Parc de la Courneuve, Paris, France – 29 June, 1985
Disc 1: Born In The U.S.A., Badlands, Out In The Street, Johnny 99, Atlantic City, Intro, Shut Out the Light, The River, Working On The Highway, Trapped, Darlington County, Glory Days
Disc 2: The Promised Land, Intro, My Hometown, Thunder Road, Cover Me, Dancing In The Dark, Hungry Heart, Cadillac Ranch, Downbound Train, I’m On Fire
Disc 3: Because The Night, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), Intro, Can’t Help Falling In Love, Born To Run, Bobby Jean, Ramrod, Twist And Shout[/La Bamba]/Do You Love Me, Rockin’ All Over The World
Described as, “the legendary broadcast source for the first time on silver disc,” Jersey Devil’s latest Springsteen release brings us the audio of the first of two shows at the Parc de La Courneuve on consecutive nights at the end of June 1985. This was not the original venue for the show as Brucebase relates:
“Originally scheduled to take place at Stade De Colombes, the show was moved to Parc de La Courneuve in the wake of a football riot in Brussels [the Heysel Stadium disaster]. Wary of disturbances, authorities in Paris had created so many security restrictions for Stade De Colombes (a football stadium with a concert capacity of around 50,000) it made more sense to move it to the large green space in the northern suburbs of Paris.”
Brucebase notes the existence of two audience tapes: “The first is available on the four-LP set ‘Live In Paris’, a second alternate source entered circulation in December 2013 from a second generation tape transfer (mjk5510), this source does not include ‘Rockin’ All Over The World.'” In addition to the whole show being released on Live In Paris, disc one of the 3-LP set European Tour 85 (Little Candy Records) contained the first eight songs, together with numbers from four other shows in Dublin, Newcastle, Milan and Montpellier.
The concert is perhaps better known in its audio-visual form. As Brucebase states, “this show has also been released in a complete pro-shot DVD of superb quality entitled ‘Breathless In Paris.'” The site gives the label as “Digitox” though other websites cite “Gigi-Tox” and “Non Label.” There was also a single DVD version from Apocalypse Sound entitled Dancing In The Parc . A 2-DVD-R set also appeared on the VJAM label entitled Complete Paris Concert. I believe all three are sourced from a torrent appearing on Jungleland entitled Breathless In Paris, the origin of which is given thus: “Digi-TOx presents…The ‘Uber’ Series Volume 07.” This is also the source for this new CD release. The description on Jungleland states that, “the source for this DVD comes from a very low (1st) generation videotape…to add more atmosphere the original soundboard audio has been equalised and mixed with a nice audience recording.”
Finally, Brucebase notes the existence of an audio-only torrent: “Soundboard release from the über series on CDR titled ‘Breathless In Paris : AUDIO – Uber Series Vol. 17’ (Ev2). A note on this version on the Bruceboots website states: “Source: ‘1985-06-29 Breathless In Paris (DVD)'” and the artwork states: “Sourced from a very low (1st gen) videotape, which was transferred to DVD and this audio ripped from the 3-DVD set. Original DVD authoring by ‘digi-tox.'”
The show begins with a savagely intense version of Born In The U.S.A. featuring a ferociously cacophonous climax and the end of the main part of the song. After this comes a similarly driven Badlands and a wonderfully zestful Out In The Street. This is followed by two songs from Nebraska. First up is Johnny 99, featuring Springsteen on vocals and harmonica and Nils Lofgren on acoustic guitar. Atlantic City, opening with Max Weinberg’s portentous drumming, works splendidly in its slow, weighty full-band guise.
Then comes the first ever performance of Born In The U.S.A. outtake and b-side Shut Out the Light. The moving performance is prefaced by a spoken introduction in which Springsteen tells the audience that, looking back to the time that he got his draft notice in 1969, he does not recall having, “any real political convictions,” but knew that he “didn’t wanna die.” He also mentions reading Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic’s Born On The 4th Of July and describes how he later, quite accidentally, met the author. Springsteen characterizes Kovic’s book as, “his story about going and coming home to find out his that home wasn’t there any more”; similarly, the song is about, “leaving home and not being able to find your way back.” Springsteen introduces the song as Shut Out The Lights and sings the last word in its plural form thoughout the song.
An affecting performance of The River, enhanced by Scialfa’s backing vocals, makes for an appropriate and effective follow-up. Things move up-tempo again with the enjoyable rockabilly-tinged version of Working On The Highway, which is followed by a superbly taut version of Jimmy Cliff’s Trapped. The first disc then concludes with the serio-comic duo from Born In The U.S.A., Darlington County and the Glory Days, the latter of which features some call-and-response with the audience.
An appropriately stirring rendition of The Promised Land is followed by the closing number from Born In The U.S.A., the poignant My Hometown. The song is prefaced by a spoken introduction during which Springsteen says that, “the place you’re raised always stays in your blood.” Conversely, Thunder Road is suffused with a definite sense of joy and optimism. The song brings an end to the first set.
The second set starts in lively fashion with a quartet of numbers where the upbeat, at times poppy, music is juxtaposed with decidedly darker lyrics, Cover Me, Dancing In The Dark, Hungry Heart and Cadillac Ranch. All four receive highly effective performances. A musical, if not lyrical, contrast is then provided by the melancholic Downbound Train, which is succeeded by an atmospheric I’m On Fire, effectively exuding, as Christopher Sandford puts it in Springsteen: Point Blank, an air of, “sex…and menace.” A vibrant performance of Because The Night is followed by the rousing set closer Rosalita, complete with band introductions.
The encore begins with a rendition of the beautiful Elvis Presley number Can’t Help Falling In Love. The captivating performance is preceded by a spoken introduction which includes Springsteen’s account of how he tried to gain access to Elvis Presley’s house only to be escorted off the premises by a guard. Played five times during the River Tour in 1981 (the first occasion being in Paris as Springsteen reminds the audience), the song featured extensively during the Born In The U.S.A. Tour’s 1985 shows. The melody is based on Plaisir d’Amour, a classical French love song written in 1784 by Jean-Paul-Égide Martini with a text from a poem by Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian. The original song has been recorded by, among many others, Joan Baez, Nick Drake, Nana Mouskouri, Judy Collins and Emmylou Harris and it also features in the television series Band Of Brothers.
After this we are in more conventional encore territory with a frenetic Born To Run, a performance of Bobby Jean which reflects Sandford’s description of it as “sentimental, yet sharp,” a jaunty, energetic Ramrod and an animated sixteen-minute Twist And Shout. As was regularly the case in 1984 and 1985, the latter song includes a substantial excerpt from The Contours’ 1961 hit single Do You Love Me and the section where Springsteen encourages the audience to sing along is clearly drawn from La Bamba, though this is not credited in the track listing. The show then concludes with a raucous version of Rockin’ All Over The World.
The sound is very good, at times very good indeed, though rather variable – generally quite full and dynamic, though at times somewhat lacking in sharpness. The extent to which the audience can be clearly heard also varies. During Twist And Shout, there are two instances of distorted sound, in the manner of tape slippage. The first is very brief, but the second is longer and mars the song’s conclusion.
The discs are housed in the label’s customary tri-fold card sleeve, which features numerous onstage shots from the show. There is a four-page fold-over insert with further photographs and brief notes and plus the single-sheet standard insert common to all JDR releases.
Overall, this is an extremely enjoyable show in attractive packaging with very good sound and it is therefore well worth having (though one might imagine that collectors who possess a DVD version may not feel the need to acquire the CDs). Despite this set’s obvious qualities, first choice for a release from this tour remains with the Milan performance, released as Milano Night (Crystal Cat) and A Love Affair (Godfather), the latter of which was described by gsparaco as, “one of the most impressive titles to be released by this, or any label” and “essential.”