Magic In San Jose 2008 (Project Zip PJZ-042A/B)
HP Pavilion, San Jose, CA – 5 April 2008
Disc 1: Intro, Out In The Street, Radio Nowhere, Lonesome Day, Gypsy Biker, Something In The Night, Magic, Trapped, Reason To Believe, Prove It All Night, She’s The One, Livin’ In The Future, The Promised Land, Fire
Disc2: Incident On 57th Street, Devil’s Arcade, The Rising, Last To Die, Long Walk Home, Badlands, Detroit Medley, Born To Run, Glory Days, Bobby Jean, American Land
The Magic Tour has become notable for its shifting setlists, for which the audience requests are only partially responsible. Even concerts on consecutive nights (sometimes at the same venue, such as the Emirates Stadium in London in May) have featured divergent sets. There have also been differences in mood and atmosphere at different shows, with some concerts (such as the one in Amsterdam, recently reviewed) being more loose and fun than others. The concert in San Jose is an example of such a shift. The review on the Backstreets website, comparing this show with the previous night’s peformance in Sacramento, says: “The playful,loose Bruce was largely sidelined, replaced by the more in-control bandleader. Whereas ‘party time’ was the key word on Friday, on Saturday it was ‘orchestral’.”
The writer goes on to say that “the sound was gorgeous, and it was the right show for that.” The sleeve notes from the Godfather release of the Paris concert contend that a “muddy sound” has been a feature of Magic Tour shows. Springsteen collectors are therefore fortunate that a concert with “gorgeous” sound has yielded the first complete soundboard recording to make on to discs.
Springsteen and the band begin with Out In The Street. Its subsequent, and frequent, use as a show opener makes it seem an obvious choice, but this is the song’s Magic Tour debut in this role. Loud cheers greet Clarence Clemons’ sax solo and brief vocal contribution and the song is clearly successful in getting the audience moving from the beginning of the show. The momentum is kept up with an energetic version of the Magic album’s opening number, Radio Nowhere, before things slow down a little with a fine rendition of Lonesome Day. After Steve Van Zandt contributes a guitar solo to the melodic Gypsy Biker we are treated to the first real high point of the show, an outstanding rendition of Something In The Night featuring a powerful vocal performance from Springsteen. This was in response to an audience request in the form of a double-sided sign, the other side bearing the title Streets Of Fire – it is a shame Springsteen didn’t perform both songs.
Magic immediately provides another highlight. The opening acoustic guitar is joined by Soozie Tyrell’s ghostly violin and the interweaving of the two instruments is later mirrored by the male/female vocal duet. In this performance the song has a strikingly unearthly quality and it sounds truly magical. This is followed by a excellent rendition of Jimmy Cliff’s Trapped, its sombre opening building to a powerful climax, and a superb, full-band Reason To Believe. Simultaneously furious and funky, the song is a world away from the version on Nebraska, with an opening that sounds uncannily similar to Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit In The Sky. For the last verse Springsteen utilises the voice-distorting device that he had used during the Devils & Dust Tour.
A fine performance of Prove It All Night featuring some notable guitar work is followed by a spirited version of She’s The One. Livin’ In The Future receives its usual political introduction and then comes The Promised Land, in another excellent performance. Indeed, as I have previously noted, songs from Darkness On The Edge Of Town have been notable for having received some stunning performances on this tour. Disc one then ends with Springsteen and Clemons hamming it up during the tour premiere of Fire, which appears by virtue of winning the KFOG radio station listeners’ poll.
Disc two begins with another highlight in the shape of an exquisite Incident On 57th Street. An appropriately mournful Devil’s Arcade is followed by the oft-played trio of The Rising, Last To Die and Long Way Home. The latter two, as always, work well together. The main set then concludes, as so often, with a stirring performance of Badlands.
In contrast with many later concerts, Springsteen here eschews the gentleness of Girls InTheir Summer Clothes and the band begins the encore by tearing into the Devil With The Blue Dress Medley, closely followed by Born To Run. Springsteen keeps the show rocking with Glory Days, which was requested by an audience member who wrote the title in black marker pen on his forehead. Springsteen found this noteworthy enough to invite the man on to the stage (there is a photo on the Backstreets webite). After this we get Bobby Jean, a song bidding farewell to an old friend, which was added to Born In The USA when Steve Van Zandt announced that he was leaving the E Street Band. American Land provides the concert with its finale, bringing to an end a show which is most enjoyable, despite being less fervent than some of the later Magic Tour concerts recently reviewed.
The sound quality of this mono soundboard initially leaves something to be desired. At first the sound is a little “tinny” and Springsteen’s voice has a raspy edginess that is reminiscent of a radio station that is not quite tuned in properly. It is not a big problem and, fortunately, does not last beyond the opening number. Thereafter it is superb, with full, detailed sound that allows all voices and instruments to be heard clearly and distinctively. Strangely, however, the positive qualities of the sound are greatly diminished when the CDs are listened to through headphones. The CDs come in a slimline double jewel case with one-sided front and back inserts that feature rather uninspiring photos, including an extremely dark front cover shot. However, it is not the packaging which makes this release significant. It’s the Magic Tour; it’s a fine performance; it’s a soundboard. Unless you really must have silvers, you must have this release.