Across The Canadian Border (Godfatherecords G.R. 837/838/839)
Rogers Arena, Vancouver, BC, Canada – 26 November, 21012
Disc 1: Intro/Shackled and Drawn, Out In The Street, Hungry Heart, We Take Care Of Our Own, Wrecking Ball, Death To My Hometown, My City Of Ruins, Spirit In The Night, Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?
Disc 2: Red Headed Woman, Streets Of Fire, Because The Night, She’s The One, Cover Me, Darlington County, Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, Raise Your Hand, The Rising, Badlands, Land Of Hope and Dreams[/People Get Ready], Racing In The Street
Disc 3: Radio Nowhere, Born To Run, Dancing In The Dark, Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town, Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
Bonus Tracks: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO, USA – 19 November, 2012: Get Out of Denver, I’m A Rocker, Bishop Danced, Human Touch, Savin’ Up, Working On The Highway, Across The Borderline
Vancouver Sun reviewer Francois Marchand, writes that, “Springsteen sauntered onto the stage to kick off the proceedings with a stomping, gospel-inflected Shackled and Drawn, with vocalist Cindy Mizelle coaxing a crowd already on its feet to get up and be recognized” – Springsteen begins the song begins with an extended call-and-response which immediately gets the audience involved. Perennial crowd-pleasers Out In The Street and Hungry Heart follow and are in turn succeeded by We Take Care Of Our Own. Marchand comments that, “Springsteen’s workman style, which is often embodied in more activist-like material like We Take Care Of Our Own, co-mingled with grin-inducing, heartwarming cuts like Out In The Street and Hungry Heart, the latter a big happy singalong where Springsteen went waltzing through the crowd, making his way back crowd surfing atop a sea of outstretched arms.” Springsteen sticks with Wrecking Ball material for the next two numbers, the title track and Death To My Hometown, which Marchand argues, “really came to life in a live setting.”
Then comes My City Of Ruins, which despite its popular association with New York and 9/11, was written about the decline of Springsteen’s adopted home town, Asbury Park, when, as Springsteen says, “it was struggling to get back on its feet.” Backstreets magazine founder Charles R. Cross, reviewing the show for the Seattle Times, calls it, “the concert’s high point.” “My City of Ruins, long and languid and about as intimate as you can get in an arena,” writes Tom Harrison for The Province, “demonstrates Springsteen’s power over an audience.” Disc one then concludes with two numbers from Springsteen’s debut album Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., Spirit In The Night, still sporting its overly heavy beginning but otherwise wonderful and the effervescent Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street? with a marvellous contribution from the horn section and a drums/percussion duel between Max Weinberg and Everett Bradley.
Disc two kicks off with Red Headed Woman, played by sign request. Cross, writing on the Backstreets website writes that:
“In Bruce’s nightly selection of signs there was a clear standout: A fan had created an anatomically correct, full-sized ‘Red Headed Woman,’ and her cut-out was pulled onstage. Bruce liked the sign so much he said he was going to take it back to the hotel to ‘study it later.’ ‘This sign is so good we’re going to play this one, and we don’t even know it anymore,’ he said. And he wasn’t exactly kidding, as it was a bit rough, but it was the night’s comedic highpoint.”
In contrast, the song is succeeded by a powerful Streets Of Fire. Then comes Because The Night, containing the usual “searing solo” from (in the words of CTV News’ Robert Collins), “pocket rocket guitarist Nils Lofgren.” After an energetic rendition of She’s The One, a muscular Cover Me with prominent guitar contributions from Lofgren and Steve Van Zandt, and a hard-driving Darlington County, Waitin’ On A Sunny Day contains the customary vocal slot from a child from the audience; here, in the words of Jason Motz on the viviscene website, a “little girl…who wowed all with her stellar pipes and ease in the spotlight.” Then comes a full vocal performance of Raise Your Hand. Marchand contends that, “the rest of the concert was a series of victorious anthems: The Rising, Badlands, Land Of Hope And Dreams, which closed the show with hands held high.”
The encore begins in splendid fashion with a superb Racing In The Street (unfortunately detached from the remainder of the encores at the end of disc two) and the melodic Radio Nowhere. This is followed by what Marchand calls a “rollicking rendition” of Born To Run and a performance of Dancing In The Dark which saw Springsteen dance with an octegenarian lady from the audience before a rather premature festive number in the shape of Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town. (Not that this should be a surprise to Springsteen fans – he has been known to perform the song in September.) A fan dressed as Santa was pulled from the audience for a decidedly off-key vocal contribution. An ebullient Tenth Avenue Freeze-out, closes the show.
This is another very worthy Wrecking Ball Tour show from Godfather. Cross calls it, “a rousing and energetic concert,” and Harrison contends that,”it’s a show of heroic proportions that makes the past work with the present.” Marchand states that:
“Springsteen didn’t shatter any records in Vancouver, but he did offer a colossal performance that clocked in at over three hours and included over 25 songs.
There were seldom heard nuggets, there were requests taken from fans in the audience, there were those famous Springsteen sermon-like moments, there were the favourites that made the crowd go berserk. Well, it was a Boss show alright.”
Long-term Springsteen fan Cross has the following interesting observation:
“Sometimes those crowd-pleasing antics competed against the musical tautness of songs like the deadly serious ‘Because the Night,’ as if entertainer and musician were two separate beings. And some of the new songs, like the sea shanty ‘Death to My Hometown,’ were too much of a thematic shift to allow the entire night the cohesiveness that was evident during Springsteen’s tours in the ’70s.”
Overall, though not in the the same class as the tour’s best performances such as Paris (second night), Milan or Florence, it is an extremely enjoyable show. Cross uses the word “solid” twice to describe it in his Backstreets account, though I suspect that many members of the audience, who clearly had an enormously good time in a celebratory atmosphere, might beg to differ.
Godfather supplements the main show with a selection of interesting songs from the Pepsi Center in Denver on 19 November, 2012. First up is the show opener, a rendition of Get Out of Denver which does not quite match the frenetic pace of Bob Seger’s own version. This is followed (as it was at the show) by the enthusiastically-performed but essentially vapid I’m A Rocker. Then come a trio of songs from the show’s rumming order. The first is Bishop Danced, rather unexpectedly requested by a twelve-year-old girl. Human Touch, which contains a long guitar solo from Springsteen during its latter stages, is succeeded by the tour’s second performance of Savin’ Up, written by Springsteen in 1981 and considered for Gary US Bonds’ album On The Line before being recorded by Clarence Clemons And The Red Bank Rockers for debut LP Rescue (1983). A sprightly Working On The Highway follows and then, finally, there is the Ry Cooder number Across The Borderline, which is played for the first time since 1993 and for the first time with the E Street Band since 1988. It opened the encore and was a tour premiere. The song is perhaps best known to Springsteen collectors from its two Christic Institute benefit performances at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in 1990, where Springsteen was joined by Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt.
For the Vancouver show Brucebase notes the existence of an “audience tape (recorded by DGB, mixed by Ev2).” Posting on the Jungleland site, olli66 maintains that Godfather’s source is, “the EV2 source and again destroyed by GF with their shitty ‘remastering.'” However, olli66’s opinion of the label in general, not just of this release, is certainly a hostile one. Godfather, conversely, states that both this and the simultaneously-released Dream Of Life come from the label’s “usual taper.” Quoted on the guitars101 website, DGB, who taped the EV2 version, writes that, “a few seconds [are] missing at the start of ‘Raise Your Hand’ during my quick tape change,” which clearly invalidates olli66’s contention that Godfather used the EV2 source as the song is heard complete here. The sound we hear on Across The Canadian Border is at times lacking a little in clarity but it is also tremendously dynamic with great presence throughout and, overall, it is eminently listenable. The sound of the bonus tracks is somewhat less impressive than that of the main show, and the audience noise is a little more intrusive.
The discs are housed in Godfather’s usual tri-fold sleeve adorned with numerous onstage shots and the location of the show is announced by the prominent Canadian flag design on the front cover. There is no booklet, but there are sleeve notes credited, as always, to “Joe Roberts.” Overall, this is a very enjoyable performance which is well worth acquiring.
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