Come On Man..Stand On It! (Godfatherecords G.R. 294/295/296)
Amsterdam Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands – 18 June 2008
Disc 1: Out In The Street, Radio Nowhere, Lonesome Day, The Promised Land, Spirit In The Night, The River, Gypsy Biker, Prove It All Night, Darkness On The Edge Of Town, Darlington County
Disc 2: Because The Night, She’s The One, Livin’ In The Future, Mary’s Place, I’m On Fire, Backstreets, The Rising, Last To Die, Long Walk Home, Badlands
Disc 3: Girls In Their Summer Clothes, Summertime Blues, Stand On It, Seven Nights To Rock, Born To Run, Bobby Jean, Dancing In The Dark, American Land
Bonus Tracks: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, UK – 14 June 2008: From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come), Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Blinded By The Light, Jungleland, Thunder Road
“Italy! France! Romania!” shouts Springsteen gleefully to a delighted audience as he reaches the microphone. These are the countries recently defeated by the Dutch national team in the Euro 2008 football (soccer) tournament and this starts off the show in a perceptably celebratory mood. The band then delivers a performance of Out In The Street which immediately has the audience singing and clapping along, followed by an energetic though still melodic account of Radio Nowhere, taken at a fast lick. A taut version of Lonesome Day, propelled by Soozie Tyrell’s violin, gives way to a fine rendition of The Promised Land, the opening harmonica of which is greeted by enthusiastic cheers. Springsteen and the band turn up the energy levels even further for a joyous Spirit In The Night, one of the highlights of this set, which leaves the audience ecstatic.
It is clear by this time that the atmosphere here is a little different from that at some other Magic Tour shows. Despite the inclusion of some more serious songs there is a clearly discernible sense of fun running throughout this performance. Helen writes on the Backstreets website that it was “a fun interactive show in Amsterdam,” and Massimo Benvegnu adds: “What a fun night we all had in Amsterdam, Bruce included!…a very fun, loose atmosphere.” This is backed up by the review of the show by Michael Alexander Verhoeff, who writes on Springsteen’s official website: “The Boss and the band were on a roll. Springsteen was in a chipper and interactive mood, enjoying the hell out of the catwalk and using every opportunity to get down on his knees and immerse himself in the audience.”
Springsteen then collects the initial audience requests and first up is The River, during which the audience is permitted to sing a couple of the lines (they sing the rest anyway!). Springsteen puts a slight twist on the lyrics which shifts the blame for the relationship’s decline more firmly on to the woman (“Mary acts like she don’t remember/Mary acts like she don’t care”). Gypsy Biker and Prove It All Night follow, both of which feature some superb guitar playing (from Steve Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren as well as Springsteen) and then comes a powerful performance of Darkness On The Edge Of Town. An upbeat version of Darlington County, featuring an extended instrumental opening and Soozie Tyrell’s violin in the coda, then brings the first disc to a close.
Disc two begins with Because The Night, here, as so often, a Magic Tour highlight with its atmospheric opening and Nils Lifgren’s superb guitar solo, and then the band bursts into an energetic She’s The One during which the audience claps along enthusiastically. A fine version of Livin’ In The Future is prefaced by its usual political statement and is followed by an ebullient performance of Mary’s Place with additional brass which really gets the audience in party mood and which is the sign for further requests.
First comes I’m On Fire. It is an effective performance but the song is inherently marred by the questionable way that the song’s protagonist expresses his desires (“Hey little girl is your daddy home/Did he go and leave you all alone?”). The next request is from a ten-year-old, reflecting the widespread attendance of fans at Magic shows together with their children. Springsteen points out that the song was written long before the boy was born and, as it is Backstreets, it seems an unusual choice for one so young. Nonetheless, it allows us to hear a welcome performance of one of Springsteen’s all-time classics. Then it’s back to the setlist. A punchy rendition of The Rising is followed, as usual, by a breathless Last To Die and the memorable melody of Long Walk Home before the band rips into the customary set closer, Badlands.
The encore begins, also as usual, with Girls In Their Summer Clothes. In addition to “all the Dutch girls,” Springsteen dedicates the song to a fan who had to leave his previous Dutch show early as his wife was giving birth. This show, in Arnhem on December 2007, had been postponed due to Springsteen being ill, and consequently it was, by all accounts, a short and mediocre performance. Perhaps this is responsible for Springsteen’s determination to ensure that this show was such a joyous occasion, and it really comes alive during the encores. Helen comments that the show “turned into a true stunner during the encore” during which the requests make a return. Verhoeff points out that the next two songs, Summertime Blues and Stand On It, were “thrown in on the spur of the moment, making the encores possibly the most memorable of the Magic tour yet.”
“We haven’t played this one since we were…seventeen,” exaggerates Springsteen, “We don’t if we know the words…we only know about half of this song.” There seems to be some genuine consternation at the prospect of performing Summertime Blues, and the band take a while to work it out, but eventually it receives a loose and raucous performance which is followed by a storming rendition of Stand On It, with Roy Bittan doing his best Jerry Lee Lewis impression during his piano solo. This leads straight into a barnstorming version of Moon Mullican’s Seven Nights To Rock. Playing these songs seems to invigorate the band and we get high-energy performances of Born To Run, Bobby Jean and Dancing In The Dark before American Land brings the show to its joyful conclusion.
The bonus tracks from Cardiff begin with the show’s opener, From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come). This straight-ahead rocker provides Springsteen with his “Welsh connection” as it was recorded by Dave Edmunds, who was invited backstage at one of Springsteen’s shows at Wembley Arena in 1981. Edmunds recalled that, “he played me this song and said, ‘I’d like you to do this, if you like it’.” (Springsteen’s own recording emerged on the bonus disc contained in the limited edition version of The Essential Bruce Springsteen.) The band then launch straight into a jaunty rendition of Tenth Avenue Freeze Out, which has the audience singing along throughout. A riotous Blinded By The Light ensues, unfortunately shorn of the preceding story about Danny Federici and “Mad Dog” Lopez. Finally, we get the first two songs of the encore. First comes what is described by Peter Getty on Springsteen’s website as, “the best version of ‘Jungleland’ I have ever heard.” This is followed by a splendid performance of Thunder Road, dedicated to recently deceased jounalist Tim Russert, who, as Springsteen says, “was always a strong voice for honesty and accountability in American government.”
The audience recording of the Amsterdam concert is very good, although not outstanding. Whilst clear and detailed enough to be enjoyable through speakers, I found that the sound seemed to have greater presence when listened to through headphones. The sound of the bonus tracks is excellent and the taper not only captures the music exceptionally well, but also the audience in a way that enhances the atmosphere without being intrusive. On several occasions there is a slight “jump” in the sound between tracks. I would guess that this is not a problem with the tape but occurred when track separation was added for the CD release. It does affect the music in some cases due to the band’s tendency to move, on occasion, from one song to the next without a break, but it is brief enough to constitute only a minor flaw.
This set is another of the five simultaneous releases of Magic Tour shows from July. It comes in Godfather’s customary trifold packaging with superb colour photographs from the show. The sleeve notes are culled from Verhoeff, although they are credited to the ubiquitous, and presumably pseudonymous, Joe Roberts. The main set is very enjoyable, though it is not the equal of the outstanding performances from Milan, Paris and St. Louis also issued by Godfather. It is the superb encores and the well-chosen and great-sounding bonus tracks which make this, nonetheless, a highly recommendable release.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)