Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence, Italy – 8 June, 2003
Disc 1: Born In The U.S.A., The Rising, Lonesome Day, Night, My Love Will Not Let You Down, Empty Sky, You’re Missing, Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, Sherry Darling, Worlds Apart, Badlands, Out In The Street
Disc 2: Mary’s Place, Tougher Than The Rest, Jungleland, Into The Fire, The Promised Land
Disc 3: Kitty’s Back, Ramrod, Born To Run, Seven Nights To Rock, Glory Days, My City Of Ruins, Land of Hope And Dreams/People Get Ready, Dancing In The Dark
The year 1999 brought Springsteen and the E Street Band back together for the Reunion Tour, during which, as Jimmy Guterman writes in Runaway American Dream: Listening To Bruce Springsteen, “the band had played well, sometimes far beyond well.” Although a handful of new songs emerged, there was no new album to promote at that time. However, in March 2001 Springsteen and the band entered the studio to begin work on a new album. According to Guterman, Springsteen, “realize[d] it was time to try something really new with the band in the studio.” Among the innovations on 2002’s The Rising was the new sound created by first-time Springsteen producer Brendan O’ Brien, the utilization of traditional Pakistani musicians on the song Worlds Apart and the introduction of violinist Soozie Tyrell.
During 2002-2003 Springsteen and the E Streeters toured in support of the album, taking in Australia and New Zealand as well as North America and Europe. In contrast to more recent tours, songs from the then-new release featured prominently. This show from the Rising Tour features nine songs from the album which it supports, namely The Rising, Lonesome Day, Empty Sky, You’re Missing, Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, Worlds Apart, Mary’s Place, Into The Fire and My City Of Ruins, and some others shows contained even more. The presence of so much new material, including some very fine songs, encapsulates the distinction between this tour and its predecessor. As Guterman argues, “the biggest difference between the reunion and Rising tours and the crucial difference that made the latter superior to the former – is that the reunion tour was all about looking back at former triumphs while the Rising tour took a deep breath and then peered forward.”
Godfather’s newest Springsteen title is what the label promotes as a “soundboard edition” of a show from the tour previously released utilizing an audience tape (G.R. 27/28/29). It marked Springsteen and Patti Scialfa’s twelfth wedding anniversary, which Springsteen mentions when introducing the song Tougher Than The Rest. The show, from the Stadio Artemio Franchi, was played during the latter of the two European legs of the tour and it begins with a slow and powerful acoustic version of Born In The U.S.A., featuring Springsteen on vocals and 12-string guitar. This is followed by fine versions of two songs from the new album, The Rising and Lonesome Day, which often began the shows, though which did sometimes, as here, follow an acoustic opening. Then come two vibrant up-tempo numbers, Night and My Love Will Not Let You Down.
A wonderfully understated and poignant rendition of Empty Sky, with its theme of the bitterness and suffering that is intendant on great loss, opens with a brief but haunting wordless vocalise from Springsteen and Patti Scialfa, whose vocals also beautifully enhance the entire song. The next number, the sombre You’re Missing, is also emotionally affecting. Wayne Darlington, writing on the Jungleland website, rightly considers the material from The Rising to collectively constitute one of the two highlights of this show, “especially the elegiac ‘You’re Missing.'”
Waitin’ On A Sunny Day is, obviously, a rather more lightweight number, but enjoyable nonetheless, and mercifully free from the additional juvenile vocal performance that has, more recently, characterized live performances. “Being back in Italy, of course, guarantees much crowd participation,” states the Backstreets website, “the audience anticipated ‘Waitin’ on a Sunny Day,’ starting the song before Bruce did.” The audience also gets the opportunity to sing later in the song, and Steve Van Zandt gets a brief vocal slot too. Guterman rates the song more highly than I do, stating that it, “turned out to be a live standout, a sober but endlessly enjoyable counter to the ravages of ‘Empty Sky’ and ‘You’re Missing,'” which it followed at many of the shows on this tour. Sherry Darling is next up, in a performance that, while not entirely lacking vivacity, is perhaps rather too measured for a “party song.” However, the next number, a superb rendition of Worlds Apart constitutes one of my own personal highlights of this show. It is the most experimental number from The Rising, due to the contribution of Asif Ali Khan and his group of Pakistani musicians, their contribution summed up by Rolling Stone critic Kurt Loder as follows: “[Springsteen’s] most inspired gesture comes in “Worlds Apart,” a track that writhes with the sounds of qawwali, the intense, God-conjuring, life-affirming vocal music of the mystical Sufi sect of Islam…Hearing ecstatic qawwali ululations underpinning a song in which Springsteen sings ‘May the living let us in/Before the dead tear us apart’ is a truly soul-stirring experience.” Badlands, while spirited, suffers from less than top-notch guitar and sax solos, though the audience is inspired enough to sing also with gusto. Disc one then concludes with a joyous rendition of Out In The Street.
Disc two opens with a splendid version of Mary’s Place, complete with band introductions. Peter Basham, in Bruce Springsteen, calls the song “superficially old style,” and I distinctly recall thinking, when first hearing the song, that it was probably a deliberate attempt to recreate the style of song Springsteen was writing in the early 1970s, a notion reinforced by the thought that the song would not have sounded out of place had it appeared on the legendary vinyl bootleg Fire On The Fingertips, alongside old favourites such as Seaside Bar Song and Thundercrack. Entertainment Weekly critic David Browne’s review of The Rising calls Mary’s Place Springsteen’s “most blatant attempt ever at resurrecting his old boardwalk rock” and Guterman cites Thundercrack and fellow early-seventies showstopper Rosalita as “antecedents” of the song. The latter rightly regards Mary’s Place as inferior to both, though I would dispute his contention that the song was one of the new numbers, along with The Fuse and Countin’ On A Miracle (neither of which appear here), that “never did connect live.” After this comes an excellent account of Tougher Than The Rest, another song elevated by Scialfa’s vocals, and one which makes only its third appearance of the tour. On the Stone Pony London message board Rick56 comments: “tougher than the rest with Patti – sublime.” A live rendition of the epic Jungleland is always welcome, as Darlington notes when writing, “and who can complain about ‘Jungleland’ in the main set. We miss ya, C.” The performance of Into The Fire is remarkably poignant and I could not disagree more with Guterman’s contention that, when played live, the song was “a set-deflating clunker.” The second disc is then rounded off with the anthemic The Promised Land, concluding the main set for the first time on the tour.
Disc 3 and the encore commence with the first Italian performance of Kitty’s Back, clocking in at twelve minutes and containing plenty of soloing involving organ, piano, acoustic guitar, electric guitar and saxophone. Ramrod is great fun, being nicely augmented by a lengthy piano solo and also containing Springsteen’s and Steve Van Zandt’s “what time is it?…it’s Boss time!” shtick and it is followed by an ebullient Born To Run. A frenetic Seven Nights To Rock, is, like Kitty’s Back, an Italian premiere and, taken together, these two first performances are considered by Darlington to be the show’s other highlight. The first encore then concludes with an exuberant Glory Days.
My City Of Ruins very often began the second encore on this tour, with the piano introduction played by Springsteen himself. As with Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, the Rising Tour version of the song is, to listeners in 2014, to some extent defined by what is not present. Darlington contends that, “I…found the 2003 edition of ‘My City of Ruins’ quite refreshing after the laborious marathon versions on the Wrecking Ball tour.” Jungleland poster Ponyboy concurs, stating, “totally agree about MCOR,” and adding that, “the 2003 intro with Clarence’s sax is absolutely divine.” The backing vocals are also wonderfully effective and, overall, this is a stunning rendition of an outstanding song. Land of Hope And Dreams, a song which was first played live on the preceding Reunion Tour, ends with the customary snippet of People Get Ready. Though enjoyable, it does not match the more finely-honed performances of recent tours. The show then comes to its end with a high-spirited Dancing In The Dark.
For this new edition Godfather utilizes an IEM/audience matrix (with two short audience-only sections, at the beginning of Glory Days and during Mary’s Place) deriving from a collaboration between JEMS and Ev2, torrented last year and described by the Brucebase website as, “easily one of the best (if not the best) sounding recordings from the tour, with remarkable clarity and instrument separation.” Notes on the Jungleland website, by “Wayne Darlington for JEMS and Ev2,” give the following details:
“Well, well, well, this is unusual. JEMS doesn’t know anything about the origin of the base recording, which landed in our laps from an unnamed source several years ago now. It was sent to us as a soundboard and while that seemed preposterous, the mix was more balanced than a typical IEM, even one done from multiple feeds. It also arrived on CD-R with a few odd edits that couldn’t be explained.
But, being the sober-minded folks we are, we finally put it to the IEM test, and low [sic] and behold it is an IEM source, as it bears the telltale carrier spike in the 19,000 kHz frequency. But it sure is a nice feed, with the whole band well mixed and clear. Still, the sound was on the very dry side and a bit lifeless, which is why we turned to JEMS’ friend Erno to work his magic. He took the excellent audience source of Florence, mixed it with our IEM source and the final mastered version sounds quite nice. The only other European IEM in circulation from 2003 is Gothenburg, so this adds a second to the collection.”
Posters on Jungleland have reacted very favourably to the sound quality, with comments such as, “wow, this sounds amazing” (dmishere); “sounds great” (jerry68) and “Very nice sounding!” (JimmyC). Posters on the Stone Pony London message board agree, with comments such as, “sound[s] amazing” (buckshot); “What a great recording!” (beekles); “this sounds bloody great” (Rick56); “the sound is incredible!!!” (mikeg) and “simply fabulous. The mix between the iem and aud is a style I enjoy most. The aud portion is not overbearing yet you know it’s live the entire time. An excellent piece of editing.” (Oats).
Packaging is the usual Godfather trifold card sleeve, with numerous onstage photographs and the customary “Joe Roberts” notes. The sleeve is based closely on that of the original release, though the sound upgrade is announced with “SOUNDBOARD EDITION” on the front and “IEM/AUDINCE MATRIX” [sic] on the reverse.
Although I would not go so far as attendee jj74 who, posting on SPL, contends that this is “a great show,” it is most certainly an extremely good one and this new and upgraded version of Like Young Lovers constitutes an attractive release for Springsteen collectors.
If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)