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Bruce Springsteen – Roskilde Wrecking Ball Night (Crystal Cat Records CC 1039-41)

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Bruce Springsteen - Roskilde Wrecking Ball NightRoskilde Wrecking Ball Night (Crystal Cat Records CC 1039-41)

Festivapladsen, Roskilde, Denmark – 7 July, 2012

Disc 1: No Surrender, Badlands, Two Hearts[/It Takes Two], We Take Care Of Our Own, Wrecking Ball, Death To My Hometown, My City Of Ruins[/Sad Mood], Spirit In The Night

Disc 2: Introducing The Roots, The E Street Shuffle, Jack Of All Trades, Trapped, Because The Night, Working On The Highway, Shackled And Drawn, Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, The River

Disc 3: The Rising, Out In The Street, Land Of Hope And Dreams/People Get Ready, We Are Alive, Born In The U.S.A., Born To Run, Glory Days, Dancing In The Dark, Tenth-Avenue Freeze-Out, Twist And Shout

Crystal Cat’s latest Springsteen release brings collectors a recording of his first, and so far only, performance at the Roskilde Festival.  “Reportedly,” writes Henrik Friis, of Danish music magazine Gaffa, “Bruce Springsteen was as the top of Roskilde audiences’ wish list year after year after year.”  Dirk Jungmann, writing on the Backstreets website, confirms this, and also gives some insight into the atmosphere of the event:

“The band was announced as having been on the Roskilde Festival’s wish list for a long, long time, the announcement of ‘Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band’ leading to a huge crowd response. And the crowd itself was huge – 85,000 paid ticketholders plus thousands and thousands more working employees and volunteers made for one of Springsteen’s largest audiences ever. But for all that, there was still an intimate atmosphere, in the Danish style: friendly, relaxed people in such a positive community event. It was an enthusiastic crowd around the bright orange stage, but in some fashion it was all hyggeligt (cozy).”

“Springsteen and band perform on the Orange Stage at Denmark’s Roskilde Festival,” comments Brucebase, “Back to a more standard 26-song / ~three hour festival set.”  “Bruce started very strong and energetic,” writes Jungmann, “with ‘No Surrender’ followed by ‘Badlands.”  Reviewing the show for Danish broadsheet Politiken, Erik Jensen refers to the performance of No Surrender as “almost playful,” going on to mention Springsteeen’s, Nils Lofgren’s and Steve Van Zandt’s “trinity of guitars” which are “intertwined…in a way that is actually unique to the E Street Band…so special and distinctive that no one can imitate it.”  The up tempo start is maintained by Two Hearts, with its closing snippet of It Takes Two.  We then get fine performances of a trio of Wrecking Ball numbers, We Take Care Of Our Own, the title song and Death To My Hometown and I must say that I found no evidence to suggest that, as Jungmann maintains,Springsteen temporarily “seemed to lose some steam” after the opening two numbers.

A superb and very moving twelve-minute rendition of My City Of Ruins includes the band introductions, during which Springsteen briefly references Sam Cooke’s Sad Mood.  Then comes what Jensen calls a “formidable” Spirit In The Night.  Jungmann writes that, “‘Spirit in the Night’ again prominently featured Jake [Clemons] trading bluesy sax  with Bruce’s vocal on the slower part, close to the crowd…Bruce had to gently correct his timing in the beginning, but Jake instantly got into it and beautifully responded to Bruce’s singing. Really a fine performance from Jake all night.”  Springsteen can be heard to say, “not yet, not yet,” when Clemons comes in early, followed a little later with a gently cajoling “oh, professor,” when Pianist Roy Bittan, conversely, fails to come in on time, but these minor hitches detract only marginally from a most enjoyable performance.  After this, Springsteen and the band are joined by members of The Roots (Black Thought, F. Knuckles, Captain Kirk Douglas, Damon “Tuba Gooding Jr.’ Bryson, James Poyser, and Mark Kelley), who had performed earlier in the day, for a terrific version of The E Street Shuffle.  Posters on the Stone Pony London message board were impressed, with Kinsey stating that, “the E Street Shuffle with The Roots is fantastic,” and Stampe calling the performance “a highlight of the night along with Trapped, BTN and T&S.”  It was the song’s first performance in Denmark and here it opens the second disc, prefaced with an introduction during which Springsteen refers to The Roots’ performance earlier in the day by enthusiastically stating that, “The Roots were incredible!”  Springsteen’s official website notes that The Roots’ contributed to a “scintillating performance” of The E Street Shuffle and calls their earlier appearance at the show “stellar.”

After all the excitement, things quieten down with the sombre and affecting Jack Of All Trades.  This is followed by what Jensen refers to as a “pumped up” rendition of Jimmy Cliff’s Trapped and a performance of Because The Night enhanced by a lengthy guitar solo from Lofgren, two of Stampe’s other highlights.  Favourably impressed by The E Street Shuffle and Trapped, Jan Eriksen, of Danish tabloid B.T., comments that, “there was so much damn soul in the E-Street Band tonight.”  A jaunty Working On The Highway is followed by Shackled And Drawn, with the usual splendid vocal contribution from Cindy Mizelle.  Roskilde is then treated to a performance of Waitin’ On A Sunny Day without the ritual of a child being plucked from the audience to sing.  “No kid singing on Waiting – yeah,” comments Stampe, “probably ’cause there wasn’t any kids.”  Jungmann calls the song, “a real highlight,,,with no kid singing  but an extended crowd sing-along intro – a party song that was eagerly soaked up by the audience.”  The River, with a wordless vocalise and a harmonica part to conclude the song, brings the second disc to a close and disc three commences with the last three numbers from the main set.  A fine performance of The Rising and a spirited, joyful Out In The Street give way to a wonderfully energetic and committed Land Of Hope And Dreams, ending as usual with a snippet of People Get Ready and this brings the main set to a triumphant conclusion.

There was “an extremely intimate start to the encore in ‘We Are Alive,’ with the story about playing at the graveyard as kids,” according to Jungmann, “but it soon became  energetic and pounding, the band clearly enjoying the ‘Ring of Fire’-style horn parts as if Johnny Cash was just rising from his grave to join in and fight ‘shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart.’  Just awesome.”  An astonishingly explosive Born In The U.S.A. has Jungmann enthusing: “Bruce counted the song off as if he wanted to say ‘EAT THIS’…and it almost literally blew us away, the subs drowning the whole place in earthquaking vibrations, leaving the crowd looking at each other in awe and disbelief. From Bruce’s brilliant vocal to the pounding E Street Band, my personal outstanding tour highlight so far.” Friis claims that the song, “has never – repeat, never – been so violent and intense as on this tour.”  The energy levels are maintained with a relentlessly frenetic Born To Run before suitably animated renditions of Glory Days, Dancing In The Dark and Tenth-Avenue Freeze-Out lead to the concluding number in the form of what Eriksen calls “a breathless version” of Twist And Shout, which sees Springsteen and the band being joined once more by The Roots.  It may not be an imaginative encore, but it is most certainly a staggeringly effective one.

Overall, the Danish press was highly impressed with this show.  Summing up the performance, Jensen writes that, “many believed in the minutes after the last song, the swinging and festive edition of ‘Twist and Shout’ that this was the best concert in Roskilde ever.”  Backstreets poster GreatDane concurs, stating that, “2 newspapers claims [sic] it was the best show ever at the Roskilde Festival going all the say back to the mid 70s rating it 6/6 stars.  It was indeed an incredible evening.”   Greasy Lake poster Anders notes: “Quote from the rag in my hometown on location in Roskilde: ‘Just nu kan jag faktiskt inte komma på att jag sett någon som övertygat mer på en scen.’  Which means approximately ‘right now I cannot think of anyone I have seen that has been more convincing on a stage,'” and fellow poster Cosmic Kid states that the show was, “one that the newspapers already call one of the best Roskilde shows ever.”  Reviewing the show for Danish broadsheet Jyllands-Posten, Anders Houmøller Thomsen contends that “[Springsteen’s] music has an irresistible force and an emotional gravity that, especially onstage, can mesmerize audiences across age and genre-affiliation”

In contrast to the positive reviews from the Danish press, some posters on Greasy Lake, Jungleland and SPL have expressed disappointment with the show.  This has been largely due to what has been perceived as an unimaginative “standard” festival setlist, with one poster, Rick56 on SPL, going so far as to claim that the similarity of the setlist to that from the Isle of Wight show of 24 June was “pathetic.”  Clearly the fact that this performance came directly after what Greasy Lake poster AMIW refers to as the “legendary” Paris shows also prejudiced opinions.  Posting on Backstreets, magicrat1 asks, “is it me or does it all seam [sic] a bit flat tonight after the excitement of Paris 2.”  Two posters on Greasy Lake have attempted to add some perspective to the debate.  Writerman writes: “I began with a bad first impression reading about Roskilde and then ‘got it’ and understood why this show was so thoroughly appreciated.  The set list on paper was appalling. It really was…But for those that attended Roskilde, I’m seeing in their reviews what I thought: it’s not about the songs – it’s about the performance.  It ain’t the setlist – it’s the Night.”  Cosmic Kid comments that, “it was a very high-energy tour de force, designed to capture a crowd 80% of which were [sic] probably new to Bruce and two generations younger than what he usually plays to, and…I think he must have succeeded.  Had he played a 3 hour 40 minute show that included ‘Incident’ or other songs that may be masterpieces, but also require prior knowledge to really appreciate, I think a lot of people would have strolled back to their tents before it was over.  So altogether a perfect show for the occasion.”  More succinctly, another Greasy Lake poster, newcastle roy, points out that, “I’d kill to be at a ‘standard’ Springsteen set…anytime.” .

A recording of the show described as being from an “IEM source” appeared on Jungleland in March 2014.  The acccompanying note by hrubesh states: “I received this UNCIRCULATED IEM audio in wav file from an anonymous person, only The River has the first 2 seconds missing that I edited with a patch using the LB audience version.”  There has been much debate on the site as to whether the source is IEM, IEM/audience mix, “soundboard leak” or “pro-shot (video) feed.”  Whatever the actual source, posters have praised its very impressive sound quality with comments such as, “real nice sounding” (eltonbogo01); “wow, nice!” (olli66); “full and balanced” (wtsbfb); “great recording!” (ThundeRoad33); “It does sound really damn good! This is a must have!” (ooogie); “Must be best IEM recording of Wrecking Ball Tour.” (fanofrem); “Thanks for this fantastic recording of a great show. It is one of the best sounding shows of all time in my book.” (Russ_B66) and “Superb! Quality is one of the best I have EVER had.” (wayne2378).  Also posting on Jungleland, Popmart360 states that, “it’s now on a Crystal Cat Records Available” [sic] and the very high quality of the sound, together with the fact that the two-second audience patch at the start of The River can clearly be heard here, would seem to confirm that this is indeed Crystal Cat’s source.

This release comes with Crystal Cat’s usual superb packaging.  In addition to the front and rear inserts, there are, as has become customary, a booklet (of twenty-four pages) and an additional tri-fold insert.  In addition to numerous onstage shots of Springsteen and the band, there are many photos of fans who attended the show, including some aerial photographs which demonstrate how large the audience was.  The booklet also reproduces Jungmann’s account of the show.  All of the booklets and inserts are printed on Crystal Cat’s usual high-quality glossy paper.  The discs themselves also bear onstage photos of Springsteen, together with Van Zandt and drummer Max Weinberg.

Roskilde Wrecking Ball Night, with its high-energy performance, superb sound and splendid packaging, is another top-notch release from the Crystal Cat label and it is warmly recommended to Springsteen collectors.

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