Bruce Springsteen – Herning Wrecking Ball Night (Crystal Cat Records CC 1069-71)

26465147985_9b56632c10_oHerning Wrecking Ball Night (Crystal Cat Records CC 1069-71)

Jyske Bank Boxen, Herning, Denmark – 16 May, 2013

Disc 1: Intro Big Boss Man, Long Walk Home, My Love Will Not Let You Down, The Ties That Bind, We Take Care Of Our Own, Out In The Street, Wrecking Ball, Death To My Hometown, Hungry Heart, Tougher Than The Rest, Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?, For You, I Wish I Were Blind, The River

Disc 2: Prove It All Night, Murder Incorporated, Johnny 99, Open All Night[/Chicken Shack Boogie/Don’t You Just Know It], Shackled And Drawn, Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, The Rising, Badlands, Land Of Hope And Dreams[/People Get Ready], Born In The U.S.A., Born To Run

Disc 3: Dancing In The Dark, Ramrod, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,

Bonus tracks: Parken Stadium, Copenhagen, Denmark – 14 May, 2013: Loose Ends, Cadillac Ranch, Trapped, Brilliant Disguise, Light Of Day[/Land Of 1000 Dances], Twist And Shout, Raise Your Hand;  Goffertpark, Nijmegen, Netherlands – 22 June, 2013: The Ghost Of Tom Joad, So Young And In Love, Shout

Crystal Cat’s new Springsteen release brings us the second of two Danish shows from May 2013, the first having been in Copenhagen two days before the concert heard here.  Karsten Andersen, writing on Springsteen’s official website, notes that, “although the two Danish shows were at two different venues, the Herning show got the Night Two treatment with a setlist almost unrecognizable compared to Copenhagen,” and Søren Juhl, writing on the Backstreets website, also contrasts the two performances:

“After one night off between the two Denmark dates, Bruce and the band took the stage in Herning to deliver a very different show than the first.  Copenhagen was great, we had a house party… but tonight’s show in Herning’s Boxen was freaking awesome, with high energy from start to end.”

Andersen attribute this, at least partially, to the nature of the venue, writing that, “it was also one of the smallest venues of the tour, holding only around 15,000 attendees.  As a result the atmosphere inside was intense and the temperature hot from the get-go.”

We first hear Big Boss Man, in the Pretty Things version, played over the PA and then the show begins with Long Walk Home, which Andersen calls “a rare and welcome opener.”  As Juhl continues:

After the ‘Long Walk Home’ opener, ‘My Love Will Not Let You Down’ had the pit going nuts.  Bruce really seemed to be wanting to make that connection tonight, playing both ‘Out in the Street’ and ‘Hungry Heart’ and doing the crowd surf during the latter. “

The early part of the show also includes a vibrant The Ties That Bind, and impressive performances of a trio of songs from the Wrecking Ball album, We Take Care Of Our Own, Wrecking Ball, Death To My Hometown, the latter being particularly effective.

Following this explosive start Springsteen took time out to collect sign requests, one of which was most unusual, as Juhl explains:

“Soon he was picking up a lot of signs… and there was one sign he could not pick up, ‘Tougher Than the Rest,’ written all over a pregnant belly!  But Bruce did grant the request, telling us he’d never seen anything like that in 40 years.”

Further  requests resulted in the performance of of two songs from Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street? (the song’s Danish premiere) and For You.  Andersen notes that the former is, “the funky version of ‘Does This Bus Stop’ complete with a drum kit vs. bongos duel between Max Weinberg and Everett Bradley.”  The latter is played, most effectively, in the full band version, rather than the solo version with piano.  We are then fortunate enough to get an extremely rare solo acoustic version of I Wish I Were Blind, for me the standout song from the Lucky Town/Human Touch duo of album, which Juhl rightly calls, “a beautiful performance.”  Posters responding to the video on YouTube are also impressed, with blue29eyes calling it a,  “stunning performance – such a beautiful song,” and runawaydream stating that it was a, “really great performance of a truely [sic] great and under appreciated song.”  After this heart-rending performance, disc one, entirely appropriately, concludes with an impressively emotive rendition of The River.

With the opening of disc two the show goes into “guitar overdrive,” as Andersen puts it.  First up is a blistering Prove It All Night with the 1978-style guitar introduction.   It is, as Andersen notes, “a killer song that would work just fine on its own, but with the guitar work, it becomes something extraordinary.”

Juhl is also impressed with both this song and its successor:

“Another real highlight was the live ’78 version of ‘Prove It All Night,’ Bruce very strong on the guitar intro, and later in the song Nils had his spotlight and delivered a not-of-this-earth solo himself – playing with his teeth!  The guitar assault continued from Bruce, Nils, and Steven too, as ‘Murder Incorporated’ followed.”

A high-spirited Johnny 99 follows, in the now-customary live arrangement with solos for pianist Roy Bittan and violinist Soozie Tyrell, a prominent role for the horn section and “whoo-whoo” train noise backing vocals.  Even more boisterous is Open All Night, performed, as during the Turku show already reviewed, as part of a jump blues/boogie-woogie medley which totally transforms the song.  It is tremendous fun and it is hard to imagine that anyone in the venue was still in their seat at the song’s conclusion.  Cindy Mizelle then gets a fairly brief vocal slot during Shackled And Drawn.  Waitin’ On A Sunny Day includes the customary opportunity for a child from the audience to sing, something which clearly works better in a live context than on disc.  The child plucked from the audience here seems to know few of the words, which does not help matters, though buckshot, posting on the Jungleland website surely goes too far by describing this performance as, “just a train wreck.”  It must be said, however, that the inconsequential nature of the song is pointed up by following it with  strong performance of The Rising. This is followed by a splendidly vigorous rendition of Badlands, after which a superb version of Land Of Hope And Dreams, ending with the customary snippet of People Get ready, concludes the main set.

The encore gets off to a thunderous start with Born In The U.S.A. and then disc two ends with Born To Run, with the audience (albeit unheard here) stepping in to sing at one point while Springsteen felt the need to give a drink of water to a severely dehydrated member of the audience.  Both songs feature a monumental mid-song cacophony.  The show’s last three numbers appear on disc three, commencing with a bouncy Dancing In The Dark.  This is followed by what Juhl refers to as a “wild” performance of Ramrod and the show ends in fine style with an energetic, crowd-pleasing Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.

Summing up the performance on Springsteen’s official website, Andersen writes:

“The show didn’t quite hit the three-hour mark, but the crowd was exhausted and Bruce was exhausted, and it was a perfectly fulfilling ending to a 2½ week run of Scandinavian shows [three in Sweden and two each in Norway and Finland in addition to the Danish shows].  Those who had been to all of them said Herning rivaled the best of them, and many veterans in the crowd were ready to put it in the top three of Springsteen shows on Danish soil.”

Jungleland posters are also mightily impressed with the performance, with stonepony claiming that it was the, “best concert i [sic] attended since Brøndy Hallen 1981,” rubycatgirl stating that, “I love this show,” hcurmudgeon calling it a “great show” and Lindi2116 a “Great Release.”  Furthermore, rkrasmussen calls it “one of the best shows I have attended!  Bruce was on fire that night!” and busdriver argues that, “this is the best CC release in a long time.”  Andersen, whose account on the Greasy Lake website, entitled The summer that I was baptized – 25 years on, contrasts the 1988 and 2013 concerts in Copenhagen (Andersen’s first and fifty-ninth Springsteen shows), concludes by stating that, “the next show I saw, two days later, in Herning, was the best one ever.”

As if this were not enough, Crystal Cat treats us to ten bonus tracks, the first seven of which derive from the show played two nights earlier in Copenhagen.  Loose Ends was the first of four early-set requests.  Conner Kirkpatrick, writing on the Backstreets website notes: “As the horn section scrambled, Max provided the tempo and within seconds Bruce was singing with all his might.  While some E Street shows take a more somber tone, this performance was, from the outset, a stadium rocker.” The second request was Cadillac Ranch, “a fun song” writes Kirkpatrick, which, “the band seems to enjoy playing as much as the crowd enjoys hearing.”  The third request, Radio Nowhere, is omitted here, so that we next hear the last of the requested numbers, Jimmy Cliff’s Trapped, during which, as Kirkpatrick notes, “Bruce’s voice moved from hushed quiet to blazing intensity.”  The other four bonus tracks from Copenhagen are the first two and the last two numbers from the eight-song encore.  First up is Brilliant Disguise, “sung with absolute conviction, with lovely harmonies from Soozie Tyrell,” as Kirkpatrick notes.  This is followed by an exciting Light Of Day, best known, of course, from its frantic performance with the “Other Band” on the MTV [Un]Plugged CD and DVD, though it had appeared during the Tunnel Of Love Express Tour and had been premiered at the Stone Pony is Asbury Park in April 1987 with Cats On A Smooth Surface.  Here Springsteen interpolates the “na na na” hook from Cannibal & The Headhunters’ 1965 version of Chris Kenner’s Land Of 1000 Dances, utilizing it for some call-and response interaction with the audience.  Manager Jon Landau celebrated his birthday by emerging to play guitar on the show’s penultimate song, the Isley Brothers’ Twist And Shout and then the show concluded with the last song we hear on this release, Eddie Floyd’s Raise Your Hand.  Both songs feature extremely effective contributions from the horn section, including a trumpet solo from Curt Ramm during Twist And Shout, which also includes the band introductions.

The final three bonus tracks come from the Nijmegen show of 22 June. We first get the concert’s opening number,a haunting rendition of ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad,'” in Kirkpatrick’s words, “re-worked and masterfully crafted, Bruce sang a song of anger with an air of reflection.”  Liselotte Schüren, writing on Springsteen’s official website, calls it, “a powerful solo version.”  The song had also opened the previous show two night previously in Coventry.   Next up is a wonderfully vivacious performance of So Young And In Love.  Recorded during the sessions for Born To Run in 1974, the song, which finally appeared on Tracks, had to wait until 2002 for its first live performance.  This is because lyrical changes transformed the song into A Love So Fine, which was performed live on numerous occasions during 1974-75, though a vocal track for the song was never recorded.  Lastly, we get the show’s final number, the Isley Brothers’ Shout, delivered, as Kirkpatrick notes, “with such energy and enthusiasm that the 34-song concert ended with a crowd chanting ‘One more song! One more song!’… which a cheerful Bruce laughed at before promptly and finally escaping the rain.”

Brucebase notes the source for both the main show and the Nijmegen tracks as “IEM/AUD mix,” with the Copenhagen tracks simply given as “IEM.”  The sound for all three shows is excellent.  Posters on Jungleland are clearly as impressed  with Crystal Cat’s sound as with the performance, busdriver stating that, “the sound is awesome, even on the bonus tracks,” hcurmudgeon noting the “great sound quality,” buckshot arguing that, “this is one hell of a recording,” stonepony mentioning the “great sound,” rubycatgirl praising the “excellent sound” and olli66 enthusing: “awesome! great sound! really great!”

Crystal Cat’s packaging is, as we have come to expect, as stellar as the performance and the sound quality.  The front and rear inserts, the sixteen-page booklet and the discs themselves feature numerous onstage shots from the show and the outer side of the rear insert, of course, has the track listing.  Visually, the booklet also features a posed photo of Springsteen on a motorcycle on the back page, shots of fans with their request signs and, across the middle pages the woman in the audience with her request written on her “pregnant belly.”  Additionally, the booklet contains the track listing, band personnel, a list of the tour dates and venues and Juhl’s account of the show from Backstreets.  Finally, there is a single sheet insert with the printed set list on one side and a newspaper/magazine story (the source is not given) concerning the pregnant audience member headed, “pregnant veterinary showed belly for Springsteen.”  The booklet and inserts are printed on Crystal Cat’s usual high quality glossy paper and the overall effect is, as always, very pleasing to the eye, the only disappointment being the label’s decision to use the customary microphone shot on the front cover insert rather than including it as part of the booklet or  the separate single-page insert.

Overall, this is another absolutely splendid Springsteen title from Crystal Cat and, while this show, though superb, is not quite the equal of the incredible second Turku concert (also released by Crystal Cat as part of  the 6-CD Turku Wrecking Ball Box), Herning Wrecking Ball Night is a must-have release for Springsteen collectors.


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