Wilco’s Latest Front of House Release Focuses on Jeff Tweedy’s Latest Album

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

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 1st,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’s 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.

The White Stripes: Madison, 2000

The White Stripes

Madison, Wisconsin – 3/16/2000

By Ben Blackwell

The White Stripes’ first-ever performance in Madison was a windy Thursday night in a college town where it appeared most of the students had already left for spring break. The gig at O’Cayz was the band’s first after the completion of their sophomore album, the “De Stijl” cover photos taken a mere two days earlier. While still three months before its release, March 16th is, essentially, the first show of the “De Stijl” tour cycle. The band does four songs off the album (some with the intro of “from our new album that’s coming out”), all of which they’d been playing live for months already. 

While included in a still-unshared amateur video of the 3/3/00 Magic Stick gig, the version of “Death Letter” included here is the earliest available recorded live performance of what would become one of the band’s mainstay songs, performed at almost every show for the rest of their career. A little more simple than the behemoth it would later evolve into, I’m quite fond of the inauspicious take on Son House’s classic here. Like just about everything with the White Stripes…simple beginnings.

From my perch, the show was solid if not wildly divergent or raucous. The band went on second of three bands…before the headlining Mistreaters yet after Rob McCuen and the Ruins. I always felt the snare on this board mix was just too low for my liking but was eternally grateful that Kevin Meyer (of the Mistreaters) had the foresight to record the show. Bright moments like the seldom-performed “Grinnin’ In Your Face” or “Astro” interluding with a nod to “Peter Gunn” but without the “I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield” lyrics or Jack saying he invited the mayor of Madison to the show that evening…all stick out to me as welcome, unique turns in the evening.

Most of all, I’m still scratching my head at Jack introducing “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” as having been written by Buster Keaton…a spurious claim I still have no insight as to where in the hell it came from but had blindly repeated for years before realizing that Burt Bachrach and Hal David were the true authors.

Personally, I had a bitch of a ureteral stent removed earlier in the day and found out I’d gotten a full scholarship to college prior to shoving off for Madison….so all around, it was a pretty memorable day.

We Made It Through The Heart Of A Hurricane

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina

April 28, 2008

By Erik Flannigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The White Stripes: Live At The Magic Stick

August 18th, 2000 had The White Stripes performing at Detroit’s venerable Magic Stick. Supported by near-and-dear friends (who’d later become bandmates and collaborators), the Greenhornes and Whirlwind Heat, the recording provides a window into the Stripes’ mindset that Summer — just after their West Coast De Stijl headlining tour in June and still yet to experience the insanity of their opening slots for Sleater-Kinney in September. The only known live performance of Captain Beefheart’s “Ashtray Heart” (which they’d just recently laid to tape for eventual release in the Sub Pop Singles Club), a rare live outing for the deep cut “I’m Bound to Pack It Up,” and an electrifying set-ending “Let’s Shake Hands” leave the listener with the palpable sense that something amazing is about to happen for this band.

Notes: 

Until someone provides a recording of the 7/22/00 Beachland Ballroom show (or possibly the 7/15/00 Blind Pig show) this is the earliest White Stripes live recording with Jack White using his soon-to-be indispensable Big Muff pedal. The performance of “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” featured here is the earliest extant example of the distorted, feedback-soaked style that would become the standard for this song. The implementation of the green Big Muff Pi pedal here on songs like “Apple Blossom”, “Cannon”, “When I Hear My Name” and others presents dynamic variations on these classics that previously was non-existent, marking a watershed moment in band history that has not been previously heralded. 

Whirlwind Heat played INSANELY early this evening. As in, they were already onstage by the time the Stripes arrived at the venue. The room was pretty empty at that point. So much so that Jack felt bad and arranged for the band to go on again…AFTER he and Meg had finished. You can hear him say after the completion of “Do”…speaking on-mic to Heat frontman David Swanson, “Hey Swanson, you wanna come up? Whirlwind Heat will entertain you again.” The band assembled on-stage quickly and played a brief but spirited second set. Classy all around.

The poster for this performance was personally designed by Jack White (as all early Stripes art was) and may or may not have appropriated imagery from a long-forgotten G.I. Joe graphic. 

While previously released in 2017 as part of Third Man Records’ Vault subscription series, the version featured here is newly transferred, speed-corrected, and mastered in high resolution. Upgrade!

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

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band

Fox Theatre, Atlanta, GA, September 30, 1978

By Erik Flannigan

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The Time Is Right For A Palace Revolution

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Brendan Byrne Arena, E. Rutherford, NJ

August 6, 1984

By Erik Flannigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gonna Be A Long Walk Home

Bruce Springsteen and The Sessions Band

Wembley Arena, London, England

November 11, 2006

By Erik Flannigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The White Stripes: Seattle 2000

The White Stripes

Sit & Spin, Seattle, WA – 12/2/2000

By Ben Blackwell, The White Stripes’ official archivist

I must admit I have some difficulty writing about White Stripes shows that I wasn’t in the room for. My insight, my drive, my perspective is so driven by the experience. But this performance at the Sit & Spin (or is it Sit ‘n’ Spin…I’ve seen it both ways and it drives me crazy) from December 2000 is just one of those gigs that, even though I wasn’t there for, having listened to the tape for almost twenty years it’s locked into my psyche as a barn-burner. 

First off, some details…the White Stripes played two shows at the Sit & Spin on this day. There was an earlier, all-ages show to accommodate minors who’d otherwise be left out due to Seattle’s draconian liquor and live performance laws, and a later one that same night, 21 and up performance. 

Funny thing is…we don’t know which of those two shows this recording is from! If I was forced to guess, I’d imagine the later one, but I don’t have anything concrete to back that up. Just a hunch I guess.

Jack and Meg start the show with an impromptu jam. Totally made up on the spot and never to be heard from again. And honestly, for me, I think it’s bonkers good. Just the thick, muscly Jack White Airline guitar tone that was front and center in that era, power chords riffing, Meg kicking ass keeping time, lyrics a garbled mess all except for the barely discernible “Back to School” which we’ve felt was an appropriate a title as could exist for this one.

Everything else performed here feels just as sublime, rare outings for both “Slicker Drips” and “Sister, Do You Know My Name?” delight while a downright volatile run on “Hello Operator” invigorates. Jack even calls out a journalist from local weekly the Stranger in his introduction to “Truth Doesn’t Make A Noise” using the writer’s own words to introduce the tune as a “sketch of a great song.” Asking the crowd for requests and actually following through on someone’s shouting of “Astro” is unabashedly quaint here. And tying it all together with a solo rendition of “You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket” to end the set is a fitting audio denouement for what stands as one of the best live recordings of the band from this year.

If you’ve got a spare minute, it’s worth taking a look at the show preview in the Stranger that got Jack’s dander up. Still available for perusal here…thank god for digital publication! https://www.thestranger.com/seattle/pure-engorgement/Content?oid=5779

I Heard the Voices of Friends Vanished and Gone

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

First Union Center

September 25, 1999

By Erik Flannigan

It’s all about moments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Watch Live Concert Videos from The Who on nugs.net

Today we’ve added legendary performances from one of the greatest rock bands of all time to our catalog. The Who are now available in the nugs.net app and on our web player. Fans can enjoy three timeless shows that drop them into the crowd in 1970, 1980, and 2015. Here’s everything you need to know about these classic shows.

The Who: Live in Hyde Park Celebrating Their 50th Anniversary

Filmed on June 26, 2015 as The Who celebrated their 50th anniversary, this stunning show with 65,000 fans in attendance at London’s famous Hyde Park is a triumphant return to their home city. This massive event formed a fitting culmination to The Who’s 50th anniversary celebrations and the set includes classics like “My Generation,” “Pinball Wizard,” “Baba O’Riley,” “Pictures Of Lily,” “I Can’t Explain,” “You Better You Bet,” “Who Are You,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Join Together,” “The Kids Are Alright,” “I Can See For Miles,” and many more! This grand scale concert, complete with huge screens surrounding the stage and an exceptional light show, holds true to Pete Townshend’s promise at the start of the set: “You’re a long way away…but we will reach you!”.

The Who: Live at Shea Stadium 1982

The Who (Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, and Kenney Jones) delivered both classic tracks and rarely performed songs: “Pinball Wizard,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “My Generation,” “Substitute,” “Who Are You,” “I Can’t Explain,” “See Me Feel Me,” “Baba O’Riley,” and many more. The tour promoted the 1982 album It’s Hard and the set list was comprised of several tracks from that album, some of which the band would only play live on this tour. The Who’s 1982 North American tour was their last to feature Kenney Jones on drums and the band did not tour again until 1989. This concert film features the show from the second of their two nights at New York’s Shea Stadium and was filmed on October 13th 1982.

The Who: Live at Isle of Wright Festival 1970

This new edition of Murray Lerner’s film of The Who’s legendary performance at the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival features newly restored pictures and remixed sound to finally give this amazing concert the quality release it deserves. Accept no substitute and play it loud! The tracklist includes:

1) Heaven And Hell 2) I Can’t Explain 3) Young Man Blues 4) I Don’t Even Know Myself 5) Water 6) Medley: Shakin’ All Over / Spoonful / Twist And Shout 7) Summertime Blues 8) My Generation 9) Magic Bus

From “Tommy”: 10) Overture 11) It’s A Boy 12) Eyesight To The Blind (The Hawker) 13) Christmas 14) The Acid Queen 15) Pinball Wizard 16) Do You Think It’s Alright 17) Fiddle About 18) Go To The Mirror 19) Miracle Cure 20) I’m Free 21) We’re Not Gonna Take It 22) See Me Feel Me / Listening To You 23) Tommy Can You Hear Me?

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

Bruce Springsteen

Hovet, Stockholm, Sweden, June 25, 2005

By Erik Flannigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://youtu.be/o2GxcTjeu58

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The White Stripes Legendary Oberlin 2000 Show is Available Now

May’s Third Man Thursday is here just in time for the holiday weekend with a very special release. Oberlin 2000 was a cornerstone moment for The White Stripes and now the transformative show is available to stream in the nugs.net app. Ben Blackwell, The White Stripes’ official archivist returns this month with a recap of the show below.

We left Cincinnati later than we should have. A visit to Shake-It Records looms large in my memory and we definitely rolled straight to the club, Dionysus. On the campus of Oberlin College and apparently run by the students there, what could be an easy target to shit on is actually pretty damn cool. I mean, hell, the college I was enrolled in that semester wasn’t booking Sleater-Kinney.

The show itself still sticks out as one of the most transformative the White Stripes EVER played. Like if there was ever so clearly a “before” and “after” moment in the history of the White Stripes live shows, I’d push the pin firmly into the date September 16th, 2000.

I don’t recall the crowds the previous two nights (Chicago and Newport, KY) necessarily “getting” the Stripes. Sure, the performances were solid, folks may have even picked up on it a little, but they were big rooms, law of averages probably explains it. But at Dionysus, man, it’s a small room, maybe 400 capacity, and with a low stage, the space felt like a basement…hot and sweaty, probably not being utilized for its intended use and primarily populated with kids who’ve got NOTHING better to do. Receptors open, transmissions receiving…just give ’em something worthwhile and the response will be wild.

Watching from the merch table at the back of the room, you could feel the band take off. The show starts off interestingly enough (can’t ever recall “Your Southern Can Is Mine” appearing so early in a set) and from around “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” onward, its as if afterburners are on full throttle, every move just of-the-moment and powerful and important and happening right in front of your face.

After futzing around for months, the fuzz feedback mainline of “Dead Leaves” is finally firmly established in the way all would come to know and love it. “Death Letter” is the raucous rail-splitter while the placid verses of “Stop Breaking Down” achieve the song a tempered duality as leveraged by the absolute savage slide of the choruses, while the uncharacteristic off mic screaming in “One More Cup of Coffee” has you realize that mind-bending covers of Son House, Robert Johnson and Bob Dylan poured out one after the other in rapid succession, a most holy trinity of White Stripes heroes if there ever was one.

From “Astro” forward…there’s so evidently a transcendent musical connection between the two entities on stage, of the same brain, taking action without thought, a Darwinian evolution that should crawl across millennia transpiring in matter of mere minutes. On a Saturday night. In Ohio.

Listening back now, nearly 20 years later, it STILL gives me goosebumps. The way “Jack the Ripper” (a song they’d goofed on a handful of times previously) melts into “Farmer John” (a song they’d NEVER previously goofed on) and straight into, hands-down, the best version of “St. James Infirmary” the band would ever perform and arguably epicenter of the aforementioned “before” and “after” designations.

To lay ears to the recording now is to hear “St. James” evolving in real time as an arrangement heretofore unknown, just exploratory explosive accents primally bashing away as entree to the song, unrecognizable from its released version, pummeling inauspiciously into the first verse, Jack’s voice rich, full, expressive, like a vase holding ten thousand orchids hand-painted by O’Keeffe. Then completely out of left-field, Jack offers the second verse double time, damn near jazzy or show tune(ful), humbly paying respect to the roots of this Cab Calloway composition. In my recollection of the evening, I feel like I was holding my breath at this moment. As if to ask, timidly, scared, fearful of failure or catastrophic collapse “can they do it?” And wildly, with abandon, Meg is RIGHT there with him, never missing a beat for the next TWO verses. Weeks, days, shit a half HOUR early this would have been impossible. The chops were not there, the telekinetic o-mind wavelength was, previously, nonexistent. And without ever telegraphing the move, out of nowhere, Jack calls verse four back to the explosive accents, half-time, reigning it in with a delightful smirk, at this point completely showing off how shit hot he and Meg are. Just making it up as they go at this point, verse five crosses back to double time, the intensity somehow amplified, improbably kicked up a few notches and culminating into one solitary, strong expositional statement, like a goddamned full-body statue of Teddy Roosevelt, arm outstretched, pointing, confidently, ready to decimate whatever gets in the way. And that, you little maniacs, is when the White Stripes first hit that apex, as if levitating, where they could do no wrong. Exquisite beauty. The reason we are all here today.

A few songs later and unexpectedly, Jack just starts making shit up off the top of his head. We’ve labeled it “Keep On Walking (improv)” here and that, again, you lucky freaks, is the first time the White Stripes ever just made something up in front of a crowd. Said approach would be responsible for some of my personal favorite moments from the band (including “Little Cream Soda” even though I wasn’t even there to witness it in person) and straight into “Screwdriver.” Jack teases, if only for a moment, the drawn out and confrontational manner of both the MC5’s “I Just Don’t Know” and the Gories “48 Hours” and yet somehow builds upon it. Goes further. Creates distance. Catches nirvana.

Leaving the stage after said culmination, you can hear the crowd just losing it. Apeshit. The opening act, who almost certainly no one there even knew of prior to this evening. EVERYONE was urging them to return for an encore, including the members of Sleater-Kinney, who were all but pushing Jack and Meg back onstage. Really, truly, this never happens, it should never happen, yet witnesses to history and this tape prove, “Let’s Build a Home” just smokes before the tape runs out in a brief moment of Basinski-esque disintegration.

I’m a bastard when it comes to hyperbole…I HATE when people blow shit out of proportion. I don’t have time for it. But I honestly do not think the White Stripes ever played a more perfect show. Yeah Manaus ’05 was bonkers, Tasmania ’06 is electrifying, Mississippi ’07 brings tears, Detroit Institute of Arts, Peel sessions…there’s no shortage of GREAT shows with this band. But ones where everything clicks. Where the band is almost a visage in hyper-speed while their surroundings are but props calcified in amber, where it feels like the incalculable number of nerve endings of every last synapse of every living being in the world were all connected onstage that night…well, damn, Oberlin it is. Because while those other shows may carry more emotion, may explore further depths of the catalog, or engaged multiples of more fans…September 16th, 2000 was the catalyst that enabled all of them to ever happen.

So for that, I’m grateful.

How Turkuaz and Friends Special Jam Cruise Show Came Together

Photo: Jason Charme

By Dave Brandwein of Turkuaz

This being our fourth year on wonderful Jam Cruise, and with two sets every year, we were eager to mix things up this time around. We decided we wanted to cover something really special, but not too obvious. Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome has been a long time favorite album for Taylor, and then in turn for the rest of us over the years. 

We decided ahead of time that this would be a great opportunity to get other musicians involved and do a “Turkuaz and Friends” type thing, which we almost never do. So basically we just called up a bunch of friends to do it (Karl Denson, Robert Walter and basically the entire amazing band, Ghost Note). What we didn’t realize was that the specifics and complicated nature of each song was by far the hardest cover material we’d ever learned. So many random horn lines, harmonies, things that happen 12 times, and then 5 the next, and then 17 the next. Damn near impossible to get everything right. But we practiced a bunch with our own band, and really learned the tunes to a high level of detail. Then as it got closer we thought – “man, without a rehearsal with our guests – this is gonna get interesting!” Spoiler – everyone did an amazing job, guests and band alike. So kudos to them on that! As far as winging some things and just letting it happen how it happened – It just wouldn’t be proper tribute to Parliament if it weren’t a little bit sloppy, chaotic and crazy up there. As Robert said after the show, “that was perfect, especially in it’s imperfection.” And it was a really special moment for all of us. 

Oh, and we also decided not to tell anyone what we were doing and let it be a surprise. It simply said “Turkuaz and Friends – Mystery Album”. We were keeping it under wraps, but needed to try and squeeze in a quick run through. 

So we sealed the doors of the theater, for the very brief (10 minute) rehearsal we had the day of the show. Thinking no one could hear what we were doing, we started playing the first song “Bop Gun” with Karl. All of a sudden, we look up and Ivan Neville is running down from the theater entrance towards the stage and ran up to the piano and started playing. He said something like “sorry to crash the party, but I mean… Bop Gun? I just had to get involved”. 

Sure enough, Ivan returned for the set and became a last minute special guest. Nikki Glaspie showed up side stage during the set, and started swapping back and forth with Sput on second drum kit. Not to mention – the rest of Ghost Note were all dressed in animal costumes and had smiles on their face that seemed to imply some sort of out of body experience was happening (you can fill in the blanks yourself for what may have been going on there). Everyone played great and after the show, Sly from Ghost Note said that during the set he had experienced “the best moment of his whole life”. I’d say that’s pretty satisfying to hear from an incredible musician like him. It proved to be something that the whole boat seemed quite high off of for the following couple of days. It remains one of our favorite undertakings and sets to this day. And now we’re premiering the audio for the first time here on nugs.net Hope you enjoy (warning – it gets weird!). 

Photo: Josh Timmermans


Thank You Guys For Making This Really Seem Like Home

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

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


By Erik Flannigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wilco Shares New Front of House Archival Release

After crossing, un-crossing, and re-crossing the Canadian border a few days earlier, Wilco undertook a week-long stay on the Great White North side of things in early July 2006.  This jaunt featured the introduction of two additional songs from the forthcoming “Sky Blue Sky” album (a third song, “Walken,” had already been in the repertoire for over a year), as well as a(nother) new arrangement of Spiders (Kidsmoke).  

This particular show from The Playhouse features an excellent recording of the band in typical white-hot mid-tour form.  Beginning with what is surely one of their most evocative opening songs, “Hell Is Chrome” forces those who just want to let their rocks roll to sit/stand at rapt attention.  Four songs in, we get a first glimpse at “Sky Blue Sky” in the form of “What Light”, featuring some intro and first verse guitar flourishes from Nels Cline that would later be excised from the live arrangement.  The biggest highlight comes a few songs later: the first (and one of the few) live performances of the unreleased (until now!) “Let’s Fight”.   This rarity was first attempted during the “A Ghost Is Born” sessions, and then re-attempted, but never completed, during the recording of “Sky Blue Sky”.  This is followed by the aforementioned “Spiders”, with its new ending whereby the band fades down to the sole sound of Glenn’s bass drum, only to then abruptly silence that and leave the audience to (hopefully) keep time via handclaps.  Future versions of this arrangement gave the audience sufficient time and rope to figuratively hang themselves (it’s hard to clap in time at a rock show), but this one keeps things short and crisp before the final instrumental chorus comes crashing through.

Other standouts include a very rocking “A Shot in The Arm” and a beautiful extended (albeit slightly undermixed) solo from Mr. Cline on “Ashes of American Flags”.  

– Marc Prizer

The White Stripes Play A Haunted House

From Ben Blackwell, official archivist of The White Stripes

Opening for Sleater-Kinney, the September 2000 performance at the Southgate House would be the first of three Stripes performance at the venue in the span of 8 months. Built in 1812, the Southgate once hosted Abraham Lincoln and was also the birthplace of the inventor of the Tommy Gun.

On this inaugural visit to the club we were told that it was haunted by a female apparition from the 1850s. Waiting in the widow’s peak everyday, she would watch for the riverboat her husband worked on. The Southgate House is situated prominently on bluffs on the Kentucky side so she could easily view its daily arrival and departure. One day, out of nowhere, the ship exploded into flames. Instantly struck with grief that her husband had perished, she hanged herself. In a cruel Shakespearean twist, that proved to be the day her husband had missed the boat, his life spared.

Yeah, if that happened to me I’d be haunting the shit out of that place too. There are other tales of Confederate soldier sightings in the halls, random specters, all-around wholesome fun for the entire family.

The band C.O.C.O. was scheduled to go on first of this evening but got caught up in some Indiana speed ticket drama and would not make it to the club in time to play their set. So the Stripes went on first, something they would only do a handful more times in their career, primarily when the Strokes or Rolling Stones were also on the bill.

Highlights for me in this show include Jack’s delivery in “Cannon” where he stretches the title out and sings it as “cannon-non-non-non-non” in a way I don’t recall him ever doing before or since. And the skeletal “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” just ALMOST where it needs to be, one Bug Muff pedal away from the overdrive the song would need to become a continual set-opener for both the Stripes and his solo career.

After the show, we hung out at the Comet in Cincinnati and then crashed at Patrick Keeler’s house for the evening.

Listen to the full show now