Bruce Springsteen – Giants Stadium 2009 (no label)

Giants Stadium (No label)

Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ, USA – 2nd October, 2009 (discs 1-3); 3rd October, 2009 (discs 4-6)

Disc 1: Wrecking Ball, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, No Surrender, Oulaw Pete, Hungry Heart, Working On A Dream, Intro, Badlands, Adam Raised A Cain, Something In The Night,  Candy’s Room, Racing In The Street, The Promised Land, Factory

Disc 2: Streets Of Fire, Prove It All Night, Darkness On The Edge Of Town, Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, Raise Your Hand, I’m Goin’ Down, Be True, Jailhouse Rock, Thunder Road, Long Walk Home, The Rising, Born To Run

Disc 3: Cadillac Ranch, Bobby Jean, American Land, Dancing In The Dark, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)

Disc 4: Wrecking Ball, Out In The Street, Outlaw Pete, Hungry Heart, Working On A Dream, Born In The U.S.A., Cover Me, Darlington County, Working On The Highway, Downbound Train, I’m On Fire,

Disc 5: No Surrender, Bobby Jean, I’m Goin’ Down, Glory Days, Dancing In The Dark, My Hometown, The Promise Land, Last To Die, Long Walk Home, The Rising, Born To Run

Disc 6: Applause, Raise Your Hand, Jersey Girl, Kitty’s Back, Detroit Medley, American Land, Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, Thunder Road

The two shows presented here were the second and third shows of a five-night stand at Giants Stadium, the others being on 30 September and 8 and 9 October.  The first three discs contain the show of 2 October, which featured a complete performance of Darkness On The Edge Of Town.  The complete show, taken from a very good though not outstanding, audience recording appeared as Rocking Down The Giants on the Godfather label.  An IEM recording of the complete album portion of the concert has also been released on the CD-R Darkness At Giants Stadium.  This appeared as a bonus disc accompanying the Social Graces 2-CD set Innocent And Glory Days.  The IEM-sourced performance of  Born In The U.S.A. from 3 October occupies the second disc of this set (which features the complete The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle from Madison Square Garden on 7 November 7 0n disc 1.)  Both these releases have already come under consideration on CMR and readers are directed to my reviews of these titles for comments on the quality of the performance of the full show of 2 October and the Born In The U.S.A. section from 3 October.

The October 3 show opens with an excellent rendition of Wrecking Ball, with Curt Ramm’s trumpet adding a distinct liveliness to the fast sections and the upbeat mood engendered continues with a vibrant, crowd-pleasing  Out In The Street, which appears to contain an earlier-than-usual attempt to get a youngster from the audience to sing a little.   A sprightly and enjoyable Outlaw Pete retains its customary place near the beginning of the show and then the audience gets to participate en masse at the start of Hungry Heart.  Working On A Dream, which contains the usual house building spiel, brings to a close a good-time opening section to this show, which many will find an appropriate prelude to the complete performance of Born In The U.S.A.

After the complete-album section, the show continues with a stirring version of The Promised Land, which is succeeded by tour premiere Last To Die.  Dante Cutrona, writing on the Backstreets website, sees Last To Die as part of a powerful closing sequence, stating, “perhaps in a decision to illustrate how far we’ve really come since 1985, ‘Last to Die’ received its Working on a Dream tour premiere following ‘The Promised Land’ and prior to ‘Long Walk Home’ and ‘The Rising,’ for a powerful combination reminiscent of the ‘five-pack’ that closed the main set during 2007 and 2008 on the Magic tour.”  Tom Cantillon, posting on the Greasy Lake website, argues that, “Long Walk Home is a great addition to the main set, working much better than Lonesome Day or Radio Nowhere.”  The band then concludes the main set with an exciting Born To Run.

Sign-collection number Raise Your Hand kicks off the encores and the final disc of this set.  Tom Waits’ Jersey Girl is rightly reckoned by Cutrona to be “a perfect selection” for a Saturday night in New Jersey, and he goes on to point out that the lengthy performance of Kitty’s Back, with its extensive soloing, “showcased the band in fine form.”   The two songs earn plaudits from posters on the Greasy Lake site: “killer rendition of Kitty’s back” (Vince); “a brilliant Kitty’s Back” (Cantillon); “great versions of Jersey Girl and Kitty’s Back ” (Kevin).  As Cantilllon writes, a “hard-stomping Detroit Medley sent the already enthusiastic crowd into a frenzy,” and this is followed by a rollicking American Land, which, as usual, sees Springsteen introducing the members of the “legendary” E Street Band.  Along with Curt Ramm on trumpet, American Land also features Sessions Band members Art Baron on pennywhistle, Lisa Lowell on backing vocals and Jeremy Chatzky on upright bass.  After all the excitement engendered by Kitty’s Back and the Detroit Medley, and at the virtual climax of the show, Waitin’ On A Sunny Day seems more than a little out of place, but fortunately a splendid Thunder Road redeems the situation at the very close of the show.

The concert of 3 October, while extremely enjoyable, is not the equal of the previous night’s performance.  “There’s no doubt this show will rank as one of the best E Street Band concerts in years,” writes the Point Blank website of the October 2 show, “immediately reminding us of the great St. Louis concert during the Magic tour.  A colossal show.”  The site rightly ranks the succeeding night’s concert a notch lower in the hierarchy, contending that, “it was the night to have fun and perform all the hits, and the whole audience had a great time from the very beginning…It was a solid performance, but like night #1 [30 September], not his greatest concert.”  As this comment implies, the difference is largely down to the choice of complete-album performance, with the playing of Born In The U.S.A. resulting in what Stan Goldstein, on calls  “a very good show and a fun show.” 

As when the complete-album performances appeared on disc, these complete versions have attracted extremely positive comments on the sound quality. On the Jungleland website bsfanatic states that, “the mix on this is incedible! I skipped around and listened to a few songs here and there and everything sounds crystal clear!” On the same site catman states that, “the sound is fantastic,” and ThundeRoad33 adds that, “I’m currently listening to the October 2nd show and the sound quality is awesome!” On the Stone Pony London message board, Buddhabone’s enthusiasm overspills into profanity with the obsevation, “holy fuck!!! They sound great.” I noted in my review of Innocent And Glory Days that there was a clearly audible echo to Springsteen’s voice at times during the performance of both complete albums, and this problem can be discerned elsewhere now that we have the full shows. I wrote in my previous review that, “I did not find it too distracting; others listeners may.”  One who does is rick, who states on the BigO website that, “I was at the second show, and wished I was at the first (much prefer Darkness over Born In The USA), so am happy to hear the whole 10/2 show now. I find the echo distracting, though……” Curiously, bobo, posting on the same site reveals that, “I like how you can hear the echo in the quiet sections.”

The packaging of this release is fairly simple, with just front and back inserts and no booklet.  The obverse of the front insert shows Springsteen on stage with partial reproductions of the artwork of Darkness On the Edge Of Town and Born In The U.S.A. behind him to the viewer’s right; the reverse carries further onstage shots of Springsteen and other band members.  The inner side of the rear insert has an onstage photograph of Springsteen side-by-side with Steve van zandt; the back has track listing and band personnel in white lettering, save for the songs from the albums, which are in red.  As with other Lighthouse-related releases the type is small and not easy to read.  (The band members’ names are smaller than the songs and the details of the instruments they play are tiny.)

Bonus DVD-R – Wrecking Ball In Philadelphia: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA, USA – 28 March, 2012

Disc 1: We Take Care Of Our Own, Wrecking Ball, Badlands, Death To My Hometown, My City Of Ruins, Seaside Bar Song, Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?, Jack Of All Trades

Disc 2: Atlantic City, Easy Money, She’s The One, Waitin’ On  A Sunny Day, The Promised Land, Apollo Medley [The Way You Do The Things You Do/634-5789 (Soulsville U.S.A.)], American Skin (41 Shots), Lonesome Day, The Rising, We Are Alive

Disc 3: Thunder Road, Rocky Ground, Land Of Hope And Dreams [People Get Ready], Born To Run, Dancing In The Dark, Raise Your Hand, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

 If you are fortunate enough to acquire this set with the bonus discs, which I believe are limited to eighty copies, you will have an entirely unrelated, but very welcome, show from the current tour.  As elsewhere, the concert opens with We Take Care Of Our Own, Wrecking Ball and Badlands, a trio of songs which makes quite an impression.  Goldstein refers to the first two songs as, “very powerful openers.”  Karen’s post on Stone Pony London reads, “love the opening songs. The 1-2 is a great punch followed by badlands.”  On the same site bossfan12 contends that, “the opening 1-2 punch of WTCOOO and Wrecking Ball is just spectacular.”  Adrienne Wenner, writing on The Celebrity Cafe website, states that, “there couldn’t have been a better choice for an opening as [Springsteen] started off with ‘We Take Care of Our Own’ and carried into the symphonic ‘Wrecking Ball.’  The way the songs carelessly seam together already started off the show in an incredibly dynamic way only Springsteen seems to know how to do. He kept it going with ‘Badlands,’ one of his greatest hits pulling the crowd together for a song everyone knew.”  Jake Clemons continues to win plaudits for his sax playing, Goldstein commenting that he, “did a wonderful job on the sax solo.” During the song’s false ending we see Springsteen standing, legs wide apart and arms partially spread, staring out the audience in the manner of a wild creature attempting to see off a rival.  One noticeable feature of these opening songs is a result of sporting rivalry, with a proportion of the Philadelphia audience clearly heard to boo the lyrics “the Giants play the game” during Wrecking Ball.

The horn section makes a fine contribution to the next two songs, the military-inflected Death To My Hometown, which Springsteen preludes by creating a welter of feedback before marching on the spot as the song begins, and what Times Leader correspondent Alan K. Stout calls, “a soulful rendition” of My City of Ruins.  Springsteen abandons his guitar and adopts his mock-preacher persona to prowl the front of the stage for the spoken introduction, which ends with him saying, “tonight we’re telling a story of hellos and goodbyes, of things that leave and things that remain, so let’s get started.”  This is of course, a prelude to the mid-song band “roll call” (including brief solos) during which Springsteen asks the audience, “are we missing anybody?” before assuring everyone, “all I can guarantee is, if you’re here and we’re here, they’re here tonight.”  Doubtless he will say this in every concert of the tour; just as assuredly the tears will well up every time I hear it.  As Goldstein suggests, “the five-piece horn section brings a lot of power to these two songs,” and the backing singers also make a splendid contribution to My City Of Ruins. 

Next up is Seaside Bar Song, of which Entertainment Weekly writer Ken Tucker comments: “Springsteen played one of his earliest songs, ‘Seaside Bar Song,’ framing it with a memory of seeing Bo Diddley in a small club decades ago. Its delightfully cheesy organ hook was cranked up to squall-warning level, its Frankie Ford/’Sea Cruise’ rhythm hilarious and exhilarating.”  The horn section is a little less succesful here, divesting the song of some of its youthful sprightliness.  Nonetheless, it is a treat to see and hear a performance of  a song much loved since the acqusition of the classic vinyl bootleg Fire On The Fingertips many years ago.  The song was soundchecked along with No Surrender and Thundercrack, and it would have been a treat indeed if Springsteen had followed up Seaside Bar Song with Thundercrack.  However, what does come next is impresive enough, a rendition of  the early number Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?  As Goldstein says, it is “really nice to hear this.”  The horns continue to make their mark during this song and he states that they, “are great on it.” The number concludes with a wonderfully enjoyable duel between percussionist Everett Bradley and drummer Max Weinberg.  “A very nice back-to-back with ‘Seaside Bar Song,'” concludes Goldstein, “one of the highlights of the evening.”  “Seaside Bar Song into Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street was incredible as a 1-2 punch,” opines bossfan12 on Stone Pony London, “highlight of the night for me.”

The final number on the first disc is what Philadelpha Inquirer music critic Dan DeLuca calls, “the downcast ballad ‘Jack OF All Trades,’ an only moderately successful Wrecking Ball tune that stepped up its game with mournful elegance in its live version.”  While I have a higher opinion of the song that DeLuca, I would certainly agree that it is superior in its live incarnation.  The song’s “mournful elegance” is enhanced beautifully here by Curt Ramm’s haunting trumpet part, and the sympathy of some of the audience with the song’s message is demonstrated by the applause which greet the lyrics, “if I had me a gun I’d shoot the bastards on sight.” 

Disc two opens powerfully with what DeLuca refers to as, “a Celtic-tinged rocked-out take on Nebraska’s ‘Atlantic City,’ that was a late addition to the set list.”  This features a rare zooming out to show the whole band on stage and the screen above the stage.  Then comes Easy Money, which begins with Springsteen’s distorted howling.  Later in the song, Patti Scialfa comes to the front of the stage to share the microphone with Springsteen and the members of the horn section all contibute with some additional drumming.

The band returns to older material with a splendidly energetic She’s The One.  Jake Clemons steps forward for the sax solo, again winning the admiration of Goldstein, who comments that, “Jake did a nice job on the sax solo,” and Springsteen contributes a  harmonica part near the end of the song.  A joyous Waitin’ On A Sunny Day features sax solo from both Ed Manion and Jake Clemons. The boy who comes onstage to sing a few lines does pretty well but looks and sounds rather serious.  Springsteen wanders all over the stage to commune with the audience before one of his trademark knee-slides.  He takes up his guitar again for a performance of The Promised Land which initially comes across as rather pedestrian but warms up as it progresses.  Jake Clemons nails the sax solo.

Then comes the “Apollo  Medley” of The Way You Do The Thing You Do and 634-5789 (Soulsville U.S.A.).  Having described Seaside Bar Song as, “hilarious and exhilarating,” Tucker adds, ” so, too, were the soul oldies he didn’t rip through, but instead nestled down into, as though they were warm and comforting places — in other words, re-locating what ‘soul’ means in soul music such as “The Way You Do The Things You Do” and “634-5789.”  DeLuca was rather less impressed, arguing that, ” not everything was seamless. The Smokey Robinson segment could have been more silky, less shouted out,”  though how he considers the lyrics to be shouted is beyond me.  Again both Manion and Clemons get solos and the backing singers join Springsteen at the from of the stage.  Springsteen leaves the stage during 634-5759, mingling with various sections of the audience before indulging in a spot of crowd surfing.

Things take a  serious turn with a poignant rendition of American Skin (41 Shots), which Springsteen dedicates to Trayvon Martin, the African-American teenager shot in Florida in February.   Bossfan12 comments that, “Bruce finally! took his solo back in the song which needed to happen because Nil’s was not doing it justice at all.”  Lonesome Day, The Rising and We Are Alive continue to be an impressive trilogy, with the quiet acoustic opening of the latter song being particularly effective, before an excellent rendition of Thunder Road (which opens the third disc) ends the main set.  A clearly impressed bossfan12 reckons that, “Thunder Road sounds the hottest it has ever sounded,” which is something of an exaggeration.  At the song’s conclusion the camera zooms out to show the whole stage.

The marvellous Rocky Ground, which sees Michelle Moore take the stage and which Stout considers “one of the show’s highlights,” opens the encores.  The next song, Land Of Hope And Dreams, which continues to end with a snippet of People Get Ready, seems to have divided opinion.  Goldstein states that, “I like the version of this song on the new album. Not sure how I like the version in concert. I know it sounds weird. It’s just me. Nothing wrong with it, but I so much liked the older version. It will most likely grow on me.”  Bossfan12, however, contends that, “LOHAD, one of my personal favorites sounded the best it has ever sounded, the new arrangement is beautiful!”  I must confess that, at least at present, I share Goldstein’s doubts.

The band surges through Born To Run and Dancing In The Dark, during which a young girl whom Springsteen seems to know is plucked from the audience to dance with him.  Raise Your Hand sees Springsteen again going walkabout in the audience.  At one point he sits down and is completely lost from view while he takes a few swigs from a beer handed to him by a fan.  We see this in close up in an inset from another source (“insert of Bruce chugging a fan’s beer from YouTube user TMZ “)  which appears in the top right hand corner  of the screen.  Dannychico, posting on the Jungleland website, states that the performance is, “worth downloading for the beer-drinking in ‘Raise Your Hand’ alone. Nice work including the TMZ footage to get a close-up of this all-time classic Bruce moment.”

An exuberant Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out sees Springsteen leap onto Roy Bittan’s piano.  The E Streeters, as has become customary, insert a lengthy pause after the reference to the Big Man joining the band, allowing the audience to show its appreciation of the late Clarence Clemons.  Springsteen is again all over the stage, demonstrating an energy which belies his sixty-two years.  The camera zooms out at the end of the song to take in the whole stage as the band members come to the front of the stage to take a bow; the screen darkens as they leave the stage and the DVD concludes with credits listing the band personnel.

Numerous commentators have been demonstrably impressed by this performance.  The anonymous writer on the Backstreets website enthuses, “Philadelphia always gets a great show: you know it, I know it, the American people know it…tonight in Philly they put it all together. Bruce was amped; the new model E Street Band, noticeably improving night after night, was as tight as if they’d been on the road for months. Night One in Philly was, in short, a burner.”  Goldstein writes, “I watched Bruce Springsteen put on a show that really, in many ways, was just as powerful as it was in 1978.  He never loses energy for almost three hours, even jumping in the audience and going six rows up in Section 123 on the side of the stage during encores and sits in a seat and shares a beer with the fans. You have to see it to believe it…Overall a very good show. Don’t know if I would say a great show, but it was a fun night and the things Bruce continues to do are just amazing.”  Wenner states that, “on March 28, his first Philadelphia show since 2009, Springsteen delivered one of his favorite cities an unforgettable night.”  Tucker contends that, “the concert, as much as the album Wrecking Ball, is a marvelously diverse creation, drawing upon and uniting so many American periods and styles of popular music, that it creates a very effective tension: Springsteen’s lyrics may speak of despair, but the music testifies to a bottomless ingenuity, invention, and exhilaration.”  On Stone Pony London hazard from harvard calls it, “a fantastic show,” and a clearly impressed bossfan12 posts the opinion that it was, “a great show last night…The setlist was composed mostly of stuff they have been playing all tour. But Bruce seemed to have the most energy and content feeling on stage last night that I have seen in years…The new material also sounds incredible live I must say…All and all, another incredible show! The energy was through the roof.”

My review of Godfather’s Folk ‘N’ Roll In The Temple Of Soul  concluded that it, “clearly shows that the band are still a formidable live act.”  This, I would argue, is due to the fact that Springsteen continues to develop as a songwriter, producing during the last two decades new material in a variety of styles and eschewing the temptation to turn his shows into an exercise in nostalgia.  As Stout rightly contends: “Yes, it’s fun to see a band like The Rolling Stones play three hours of big hits and old favorites – something Springsteen is also fully capable of – but there is something quite gripping about seeing a songwriter of his stature continue to challenge and delight his audience with new songs. Eight of the numbers in the set – nearly one-third of it – were tracks from ‘Wrecking Ball’ and several others came from the past decade.  It was, quite simply, a fine display of ongoing creativity and of the continued relevance of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band.”

This release uses the Tapehead2 recording.  It is a single camera stage shoot from quite high up and slightly to the right (as the audience is looking).  Much of the footage concentrates on Springsteen, though the camera often pans left, right or up to show other band members.  As indicated above, only very rarely does the camera zoom out to show the whole band or the audience.  It is a very clear and steady shot with virtually no obstructions (someone steps in front of the camera for a second or two in American Skin and someone appears to walk past it in Lonesome Day, but that is all).  Picture quality is impressive for an audience recording.  Dannychico praises Tapehead2, stating that, “quality is pretty darn good for a non-proshot, non-screen shot concert! You have a steady hand and good instincts. Thank you!”  Other posters on Jungleland are also impressed, stating: “fantastic job” (Highway12); “looks fantastic!!” (andrique); “it sure do look great!” (rainman7).  The stage lighting does sometimes come over as rather garish, something Tapehead2 gamely takes some responsibility for, stating that, “the colors and lighting on this video are a little funky due to less than optimal settings on my camera.”  The sound, from an external source, is extremely good, with audience noise largely unobtrusive.  Good as this version is, however, a perusal of the NYCBC version on Brucebase or YouTube, shows this to be even better, which a suprbly clear picture.  It is described by Rick56 on SPL as, “nicely shot from upper right side of stage, shot in HD…dubbed in external audio,” and fellow-poster NB states that, “the NY[C]BC footage looks far better quality than their 2009 efforts.”

Like the CD set these bonus DVD-Rs are housed in a thick jewel case.  The front and rear inserts feature numerous onstage shots of Springsteen and some of the E Streeters.  The outside of the rear insert shows a long shot of the whole stage and gives the track listing.

Overall, this is a very desirable release.  The CDs contain one excellent show and one very good show in very impressive IEM sound quality; the bonus discs add an audio-visual record of a further terrific performance.  It would, however, be great if the latter show became more widely available, preferably in the NYCBC version, on factory-pressed discs.

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