Greetings From Buffalo Dream Night (Crystal Cat Records CC 978-80)
HSBC Arena, Buffalo, NY, USA – 22 November, 2009
Disc 1: Intro, Wrecking Ball, The Ties That Bind, Hungry Heart, Working On A Dream, Introduction to GREETINGS FROM ASBURY PARK, N.J., Blinded By The Light, Growin’ Up, Mary Queen Of Arkansas, Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?, Lost In The Flood, The Angel, For You, Spirit In The Night, It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City
Disc 2: Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, The Promised Land, Restless Nights, Surprise, Surprise, Green Onions, Merry Christmas Baby, Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town, (I Don’t Want To) Hang Up My Rock And Roll Shoes, Boom Boom, My Love Will Not Let You Down, Long Walk Home, the Rising, Born to Run, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Disc 3: I’ll Work For Your Love, Thunder Road, American Land, Dancing In The Dark, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), Higher And Higher, Rockin’ All Over The World
Bonus tracks: Bryce Jordan Center, University Park, PA, USA – 8 May, 2009: My Generation, The Wrestler, This Life, Detroit Medley, Wooly Bully
The last concert of the Working On A Dream Tour appeared as an audience recording on the Godfather label with the title Greetings From Buffalo, N.Y. I have already reviewed the Godfather edition, concluding that the show contained a superlative performance of Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., superb encores, but a post-Greetings section which, though performed with energy and commitment, needed weightier material. Readers seeking an in-depth appreciation of the show are directed to that review; here I shall concern myself with comparative issues of bonus tracks, sound quality and packaging.
Crystal Cat is the obvious winner in the matter of bonus tracks, as the Godfather release has none. Here we are fortunate to have five bonus tracks from the show played at the Bryce Jordan Center, University Park, PA on 8 May. The first number is what Dante Cutrona, writing on the Backstreets website, calls, “a truly on-the-spot cover of The Who’s My Generation…the p-p-p-performance featured several impressive solos from a smiling Garry [Tallent], who seemed to relish the chance to take on Jon Entwistle’s classic bass line.”
The second bonus track is a suitably poignant rendition of The Wrestler and then we get the song which followed it in the show, This Life. We therefore experience the first of only two performances of the song during the tour proper (the other coming on 2 August in Santiago De Compostella and available on Crystal Cat’s Santiago Dream Night)though it initially featured in the open rehearsal at Asbury Park’s Convention Center on 23 March. Of the rendition heard here Cutrona writes, “it translated well to a live setting…featuring practically the entire band harmonizing at the end, but without the vocal instruction for the crowd that took a bit of the air out of the song during the Asbury Park rehearsals. Thumbs up.”
Finally, we get the two closing songs of the encore, Detroit Medley and Sam the Sham and The Pharoahs’ Wooly Bully. They make for a fine conclusion both to what Cutrona calls a “roof-raising set of closers” and to this release. In addition to This Life, both My Generation and Wooly Bully were tour premieres.
The sound of Crystal Cat’s release is sourced from an IEM/audience matrix – or, rather, two. As with some previous releases the label has upgraded Greetings From Buffalo Dream Night. The first version, though splendid in many ways, does not allow us to hear Roy Bittan’s piano as prominently as we should. There is an alternative version by Hoserama, which Crystal Cat utilizes for its upgraded release, possibly in conjunction with the original version (the person who uploaded it onto Jungleland writes, “I think it is a mix between the old version of Greetings From Buffalo Dream Night plus the version of hoserama,” though posters including Hoserama himself clearly take it to be based solely on the Hoserama version). Of his version, Hoserama writes both on Jungleland and DIME that, “the final mix is a bit heavy on keys/organ, and less guitars than I usually like.” The two versions have divided opinion on Jungleland and the Stone Pony London message board. For example, on the Stone Pony London message board Conan expresses a preference for the Hoserama recording, writing that, “there is NO comparison… !! This mix will blow you away..IMO Might be the BEST BOOTLEG RECORDING EVER DONE !! No offence to the one that CC bought from another taper and released.. But this is a MUST !!” KleWdSide, however, posting on the Jungleland site, prefers Crystal Cat’s original version, stating that, “[Hoserama’s] recording is not very good. Piano is way too prominent & very little guitar. CC’s [original] is way better…” To my ears the original release sounds a trifle more refined though the upgrade has more presence, The upgrade is also better balanced, in my opinion, both in general terms and through allowing us to more clearly hear Roy Bittan’s piano, which is such an integral part of ther E Street Band’s sound. However, Hoserama does state on Jungleland that it, “sounds like they flipped there [sic] stereo field” on the upgraded version. The argument may, of course be academic, as this is not a new release and collectors are therefore likely only to come across the original version through second-hand copies. Clearly, however, both versions of Crystal Cat’s release offer a significant upgrade from Godfather’s previous audience-source release, good though that was. The bonus tracks are also IEM-sourced and sound very fine indeed.
The packaging is as stellar as we have come to expect from the Crystal Cat label. The outer sides of the front and back inserts show Springsteen amidst the audience. The inner side of the front insert shows an exterior view of the venue and a ticket for the show; on the inside of the back insert we see Springsteen on stage executing a knee slide. Inside the case is a beautiful twenty-eight page booklet, with numerous onstage photographs, track listing and band personnel. There are also offstage shots of Springsteen with former manager Mike Appel, including one in which Springsteen is posing with Appel and current manager Jon Landau. On the opposite page is Appel’s account of his reconciliation with his former charge. The booklet also reproduces Chris Phillips’ account of the concert from the Backstreet website. There is additionally a tri-fold inset. When unfolded the outer side shows the interior of the venue with the audience waiting for the show to begin on two panels and Springsteen’s hand written set list on the third panel; the inside shows three photographs of audience members displaying a huge number of request signs. The booklet and inserts are all, as usual, printed on high quality glossy paper. The discs themselves are also adorned with onstage shots of Springsteen, and each disc states “SOUNDBOARD” or “SOUNDBOARD UPGRADE” depending on the version.
When I reviewed the Godfather version of this show, I concluded that, “this is an essential purchase for all serious Springsteen collectors.” However, with its upgraded sound quality, superb packaging and five bonus tracks, this Crystal Cat release naturally supersedes the Godfather edition and I would not hesitate to commend to you SPL poster Baccala’s opinion that, “this is one hell of [a] release!!”
If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)