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Bruce Springsteen – Good Night Good Luck Finland (Godfatherecords G.R. 902/903/904)

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Good Night Good Luck Finland (Godfatherecords G.R. 902/903/904)

HK Areena, Turku, Finland – 8 May, 2013

Disc 1: I’ll Work For Your Love, Long Walk Home, The Ties That Bind, Out In The Street, Atlantic City, Wrecking Ball, Death To My Hometown, Hungry Heart, Blinded By The Light, Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?, Ain’t Good Enough For You, Wages Of Sin, The River

Disc 2: Youngstown, Murder Incorporated, Johnny 99, Open All Night[/Chicken Shack Boogie/Don't You Just Know It], Shackled And Drawn, Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, Lonesome Day, Badlands, Racing In The Street

Disc 3: Born In The U.S.A., Born To Run, Dancing In The Dark, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, American Land

Bonus tracks: HK Areena, Turku, Finland – 7 May, 2013: My Lucky Day, This Hard Land,  From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come), Pink Cadillac, Brilliant Disguise, Because the Night, She’s The One, Queen Of The Supermarket

In May of this year Springsteen played his first two shows at the HK Areena, the 11,820-capacity home of ice hockey team TPS Turku.  According to Glenn Radecki on the Backstreets website, configured for a concert, with no seats behind the stage, the arena held less than 10,000, making it the smallest venue of the tour.  Good Night Good Luck Finland brings us the second of these shows and, as with the simultaneously released Darkness On The Edge Of London Town, we are able to experience a recording of a remarkable performance.

“On back-to-back nights in the same city,” writes Glenn Radecki on the Backstreets website, “Bruce Springsteen regularly makes changes to the setlist to keep things fresh and interesting both for the band and audience.”  That was certainly the case in Turku, where only nine ten songs were common to both nights.  Moreover, as Radecki continues, the second show, ”was an exciting and surprising affair, featuring a diverse setlist drawing from all corners of Bruce’s career.  There were rarities, multiple songs from the Greetings, Nebraska and Magic albums, and a world premiere of a treasured outtake; in short, it was a die-hard’s dream set that causal fans could also relate to.”  Caryn Rose, writing on Springsteen’s official site, concurs, stating that, “the second night in Turku, Finland featured an insanely eclectic setlist, with material from the entire span of Bruce Springsteen’s catalog: mega hits and mega rarities, top ten singles and diehard fan favorites.”

The concert  begins with two songs from the Magic album. Firstly there is a very effective solo acoustic rendition of I’ll Work For Your Love, after which the band joins Springsteen for Long Walk Home, a personal favourite which contains, as Radecki states, “strong performances from Soozie Tyrell and Jake Clemons.”  Rose considers it, “one of the best songs from Magic,” and contends that it, ”works so well in this live arrangement.”  I’ll Work For Your Love is listed on Brucebase as a tour premiere, which is true in the sense that it makes its first appearance in the body of the show, although it was one of the five songs included in Springsteen’s solo acoustic pre-concert performance in Helsinki in July 2012.

Hackneyed though it may be in the estimation of some Springsteen fans, traditional crowd-pleaser Out In The Street is delivered here in a brilliantly vivacious version, which effectively complements a vibrant rendition The Ties That Bind, played directly before. Atlantic City is played by request in the usual slowed-down full-band arrangement which heavily features Max Weinberg’s drumming.  The Wrecking Ball is then represented, as has become customary, by the duo of the title song and Death To My Hometown.  A bouncy Hungry Heart then provides the audience the opportunity to make a vocal contribution.

Springsteen then collects further sign requests, which results in him going back to his debut album for what Radecki calls “a loose but spirited,” rendition of Blinded By The Light, which receives its fourth performance of the tour.  The performance was so loose, in fact, that Springsteen forgets a verse, though he then realises that he has done so and goes back to it.  The band goes straight into another song from Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?, which, as elsewhere on the tour, is nicely augmented by the horn section and concludes with a drums/percussion duel between Max Weinberg and Everett Bradley.

The ebullient Ain’t Good Enough For You receives only its second performance at a “proper” concert, the first being in Oslo in 2012, though it was played twice in front of  an audience of around sixty people at the Carousel House in Asbury Park in July 2010, an event filmed and recorded for future webcast and official release.  “The performance was handled by the band with aplomb after rehearsing it at the afternoon soundcheck,” contends Radecki, “and it offered Bruce the opportunity to show off his skills as a frontman, engaging the audience with his delivery of the humorous lyrics.  Stevie Van Zandt and Garry Tallent shared a microphone for the backing vocals as the horn section and piano provided the song’s main riff.”  (The other soundchecked song, incidentally, was Souls Of The Departed.)

The next song, Wages Of Sin, provides a total contrast.  Its appearance in the show caused quite a stir among reviewers and forum posters.  It was ostensibly played in response to a sign request from “Nicholas from Belgium,” whom Springsteen says has attended, “many, many shows,” and can be seen, “everywhere we go,” but it was included in the setlist.  (It is, of course, possible that Springsteen may have included in anticipation of the appearance of Nicholas and his sign.)  Radecki writes:

Having a rarity from The Promise turn up is ordinarily surprise enough, but the night’s biggest highlight would come next: ‘Wages of Sin.’  This Born in the U.S.A. outtake  was on the hand written setlist and clearly had been rehearsed, but Bruce retrieved a sign and acknowledged the fan who had been carrying it to ’500 shows.’ [Springsteen does actually not say this, though he earlier refers to seeing the sign for Blinded By The Light at "300 shows."]  Having never before  performed the song live, Bruce and the E Street Band’s delivery  was phenomenal. The arrangement was mostly the same as the version on disc two of Tracks, with the addition of a gorgeous, understated trumpet part. The song was driven by Max’s steady beat, played with drum mallets on the toms and cymbals; Bruce’s singing was clear and deliberate, and with Roy’s piano  just underneath. The appearance alone of ‘Wages of Sin’ would easily make any list of biggest and most welcome surprises of the entire tour; that it was also performed so well was simply amazing.”

Rose was also greatly impressed by the song, which eventually saw the light of day on Tracks:

“‘Wages of Sin’ is a dark, complex composition that showcases the E Street Band at their best: careful phrasing and tone on Bruce’s vocals, suiting the lyrics perfectly; delicate piano work from Roy Bittan; precise, muted percussion from Max Weinberg, breaking out the mallets on the cymbals; a haunting horn refrain in the background.  Steve and Garry moved closer and faced in toward Bruce. Well rehearsed, the band’s performance of this song absolutely did its live debut justice.”

The song clearly made a great impression on posters on the Backsteets website’s BTX forum.  Attendee Liisa S, who submitted a complete concert review, writes:

“What a lovely arrangement! Very quiet and kind of mystical. Max has now soft-headed mallets instead of normal drum sticks, and listen to that trumpet score by Curt Ramm!  This is clearly practised and not an audible.  Why haven’t this masterpiece been performed more often? Only after the show I found out that yes, we really got a world premiere of this song which was recorded already 31 years ago. Totally incredible! Who could have guessed this?”

Elsewhere on BTX, Arkard considers the song ”film noirish,” brucerocks99 reckons that, “its [sic] one of the most dark and sexy and scary songs in his catalog,” and luckytwn calls it, “one of best songs he’s ever written.”

Wages Of Sin is followed by The River, which another BTX poster, walklikeaman, calls, “as dark and brooding a transition as I can recall.”  Going further, Radecki contends that, ”‘Wages’ was no stand-alone performance, either:  Bruce chose to use it as the start of a well thought-out and intense run of songs, with ‘The River,’ ‘Youngstown,’ ‘Murder Incorporated,’ and ‘Johnny 99′ immediately following.  Not to be outdone after Nils Lofgren’s signature solo on ‘Youngstown,’ Steve  shone on ‘Murder Incorporated’ as he locked into a fierce guitar battle with Bruce at the song’s end.”  Youngstown and Murder Incorporated are also fine performances.  Guitarist Nils Lofren was is the star of the show during Youngstown.  Aamuset notes that the song was characterized by Nils Lofgren’s “trademark solos,”  Matti Komulainen, writing on the RYTMI website, refers to, Lofgren’s “frenetic guitar solo,” and Charles Landau’s account from Springsteen’s official website calls the song, “a Nils Lofgren supercharged ‘Youngstown.’”  Aamuset writes of Springsteen’s and Van Zandt’s “inspired guitar battle during Murder Incorporated, and, enthusing about both songs, Rose comments:

“‘Youngstown’ turned up the temperature with Lofgren’s blistering guitar work. Bruce kept encouraging Nils to continue, urging him on further as he changed guitars and then, as Nils hit the last few notes, rhythmically hitting the body of his own guitar to take the band straight into ‘Murder Inc.’  The ensuing guitar battle between Steve and Bruce was the two of them at their very best, facing off, nodding and shouting approval and encouragement as they each took their turn in a shredding, incendiary pile of glorious guitar noise.”

The oft-played Johnny 99, from Nebraska, which gives solos to pianist Roy Bittan, violinist Soozie Tyrell and the horns, is followed by a more rarely performed song from the same album, Open All Night.  This is also performed in an arrangement far removed from the original, becoming part of a jump blues/boogie woogie medley.  “Love how there was an instrumental snippet of Chicken Shack Boogie,” writes Liisa S, ”and the familiar shouts (cuba cuba cuba cuba etc.) from Huey ‘Piano’ Smith’s Don’t You Just Know It added to this song.”  Chicken Shack Boogie, a hit for Amos Milburn in 1948 and re-recorded in 1956, had been played at a private party held by Springsteen at his residence in Colt’s Neck on 11 October, 1988 with, according to the Lebanese Tribute To Bruce Springsteen website, “many guests singing.”  It features here as much more than a ”snippet,” dominating this performance.  Don’t You Just Know It was a million-selling hit for Smith in 1958.  I have, incidentally, seen the lyric rendered as “koo-ba,” “cooba,” “gooba” and even “doo bah,” though never “cuba.”   Shackled And Drawn follows, with its usual welcome vocal slot for Cindy Mizelle.

Waitin’ On A Sunny Day contained a big surprise, which has also engendered much comment among reviewers and forum posters.  As Landau describes:

“Rather than singing the chorus when Bruce walked him onstage, the young man launched into a rap verse!  Pausing briefly to yell ‘Max, give me a beat!’ the boy delivered an entire, self-composed verse and finished it off with a whooping ‘come on E Street Band!’  Later on I managed to trade the young man’s notes to his rap for a set list and a promise to bring it to Bruce.  He got it, by the way.”

The main set’s penultimate number is Lonesome Day, which, according to Rose on jukeboxgraduate.com, “was fresh and felt like an old friend.”  This gives way to an inspiring performance of Badlands.  Astonishingly, no song from Born To Run, Darkness On The Edge Of Town or Born In The U.S.A. was played  until Badlands took its place as set-closer.

The encore begins with what Radecki calls an “epic performance” of Racing In The Street.  Liisa S, who was moved to tears, calls it “totally brilliant” and writes of, “that extra long and so beautiful piano outro by Roy Bittan…That was really the highlight of this night for me.”  A thunderous Born In The U.S.A. is succeeded by a frenetic performance of Born To Run and the mood is kept appropriately buoyant through Dancing In The Dark, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out and show-closer American Land.

Unsurprisingly, commentators have been effusive in their praise for the show as a whole.  Brucebase refers to, “a great night with plenty of rarities.”  Rose, on jukeboxgraduate.com, writes:

“This was a show where Bruce read the audience exactly right, where he paced the setlist exactly right, where he called audibles exactly right, where he varied material and albums and rarities in one of the most masterful ways I have ever witnessed – and then proceeded to deliver the material with power and aplomb and some of the finest work I have ever seen from this version of the E Street Band.”

Radecki concurs, stating that:

“Tonight’s concert was an outstanding example of how Bruce can make masterful use of his current album and back catalog to craft a setlist with a strong thematic arc, songs that challenge and reward the audience, while also showcasing the talent and power of his legendary band. This was a show designed to enthrall someone seeing Springsteen for the first or one hundredth time, and Bruce unquestionably succeeded.”

The show may have been great, but it was not lengthy (at least by Springsteen’s exalted standards), allowing Godfather he opportunity to fill out the third disc with a generous selection of bonus tracks from the previous night’s show.  These songs appear in the order in which they were played during the show, and Godfather’s selection includes five songs performed consecutively, from From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come) to She’s The One.

The first bonus track is My Lucky Day, making only its third appearance of the tour, followed by the fourth performance of This Hard Land.  Next up is the tour’s second performance of From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come), an outtake from The River finally released in 2003 on The Essential Bruce Springsteen (albeit only on the limited edition bonus disc).  Rarely played in E Street Band shows, though often performed at club gigs, the song was recorded in a fine version by Dave Edmunds and released on his album D.E. 7th“It was a great, hot, ‘Pink Cadillac,’” writes Rose on jukeboxgraduate.com, of the next number, ”the horns were loud and swinging and with just a touch of raunch, and it was a pretty fun moment.”  Then comes what Rose calls “a clean, well-played version” of Brilliant Disguise, the sole tour premiere of the night, which was, according to Brucebase, the 190th song performed on the tour!  (There is a full list on the site.)  Because the Night, as is now customary, showcases the proficiency of guitarist Nils Lofgren, before an energetic She’s The One concludes the five-song run.

Concluding the bonus tracks is a rare outing for Queen Of The Supermarket from the Magic album, a song performed only twice before, in Stockholm (June 2009) and in Ottawa (October 2012).  It was the opening song of the encore and we hear Springsteen perform the song in a solo acoustic version.  This was also how it was performed in Ottawa, though the Stockholm rendition was full-band.  Interestingly, the song did not feature on the original setlist at any of the three shows.

The sound quality of the main show (“Recorded by The Preacher”) is considerably less clear, well-balanced and dynamic than that of Darkness On The Edge Of London Town.  There is a decidedly harsh edge to the sound, particularly in the earlier stages of the show, which  I found grating, especially at high volume, and listening to this release does require some measure of tolerance.  Racing In The Street is placed at the end of the second disc, separating the song from the remainder of the encore.  With the exception of My Lucky Day the sound of the bonus tracks, while far from outstanding, is rather better than that of the main show.  The discs are housed in Godfather’s usual attractive tri-fold card packaging, featuring plenty of onstage shots, together with the track listing and list of band personnel.  There is also a four-page, fold-over insert with the customary “Joe Roberts” notes.  Overall, despite the phenomenal performance, the sound of this release makes it one for the dedicated Springsteen collector rather than the more casual fan.

 

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Bruce Springsteen - Good Night Good Luck Finland (Godfatherecords G.R. 902/903/904), 2.8 out of 5 based on 2 ratings

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