more as a video tribute. Though you can watch the videos on Youtube, this is the only audio release we’ve done of these Beatles covers which are near and dear to our hearts. This music shaped our childhoods, and we can only hope we did justice to the spirit of this incredible, world-changing band. The videos went over quite well with our fans, and we’ll hope you’ll enjoy this chance to listen to all the songs as one collection here on Nugs. 

Acoustic Quarantine Set  

We just recently released our first ever acoustic performance on digital platforms, along with our friends at Sugarshack who produced it for us. They challenged us to channel our music and energy into an acoustic setting and it ended being a very special experience. It was so special in fact, that in the midst of the quarantine blues this summer, we decided to do our own attempt at yet another acoustic set which you can only hear right here on Nugs.net. This one also came together very nicely. We hope you enjoy this gentler side of Turkuaz!

Brooklyn Bowl 2016 

This was night 2 of 3 of our 2016 Brooklyn Bowl residency. Brooklyn Bowl feels like our home as a band in so many ways, and it’s such a pleasure to release a board recording from this show. This show has two sets. Most special of all is that the second set is our tribute to The Band. This is the only existing recording where Craig, Taylor and Mikey all contribute vocals as well. Yet another night we will never forget!

The Echo Sessions 

We’re capping it off with the last documented “Kuadrochrome Era” performance, done at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, NC. To say this place and their team of people are extremely hospitable and masters of their craft is an understatement. They made us feel so at home when we arrived and all through the experience. We feel like this set is one of the most unique blends of live and studio performance that we’ve ever done. It was all done live, but with an incredible team of people in the control room and behind the cameras who we thank for allowing us to release this audio here on Nugs. We hope you’ve enjoyed our 8 Nugs of Hanukkuah!

The White Stripes At Spaceland

The White Stripes

Los Angeles, CA – December 8, 2000

By Ben Blackwell

Twenty years and nine days after it happened, I could not think of a better way to wrap up our monthslong delve into the White Stripes live performances from the year 2000 than with this previously-forgotten recording from Spaceland in Los Angeles on December 8th. 

The Stripes first played Spaceland a mere six months prior on June 22nd, having placed an early “hold” on the date at the club enabled them to negotiate a spot opening for Weezer (underplaying using the pseudonym Goat Punishment) in a gig I’m still kicking myself for not even attempting to record or film.

This, their second-ever trip to the West Coast, would be a quick jaunt right as excitement on the band was hitting a fever pitch. Reviews of this show at the time highlight a line around the block to get in Spaceland on this night.

And the show is strong…an inviting mix-up of songs the band had mastered and was flying in and out of sets by that point.  Largely devoid of between-song banter (save for Jack apologizing that his guitar broke the previous evening and that he cannot seem to make it be “friends”) and not garnering an encore, I can only posit that the band felt this show was just okay.

Stripes tour manager John Baker recalls that following the performance, the soundman wanted to charge him $200 for a CD of the show. After a bit of wrangling, John was able to obtain it gratis and this gig, recorded directly to CD, is now remastered directly from that original compact disc master. 

RIP to Spaceland, later known as the Satellite, which closed down this year and never opened back up. Completely unrelated to the White Stripes, but I have fond memories of running into Lux Interior and Poison Ivy outside there and, man, just saying that feels like it’s something I’ll be telling my grandkids like my mom tells me about seeing Pete Maravich play basketball or Elvis at Olympia or the Rationals at the Michigan State Fair

There’s still some other 2000 material stuff kicking around, some of it only just recently unearthed like this Spaceland gig, but for the time being, we’ll consider the door closed on this year and will excitedly move on to other explorations. 
For a review of this show at the time of performance, check out the write-up here…

– Ben Blackwell

The New Jersey Hustle

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Hammersmith Odeon, London, England, November 24, 1975

By Erik Flannigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holy shit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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