Ready For The World (Godfatherecords G.R. 585/586/587)
The Civic Center, St. Paul, MN, USA – 29 June, 1984
Disc 1: Thunder Road, Prove It All Night, Out In The Street, “Only Took Me Three Years,” Johnny 99, Atlantic City, Intro/”The Man Inside,” Mansion On The Hill, The River, No Surrender, Glory Days, The Promised Land, Intro/”Warm Welcome To Nils,” Used Cars, Intro/”Shame & Glory,” My Hometown, Born In The U.S.A, Badlands
Disc 2: Firecracker Warning, Hungry Heart, Dancing In The Dark, Dancing In The Dark – Take #2, Cadillac Ranch, Sherry Darling, Highway Patrolman, I’m On Fire, Fire, Working On The Highway, Bobby Jean, Backstreets, Ramrod, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
Disc 3: I’m A Rocker, Jungleland, Intro/”Let Freedom Ring,” Born To Run, Street Fighting Man, Detroit Medley (w/I Hear a Train)
Bonus Tracks: The Civic Center, St. Paul, MN, USA – 1 July, 1984: Reason To Believe, Intro, Open All Night, Darlington County, Intro/”Garden Of Eden,” Pink Cadillac, Nebraska; The Civic Center, St. Paul, MN, USA – 2 July, 1984: Downbound Train, Cover Me, Racing In The Street
Godfather’s Ready For The World showcases the opening concert of the Born In The U.S.A. Tour. The show has appeared previously on CD as Street Fighting Man (Real Thing), which utilized an audience tape of, as the Killing Floor Database puts it, “not good sound quality.” Since then, however, another, superior source tape has been torrented, which forms the basis for this Godfather version. This new source comes to us courtesy of Johnny98, who explains that, “this recording has been carefully remastered from uncirculated cassettes that I have been sitting on for a long time. The recording had some songs which were cut (Glory Days, Bobby Jean, and The Detroit Medley). Fortunately, the cut songs are replaced and heard in their entirety on this release thanks to Rockcat who supplied me with complete copies of the aforementioned cut songs from his master cassettes (alternate source).” There has been one other recent release of this show, Opening Night In Saint Paul (Hot Stuff), though this is on CD-R.
The St. Paul concert is a very significant event in the history of Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band. This was the opening concert of the Born In The U.S.A Tour, and the first show for nearly three years since the end of the The River Tour in Cincinnatti on 14 September 1981. It was also the first performance to feature Patti Scialfa and the first full show to include Nils Lofgren. Moreover, Springsteen was, at least initially, touring two albums, there having been no tour in support of Nebraska. In addition to all this, it was the start of the first tour to feature numerous Stadium shows (though the St. Paul Civic Center, demolished in 1998, was an indoor arena).
The main show included on this release therefore features the first performances at a full E Street Band show of eight songs from Born In The U.S.A. (No Surrender, Glory Days, My Hometown, Born In The U.S.A., Dancing In The Dark, I’m On Fire, Working On The Highway and Bobby Jean) and five from Nebraska (Johnny 99, Atlantic City, Mansion On The Hill, Used Cars and Highway Patrolman). The show was the first of three at St. Paul, the others being on 1 and 2 July, the former additionally featuring Reason To Believe, Open All Night and Nebraska, from Nebraska, and the latter two further Born In The U.S.A. songs, Downbound Train and Cover Me, all of which are included as bonus tracks on this release. However, several of the Born In The U.S.A. songs had received prior performances in rather different circumstances. Springsteen had performed Dancing In The Dark with local band Bystander at Xanadu in Asbury Park on 26 May. He then made a surprise 2AM appearance with the E Street Band (including new member Lofgren) at The Stone Pony, also in Asbury Park, playing Glory Days, Darlington County, Dancing In The Dark, My Hometown and Born In The U.S.A. Further to this, Springsteen played Glory Days and Dancing In The Dark at The Village in Lancaster, PA accompanied by all of the band except Danny Federici. The took the stage at around 1:40AM for an impromptu performance using the equipment of the band playing that night, The Sharks. In contrast, I know of only one previous performance of a Nebraska song, when, on 3 October 1982, Springsteen joined Cats On A Smooth Surface onstage at the Stone Pony to perform an electric version of Open All Night.
The start of the show is described in some detail by Dave Marsh in Glory Days:
“At 8:37 P.M. on June 29, 1984, Bruce springsteen and the new, expanded E Street Band raced on stage at the St. Paul Civic Center and launched into ‘Thunder Road.’ In only a few seconds, it felt just like old times as 17,500 voices joined Bruce’s to complete the second verse…The song galloped to a close, and Bruce gasped, ‘Missed ya!’ before snapping right into ‘Prove It All Night,’ which slid into ‘Out In The Street.’ Patti Scialfa picking up Little Steven’s duet lines.”
Thunder Road is suffused with a definite sense of joy and optimism, which sets the tone for much of the rest of the show, and the audience is already ecstatic, shouting, cheering and singing and clapping along, This heady atmosphere is maintained throughout Prove It All Night, which features a brief guitar solo from Lofgren and the crowd-pleasing Out In The Street. At the beginning of the tour Badlands and Born In the U.S.A. were used as show openers in addition to Thunder Road. This arrangement lasted less than a month, ending with Badlands’ final opening appearance at the Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, NY on 27 July: thereafter, Born In The U.S.A. opened every show bar two (the show at the Los Angeles Sports Arena on 31 October began with High School Confidential and an acoustic Independence Day kicked off the Wembley Stadium show on 4 July 1985). This atypical start to the show is one aspect of this release which adds to its value for collectors.
Springsteen then makes a reference to his three-year absence from touring, before changing the tone of the show by playing three consecutive songs from Nebraska (and this before the appearance of anything from the Born In The U.S.A. album). As Marsh writes:
“Then he pulled the set back down with the first of the night’s songs from Nebraska, ‘Johnny 99,’ performed with just drums, harp, guitar, and Clarence Clemons on pensive tambourine, following it with ‘Atlantic City’ in a full band arrangement…and a ghostly ‘Mansion On The Hill.”
Atlantic City, providing a template for many later performances, is slower and weightier than the album version, with Max Weinberg’s pounding drums very prominent, and it also contains backing vocals from Lofgren near the end. Mansion On The Hill, and, later in the set, Highway Patrolman begin with voice and guitar but then develop discreet, low-key embellishments from other band members, retaining much of the feel of the original album versions. As Springsteen himself puts it, “I framed them a little bit with the band.” Debby Bull, writing of the St. Paul shows for Rolling Stone, states that:
“‘Atlantic City’ is one of the show’s most powerful numbers. So is ‘Mansion On The Hill,’ performed like a slowly rocked country duet with new backup singer Patti Scialfa…The Nebraska pieces…give the show an emotionally darker side that only makes [Springsteen’s] soaring, uplifting early masterworks like ‘Badlands’ and ‘Thunder Road’ more effective and his new high-spirited rockers like ‘Working On The Highway’ and ‘Glory Days’ more hilarious.”
The number of Nebraska songs would decrease as the tour progressed; for example the Milan show of 21 June 1985 (released as A Love Affair by Godfather – reviewed by gsparaco – and Milano Night 1985 by Crystal Cat) contains only two, and by the time of the last show in Los Angeles (released by Godfather as Grande Finale, already reviewed) only one remained. Springsteen himself has said that, during this most popular tour, he played to many people who had not been interested in his music before and have not been interested since. Dave Marsh writes in Bruce Springsteen: On Tour 1968-2005, that “Nebraska increased the number of dark, moody songs in Bruce’s repertoire, and they made a lot of his more casual fans restless. So he’d been steadily minimizing their presence in his sets.” Consequently, this set is again valuable, presenting a show which contained five Nebraska songs and supplementing them with a further three from the next night’s show. Springsteen did get the E Street Band together to work on the Nebraska material, but was dissatisfied with the results, leading to the album becoming a solo release. As Peter Basham writes in Bruce Springsteen of the appearance of three Nebraska songs on the official release Live 1975-85, “these slightly broadened and band-enhanced arrangements of Nebraska‘s stark songs…were interesting glimpses of how the planned E Street record could have sounded.” Such a comment, of course, is even more applicable to this release.
After these first three numbers from Nebraska, we get The River, in a performance which is very similar to the album version, though with some additional backing vocals from Patti Scialfa towards the end. Only then do we hear the first song from Born In The U.S.A. in the shape of a full-band rendition of No Surrender, which is again unusual, as the song was more often played on this tour in a slow, acoustic version. Indeed, several sources state that the full-band version was played only twice. A splendidly exuberant Glory Days is then followed by a stirring The Promised Land, with further backing vocals from Scialfa and a guitar solo from Lofgren. The mood turns sombre again with Nebraska‘s Used Cars from, featuring Federici’s glockenspiel, and Born In The U.S.A.‘s subdued closing number, My Hometown. This is succeeded by a searingly intense Born In The U.S.A. Then, as Marsh puts it in Glory Days, “with his teeth gritted hard and staring straight into hot white spotlights, [Springsteen] brought the first set to a brilliant, bitter close with ‘Badlands.'” This also concludes the first disc.
Disc two and the second set open with four upbeat, crowd-pleasing numbers. The audience joyfully bellow the opening verse of Hungry Heart and the momentum is maintained with Dancing In Dark. The song is then performed again in order to provide more footage for the Brian De Palma-directed video to accompany the song’s single release. (Initial filming had occurred at the venue the previous day with two hundred extras and the then unknown Courteney Cox.) Performing back-to-back versions of the song, according to Marsh in Bruce Springsteen: On Tour 1968-2005, “felt awkward and out of place.” Robert Santelli, in Greetings From E Street, writes that, “it stopped the concert’s momentum midstream.” I would also contend that it only serves to emphasize the essentially inconsequential nature of the song. Cadillac Ranch is next, always enjoyable in live performance, and this is followed by a boisterous Sherry Darling. Another Nebraska song is next, a fine performance of Highway Patrolman, the song Christopher Sandford, in Springsteen: Point Blank, refers to as, “the tarnished jewel in Nebraska‘s crown,” and which Basham calls, “the most rounded and satisfying track on an outstanding collection of songs.” It begins with just voice and guitar before band members join in later, beginning with Federici’s low-key organ. Scialfa again contributes some effective backing vocals. An atmospheric I’m On Fire follows, effectively exuding, as Sandford puts it, an air of, “sex…and menace.” Immense cheering and applause then greet Fire, and Clemons sings the end of the final line (…but your heart stays cool”) prior to the mid-song pause before joining Springsteen to sing the rest of the song in unison. Working On The Highway here lacks the extended instumental introduction which it would later develop. “‘Bobby Jean was open, spacious, driving, modern,” contends Marsh in Glory Days, “and it set up the wordless moans of Backstreeets exquisitely.” During Springsteen’s opening wordless vocalise, accompanied by piano and tambourine, two fans can be heard to shout “Backstreets!” and “oh, my God!” Their enthusiasm is rewarded with a superb rendition of the song, which includes a brief spoken interlude. An enthusiastic performance of the vacuous Ramrod is then succeeded without a pause by the set closer Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), which, of course, contains the band introductions. This ends disc two.
The final disc and the encores begin with a wonderfully joyous I’m A Rocker and this is followed by Jungleland, the opening of which is marred by a female fan who leapt on to the stage to kiss Springsteen. “Not while I’m singin’, baby!” he exclaims, before beginning the first verse again. After that, we get a tumultuous Born To Run, a “rousing cover,” in Bull’s words, of the Rolling Stones’ Street Fighting Man and a splendid Devil With The Blue Dress Medley, which, after a spot af banter with the audience, concludes with the I Hear A Train section. This all makes for a very satisfying conclusion to the show.
Overall, this is a very enjoyable as well as a historic one, which gives collectors a most valuable insight into the Born In The U.S.A. Tour as it was originally envisaged. It does have its problems, however. As Marsh writes in Glory Days:
“The show didn’t really have a structure yet – or at least it was hard to follow the logic with which it was constructed, to fathom how each song was supposed to set up the next…But this wasn’t surprising, because this tour presented an enormous amount of new material…although it surely had its exciting high points, moments of sheer fun, more than anything the first show of the Born In The U.S.A. tour was a struggle. Bruce did five songs from Nebraska, eight from Born in The U.S.A. For the most part, their purpose in the context of this performance was unfocused, cloudy, and uncertain.”
While I would not go so far as Marsh (the description of the show as a “struggle,” in particular is, in my view, unfounded), there is some substance to his remarks. There is a rather jarring switch of moods when the Nebraska songs emerge and there are some inelegant juxtapositions of material, such as Ramrod following Backstreets and I’m A Rocker acting as a prelude to Jungleland. Nonetheless, this historically significant show is well worth acquiring.
The third disc is filled out with some well-chosen bonus tracks. The first five songs are from the next night. First we are treated to very fine versions of two further Nebraska songs, Reason To Believe and Open All Night (notwithstanding Springsteen stumbling over the lyrics in the latter). Contrary to Marsh’s contention that audiences resisted the Nebraska songs, Open All Night in particular is greeted enthusiastically, and numerous audience members sing a couple of lines. There follows a taut performance of Darlington County, from Born In The U.S.A., and an ebullient rendition of Pink Cadillac (effectively an outtake from both albums), preceded by the spoken Garden Of Eden intro. Finally there comes a quiet and affecting performance of title track from Nebraska, based on the 1958 Starkweather killings, which again gets a substantial ovation from the audience. This release is then rounded of with three songs from the last night at St. Paul, a poignant Downbound Train, a vibrant Cover Me and, always a highlight of any show in which it appears, Racing In The Street.
The sound of the main show is very good indeed, without being outstanding, with full. clear sound which allows the various voices and instruments can be discerned clearly. The sound of the three songs from Rockcat’s tape is similar, though marginally less good, and there is a noticeable drop in quality at the start of Bobby Jean. The sound of the bonus tracks (again from Johnny98’s torrented tapes) is also very good, and, to my ears, has the edge on the main show. The three Nebraska songs from 1 July sound particularly impressive and the tracks from 2 July have a more pronounced bottom end. The audience is quite prominent, however, especially in the case of the main show, and some listeners may find this somewhat intrusuve.
The CDs are housed in Godfather’s trademark tri-fold sleeve. The front cover shows a photograph of Springsteen with a backdrop of the American national flag, taken by Annie Leibovitz during the Born In The U.S.A. cover shoot, onto which is superimposed a black-and-white onstage photo. The sleeve also shows several onstage shots of Springsteen and band members, together with band personnel and tracklisting. The usual Joe Roberts notes are on a small fold-out poster once more depicting Springsteen onstage, alone on the front and with Clemons on the reverse.
This set would not be first choice for the 1984-85 tour; that honour falls to the Milan show referred to above. Of the Godfather version, gsparaco wrote, “this is one of the most impressive titles to be released by this, or any label, and is essential.” However, this is a most enjoyable release offering avaluable insight into the tour’s beginning, with the greater number of songs from Nebraska giving a different emphasis from that of later concerts, an attribute which will surely be welcomed by collectors. Moreover, as Johnny98, contends, “the band sounds great, but their sound will change greatly over the tour. Early on in the tour, the drums sounded more natural and Bruce had no routine to copy. In my opinion, this is the most enjoyable and novel show from the 1st 4-5 weeks of the tour.” He is not alone in his admiration; on the Greasy Lake website Bryan S. Friesth, who attended the show writes, “this night was just magical,” and Mike B, who was also there, states simply, “it was awesome.”
Having released the Milan show and also having recently issued the last show of the tour from Los Angeles, the enterprising Godfather label has now provided us with the first, the last and the best of the Born In The U.S.A. Tour. As Johnny98 has it, “enjoy this release. Roll down your windows – and play it loud.”
If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)