Au Clair De La Lune (Godfatherecords G.R. 780/781/782)
Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy, Paris, France – July 5, 2012
Disc 1: Intro: Au Clair De La Lune, The Ties That Bind, No Surrender, Two Hearts, Downbound Train, Candy’s Room, Something In The Night, We Take Care Of Our Own, Wrecking Ball, My City Of Ruins, Spirit In The Night, Incident On 57th Street
Disc 2: Because The Night, She’s The One, Working On The Highway, I’m Goin’ Down, Easy Money, Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, Apollo Medley, For You, Racing In The Street, The Rising, Out In The Street
Disc 3: Land Of Hope And Dreams, We Are Alive, Thunder Road, Born To Run, Glory Days, Seven Night To Rock, Dancing In The Dark, Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
Au Clair De La Lune is Godfather’s companion piece to La Vie En Rose, which features the previous night’s show, which I have already reviewed. As the band takes the stage, the twin accordions of Charlie Giordano and Roy Bittan are heard to play the eighteenth century French folk song Au Clair De La Lune (By The Light Of the Moon). Much has been made of the fifteen changes in the setlist, particularly the seemingly unplanned ones at the start of the show. The Brucbase website refers to, “a spectacular 31-song setlist for the second night in Paris with Bruce taking the concept of a varied set on night two and blowing it out of the water. A six-pack of classics (including the second ‘Something In The Night’ of the tour) kick-off the show before we even get to the the usual opener ‘We Take Care Of Our Own.’ This wasn’t the plan – the setlist shows ‘The Ties That Bind’ going straight into ‘We Take Care.'”
Similarly, on the backstreets website Caryn Rose (who was rather less enamoured of the previous night’s performance than I was) and Glenn Radecki state that:
“One expects — or at least hopes — that the second of two shows in the same city will be different, a little bit special, something extra added on. After an energetic but uneven night one in Paris, there was plenty of expectation in the air. But even the most imaginative fan at Bercy would not have come up with tonight’s setlist.
The show started with ‘The Ties That Bind’ something that wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary, except for the fact that it was followed by no fewer than five more songs before anything from Bruce’s new album was played. Out came rarities ‘Downbound Train’ and ‘Something in the Night,’ the intense ‘Candy’s Room’ and ‘No Surrender,’ and the Steven-spotlight ‘Two Hearts’ — all before ‘We Take Care of Our Own.’ The incredibly loud, energetic and engaged crowd followed along as though this were a completely normal way to open a Wrecking Ball show, singing and clapping and jumping up and down to the obvious pleasure of Mr. Springsteen.”
Rose also comments on her blog:
“Who could have known what the second night in Paris was going to be like? There was a setlist, apparently, which got tossed to the wayside rapidly, as Bruce called audible after audible, hitting the right notes, putting together a collection of songs that worked, that wasn’t just a jukebox or a greatest hits machine, that wasn’t pandering to the crowd (a crowd which, by the way, did not need pandering to. They were eating out of his hand from the first note). There was amazing energy on the floor, in the pit, in the very top rows of the venue, people standing up with their arms up in the air for almost every song.”
The highlight of the unexpected opening “six-pack” is a powerful, haunting rendition of the final song, Something In The Night. Rose, who had commented on the ability of the first night audience to listen quietly when appropriate, argues that, “it was the best ‘Something’ I have ever heard, because I did not have to pray that no one would talk or ask someone to shut up. It was the best ‘Something’ I have ever heard because this was a night it seemed like Bruce felt like he had something to prove.”
After this we are on more familiar Wrecking Ball Tour ground with a strident We Take care Of Our Own, an energetic Wrecking Ball, a rather bloated My City Of Ruins similar to that heard the night before, though featuring a superb contribution from the backing singers, and Spirit In the Night. Although I do not invariably concur with Rose’s views, we are in agreement about Spirit In The Night, of which she writes, “I dislike the need to attempt to engage the crowd at the start of ‘Spirit In The Night’ by adding a gospel-tinged dramatic intro — the crowd doesn’t need it, they know and love ‘Spirit’ and will be fine once you actually start singing it, Bruce — is what I want to tell him, but it was an off-the-charts version.” The first disc then concludes with an excellent performance of Incident On 57th Street which rose considers to be, “brilliant and beautiful and raw.”
The second disc begins with a superb Because The Night, topping the previous night’s performance, and featuring a superb extended guitar solo from Nils Lofgren. Patti Scialfa’s brief vocal part, once again, does nothing to enhance the song. This is followed by an energetic She’s The One and a rendition of Working On The Highway of which Rose and Radecki write, “tonight was the sort of night when even ‘Working on the Highway’ had a little extra oomph.” After a little levity in the hshape of I’m Goin’ Down, we get (like the previous night, and with Scialfa’s return) Easy Money, which unfortunately means the omission one again of Shackled And Drawn. Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, of course, contains the customary vocal input from a child from the audience and, with the absence of The Promised Land it is followed by the Apollo Medley.
The next song is the tour premiere of For You which, like Independence Day the previous evening, is played as a piano solo. It is an almost unbearably poignant performance. Posting on the Greasy Lake forum, Walklikeasupercaley contends that, “For You on solo piano was magnificent.” Rose and Radecki Bruce comment that Springsteen, “sat at the piano for the second straight night, with tonight’s solo selection being a charged version of ‘For You.’ Yet after he finished, he immediately called for ‘Racing in the Street’ to follow-up, as if the crowd hadn’t already had enough heart-stopping moments.” The song is played in an eleven-minute version with a lengthy coda featuring Bittan’s piano. Brucebase points out that this was the first time since the Darkness On The Edge Of Town Tour of 1978 that Incident On 57th Street and Racing In The Street have been played at the same show.
The main set is concluded with a strong performance of The Rising, a bouncy and fun Out In The Street and the excellent Land Of Hope And Dreams, ending with its customary brief excerpt from People Get Ready. Unfortunately, the last song could not be fitted on to the second disc and it therefore opens disc three.
The encores begin with the inspirational “ghost story” that is We Are Alive and, much though I like the song, it is a shame that there is consequently no place for Rocky Ground. Springsteen dedicates the performance to his mother, who was in the audience along with other family members. Then comes A Born To Run double-header, with Thunder Road and the title song, much to the delight of the audience. A boisterous Glory Days, “was the best version I have ever heard,” according to Rose, and, “the most fun I have ever had singing it.” The momentum is maintained with Moon Mullican’s Seven Nights To Rock and Dancing In The Dark, during which Springsteen brings daughter Jessica on to the stage to dance, before the show finally comes to a barnstorming conclusion with Tenth-Avenue Freeze-out, which features its customary tribute to the late Clarence Clemons.
The performance has garnered much accclaim. Walklikeasupercaley writes that:
“The other great round of applause has to go to the crowd. Both last night and tonight the audience was superb and it was really obvious that the band fed off that. I thought the back to back nights of WIESS and The River at MSG would never be topped but tonight and last night were without doubt better overall and much of the credit has to go to the crowd who were spot on both nights. I’ve not been to Milan or Barcelona or Scandinavia on a tour but tonight and last night were streets ahead of any E Street gigs I’ve seen in the UK, USA, Ireland and elsewhere.”
Although, contrary to Walklikeasupercaley’s opinion, the superiority of the second Madison Square Garden show of 2009, where The River was played in its entirety, is asserted by numerous posters on Backstreets’ BTX forum, many posters both there and elsewhere are extremely positive about this Paris performance. Other comments on the Greasy Lake forum include: “Tonight was my 51st show and probably the best. Amazing show” (casino nancy); “For me..this topped milano…Easily” (pienelion); “Night 1 was great but night 2 was on another level. Stunning performance” (Kingstowngirl). On BTX wilcoam writes that, “BERCY 2 was indeed a mega-stunner, right up there with recent TORINO 09, BUFFALO 09, etc.” On the Stone Pony London message board tomsriver writes that, “July 4 was a great show, but Thursday was just off the scale.” The acclaim is not limited to posters on forums. Rose and Radecki write that, “quite simply, everyone on stage — Bruce, Garry, Max, Roy, the horn section, the singers — brought their A-game to Paris, and their performance was exceptional.”
“Exceptional” would also be an appropriate word to describe the sound quality of this full, clear and dynamic audience recording, which brings us sound which, to my ears, is even better than that of La Vie En Rose. This release is housed in Godfather’s customary tri-fold sleeve with a very nice shot of Springsteen, Patti Scialfa and Jake Clemons on the front cover. Elsewhere there are further onstage shots, band personnel, track listing and “Joe Roberts” notes. there is no booklet. With a stunning performance, outstanding sound and attractive packaging, this release is an essential acquisition for Springsteen collectors.