Bruce Springsteen – Madison Square Garden 2009 (no label)

Madison Square Garden 2009 (no label)

Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY, USA – 7 November, 2009 (discs 1-3) and 8 November, 2009 (discs 4-6)

Disc 1: Thundercrack, Seeds, Prove It All Night, Hungry Heart, Working On A Dream, The E Street Shuffle, 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), Kitty’s Back, Wild Billy’s Circus Story

Disc 2: Incident On 57th Street, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), New York City Serenade, Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, Raise Your Hand, Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street, Glory Days, Human Touch, Lonesome Day, The Rising, Born To Run

Disc 3: Applause, Wrecking Ball, Bobby Jean, American Land, Dancing In The Dark, (Your Love keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher

Disc 4: Wrecking Ball, The Ties That Bind, Sherry Darling, Jackson Cage, Two Hearts, Independence Day, Hungry Heart, Out In The Street, Crush On You, You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch), I Wanna Marry You, The River, Point Blank, Cadillac Ranch, I’m A Rocker

Disc 5: Fade Away, Stolen Car, Ramrod, The Price You Pay, Drive All Night, Wreck On The Highway, Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, Atlantic City, Badlands, Born To Run, Seven Nights To Rock

Disc 6:  Sweet Soul Music, No Surrender, American Land, Dancing In The Dark, Can’t Help Falling In Love, (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher

This no label release contains the two Madison Square Garden shows of 7 and 8 November 2009, during which Springsteen and the E Street Band played the complete albums The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle and The River.  These concerts are hardly rarities on disc.  The show of 8 November was initially released by Godfather in an audience recording under the title Into The River We Dive.  This set came with a bonus disc, Serenade To NYC, containing the performance of The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle from 7 November together with the show’s opening and closing numbers, Thundercrack and (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher, in audience-derived sound superior to that of the main release.  Godfather also issued a second edition of Into The River We Dive in IEM-sourced sound, shorn of the bonus disc, but adding a solitary bonus track in the shape of Crush On You from the soundcheck.  Crystal Cat released both shows, available separately as New York City First Dream Night and New York City Second Dream Night and together (with a slipcase and additional booklet) as New York City Dream Box.  Initially, the Crystal Cat release was derived from audience recordings, but the label reisued first the 8 November show and then the 7 November show in IEM-sourced sound.  Crystal Cat generously filled out the third discs for both shows with the complete performance from the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame 25th Anniversary Concert of 29 October in an excellent audience recording.   The performance of The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle was also included, together with Born In The U.S.A. from Giants Stadium on 3 October, on the Social Graces release Innocent And Glory Days. (Social Graces extended the complete album theme by including a bonus CD-R with Darkness On The Edge Of Town from Giants Stadium on 2 October.)  Godfather’s sister label, Apocalypse Sound also released an audience-shot DVD of the show from 8 November entitled The Night He went Down to the River.

Readers are referred to my previous reviews for my comments about the performances.  The most apt comparison will be with the Crystal Cat set, which (like the release under consideration here) contains complete performances of both shows. As with the fellow Lighthouse-related Social Graces release, Madison Square Garden 2009 seems to be derived from the same source as the Crystal Cat set but the latter has the advantage of the numerous bonus tracks referred to above.  However, Madison Square Garden 2009 has the advantage of avoiding Crystal Cat’s catastrophic disc break which separated Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) and the preceding Incident On 57th Street, which are played, as on the original album, without a break.

The discs are housed in a thick jewel case with fairly simple front and back inserts showing onstage shots of Springsteen and band members.  As can be seen above, the fromt cover also displays photographs of Springsteen’s face taken from the sleeves of The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle and The River.  The track listing appears on the back of the rear insert, in small but legible type, though the list of band personnel is in tiny type.

 

Bonus DVD-R: Wrecking Ball In New York

Madison Square Garden, New York, NY, USA – 9 April 2012 (Discs 1-2) and Times Union Center, Albany, NY, USA – 16 April 2012 (discs 3-4)

Disc 1: Intro., Badlands, We Take Care Of Our Own, Wrecking Ball, Out In The Street, Death To My Hometown, My City Of Ruins, Spirit In The Night, Thundercrack, Jack Of All Trades, Trapped/She’s The One, Easy Money, Waitin’ On A Sunny Day

Disc 2: Intro., The Promised Land, The Way You Do The Things You Do, 634-5789 (Soulsville U.S.A.), Because The Night, The Rising, We Are Alive, Backstreets, Land Of Hope And Dreams[/People Get Ready], Rocky Ground, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), Born To Run, Dancing In The Dark, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

Disc 3: Intro., Badlands, We Take Care Of Our Own, Wrecking Ball, Out In The Street, Death To My Hometown, My City Of Ruins, Darlington County, Jack Of All Trades, Murder Incorporated, Downbound Train, Shackled And Drawn, Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, The Promised Land

Disc 4: Intro., The Way You Do The Things You Do[/634-5789 (Soulsville U.S.A.)], Janey Don’t You Lose Heart, Backstreets, The Rising, Lonesome Day, We Are Alive, Land Of Hope And Dreams[/People Get Ready], Thunder Road, Rocky Ground, Born To Run, Dancing In The Dark, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

As with other Working On A Dream Tour releases from this source, Born To Run At The Palace Complete and Giants Stadium 2009, this set comes with bonus DVD-Rs derived from concerts from the Wrecking Ball Tour, though here we get two shows rather than one.  The first is from Madison Square Garden on 9 April, the second of two shows at the venue.

As with the first show Springsteen and the E Street Band take the stage to the strains of Frank Sinatra singing New York New York.  Brad Wete, writing on the UK Complex website, compares the show’s opening with those of other acts:

“There were no bells and whistles when he and the crew strolled onto the stage. In an era where most acts arrive to computer graphics and pyrotechnics, at 8:26pm they walked on to ‘New York, New York,’ Frank Sinatra’s Big Apple homage with the venue fully lit. No drama, just Bruce and Co.”

The show opener is what attendee bossfan12, posting on the Stone Pony London  message board, considers a “brilliant” rendition of Badlands.

Three of the next four numbers come from Wrecking Ball, beginning with a very strong performance of We Take Care Of Our Own.  Wete then notes of the performance of the album’s title track:

“There aren’t many other performers whose stage presence is as intense as Bruce. On ‘Wrecking Ball’ when he sang, ‘Take your best shot/ Let me see what you’ve got’ with his fist wagging, the idea that he might actually whoop your ass was worth considering.”

Christopher Phillips, on the Backstreets website, writes that, “in songs like ‘Wrecking Ball’ and ‘Death to My Hometown’ [Springsteen] was clearly heading into this set ready to take on all comers. After the latter, the Monday night crowd – again packed to the rafters, and more charged up than Friday’s – responded with a ‘Brooooce’ that reverberated throughout the Garden.”

In between these two fine performances, however, there is an unimpressive rendition of Out In The Street.  Phillips states that, “a song the E Street Band has played approximately a gazillion times had them momentarily back on the ropes, with flubs peppering ‘Out in the Street.'”  Stan Goldstein, on nj.com, comments: “The third time in the past four shows this has been played but it still sounds a bit rough. Again there’s confusion when Bruce asks other band members to sing along at the end (‘Come on Stevie’) as in past tour and no one really knows how to respond.”

My City Of Ruins begins with a speech, which, though ostensibly establishing “peace and harmony…between our two great states,” argues, in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, for the superiority of New Jersey, Springsteen pointing out, for example, that the song New York, New York was sung by a man from New Jersey.  After telling the audience that, “we gotta get our lazy asses outta those seats,” he concludes: “As usual, it all starts with a story, so tonight’s story is about hellos and goodbyes and the things that leave us in this life and the things that remain with us for ever.  So let’s get started.”  This, of course, feeds into the later “roll call” of band members, which, movingly, is as much about the names omitted as the names mentioned.

Spirit In The Night is a “highlight” of the show according to Brucebase.  Phillips comments that, “Jake came down for the solo while the whole horn section grooved; Bruce worked the lip of the stage hard throughout, hamming it up, leaning back into the crowd, collapsing to the floor on “his socks and his shirt” as the crowd sang along full-bore. ‘All night!’ It was a stone blast.”  Bossfan12 adds: “Spirit was great and very loose and fun and the story time intro was cool.”  The positive vibe is maintained by Thundercrack, played in response to a sign request.  Phillips writes that, “Bruce made a show of staring at a sign reading ‘Thundercrack for a birthday gal,’ hands on his hips while the band vamped, before grabbing the sign and taking the challenge, and the band tore right in.  It was, shall we say, loose, but there were thrilling moments – especially that extended instrumental passage.  Soozie was center stage, facing off with Bruce and Nils, her bowstrings in tatters, the horns blaring away, Curtis and Cindy playing to the back – ‘Thundercrack’ in the round.”

Philips was also rightly impressed with the following numbers, commenting: “The pairing of ‘Jack of All Trades’ into ‘Trapped’ is brilliant…’She’s the One’ took it even higher, a more atmospheric beginning tantalizing the crowd before the whole thing slammed in.  Quite the tableau – you’ve got Jake wailing away on sax, Bruce leaping off the drum riser, Nils and Steve dueling on guitar and singing ‘Ohhh she’s the one’ at the same mic, and no fewer than five pairs of maracas up there rattling away.”  Bossfan12 was also impressed, commenting: “Finally, She’s the One was exceptional HOT tonight. Extended intro and it just rocked!”

A vibrant rendition of Easy Money, as Tailschao writes on Stone Pony London, has “Bruce noodling a little before the first verse,” and Springsteen sharing vocals duties with Patti Scialfa. This is followed by Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, with its usual vocal slot for a child from the audience.  I found the performance of The Promised Land rather lacking in fire.  The “Apollo Medley” of The Way You Do The Things You Do and 634-5789 (Soulsville U.S.A.) which as, marvin points out on the BTX setlist thread on Backstreets, “gives the singers (especially the backups) a chance to shine,” is, as asecretstorm, also posting on that site, rightly contends, “a lot of fun.”

As elsewhere on the tour Because The Night is a highlight of the show.  Phillips considers that, “Nils’ soloing worked its usual magic,” and Goldstein state bys that this was, “where the show, which for whatever reason had slowed down, started to take off. Great guitar solo by Nils.”  However, reflecting the comments I made in my reviews of the recent Godfather releases La Vie En Rose and Au Clair De la Lune, Goldstein writes: “Patti sings along with Bruce at one point and it doesn’t work. Not the best song for her to sing along on.”

The Rising receives its usual strong performance and it is followed by  an enjoyable rendition of We Are Alive, with its echoes of Johnny Cash and Ring Of Fire.

The tour premiere of Backstreets brings a tremendous performance which has garnered many plaudits.  Phillips writes, after his comment on Out In The Street, that, “the show went like that for a while, with some ups and downs before coming on strong in the second half for the K.O. – which specifically, and gloriously, was ‘Backstreets.'”  He also considers it, “the finest performance…in recent memory. The Garden went nuts, and for good reason. Instrumentally, vocally, emotionally, it connected on every level.”  Brucebase considers the song a “highlight” of the show, as do scoper and bossfan12 on the Stone Pony London message board.

A splendid performance of Land Of Hope And Dreams, with a vocal introductory section, then closes the main set, the first time on the tour that a show did not end with Thunder Road.  Bossfan12 commentsts that, “LOHAD was just excellent, Bruce and the band on fire through this one and a perfect coda to Backstreets. Great 1,2 punch.”

The encore begins with Rocky Ground, before which Springsteen reminisces about watching televised boxing matches from Madison Square Garden as a child.  He also promotes the work of WhyHunger and the Yorkville Common Pantry, organizations represented at the show, stating that, “food banks and food pantries have been essential organizations since the recession.”  Rocky Ground, with its vocal contribution from Michelle Moore, has, according to bossfan12, “come a long way and probably was one of the better performances of this song all tour.”  Rosalita is then played for only the second time on the tour in a riotous  and hugely enjoyable performance, though Goldstein notes, “a screw up toward the end when the horns played the wrong part.”  The excitement then continues with standard encore fare in the shape of Born To Run, Dancing In The Dark and show closer Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out with its tribute to Clarence Clemons.

Overall this is a very good show and it is very enjoyable to watch and listen to.  Phillips, as can be read above, frequently waxes hyperbolic and boosfan12 enthuses: “Another amazing show I have been to this tour. The tour only keeps getting better and better…Awesome show!!”  Goldstein is more measured and rather more realistic: “Overall a very good show which got better as the night went on.”

Discs three and four contain the Albany show played a week later.  Springsteen and the band appear onstage accompanied by Elmer Bernstein’s music from the film The Magnificent Seven.  Springsteen shouts, “Albany! Prepare to be transformed!” before the band crashes into Badlands.  The Republican reviewer Donnie Moorhouse writes of the show’s early stages as follows:

“Springsteen opened the show with the lights on, slamming into full gear with ‘Badlands,’ before unleashing ‘We Take Care of Our Own,’ the lead single from the new release. He followed it up with the title track, building it from an acoustic intro to a full-blown anthem.

From anger and vitriol he moved directly to the sheer joy and abandon of ‘Out in the Street,’ and then veered back with the Celtic-fired ‘Death to My Hometown.’  He used the melancholy of  ‘City of Ruins’ to introduce the band, pausing to reflect on those who had passed without mentioning them by name.”

Next up is what Moorhouse calls  “the romp-and-dance” Darlington County, one of two tour premieres from the Born In The U.S.A. album (the others being Downbound Train).  Jack Of All Trades, according to the anonymous writer on the Backstreets website, “once again began a thematic trio, this time followed by Born in the U.S.A. outtake ‘Murder Incorporated’ and the premiere of ‘Downbound Train.’ It was a powerful trifecta.”  Murder Incorporated features guitar solos from Nils Lofgren, Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt, culminating in a duel between the latter two, making the song, in the words of the Backstreets writer, “just the kind of guitar fest you want it to be.”

Shackled And Drawn again features Cindy Mizelle, and then Waitin’ On A Sunny Day provides a vocal slot for a girl from the audience who is older than the majority of such participants.  Springsteen then leaves the stage, hugging and dancing with a boy in the audience.  The Promised Land is a stronger performance than that at MSG and it is again followed by the “Apollo Medley” of The Way You Do The Things You Do and 634-5789 (Soulsville U.S.A.), where Springsteen’s crowd surfing allows for an extended contribution from the backing singers.

Janey Don’t You Lose Heart, the third and final tour premiere, is played by sign request, and Springsteen tells the audience: “We haven’t played this one in a long time. This is for Molly, in memory of her mom Janey.”  (Later, during the encores, Molly was pulled on stage to dance with Springsteen.)  The acoustic version played here is a real rarity.  Goldstein comments that:

‘Janey Don’t You Lose Heart’ which was on the B-side of the ‘I’m Goin’ Down’ single in 1985, is a song not played a lot.  It’s only been played eight times since the start of the Magic Tour in 2007…What made Monday night’s ‘Janey’ version even more special was that it was an acoustic version.  Outside of being done several times that way on the Devils & Dust Tour in 2005, it is believed the last time Bruce performed it that way at a band show was on March 23, 1993 at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank.  And that was with the ‘other’ band.” 

It is nice to see and hear the song in this acoustic version, though it is not one of Springsteen’s best compositions and his mid-song whistling fails to enhance the perfoemance.  As bossfan78 writes on Backstreets’ BTX forum, “I like the song well enough. Its pleasant, but really nothing more. It’s exactly what it is: a halfway decent B-side, not some lost classic.”

“The ‘moment’ that happens at almost every Springsteen concert (a remarkable feat) came with a cathartic ‘Backstreets,'” writes Moorhouse and then the main set concludes in fine style with what he calls “a charge to the finish” in the shape of The Rising, Lonesome Day, We Are Alive and Land Of Hope And Dreams.

Thunder Road takes the first encore slot, followed by a fine Rocky Ground, before Born To Run, Dancing In The Dark and Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out form a conventional but nonetheless exciting concluding trio of numbers that is probably even more deserving of the description “a charge to the finish.”

This is another very good performance.  On Backstreets’ BTX forum sinaloadan argues that, “this was one unbelievable show…The band sounded incredible and the audience was into it 100%, one of the best I’ve seen.”  Again, this is a touch hyperbolic.  It is again an enjoyable performance, though not quite the equal of the Madison Square Garden show.

The Wrecking Ball DVD Bootleg List on the Stone Pony London website notes the sources for these two shows as:

“MSG ‘NYCBC – Multi Cam STAGESHOT, Steady’

Albany ‘NYCBC – Multi Cam SCREEN & STAGE (left side), steady/tripod'”

Picture quality for the Madison Square Garden show is very good, being clear and well-defined, and having a variety of camera angles definitely enhance one’s viewing pleasure.  Despite SPL stating that the whole show is stageshot, there is occasional use of screenshot, notably during Jack Of All Trades and Rocky Ground.  For much of the show, I found the picture quality for the Albany show a little less impressive, the image being somewhat less clear and the colour slightly less natural, though I also thought that the quality was generally better in the latter half of the performance, perhaps even better than MSG at times.  Each of the first three discs ends with footage of Cheech & Chong performing Mexican Americans prefaced by the warning that, “if you remove this video track you will compress the original footage and end up with a lossy version.”  The sound for both shows is, on the whole, pretty good (improving after the first 4-5 songs for the MSG concert), though I thought it a notch down from the sound of the recently reviewed Plays Epic Show In Philly (the bonus discs with Born To Run At The Palace Complete).

As with the main set, the bonus discs are housed in a thick jewel case with fairly simple front and back inserts displaying numerous onstage shots.

Overall, while an excellent on its own terms, this set does not displace previous releases.  Crystal Cat’s New York City Dream Box, as noted above, additionally contains the complete Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame performance, which is well worth having, and this can be supplemented by Innocent And Glory Days, which, among other splendid performances, contains the complete The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle without the offending disc break (indeed, the whole album performance is on the same disc).  The two shows on the DVD-Rs are available on factory pressed discs on the Pignon label, the Madison Square Garden performance on Pay Me My Money Down and that from the Times Union Center on Who’s Chasing Who?  Those  two releases also have the advantage of  including the performances from Madison Square Garden on 6 April and the Tampa Bay Times Forum on 3 March respectively (though I have discovered while writing this review that my copy of Pay Me My Money Down is faulty and will not play the show from 6 April) and they also omit the footage of Cheech & Chong.  Therefore, if you want the four shows under consideration in this review, rounding up these four releases will give you all four and some other very desirable material into the bargain.

 

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