We’re Going To Play It Loose Tonight (Godfatherecords G.R. 918/919/920)
Stadion im Borussia-Park, Mönchengladbach, Germany – 5 July, 2013
Disc 1: Intro, Jackson Cage, My Love Will Not Let You Down, Better Days, Shake, Rattle And Roll, One Way Street, Mary’s Place, Wrecking Ball, Badlands, Death To My Hometown
Disc 2: Point Blank, Trapped, The Promised Land, Hungry Heart, Man’s Job, Because The Night, Candy’s Room, She’s The One, Leap Of Faith, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
Disc 3: Shackled And Drawn, Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, Radio Nowhere, Thunder Road, Rocky Ground, Born In the U.S.A., Born To Run, Dancing In The Dark, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Rockin’ All Over The World
This release is one of five 2013 Wrecking Ball Tour shows recently released by Godfather and it brings us a recording of Springsteen’s first-ever concert in Mönchengladbach (the seventeenth city he has visited in Germany), played in the stadium of the city’s football team, Borussia Mönchengladbach. Perhaps performing in a new city had a revitalizing effect, as Brucebase contends that, “after a run of slightly predictable sets, Bruce really mixes things up,” with what Karl Birthistle and Ralf Dissmann, writing on Backstreets, call “an incredible request-fest.”
“Guten Abend Mönchengladbach,” says Springsteen, greeting the audience, “Wie geht’s? Habt Spaß!” The show then gets off to a terrific start as Birthistle and Dissmann describe:
“It was pure joy to see Bruce walk out carrying the electric 12-string which could only suggest a ‘Jackson Cage’ opener – a strong version with an extra coda. Steve [Van Zandt] took the solo, fluid and eloquent; hands were in the air, and the stadium was alive from the get-go. Then the always-welcome ‘My Love Will Not Let You Down.’ But instead of going into the setlisted ‘Badlands,’ Bruce looked for signs (there were plenty of them at hand) and chose ‘Better Days,’ a great outlet for showing off the power of the vocalists, and ‘Shake, Rattle and Roll.’
For the old rock ‘n’ roll classic there was some discussion with Stevie about the correct key: ‘G flat?! We never play in fucking G flat! Oh hell, let’s go to G.’ But the horns slipped in like they’d been playing it forever, and the performance was a very strong one – one of the best ‘stump the E Street Band’ moments there’s been. A magnificent noise with plenty of horn solos: first trumpet by Curt Ramm, then trombone by Clark Gayton, then both saxes together, and then everybody.”
Shake, Rattle And Roll, which had only previously played at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame concert in 1995 and at a handful of club appearances, is followed by another tour premiere (and another sign request) in the shape of One Way Street. Recorded in June 1977 during the Darkness On The Edge Of Town sessions, the song eventually emerged on The Promise, “with what appears to be a modern vocal,” according to Brucebase, which goes on to add that, “it is also likely that the horns were re-recorded as well.” This is Springsteen’s only performance of the song at a “proper” show with the E Street Band, though they played it at the Carousel House in Asbury Park in 2010 in front of a small crowd of around sixty people, a performance videotaped for a future webcast and official video release. Springsteen also played the song with Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers at the eleventh annual Light Of Day benefit for Parkinson’s disease in January 2011. Birthistle and Dissmann regard it as a, “surprisingly confident and strong performance…Eddie [Manion] took the first solo, rich and mellifluous. And Roy [Bittan] played gloriously. Why is this song played so rarely? What a great opening to a show.” As with Shake, Rattle And Roll, there is plenty of pre-song discussion about how to proceed and also some instructions communicated during the performance. We also hear Springsteen tell the audience that The Promise is Van Zandt’s favourite Springsteen album.
“We’re going to play it loose tonight, we’re playing it loose,” we then hear Springsteen say, “I don’t know what we’re gonna play next. Here [referring to a sign requesting Mary’s Place], we ain’t played that in a long time!” The performance is tremendous fun and most enjoyable, especially as it is enhanced by a real horn section (as opposed to the recorded horns utilized on the Magic Tour). “Good, good, good, good, good…I wasn’t sure we’d get through that!” says Springsteen part way through the song. This is only the second performance of Mary’s Place on the tour, the first having been in East Rutherford in September 2012. Then the two most often-performed songs from the Wrecking Ball album, the title track and Death To My Hometown sandwich a splendidly muscular Badlands and bring the first disc of this release to a close.
Disc two opens with another tour rarity in the shape of a highly atmospheric rendition of Point Blank. The song makes its first appearance of 2013, following a mere four outings in 2012. Birthistle and Dissmann describe the performance as follows:
“Bruce pointed to a sign and conferred with Steve, having the band start with ‘Point Blank’ while he went down to the audience to collect it. Garry [Tallent] and Roy began playing ‘Point Blank,’ with Steve playing beautiful guitar (the intro went around a second time as Bruce was watering himself). The ‘one false move’ refrain was repeated several times in a wonderful version of the song, with a truly passionate and committed vocal from Bruce.”
Maria Lopez and Andrew Telesca, writing on Springsteen’s official website were also impressed, writing that, “Roy showed off his skills during a heartbreaking intro to ‘Point Blank’ while Bruce was fishing for a sign for later use…Little Steven’s haunting guitar solo…close[d] out the song .”
A tightly-sprung rendition of Jimmy Cliff’s Trapped, which was played in response to three sign requests, is succeeded by an appropriately stirring version of The Promised Land (with a short instrumental intro) and then the audience gets its customary opportunity to make a vocal contribution to the beginning of Hungry Heart. Springsteen seems to miss his cue and instructs the band to, “take it around one more time boys,” after the audience has finished singing. Jake Clemons gets to play an extended saxophone solo while Springsteen drinks some “good German beer” offered by audience members, resulting in him claiming to be, “high as a kite.”
Man’s Job, which had been played at the soundcheck along with Local Hero, is the third tour premiere. Indeed, it had only been played once before with the E Street Band, at Shea Stadium in New York in October 2003, though it was a regular feature of shows in 1992-3 with the “Other Band,” and it appears in a fine version on the [Un]Plugged CD and DVD. Brucebase notes that it was the two-hundredth song played on the tour. Birthistle and Dissmann state that, “the version was great and got an extra reprise. Cindy [Mizelle] and Michelle [Moore] came downstage to join Curtis [King] on the closing vocal rounds, too, and it was great to see this get the full E Street treatment.” Lopez and Telesca add that, “Curtis King was called to the spotlight for ‘Man’s Job,’ another premiere, during which he was cornered by Cindy Mizelle and Michelle Moore in a battle of vocals.”
Because The Night opens with a brief piano part from Bittan and, of course, gives Nils Lofgren a chance to shine during his gutar solo. A blistering Candy’s Room is followed by a splendid performance of She’s The One. “Just awesome,” enthuse Birthistle and Dissmann, “Bruce is standing on the piano, singing to the vocalists…so loose and in wonderful form, caught without his harmonica and taking the solo on guitar instead.” The next song, Leap Of Faith, from the Lucky Town album, is yet another tour rarity, making only its fourth appearance of the tour and its third of 2013. Springsteen’s promise to “play it loose” certainly applies to Rosalita, during which he pulls up onto the stage three women dressed up as Van Zandt. “Work it girls, work it!” he enthuses, “the Little Stevens. Let’s hear it for them. The Little Stevens, ladies and gentlemen. The Little Stevens. They’re incredible. Germany’s own Little Stevens!” Shackled And Drawn, which begins disc three, and Waitin’ On A Sunny Day feature the usual vocal slots for, respectively, the excellent Cindy Mizelle and a youngster from the audience, before Max Weinberg’s son Jay takes the drum stool for a vibrant rendition of Radio Nowhere. The quintessential Springsteen number, Thunder Road, then brings the main set to its conclusion.
Unfortunately neglected of late after featuring many times during 2012 shows, Rocky Ground gets its first performance of 2013 with Michelle Moore joining Springsteen for the rap vocals. Things then move up tempo with Born In the U.S.A., Born To Run and Dancing In The Dark. During the latter song, Springsteen danced with a woman in response to a sign asking him to, “Dance with a Chubby Girl.” Later in the song, two young women and a girl in a rabbit costume were plucked from the audience to dance and strum along on acoustic guitars! The encore concludes in fine style with Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out and John Fogerty’s Rockin’ All Over The World.
Overall, this is another excellent show from the Wrecking Ball Tour. Birthistle and Dissmann rightly argue that it was:
“an utterly compelling show, with excitement all the time as there was no way of anticipating what would happen next…[a] remarkable show [with]…nine requests, three tour debuts, three songs from ’92, 16 different songs from the show before [in Geneva]…those are the bare statistics. Add to that Bruce’s loose and playful mood, and it is hard not to describe this show as a very special one.”
The source for this release is a punchy and dynamic audience tape that is very enjoyable to listen to, though it lacks the last ounce of clarity. On the Jungleland website HeroOfVirtue and toddek are very positive about the sound (and the performance), commenting respectively, “this is an excellent recording and an improvement over the existing tape. I’m thrilled, as this is among my favorite performances of the Wrecking Ball tour,” and, “this is a great recording of a phantastic show.” Hobbes4444 is a little less convinced and expresses a preference for the sound of the show in Leipzig two days later (released by Godfather as You Never Can Tell, to be reviewed shortly): “Similar to Leipzig, maybe not quite as clear, up front. But certainly worth…a listen.” This release comes with Godfather’s usual trifold card sleeve featuring plenty of onstage photos and a four-page, foldover insert with notes credited to Franky Williams. Springsteen has played some terrific shows during 2013, and Godfather is judiciously selecting the best of them for release. Consequently, this is another Godfather release clearly deserving of a place on the shelves of Springsteen collectors.
If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)