Bruce Springsteen – Burnin’ Down The Clock (Godfatherecords G.R. 753/754/755)

Burnin’ Down The Clock (Godfatherecords G.R. 753/754/755)

Estadio De La Cartuja, Seville, Spain – 13 May, 2012

Disc 1: Intro, Badlands, We Take Care Of Our Own, Wrecking Ball, The Ties That Bind, Death To My Hometown, My City Of Ruins, Trapped, Out In the Street, Jack Of All Trades, Candy’s Room, She’s The One, Darlington County

Disc 2: Shackled And Drawn, Waitin’ On  A Sunny Day, The Promised Land, Apollo Medley [The Way You Do The Things You Do, 634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A.)], Because The Night, The Rising, Lonesome Day, We Are Alive, Land Of Hope And Dreams[/People Get Ready], Rocky Ground

Disc 3: I’m Goin’ Down, Born To Run, Dancing In The Dark, Bobby Jean, Tenth Avenue Freeze-out

Bonus tracks: Verizon Center, Washington DC, USA – 1 April, 2012: Seaside Bar Song, Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?, Adam Raised A Cain, Easy Money, The Promise, American Skin (41 Shots), Thunder Road

A three hour, 27-song set opened the European leg of the Wrecking Ball Tour at the Estadio De La Cartuja in Seville. Godfather uses the name Estadio Olímpico, which is widely used as the venue was included in the Seville bid for the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games, though, as the bids were unsuccessful, no Olympic events were ever staged there.  The show was far from a sell-out. As the Brucebase website reports, “despite the half-stadium configuration, the show is relatively poorly attended with plenty of empty space around the arena.”  There has been much comment about the poor attendance on the Stone Pony London message board, which also displays a shot of the sparsely filled venue.  Posting on that site, Roberto blames the current economic climate, stating that, “ticket sales have been very weak in Spain this time: too many shows in a country with a huge financial crisis and wiht the highest unemployment rate in all Europe,” though fellow poster Cherry Top points out that a modest 24,000 people attended Springsteen’s previous Seville concert.

Springsteen and the E Street Band enter the stage to Ennio Morricone’s theme from the Segio Leone film The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, which was largely shot in Spain.  After this, as Salvador Trepat reports on the Backstreets website, “the show started at 9:21 with ‘Badlands’…setting the tone for a very strong performance in front of a very enthusiastic audience as usual in Spain.”  This is followed by two further songs which have established themselves at the start of the set, We Take Care Of Our Own, which comes across as rather sluggish and underpowered  and Wrecking Ball, of which Brucebase relates that, “the guitar-intro of ‘Wrecking Ball’ features extra improvisation by Bruce.”

Next up are The Ties That Bind, Sal Trepat considers  a “highlight” of the show and Death To My Hometown, of which Morrison, on the  Ábrete de Orejas website states,  “as for the repertoire, in our opinion the best was the Death to my hometown with its Irish air.”  During a soulful My City Of Ruins we hear Springsteen speak the lines, “are we missing anybody?  If you’re here, and we’re here, they’re here,” in Spanish.  “Bruce was clearly moved,” states Brucebase, “when the crowd started cheering for Clarence.”

A tightly-sprung Trapped is another “highlight” for Trepat, and this is followed by a performance of Out In the Street which comes across as less exuberant than usual.  Then the mood changes with a the quiet, sombre Jack Of All Trades, the start of which is marred by audience members continuing to sing along to Out In The Street after that song’s conclusion.  Speaking in Spanish, Springsteen dedicates the song to, “the people of the 15-M movement [a precursor to the Occupy movement in the US] and all the people struggling in the south of Spain.”  Things liven up with what Trepat calls, “the tremendous duo formed by ‘Candy’s Room’ and ‘She’s the One.'”   Tailschao, posting on the Stone Pony London message board, rightly reckons this to be an “excellent” rendition of the former song.  The first disc then concludes with the only song from Born In The U.S.A. to feature in the main set, Darlington County. 

Disc two kicks off with Shackled And Drawn, which begins with some call-and-response between Springsteen and the audience, and features a vocal slot from Cindy Mizelle.  Then comes Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, with its customary child participation.  A rather pedestrian performance of The Promised Land is followed by the Apollo Medley.  One aspect of the current tour that I especially like is the inclusion of soulful songs, whether old soul numbers or reworked Springsteen originals such as My City Of Ruins.  This has much to do with the contribution of the horn section and the backing singers.  In my review of Godfather’s previous Springsteen release, the superb My Home’s Here In These Meadowlands, I wrote that, “quite why [Michelle] Moore only takes the stage for this one song [Rocky Ground] is a mystery – she would surely be a fine addition to the ranks of backing vocalists who contribute throughout the show.”  It is therefore gratifying to find her contributing both to the Apollo Medley and, later, to Tenth Avenue Freeze-out (though Godfather’s tracklisting only credits her on Rocky Ground).

Because the Night, as Trepat puts it, “feature[s] the classic Nils Lofgren guitar solo,” and draws “a huge roar of approval” from the audience.  Morrison also refers to Lofgren’s “spectacular solo.”  The first two singles from The Rising, the title track and Lonesome Day then give way to the new album with We Are Alive before the set closes with Land Of Hope And Dreams.  The latter, always good to hear, concludes, as usual. with a snippet of People Get Ready.  The second disc then concludes with Michelle Moore making her usual excellent contribution to Rocky Ground.

Disc three begins with the only tour premiere of the show, I’m Goin’ Down – “no great surprise,” as Brucebase points out, “since it was rehearsed the previous day.”  The song features some extended guitar work by Steve Van Zandt at the end.  “I’m Goin’ Down was the definate [sic] highlight of the night, comments tailschao on the Stone Pony London message board, “loads of hilarious schtick with Steve near the end.”  Morrison reckons it a “fabulous” performance.  The ebullient mood continues with Born To Run and (in addition to I’m Goin’ Down) two further numbers from Born In The U.S.A., Dancing In The Dark and Bobby Jean.  Tenth Avenue Freeze-out, again featuring Michelle Moore concludes the show, with its usual tribute to the late Clarence Clemons.

Overall, this is a good, though not outstanding show, which perhaps could have been enlivened a more adventurous set list, though it should be remembered (particularly by some hyper-critical posters on SPL) that many of these songs were being played in Europe for the first time.  Tailschao’s view, posted on SPL, is, “overall a solid show, though it had a decidedly ‘first show on a tour’ feel to it…I missed the lack of the ‘old song’ slot before JOAT. And he’d been soundchecking the shit out of The Promise all afternoon.  (It seems that tailschao was extremely unlucky to miss The Promise; Brucebase states that, “the printed setlist is reported to have included ‘The Promise’ and ‘The E Street Shuffle.'”)   Ernesto, posting on SPL as mystere74, also bemoans the lack of an early number, writing, “what happened to the ’73-74 songs’ spot?!  No Thundercrack, E-Street Shuffle, Spirit, Does this Bus… etc.”  Roberto, contrary to Trepat’s assertion that the crowd was “very enthusiastic,” writes that, “from where I was (seated), the stadium was half empty, the crowd was too calm… in my opinion, the weaker [sic] show I have ever attended in Spain taking into consideration the crowd reactivity (Bruce and the band were in good mood, and the performance was solid).”  However, tailschao does quite rightly add that, “the new album stuff sounds great,” and oscar concurs, stating that, “the new songs are excellent and the band sounds really well, and powerfull [sic]”

Though in no way outstanding, the audience tape used for this release is admirable when one considers that the taper had to contend with clearly substandard sound in the venue.  Morrison states that “the first five minutes were terrible: that sounded like hell, only hearing the bass and muuuch reverb.”  The sound does improve, though Cherry Top, posting on SPL, states that there were “big complaints about sound from seated sections.”  Roberto bluntly states that, “the sound of the stadium was nasty.”  As with the modest attendance, this appears not to be new.  PeterNFCa, also on SPL, points out that, “sound was not great in the venue” during the previous show held there.

Godfather gives us a generous bonus in the shape of seven songs from the show at the Verizon Center, Washington DC, USA  on 1 April.  First we have a pair of very early songs, Seaside Bar Song and Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?, “one of the coolest double-shots ever,” in the opinion of Nils Fan, posting on Backstreets’ BTX forum, and both played with tremendous panache.  Both songs feature the horns to great effect (I was dubious about their use in Seaside Bar Song but this performance has won me round) and Bus Stop contains the duel between drummer Max Weinberg and percussionist Everett Bradley.  Next up is what David Malitz of the Washington Post calls the “thundering, brooding” Adam Raised A Cain, which “shook the arena with the force of three bands,”  and features some brutally heavy guitar.  Posters on SPL were also impressed, Pete stating this to be the, “best version of Adam I’ve seen in years. I haven’t heard that kind of passion in the ‘Cain slew Abel’ bit in a long time,” and PeterNFCa adds, “amazing bruce guitar work…Adam was v v v v good.”  Unfortunately, the song fades out just before the end.  After this we get the only Wrecking Ball tune among these bonus tracks,  a vibrant rendition of Easy Money, with its distinctive distorted opening vocal part.

The Promise (replacing the listed The Promised Land) is performed in the very rare full-band version, which has only been played on two previous occasions, at the opening concert of the Darkness Tour at Shea’s Buffalo Theater in Buffalo, NY on 23 May 1978 and at the Carousel House, The Casino, Asbury Park, NJ on 7 December 2010.  The latter show, played in front of around sixty people, was filmed and five songs, including The Promise though none of the others here, appeared as a webcast and later as bonus material on The Promise: The Making Of Darkness On The Edge Of Town DVD and Blu-ray.  For Brucebase, The Promise is “the highlight” of the show. Posting on SPL PeterNFCa writes that “the promise was a total WOW moment.”  Also on SPL, DenverBrian calls the performance of The Promise “amazing” but adds that, “it was clear that many people had no idea what The Promise was and took used the time to go to the bathroom.”  Countyfair concurs, stating, “DenverBrian is right: The Promise was, unfortunately, a major piss-break song. It was really hard to concentrate on what an amazing moment it was on stage.”  (Seemingly, this was not the only moment that left some of the more casual fans nonplussed, as Countyfair additionally points out that, “the crowd had no idea what was going on during Seaside Bar Song.”)

The bonus tracks conclude with a poignant American Skin (41 Shots), which contains a wonderfully fluid guitar solo by Nils Lofgren and a haunting sax part from Jake Clemons, and the set-closer, the quintesssential Springsteen number, Thunder Road.  Judging by the songs heard here, fendertweed, on the BTX forum, is clearly entitled to maintain that, “this was a damn fine show, quality, intensity and length all brought me back to some of the great shows of the 70s I saw…I was amazed at what [Springsteen] could do when he was 24-25 when I first saw him, and I am still amazed 38 yrs. later. This was a great show.”  The sound is very good and, if these seven songs are anything to go by, a release of the complete concert would be wonderful.

The typical tri-fold Godfather packaging features on the front cover Springsteen onstage in the legs-played, arms-wide stance he has adopted for the instrumental section of Badlands. The other photographs are dominated by further onstage shots of Springsteen himself, with the track listing on the back cover and the usual “Joe Roberts” notes on the inner side of the front of the sleeve. There is no booklet.

This release, while having its enjoyable moments, does not equal the splendid My Home’s Here In These Meadowlands, containing, as it does, what both tailschao and Roberto refer to as a “solid,” rather than a truly inspitational show.  The sound on the previous release is also clearly superior.  However, there are some enjoyable highlights here, such as Trapped, Candy’s Room, Because The Night and I’m Goin’ Down, together with some excellent bonus tracks, so Springsteen collectors may still be tempted by this release.

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