For A Kiss And A Smile (Godfatherecords G.R. 425/426)
Stadio Friuli, Udine, Italy – 23 July, 2009
Disc 1: Accordion Intro, Sherry Darling, Badlands, Hungry Heart, Outlaw Pete, Darlington County, Somethimg In The Night, Working On A Dream, Murder Incorporated, Johnny 99, No Surrender, Raise Your Hand, Summertime Blues, Be True, Streets Of Fire
Disc 2: My Love Will Not Let You Down, Waitin’ On a Sunny Day, The Promised Land, American Skin (41 Shots), Lonesome Day, The Rising, Born To Run, Born In The U.S.A., American Land, Bobby Jean, Dancing In The Dark, Twist And Shout
After the Morricone film music in Rome and the absence of an intro in Turin, in Udine Springsteen and The E Street Band returned to the accordion opening familiar from earlier concerts in Europe. However, whereas Nils Lofgren had previously undertaken the task alone, here he is joined by both Charlie Giordano and Roy Bittan. The exact identity of the tune seems to be a mystery. Godfather list it on the sleeve merely as “accordion intro,” Mauro Regis, on the Backstreets website refers to it as “a fiesta dance song like a tarantella” and Giorgio Malucelli, on Springsteen’s website, simply calls it “a tarantella.” It seems that the band did not quite get its cultural references right here, although Springsteen atoned for this when he addressed the audience. As Malucelli explains:
“Weird as it may be, Springsteen chose the northenmost Italian city on this tour to start the show with a tarantella, played by the three accordionists, Roy, Charlie and Nils. Bruce took the stage and greeted the crowd in the local dialect – it’s actually more a language than a dialect, mandi Udin. Those ‘northern’ words spoken over southern music created a bizarre but welcome unification between North and South.”
It is unsurprising that a little of the local dialect would be warmly received, as such dialects have persisted strongly in Italy. As Bill Bryson points out in his book, Mother Tongue, it was only in 1979 that ‘standard’ Italian became the language spoken in the majority of Italian households.
Unexpectedly, the “Three Tenors,” as Springsteen jokingly refers to them, stick with their accordions for the real show opener, Sherry Darling. Strange as it might seem, the accordions lend an appropriately festive feel to this high-spirited number, and it works very well. Normal instrumentation is then resumed for a superbly taut and muscular Badlands, magnificent from start to finish. A truly exuberant Hungry Heart follows, and this is succeed by another potent rendition of Outlaw Pete, a song which seems to have grown in stature in live performance. A six-minute Darlington County, the lyrics of which provide this release with its title, then gives way to another highlight of this show, a stunning Something In The Night, which, as Malucelli states, “sent the first big shiver of the night.” Springsteen’s excellent, heartfelt vocal performance is effectively complemented by the playing of Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg on piano and drums respectively. It is, perhaps, when you hear the less-often played songs from Darkness On The Edge Of Town that you become most aware of what a truly great album it is.
Next up is Working On A Dream, its sunny dispostion interrupted as usual by the quasi-religious house building metaphor, delivered once again in a bilingual version, but lasting longer than it did in Turin. Murder Incorporated retains its place in the set, again featuring a fine sax solo from Clarence Clemons and some stunning guitar solos, and Johnny 99 gets its usual multi-solo. train-imitating rendition. The anthemic No Surrender then gives way to Raise Your Hand which, unique among the three Italian shows, receives a shorter and purely instrumental performance.
We are then treated to three consecutive tour premieres. As Malucelli puts it, “when its time for requests, you can expect anything, but you sure don’t expect Bruce to play ‘Summertime Blues,’ ‘Be True,’ and ‘Streets Of Fire’ – unless you’re in Philadelphia! Well, it was not Philly, but those songs he did play, sending the hardcore fans completely beserk.” The vintage rock ‘n’ roll of Summertime Blues acts as an obvious crowd-pleaser, but, contrary to Malucelli’s contention, Be True generates little in the way of a response from the audience. Regis argues that, “‘Be True’ was a premiere that I don’t think many here were waiting for, judging by the tepid response – as opposed to ‘Streets Of Fire,’ which was a gift for this crowd as an unexpected but always long-awaited song.” The cool reception for this relatively lesser-known song may lie in the untypical nature of the audience. As Regis states, ” the crowd was not the usual Bruce audience, the one that knows all the words and sings along – maybe due to the fact that Udine is close to the border of ex-Yugoslavia, where Bruce has never played.” After a short delay while Springsteen struggles to remember which key the song needs to be played in, it receives a breezy and most welcome performance.
Be True is one of several songs rejected for The River which I have long preferred to many of those which made it on to the album (other examples include Ricky Wants A Man Of Her Own, Restless Nights, Loose Ends, which had been played in Turin, and the superb Roulette, all of which ended up on Tracks). Be True uses a cinematic metaphor to explore relationships, the opening lines stating : “Your scrapbook’s filled with pictures of all your leading men/Well, don’t put my picture in there with them/Don’t make us some little girl’s dream that can’t ever come true.” The song has a thematic link with the classic Thunder Road, as in both case the protagonist attempts to persuade a woman to cast off unrealistic romantic ambitions and to settle for him, flawed as he is. (In Thunder Road the man is tells the woman that she can “waste your summer praying in vain for a saviour to rise from these streets” or she can accept him, even though he is “no hero, that’s understood.”) The last song of the three consecutive premieres, Streets Of Fire, is given a gutsy, intense performance with a wonderful guitar solo from Nils Lofgren at the end, which is unfortunately faded out as disc 1 comes to its close.
The fade is necessary because Streets Of Fire gives way to the next song without a break. This is My Love Will Not Let You Down which, after a six-year absence from the setlist, gets a second consecutive outing. Recorded at The Hit Factory on 5 May 1982, the song failed to make the cut for Born In The USA, but eventually emerged on Tracks. The genial and uplifting Waitin’ On A Sunny Day receives some vocal input from a particularly cute child before giving way to a forceful The Promised Land. Then comes an emotionally-charged American Skin (41 Shots), unexpectedly finding a place in all three Italian shows. The usual fine performances of Lonesome Day and The Rising then lead to an energetic, noisy and crowd-pleasing Born To Run, which closes the main set.
The encore begins with the tour premiere of the full-band version of Born In The USA, “played with as much energy, commitment and feeling as ever,” in Malucelli’s words. Springsteen reverts to the quartet of songs that ended the show in Rome, American Land, Bobby Jean, Dancing In The Dark and Twist And Shout (Turin featured Glory Days instead of Bobby Jean) and the show is brought to a euphoric conclusion. Udine aslo brought to an end a trio of excellent Italian concerts. “As in Torino,” argues the Point Blank website, Springsteen “surprised us with a high intensity performance, with plenty of crowd pleasers, rarities and tour debuts.”
Sound quality is very good indeed and Godfather’s packaging is, as usual, splendid. The front of the tri-fold sleeve, like the Turin release, combines an on-stage photo with a pale blue design, with the photograph featuring Springsteen dancing with a young woman from the audience. The sleeve and booklet (which has the usual notes by “Joe Roberts”) feature further on-stage photos. Someone seems to have been rather taken with the young woman, as she appears in a total of six photographs! This is a fine conclusion to Springsteen’s, and Godfather’s, Italian trilogy. With excellent performances, numerous set list changes (particularly between Rome and Turin) and a total of eleven tour premieres, devoted Springsteen fans (to borrow a phrase long-familiar from The Swinging Pig releases and perpetuated on Crystal Cat CDs) may well wish to “collect ’em all.”If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)