Bruce Springsteen – Detroit 1977 (no label ESB21577A-B)

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Detroit 1977Detroit 1977 (no label ESB21577A-B)

Masonic Temple, Detroit, MI, USA – 15 February, 1977

Disc 1: Something In The Night, Night, Rendezvous, Spirit In The Night, It’s My Life, Thunder Road, Mona/She’s The One, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Action In The Streets

Disc 2: Backstreets, Jungleland, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), Detroit Medley, Born To Run

Bonus track: Auditorium Theatre, Chicago, IL, USA – 23 February, 1977

This is not the first time that Springsteen’s Detroit show of 15 February 1977 has appeared on disc.  Brucebase notes:

Audience tape released on CD ‘Masonic Temple’ (Joker), CDR ‘The Devil In Detroit’, and in August 2015 from the master cassettes on JEMS’ ‘Nothing To Lose: The 1977 Tour Revisited Volume Seven’ (tapeboy). The sound quality of the latter is a substantial upgrade over the older releases.

BK’s notes on the Jungleland site accompanying the new JEMS version (which is utilized for this release) give further details:

Detroit ’77 has circulated among collectors since not long after J taped it 38 years ago. A master-to-DAT transfer was also made in the early days of the digital format, copies of which almost certainly provided the source for releases like Masonic Temple (Joker) and The Devil In Detroit. It’s long been one of the better audience recordings of the tour, but it has never sounded as good as it could. This marks the first direct digital transfer of the master tapes, and every step along the chain, from the azimuth-adjusted playback to high-resolution capture to final mastering, is superior to what was done to DAT 25 years ago…once again [J’s] mono capture is quite excellent, consistent and free from audience interruption…it has always sounded good, but I think this version is definitive.”

With legal wranglings involving former manager Mike Appel dragging on, Springsteen was emotionally fragile at the time of this show,  Brucebase noting that, “Bruce would later comment that this night was the first time in his life that he did not want to get up on stage.”  However, the site also states that, “Springsteen’s low mood is not in evidence during the show, aside from a particularly intense ‘Something In The Night.'”  BK is also taken with the performance of the song, which opens the show for the last time on this tour, writing that:

“There is a tone set by the absolutely striking version of ‘Something in the Night’…Knowing what we know in hindsight, the stark, emotional reading of ‘Something’ feels like some form of catharsis and, for me, it is one of the greatest show openers in Springsteen history.  I absolutely adore this version and the audacity of opening with a song that starts with such a slow build.”

Alan Rubenfeld and Mike Taylor, reviewing the show for the Michigan Daily News, were also impressed with the song, commenting that Springsteen, “opened Tuesday evening’s show with ‘Something In The Night,’ a melancholy song that gradually built to a rousing crescendo of wailing guitars, immediately setting the fervent pace of the concert.” 

The song, which would later appear on Darkness On The Edge Of Town, underwent lyrical modification during its early live performances.  As Clinton Heylin, in E Street Shuffle: The Glory Days of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, puts it, the song, “had received a full lyrical workout at the fall 1976 and winter 1977 shows.”  Here we get a second verse which makes reference to God’s angels tearing down the town and blowing it into the sea.  Springsteen seems to have been particularly taken with this image at the time, using it during some shows (though not this one) during the spoken interlude of Backstreets and also including it in what Brucebase calls the ” nondescript, bluffed lyrics” of two recorded versions of The Fast Song (the music of which was later used for Candy’s Room).  Indeed, Heylin surmises that The Fast Song may have originally been entitled God’s Angels and Brucebase also notes that the, “original or alternative title of ‘The Fast Song’ may have been ‘God’s Angels,’ one of the song titles found in The Promise book.”

This may have been the last show of the tour to open with Something In The Night.  All subsequent shows with complete known set lists indicate that Night was the show opener, although the set list of next night’s show in Columbus, OH is incomplete and the songs played in Madison, WI on 20 February are unknown.

Night, argued by Jimmy Guterman in Runaway American Dream: Listening To Bruce Springsteen to be one of the four songs on Born To run to convey a sense of  “excitement and anticipation,” here functions as the set’s second number and it is followed by Rendezvous, a song characterized by Heylin as “a great hook-filled pop song.”  Spirit In The Night, much leaner than recent live performances, is both exuberant and sleazy, and clearly a crowd-pleaser.

After all this irrepressible vitality, things take a more sombre turn with The Animals’ It’s My Life, which is played with the usual intensity, Rubenfeld and Taylor making specific reference to the “haunting introduction” during which Springsteen relates his teenage conflicts with his father.

A full band Thunder Road is played with a pleasing lightness of touch and this is followed by a performance of She’s The One which, as usual, features Mona as an atmospheric prelude.  The horns take to the stage to augment a vivacious Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out and they also make a splendid contribution to a bouncy Action In The Streets, which is so full of vitality and exuberance that it becomes a candidate for my favourite version of the song.  It brings the first disc to a close.

The second disc begins with an impassioned Backstreets.  Rubenfeld and Taylor, commenting on the song’s spoken interlude, which is briefer than many from this period, state that, “the emotional tension of this point in the song was deeply felt by the crowd.”  This is followed by an fine performance of the epic Jungleland with a most effective sax solo from Clarence Clemons.

“For the last part of the show,” write Rubenfeld and Taylor, “Springsteen had the entire house up and stomping as he sliced into a razor sharp version of ‘Rosalita’…in concert, it’s a breathtaking show-stopper.”  The song, of course, contains the band introductions, with the usual snippet of the Theme From Shaft accompanying the introduction of Clemons, and it also sees the return of the horns to heighten the excitement.  Unsurprisingly, given the venue, there follows what Rubenfeld and Tylor call a “frenetic” rendition of the Detroit Medley, its only performance of 1977.  John Laycock, writing for the Windsor Star, argues that, “doing a blaring Mitch Ryder in Mitch’s home town consists equally of shrewdness and loyalty to heritage.”  Finally, we hear Born To Run, dedicated here to Michigan native Bob Seger, “perhaps the first live version,” according to Rubenfeld and Taylor, “to capture the wall-of-sound dynamics of the original single.”

Rubenfeld and Taylor state that Raise Your Hand was also played at this show, noting Springsteen’s “charge into the audience” during that song (as well as during Spirit In The Night) and Brucebase tentatively includes it at the end of the set list, while noting that, “the taper was on the main floor and states he would not have left before the end of the show after taping Bruce multiple times, he does not feel ‘Raise Your Hand’ was played.”  BK concurs with this statement, arguing:

“That J wouldn’t record the final encore, on a side of a tape that still had nearly 20 mins of recording time left on it, in his hometown no less, strikes me as extremely unlikely, so despite that review, I’d suggest this recording is the complete performance.”

The Backstreets book Springsteen: The Man And His Music also agrees, noting that, “‘Raise Your Hand’ and ‘Growin’ Up’ are left out of the set.”

There is one bonus track, a poignant rendition of The Promise, from Chicago on 23 February. The only audience tape of this show of which I am aware is described on Jungleland as, “definitely not the best recording from the tour.”  The Promise sounds better than this description suggests, although the sound is inferior to that of the main show.  The beginning is marred by the noise made by people close to the taper, but fortunately for the listener they soon quieten.  (A piece of trivia regarding this show is revealed by Brucebase, which notes that, “Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder attended this show, aged just 12.”)

The packaging of this release is fairly basic, consisting of a slimline jewel case with a single-sheet front insert and a back insert both displaying onstage photos.  As with other releases from this source, the front insert seems designed to be reversible, although the shot of Springsteen on the other side is much less aesthetically pleasing that the one shown above of Springsteen with Steve van Zandt, which also appears on the discs.

 

Bruce Springsteen - Latrobe 1977

Bonus CD-Rs: Latrobe 1977

St. Vincent College, La Trobe, PA – 11 March, 1977

Disc 1:  Night, Don’t Look Back, Spirit In The Night, Something In The Night, Thunder Road, Mona/She’s The One, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Action In The Streets, Backstreet, Jungleland

Disc 2: Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), Born To Run, 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), Quarter To Three, Twist And Shout/Farmer John

If you are fortunate enough to acquire this new release with the bonus discs you will be able to hear Springsteen’s only performance at La Trobe’s St. Vincent College.  The shows from early 1977 had broadly similar setlists but the La Trobe show does have four songs (or five including Farmer John) not played in Detroit.

The first of these is the second number of the night, the  strong mid-paced rocker Don’t Look Back, omitted late on from Darkness On The Edge Of Town and replaced by what became the title track.  The version we hear from La Trobe has some lyrical differences from the official studio recording which later emerged on Tracks.

The other songs not played in Detroit come during the encore, firstly the wistful, nostalgic 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)  and then the decidedly more raucous Quarter To Three and Twist And Shout, the latter containing what Brucebase calls, “a brief and unique version of ‘Farmer John.'”  Written by rock and roll duo Don and Dewey, and released as a single by them in 1959, the song was recorded by the Searchers in 1963 and became a hit for The Premiers a year later.  The Premiers were encouraged to record it by the success of The Kingsmen’s version of Richard Berry’s Louie Louie and these two songs, together with The Swingin’ Medallions’ Double shot Of My Baby’s Love would sometimes by used by Springsteen as examples of “fraternity rock” when introducing Sherry Darling.

Additionally, some songs common to both shows exhibit differences here.  For example, in Something In The Night Springsteen reverts to what became the standard second verse, and here we also get the trumpet part often played at this time.  Another difference is to be found during what notes on the Jungleland website calls  “a fabulous version” of Backstreets, which has a significantly longer and distinctly over-the-top version of the spoken interlude containing the “God’s angels” section.  A more minor difference is that Rosalita includes pianist Roy Bittan playing a snippet of  Nino Rota’s Love Theme From The Godfather after Van Zandt is introduced in addition to the far more common extract from the Theme From Shaft used to represent saxophonist Clarence Clemons.

The Jungleland site calls the sound source used here a “new source, taken from a tape out of a private collection.”

Jungleland also gives details of a few imperfections:

“- Slight cut at beginning of Night
– Tape turn fades between 10th Ave & Action…
– Some tape slips / dropouts in T&S
– Very Slight cut beginning of 10th Ave.”

The sound does not match that of the main discs.  The sound lacks the depth, dynamics and clarity of that from the Detroit show and there is some intrusive audience noise, which is perhaps why the show has appeared on bonus discs, though it is still good enough to make listening to the show enjoyable.  There is also a problem near the end of disc 1 (which I understand affects all copies) – track 7 contains 10th Avenue Freeze-Out and around three-and-a-half minutes of Action In The Streets, with the complete Action In The Streets following on track 8. 

The bonus discs are housed in a slimline jewel case with a single-sheet front insert only.  The front displays a posed shot of Springsteen from Eric Meola’s photographic session for the Born To Run album, together with a poster advertising the show; the rear has an onstage shot of Springsteen and Van Zandt, together with a small reproduction of a ticket for the show, and displays the track listing.

First choice for 1977 performances remains with the tremendous four-night stand in Boston which closed the tour.  These shows have been released complete as a Godfather boxed set, The Boston Godfather.  There have also been no label releases of the first three shows (Boston 1977: Legends From The Music Hall) and the final show (Boston 1977: Are You Ready For The Final Moment?).  The latter show has been described by Backstreets magazine founder Charles R. Cross as, “candidate for greatest show ever.”  The performance from Richfield on 17 February (released by Eat A Peach as Shout Until You’re Satisfied) also has strong claims on the collector due, in addition to the high quality of the performance, to the unique encore featuring Ronnie Spector.  However, Detroit is another very fine and most enjoyable concert, now available in upgraded sound quality.  It is consequently warmly recommended to collectors who wish to further explore a tour which, despite occurring at what BK calls “a low moment in [Springsteen’s] career,” resulted in a series of energetic, high-spirited and joyful shows – and another such show, from La Trobe, provides a pleasing bonus.

 

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  1. Many thanks for the terrific review of this release!
    I can only add that I find it a very enjoyable and worthy next to e.g the Boston shows et al. I just played it through for the first time this afternoon and loved it from beginning to end. Bruce himself may have been depressed during this short tour, but one would never suspect listening to the show. Just all other -77 shows I hav heard it’s as intense as it gets. I also love the bonus “The Promise”. Fantastic version!
    Definitely recommended!

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