Philadelphia Special (PA 081280A/B/C)
The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA – December 8th, 1980
Disc 1 (75:26): Born To Run, Prove It All Night, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Darkness On The Edge Of Town, Factory, Independence Day, Jackson Cage, Two Hearts, The Promised Land, Out In The Street, The Price You Pay, The River, Badlands, Thunder Road
Disc 2 (72:03): Cadillac Ranch, Sherry Darling, Hungry Heart, Fire, Because The Night, Here She Comes Walkin’/I Wanna Marry You, Growin’ Up, For You, Stolen Car, Wreck On The Highway, Point Blank, The Ties That Bind
Disc 3 (60:37): Ramrod, Crush On You, Backstreets, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town, Jungleland, I’m A Rocker, Detroit Medley
Bruce Springsteen’s tour for The River in 1980 – 1981 unfortunately falls between the legendary Darkness tour in 1978 and the Born In The U.S.A. tour in 1984 – 1985, being overshadowed in popularity and influence by both. But it is characterized by extremely long and schizophrenic set lists, covering many different moods over the course of four hours.
The first part started on October 3rd in Michigan and, two months later, continued with three shows at The Spectrum in Philadelphia on December 6th, 8th, and 9th before ending with the legendary new year’s eve show at the Nassau Coliseum in New York.
Philadelphia Special is a new three disc silver release containing the entire second Philadelphia date. December 8th is infamous for being the night of John Lennon’s assassination. Springsteen’s December 9th show is notable for his acknowledgement before the first song and the inclusion of “Twist And Shout” as an extra encore, but that occurred after the show so no mention is made during the December 8th show.
This is the first silver pressing of the show. The label uses a good to very good stereo audience recording. There are cuts at 1:30 in “Out On The Street” and one after “The River” in the first half. The taper pauses the tape after almost all of the songs in the second half in order to conserve space to capture the entire show. Most are clean but some, such as one after “Sherry Darling,” chops off the opening notes of “Hungry Heart.” He thankfully doesn’t pause the tape during the encores, allowing for the songs to flow into one another without interruption.
After the mc, Bruce starts off with “Born To Run.” This is the only tour when they begin with their signature tune. “Prove It All Night” and a wild “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” follow in quick succession. The audience are extremely enthusiastic and before “Darkness On The Edge Of Town” Springsteen has to engage in a bit of crowd control, telling them: “Are you alive down there? …. I’d appreciate it if there’s any of you guys stuck in the aisles back there, if you could help these guys find your seats for you ’cause it’s gonna be a real long show and you’ll be standing up all night so….so you ought to, yeah, if you’re stuck, if you’re stuck in the aisle or you’re standing in front of a bunch of people that got their seats I’d appreciate it if you could find your seat.”
Before “Independence Day” he gives the long background story for the song, speaking about his dad, confessing “I used to always be afraid ’cause my father would be sitting in the kitchen in the dark, he’d always be waiting for me, he’d lock up the front door so that I couldn’t come in the front way, I used to have to come in ’round the side porch, go through the screen door and he’d be sitting there in the dark and all I could see was just the light of his cigarette” and “I remember I used to wish that when I’d go downtown, I used to get a buck … and buy like one, one record every week, I’d buy one single each week and I’d come home and I used to wish that he’d be able to hear this stuff that was on those records a little bit… but in the end everybody’s gotta leave home.”
“Jackson Cage” from The River is played for the first time in several weeks. It was played regularly during the first month, followed by “The Promised Land,” but made only sporadic appearances throughout November and would make one more appearance on the first leg on December 12th in Hartford. It segues into “Two Heart” with Steve Van Zant providing the second vocals.
“Badlands” has a pretty and mellow piano introduction before exploding onstage. The audience sing along to “Thunder Road” with Bruce even stepping back from the microphone to make them more audible. Afterwards he tells them they will return after a break “to play a complete other set. Don’t go home now.”
“Cadillac Ranch” opens the second set for almost every show on the tour. It’s followed by “Sherry Darling” and the current big hit “Hungry Heart.” The single was released on October 21st in the US and hit number one on November 20th, two weeks before this show. The Philadelphia audience sing the first verse (with Springsteen enthusiastically applauding them).
It is followed by “Fire” (including a long dramatic pause in the middle). Most shows follow with “Candy’s Room,” but that tune is dropped and they play “Because The Night” instead.
During the instrumental introduction to “I Wanna Marry You” Bruce says “this is for Michael and for Kelly so….ready, Big Man? Sometimes you’ll be riding, riding down the street in a car, in a bus, and you’ll see somebody standing on the corner or riding by in the opposite direction. And for some reason that face just stays with you and stays with you and stays with you. Now, when you get older, there’s certain people who you only see maybe for thirty seconds on the street or just driving by in the car and you always, you just don’t forget ’em, for some reason you just don’t forget ’em….hey, Big Man….here she comes.”
The fun continues with “Growin’ Up.” During the song Springsteen gives the standard, rambling absurd story about the “old veterans,” speaking about “There we were. It was me and Steve and Clarence. We had this flat tire on this old, dark back road in New Jersey. We were sitting in the car, everybody climbed into the front seat. We’re all squashed together and we’re thinking….we’re trying to decide which one of us is going to go outside and fix this flat.
“Wo I said ‘Let’s look at this thing sensibly: I’m the Boss, I don’t have to go out.’ Then we decided to look at it even more sensibly: Clarence is the biggest, he don’t have to go. So just as we were squeezing Steve through the front window, we had about half of his upper torso out of the car, he was kicking and screaming. A light just like in that movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind came flashing down on the roof of the car. I looked out the window and I saw this big cherry-red flying saucer with big Cadillac fins on it. It said ‘Little Melvin and the Invaders – we play weddings, parties and bar mitzvahs.’ So this little green man sticks his head out and he says ‘Hey! Any of you guys know the way to the New Jersey Turnpike?’
“Now we don’t give out that kind of valuable information to just anybody you know … need some credentials around here. So we thought, we said ‘Wait a minute…I got it,’ said ‘Ok, Mr. Spaceman, you gotta give us each, each one wish and we’ll tell you how to get back to the Turnpike’
“Started on Clarence. Clarence….Clarence wished for a combination laundromat-pizza parlor in downtown Asbury Park. That’s a pretty good wish. You’re gonna be seeing ’em all over pretty soon, you go in and do your laundry, eat – it’s gonna be sweeping the nation. Then it was Steve’s turn. Steve’s wish cannot be repeated at this time and place. Then came my turn so I thought real hard. I didn’t even get a chance to say it, to say it out loud, I was just sitting there thinking. And out across the highway, on the other side of the road, in the dark, something started to appear. I said ‘Mr.Spaceman, I wish, I wish….I wish.’ And man, when we touched.”
The show reaches an emotional height during the slower piano based numbers such as “Wreck On The Highway.” But the second set is remarkable for sublime performances of “Point Blank” and “Backstreets.”
The set ends with a long “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” which includes the band introduction. The first encore is “Santa Clause Is Comin’ To Town.” A tradition dating back to 1973, he began playing it on The River tour on December 4th in Buffalo. “Jungleland” is “for any folks from Jersey tonight.” The long evening ends with the “Detroit Medley” which includes a reference to “I’m Ready.”
Philadelphia Special is packaged in a quad fatboy jewel case with various photographs from the tour on the artwork. The front picture shows the band in a stupid light, but the others are very good with a tasteful commemoration of the late Clarence Clemons. Because so few Springsteen titles are in circulation from this tour, and none with any of the Philly shows, this is highly recommended despite the limitations of the source material.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)