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Bruce Springsteen – Gothenburg First Magic Night (Crystal Cat Records CC 905-08)

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Gothenburg First Magic Night (Crystal Cat Records CC 905-08)

Ullevi Stadium, Gothenburg, Sweden – 4 July, 2008

Disc 1: Intro/The Daring Young man On The flying Trapeze, Born In The U.S.A., Radio Nowhere, Out In The Street, Two Hearts/[It Takes Two], The Promised Land, Spirit In The Night, Be True, 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), Atlantic City, Prove It All Night, Darlington County

Disc 2: Because The Night, Cadillac Ranch, Livin’ In The Future, Mary’s Place, Independence Day, This Hard Land, Last To Die, Long Walk Home, Badlands

Disc 3: Hungry Heart, Seven Nights To Rock, Born To Run, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), Dancing In The Dark, American Land

Bonus tracks: Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ, USA – 28 July, 2008: Held Up Without A Gun; 31 July, 2008: Light Of Day, Brilliant Disguise, Pretty Flamingo, Blinded By The Light, Jersey Girl 

Free Bonus Disc – Sirius Satellite Radio: Intro Dave Marsh, 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), Atlantic City, Because The Night, Cadillac Ranch, Independence Day, Seven Nights To Rock, Born To Run, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), Dancing In The Dark, American Land, Dave Marsh, Sirius Satellite Radio

Swedish Springsteen fans awaited the two Gothenburg concerts with an enormous sense of anticipation and there was extensive media coverage.  John writes on the Backstreets website that “the whole city went Bruce crazy for the weekend – every cafe blaring tunes, newspaper pull-out sections, radio promotions – it was nuts.”  Jos Westenberg confirms these details on Springsteen’s offical site, saying, “the town had true Bruce fever.  Most newspapers had multiple pages dedicated to the upcoming two shows.”  The songs broadcast on Sirius Satellite Radio have already been issued by Godfather (see my earlier review), but now Crystal Cat have released the complete performance.

Springsteen and the band start on a high with a tremendously powerful rendition of Born In The USA which immediately has the audience cheering and singing along most responsively.  This is the song’s premiere on the Magic Tour proper (though it made appearances in two of the three warm-up shows).   It is followed by the lively and melodic Radio Nowhere, taking its customary second place in the set, and a rumbustuous Out In The Street,  a crowd-pleasing highlight of this and other Magic Tour shows.  By the end of this song you get the feeling that the concert will effectively consist of one extended encore.  Next comes the Magic Tour rarity, Two Hearts, which keeps up the infectiously excitable mood  and ends unexpectedly with a snippet of It Takes Two.

The band then launches into a stirring rendition of The Promised Land, a perennial tour highlight, which features an effective succession of solos on piano, guitar, sax and harmonica.  ”Can you feel the spirit now?” asks Springsteen, as piano, guitar and shimmering cymbals lead into the sleazy piano and organ opening of Spirit In The Night, which is given an effervescent reading with  a great deal of input from the audience.  Then Be True, the b-side of several different singles in various territories in 1980-81, gets a rare outing.  Reminiscent of Thunder Road in the way that its protagonist attempts to persuade a woman to give up her unrealistic romantic dreams and settle for him (though curiously presented through a cinematic metaphor), the song is perhaps the best of the non-album b-sides of the period and it receives a lively and most welcome performance here. 

Things slow down with an atmospheric and moving rendition of 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), which is dedicated jointly to Danny Federici and Madame Marie, the Asbury Park fortune teller mentioned in the song.  Atlantic City receives a slower and more sombre reading than the album version, effectively augmented by Steve Van Zandt’s mandolin and Soozie Tyrell’s violin.  The upbeat mood is restored with an explosive version of Prove It All Night which features some superb guitar work before Darlington County, graced with an unusually long instrumental introduction, brings the first disc to a close.

The second disc commences with a wonderful performance of Because The Night, perhaps the best yet to emerge from the Magic Tour, which features a superb extended guitar solo  from Nils Lofgren in his own inimitable style.  It builds to a mighty climax that leads into Cadillac Ranch.  This song comes into its own in live performance and this version is enhanced by Tyrell’s contribution on violin.  Springsteen modifies the spoken introduction to Livin’ In The Future, referring somewhat cryptically to a Fourth of July blessing (one of many mentions this celebratory day during the concert).  He seems hesitant at the end of this and he loses concentration, fluffing the beginning of the song by seeming to begin with the second verse.  Mary’s Place, which never fails to add to the party spirit, begins with Springsteen claiming that “sometimes I feel so sad and lonely  like I just can’t reach anybody”  and then saying that he needs to “reach out for some help” from the audience.  (This opening was expanded on the second night.)  Independence Day, another highlight of the show in a most poignant rendition, features a distinctive contribution from Lofgren on pedal steel guitar.  It receives only its second Magic Tour performance (the first having been in Dallas).  Drive All Night, which had been played at the soundcheck, was scheduled to follow but was replaced by another rarity, This Hard Land, which featurs piano and organ solos and is also enhanced by Tyrell’s violin and Lofgren’s pedal steel guitar.

The usual trilogy of The Rising, Last To Die and Long Walk Home follow.  All are impressive and, once again, the latter two complement each other effectively in a way that is not the case on the Magic album.  Partially this is because live renditions of the songs are more effective, but perhaps it is also due to the rather uninspiring production on the album.  The main part of the show is then, as usual, concluded with a vigorous performance of Badlands. 

Disc 3 begins with the encores.  Girls In Their Summer Clothes fails to take its usual place at the beginning of the encore, being here replaced by Hungry Heart, during which Springsteen invites the audience to make the usual contribution, an invitation that is accepted enthusiastically.  Moon Mullican’s Seven Nights To Rock, perfect encore material, then makes one of its many Magic Tour appearances and it is followed by exuberant performances of Born to Run and Rosalita.  Rosalita was an audience request, and Springsteen’s cry of “Mamma Mia!” is in response to the request being written on the reverse of a poster for the Abba-inspired musical of that name.  A joyous rendition of Dancing In The Dark, Springsteen’s “pop song,” follows, before a barnstorming American Land completes a superb show.

The third disc is filled out with songs from the concerts at the Giants Stadium on 28 and 31 July.  The first of these, the brief and raucous Held Up Without A Gun, comes from the 28th, the rest from the 31st.  First up from the latter date is Light of Day, which is given a fast and furious performance and a relatively short one at four minutes and this is followed by Brilliant Disguise, which features backing vocals from Soozie Tyrell and constitutes a rare appearance for Tunnel Of Love material on this tour. The other bonus tracks are a restrained and beautiful Pretty Flamingo (which is prefaced with a spoken introduction in which Springsteen chronicles his many encounters with Patti Scialfa which preceded their romance and marriage), a jaunty and exuberant Blinded By The Light and a gorgeous rendition of Tom Waits’ Jersey Girl. 

As if this were not enough, Crystal Cat add a free bonus disc containing those songs from the Gothenburg show which were broadcast on Sirius Satellite Radio’s E Street Channel.  Unlike the Godfather release, Crystal Cat include some  of Dave Marsh’s comments.

The sound quality of the complete concert is excellent.  Although I can discern no stereo separation, the sound is full, clear and very enjoyable to listen to, with great presence.  Indeed, at times the sound is  almost comparable to that of an official release.  The audience is quite prominent, but this is never intrusive and serves to enhance the atmosphere of a tremendous show.  Sound for the bonus tracks (which have, save for Light Of Day and Brilliant Disguise, appeared before, on Godfather’s Lyin’ In The Heat Of The Night and Born To Be Wild) is also very good to excellent and Pretty Flamingo and Jersey Girl sound particularly impressive.  The Sirius Satellite Radio songs, of course, sound very fine indeed.

The Magic Tour has been a revelation and although Dave Marsh perhaps exaggerates when he states that this show “will go down in history like…LA in ’78,” this superb concert joins Milan, Paris and St Louis at the pinnacle of Magic Tour shows and Crystal Cat provide this release with the kind of packaging that matches the quality of the performance.  The front and back inserts are double sided and there is a glossy sixteen-page booklet with photos from the show.  There is also, as with other Crystal Cat releases from the Magic Tour, a single sheet insert with the 2008 tour itinerary on one side and Springsteen’s handwritten setlist on the other.  Finally, there is a tri-fold insert which reproduces numerous newspaper and magazine front pages and articles, together with Jos Westenberg’s comments on the show from Springsteen’s website.  As usual with Crystal Cat, the discs themselves are printed in full colour.  The production values are highly impressive and this superlative release should find a place in every serious Springsteen collection.

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Bruce Springsteen - Gothenburg First Magic Night (Crystal Cat Records CC 905-08), 2.7 out of 5 based on 7 ratings

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