Born Again (Social Graces 005)
The Palace Of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, MI, USA – 13 November, 2009
Intro, Thunder Road, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Night, Backstreets, Born To Run, She’s The One, Meeting Across The River, Jungleland
Bonus Tracks: Ullevi Stadium, Gothenburg, Sweden – 22 June, 2003: Atlantic City, My City Of Ruins; Convention Center, Asbury Park, NJ, USA – 23 March, 2009: Because The Night; Somerville Theater, Somerville, MA, USA – 19 February, 2003: Nebraska
“I’ve been waiting forty years to fuck that one up,” Springsteen told the audience early in this show. What had he done? He had forgotten which state he was in and made three references to Ohio, rather than Michigan. Having warmly greeted the audience with “Good evening, Ohio!” before the opening number, Wrecking Ball, he again referred to Ohio during the song itself. Before the fifth number, Working On A Dream, he once more shouted, “Good evening, Ohio!” before guitarist Steve Van Zandt stepped in and corrected him.
The album’s title track was the only one from Working On A Dream to be played during this show (Matt Orel writes on the Backstreets website of, “the de-emphasizing of the current album”), and by this stage of the tour it often served to end the early part of the show, appearing immediately before the full album performances. It is at this point that CD listeners join the show, hearing a rather embarrased Springsteen tell the audience at the conclusion of the song that he has just experienced “every frontman’s lead fucking nightmare,” which, at the age of sixty, he attributes to “the onset of early Alzheimer’s.”
More seriously, he introduces the complete performance of Born To Run that the Social Graces label presents here by saying:
“this was probably our most important record because we were…we had two records out…we’d put out two records and they hadn’t gone anywhere and we were close to being dropped from our record label and, uh…and this record came along and it sort of, I guess it started a life-long conversation that I’ve had with you, and that you’ve had with me…this was kind of our big introduction to, uh, to one another where I asked a lot of the…I asked a lot of the main questions I think I’ve spent the past thirty or thirty-five years trying to find my… find my way through.”
Thunder Road receives a warm, affectionate though rather stately reading and it is interesting to hear the opening number of what is most definitely a young man’s album (although Thunder Road itself is perhaps the least “adolescent” song on Born To Run) in what is audibly an older man’s voice. The audience greets the song with enthusiasm and, as has long been the custom, sings a couple of lines. Clarence Clemons’ sax solo at the song’s conclusion is faultless. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out is infectiously joyous from the opening notes and is effectively augmented by Curt Ramm’s trumpet. As with Thunder Road, the band’s additional personnel add some prominent backing vocals to what is a definite highlight of this release. Almost immediately, the band tears into an energetic rendition of the short, fast Night and this is followed by a moving and utterly magnificent performance of Backstreets, which includes a relatively brief semi-spoken interlude. For Wes Castleman, writing on Springsteen’s official website, the “passionate ‘Backstreets’ [was] the clear highlight” of the show.
Despite the fact that this was where the side-break fell on the original album, Springsteen and the band launch immediately into a frenzied Born To Run, which features a furious mid-song climax, and this in turn gives way to an impassioned She’s The One, which features a harmonica part near the end and leaves the audience in raptures Meeting Across The River is, as Orel contends, “enhanced by trumpeter Curt Ramm’s playing,” though it could be argued that the sixty-year old Springsteen’s voice sounds too world-weary to convey the (surely misplaced) optimism of the small-time hood who is the song’s protagonist. The album performance ends, of course, with the majestic Jungleland and Soozie Tyrell is on hand to add the violin part to the song’s opening. Steve Van Zandt also contributes an astringent guitar solo, but, instrumentally, the stars here are Clemons and pianist Roy Bittan, and the moment at which Clemons’ sax solo gives way to Bittan’s restrained piano part is beautifully handled, adding poignancy to Springsteen’s moving vocal delivery of the song’s denouement.
Overall, the Born To Run performance is most impressive. “A magnificent show,” writes Orel, “the performance of the ‘Born to Run’ album was spot on. The songs were crisp, impassioned, and uniformly attacked, hard.” “While I was skeptical of the plan to perform complete albums on this leg of the tour,” comments Castleman, “it seems as if presenting the songs in that format has brought new focus to them. Friday’s Born to Run set was outstanding.” The Big O website states of this release that, “the performances here are great.”
In addition to Born To Run, this release contains four bonus tracks from three shows. The first two songs, Atlantic City and My City Of Ruins, both come from the Gothenburg concert of 22 June 2003. Atlantic City is an exellent rendition of the slower, full-band incarnation and My City Of Ruins receives an exceptionally moving performance. Because The Night is from the first of two public rehearsals for the Working On A Dream Tour and features Jay Weinberg on drums. In my review of Godfather’s Working On A Show I stated that the song, “features a very atmospheric opening and a superb long guitar solo from Nils Lofgren and is perhaps even better than on the last tour.” Finally, we have a most affecting solo performance of Nebraska from, in Brucebase’s words, the “great show” of 19 February 2003 (although the track listing on the rear insert mistakenly says 2002). This was one of two concerts played as benefits for DoubleTake magazine, billed as, “an intimate evening of music and conversation with Bruce Springsteen.” I am not sure what rationale informed the choice of bonus tracks and there were songs from the Auburn Hills show (including a rare performance of Bob Seger’s Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man) which would have served the purpose better. Having said that, I acknowledge that, taken individually, each of the bonus tracks is well worth having.
The sound quality of the Born To Run performance, derived from what the Brucebase website calls “an excellent IEM recording,” is stunning, featuring a depth and clarity not far removed from the sound one might expect to encounter on an official release. Svengi, on the HotWacks site, has a similar view, stating that the Born To Run performance comes in “absolutely perfect stereo…like an official live album.” The Big O website simply states that “the sound is great.” The sound quality of the bonus tracks is equally exceptional and postings on the Stone Pony London website contend that these are also from IEM sources.
Social Graces’ packaging is fairly simple. There is a single-sheet front insert featuring Springsteen and Van Zandt on one side and Springsteen alone on the other. Both sides show artist, title, date and location and would therefore seem to be intentionally reversible. The outside of the rear insert again shows Springsteen on stage, together with the track listing. The names of the songs are in red and difficult to read against the dark background. The inner side of the back insert displays, against a black background, Springsteen and backing singer Curtis King. This again features artist, title, date and venue and has the appearance of a further potential cover design. The red label side of the CD is deliberately in the style of official releases but Boss/ESB appears around the edge, rather than Columbia.
The Social Graces label has repeated the complete album-only format on Innocent And Glory Days. My feelings on this are ambivalent. One the one hand, I think is is a valid concept and, bearing in mind the existence of numerous other releases from the tour, it could be argued that Social Graces is avoiding unnecessary repetition of material and unwarranted cost. Conversely, if the label does have the complete shows in such stunning sound quality, it is a great shame that it is not making them available to collectors. However, despite this reservation, it must be said that this is a splendid release which is well worth acquiring.