Mansions Of Glory (Godfatherecords G.R. 470/471/472)
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH, USA – 10 November, 2009
Disc 1: Wrecking Ball, Prove It All Night, Hungry Heart, Working On A Dream, Thunder Road, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Night, Backstreets, Born To Run, Meeting Across The River, Jungleland
Disc 2: Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, Raise Your Hand [/You Sexy Thing], Red Headed Woman, Pink Cadillac, Back In Your Arms, Radio Nowhere, Lonesome Day, The Rising, Badlands, No Surrender, Bobby Jean, American Land, Dancing In The Dark, Can’t Help Falling In Love
Disc 3: (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
Bonus Tracks: Bradley Centre, Milwaukee, WI, USA – 15 November, 2009: Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, Loose Ends, Jole Blon, Growin’ Up, Into The Fire, Living Proof; Sommet Centre, Nashville, TN, USA – 18 November, 2009: Seeds, Trapped, Something In The Night, You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch), Lonesome Day, Ring Of Fire
Cleveland provided an early fanbase for Bruce Springsteen, and his music was championed as early as the release of Greetings From Abury Park, N.J. by local DJ Kid Leo of WMMS. The station broadcast an hour of Springsteen’s show at the Agora on 3 June 1974, a performance available on Godfather’s Where The Four Winds Blow (already reviewed). “Cleveland was the first major market iutside Philadelphia that he broke through in,” points out the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame‘s Lauren Onkley, quoted on the website of WKYC-TV, “So it’s always been close to his heart and Clevelanders have always liked him. He’s always liked Cleveland in that they (sic) supported him before everyone else supported him.” Indeed, one of Springsteen’s greatest shows was performed in Cleveland, also at the Agora and also broadcast, on 9 August 1978, to celebrate the 10th aniversary of WMMS. (This show is available on Crystal Cat’s Agora Night.) Springsteen, of course, plays larger venues that the Agora these days and this set chronicles Springsteen’s most recent return to the city to play the Quicken Loans Arena.
This show was played just after the very highly regarded Madison Square Garden concerts and this has clearly coloured commentators’ views. Marya Morris, writing on the Backstreets website, contends that, after “two shows for the ages,” at MSG, the early part of this show was “a letdown…with the first four songs played with a curtness that didn’t bode well for the evening.” David Levine, writing on Springsteen’s offical site, disagrees, arguing that, “the E street Band started with power…and built throughout the show.” Stan Goldstein, on nj.com, places himself in Levine’s camp with his reference to, “a damn good show.”
Wrecking Ball is again the opener, with some modified, locally themed lyrics, and, although Springsteen is clearly (as Morris states) “gravelly-voiced,” I am not sure how the delivery of the song is “curt.” There is certainly a briskness about the latter part of the song, but in my opinion this gives it a satisfying vibrancy. The audience respond enthusiastically and this continues into Prove It All Night, described by Morris as “rushed.” Goldstein’s take on the performance, with which I have more sympathy, is that it was “very hot” with a “fabulous” guitar solo by Nils Lofgren, and even Morris seems impressed by his contribution. A high-spirited Hungry Heart features the usual audience singalong and then the opening section of the show concludes with “Working On A Dream.” Morris, having decribed Hungry heart as “hurried,” maintains that Working On A Dream” was cut short by several measures as [Springsteen] delivered the ‘building a house’ spiel.” The latter statement is simply incorrect – the song is performed in full. Overall, I find I cannot agree with Morris; these performances are undoubtedly brisk and energetic but not in any way curt.
Then it is time for the complete performance of Born To Run and even Morris is now won over, stating that “the show took off, not letting up until the last note had been played two-and-a-half hours later.” Springsteen tells the audience that, this record started the life-long conversation we’ve had, so, this is for you.” The album section opens, of course, with a fine rendition of Thunder Road, Goldstein’s rhetorical question asks, “is there ever a bad version of this song?” (A question, in my opinion equally applicable to two other stand-out songs from the album, Backstreets and Jungleland.) Then we are treated to a marvellously high-spirited Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, the euphoric mood of which is heightened by Curt Ramm’s trumpet contribution, and a vigorous version of the fast-paced Night. Side 1 of the original album then concludes with Backstreets, which Springsteen “sang…with such feeling,” according to Morris, “it was as if Terry’s betrayal happened yesterday.” Although we do not get the full spoken “Sad Eyes” interlude, we do get what Morris rather nicely calls a series of “lyrical wisps,” with Springsteen intoning, “me and you darling, me and you darling, until the end, until the end…”
Then, of course, we get side two’s opening number, Born To Run, played with tremendous energy and featuring the now-customary huge mid-song climax. She’s The One, which follows is played with great bravura. Meeting Across The River receives a performance described by Goldstein as “moving,” and Ramm’s trumpet part, described by Morris as “phenomenal,” is sublime. As Levine argues, it “turned the 15,000-plus arena into an intimate jazz lounge.” The transition to Jungleland is delayed for a few seconds by violinist Soozie Tyrell returning a little late to her spot. It is a fine performance, though Steve Van Zandt’s guitar solo is a little lacking in character. Clarence Clemons’ sax solo is superbly atmospheric, however, and the transition to Roy Bittan’s piano part is beguiling. The end of the song, poignant as it is, does not quite match the emotional intensity of the Baltimore performance contained on Out On A Midnight Run (already reviewed), which chronicles the penultimate show ofthe tour.
Waitin’ On A Sunny Day again provides the rather awkward transition (lessesed by the disc change) to the latter part of the show and three young girls came on to the stage for the usual junior participation. This song has also, incongruously, followed the sombre final songs of complete performances of The River and Darkness On The Edge Of Town. Referring to the Nashville concert of 18 November, where it again followed Born To Run, Alan Chitlik, writing on Springsteen’s official website, compared it to finishing a gourmet meal in a five star restaurant with a serving of Pop Tarts! The sign-collection number Raise Your Hand then gets a very soulful performance complete with the vocal part from Springsteen (augmented by some fine backing vocals), and it includes a little of the Hot Chocolate number You Sexy Thing at the end. The first request is Red Headed Woman, which makes only its second (and final) appearance of the tour, an up-tempo rendition which Goldstein calls “a real rocking version…that had the crowd up and dancing.” A fun version of Pink Cadillac, effectively augmented here by Ramm’s trumpet, also gets one of only two outings on this tour.
The next song is Back In Your Arms, which made such an impression, in its only other rendition on the tour, as a bonus track on Crystal Cat’s The Italian Dream Box. Goldstein rightly refers to it as, “definitely one of the highlights, if not the highlight of the evening.” Morris goes further, calling the song, “the indisputable emotional centrepiece of the show,” Particularly impressive is the “languid, soulful backdrop” that the band provides as Springsteen talks to the audience of relationships in which people misunderstand or underappreciate their partners, with obvious and inevitable results. “Everyone’s been at that place where you let something go and you want it back,” he contends, “And if you need it, you hunger for it, it’s a part of your soul, don’t be ashamed to fight and beg for it.”
The melodic Radio Nowhere, for all its energy, does not come across as well as other versions from this tour. This seems to be partly due to technical reasons. As Goldstein informs us, “Roy was having some sort of problem with his piano and didn’t play much on this song. His tech was there trying to fix something.” Fine renditions of Lonesome day and The Rising then lead to the set closer, an energetic Badlands, with false ending and enthusistic audience participation.
The encore begins with a stirring No Surrender, which features Soozie Tyrell as well as Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt on vocals at the end, and things continue in a similar vein with Bobby Jean. No Surrender is preceded by an appeal on behalf of the Cleveland Food bank, together with the dedication of Bobby Jean to a group of fans known as The Cleveland Boys, particularly the recently deceased Joey. American Land contains the usual band introductions and a snippet of the Theme From Shaft for Clarence Clemons, whom Springsteen, in the wake if his recently published autobiography has taken to referring to as “bigger than Shakespeare.” Things are kept fun and up-tempo with Dancing In the Dark and then we get the only slow number of the encore, Can’t Help Falling In Love. Featuring effective solos from Roy Bittan and Clemons, this sublime version fortunately does not contain the stumble over the lyrics that marred the performance two days before at MSG. The Jackie Wilson classic Higher And Higher, which kicks off the final disc, is again an impressive encore piece and this version features a verse sung by the splendidly soulful voice of Cindy Mizelle. It seems that Springsteen did not want to stop for he yells, “one more!” before a barnstorming Rosalita, splendidly augmented by Ramm’s trumpet, brings the show to a close. “Always fun,” states Goldstein, “a lot more fun tonight with the great Cleveland crowd.”
With only two songs from the Cleveland show on disc 3, there is plenty of room for some largely well-chosen bonus tracks, beginning with six songs from Milwaukee on 15 November. The first five of these were played consecutively during the latter part of the main set (the set then ended with The Rising and No Surrender). First up is a good-natured version of the knockabout festive favourite Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town. The we are treated to what Morris refers to the “lush orchestration and beautiful harmonies” of Loose Ends. Jole Blon, a song recorded by Gary US Bonds with a vocal contribution from Springsteen, gets one of only two outings on this tour This rendition prominently features the violin of Soozie Tyrell and the accordion of Charlie Giordano. The performance of Growin’ Up is a fine one, and, despite the advancing years of the performers it beautifully conveys a youthful vigour and a rebellious spirit (“When they said sit down, I stood up”), Finally from this sequence is a rare performance of Into The Fire, its solitary performance on this tour. Although missing the vocal contribution of the absent Patti Scialfa, the song was played, according to Morris, “with solemnity and gratitude.” The sixth song from Milwaukee, which opened the encore, is Living Proof and it surprised eveyone, including the band. “The band is panicking right now!” says Springsteen. This was a very rare outing on this tour for Human Touch/Lucky Town material on this tour. (Total performances – Lucky Town: Living Proof, one and If I Should Fall behind, twice; Human Touch: All Or Nothin’ At all, once and Human Touch, four times.) Unsurpringly, as John J. Kelly points out on Springsteen’s official website, the latter had to lead the band, who were “tentative and unsure,” through a performance that he nonetheless considers to be “emotional and personal.” Though it is not one of Springsteen’s best songs, it is interesting to have it here for its rarity value.
The final half-dozen tracks on disc 3 come from the Nashville concert mentioned above. The first three songs followed on from the show opener, Wrecking Ball. Seeds lacks the last ounce of intensity to be found in the best versionss, though Trapped is tightly sprung. They are succeeded by a gorgeous, affecting Something In The Night. Then from near the end of the main set we get one of only three performances on this tour of the rather empty rocker You Can look (But You Better Not Touch). The performance is better than the song itself , one which the Backstreets website calls, “a thrilling dip back into The River. Fast-paced, vocals on target, the duet with Steve sharp, it was just as good as at the Garden.” As at the show, this is followed by Lonesome Day, which repeats a song found in the main show. The sequence, and the third disc ends with Ring Of Fire. Recorded by Johnny Cash, and written by his wife, June Carter together with Merle Kilgore, this was an appropriate way to commence the encore in Nashville. Springsteen mistakenly says, “we’ve never played this one before,” the song having cropped up occasionally during 1973 and 1974, the first instance being at Oliver’s in Boston on 13 March 1973. The song receives a fine performance here, enhanced by Curt Ramm’s idiomatic trumpet contribution.
This release comes in Godfather’s customary tri-fold packaging, which features several onstage shots, mostly of Springsteen himself, track listing and band personnel. The foldover booklet features further photos and the usual “Joe Roberts” notes. Though not absolutely top-notch, he sound is, overall, very fine – quite clear and with a pleasing depth and presence which adds to the enjoyment of this release. Back In Your Arms and The Rising, in particular, sound superb. The sound of the bonus tracks, while still good, is not at the same level as the sound of the main show, and the sound of some songs lacks a little clarity. This is another high-quality release from Godfather of a Working On a Dream Tour show, an enjoyable performance with a vibrant rendition of the Born To Run album and several other highlights, notably Back In Your Arms and Can’t Help Falling In Love. There are also some very desirable bonus tracks. Consequently, Mansions Of Glory constitutes a worthwhile acquisition for Springsteen collectors. However, the simultaneous release, Out On A Midnight Run, features an even better complete Born to Run, within the context of an extended and exciting concert. Although there are many rewards to be had here, my advice to collectors seeking only one complete performance of Born To Run would therefore be to acquire Out On A Midnight Run.