Paris, Don’t You Lose Heart (Godfatherecords 302/303)
Parc des Princes, Paris, France – 27 June 2008
Disc 1: Adam Raised A Cain, Radio Nowhere, No Surrender, The Promised Land, Spirit In The Night, Rendezvous, Candy’s Room, Atlantic City, Janey, Don’t You Lose Heart, Darlington County, Because The Night, She’s The One, Livin’ In The Future, Mary’s Place
Disc 2: Fire, For You, The River, The Rising, Last To Die, Long Walk Home, Badlands, Out In The Street, Girls In Their Summer Clothes, Tenth-Avenue Freeze-Out, Born To Run, Bobby Jean, Dancing In The Dark, American Land
This is another of the five Magic Tour releases released simultaneously by Godfather a few weeks back. The concert took place only two days after the superb Milan performance already reviewed. As Godfather’s sleeve notes state in slightly stilted English: “After Milan, nobody could even think to have another great performance in Paris, 2 days later. But Bruce is Bruce and he seems having fun in setting the bar always a little higher.”
The entry of the band is preceded as usual by The Daring Young Man On The Flying Trapeze. When the band takes the stage, Springsteen greets the audience in French: “Bonsoir Paris! Comment ca va!” Then the band tears into Adam Raised A Cain. A relative rarity live, and even more so as a show opener, this poignant song of father-son relations is given an intense performance. “Is there anybody alive out there?” bellows Springsteen as the band then launches into Radio Nowhere, the opener from the Magic CD, which initially opened the concerts, but now more often appears in second place. Indeed, as the lengthy tour has progressed, songs from Magic have been accorded less emphasis. This concert features only five of them, leading the sleeve notes to point out that this is more of a “Jukebox Tour.”
A stirringly anthemic No Surrender and a gutsy The Promised Land ensue, the latter following the tradition of strong renditions of Darkness On The Edge Of Town material that has characterized the tour. Springsteen then tries out his French, telling the audience that he is delighted to be with his French friends on such a nice evening (“Ca me fait plaisir d’etre la avec mes amis francais en cette tres bonne soiree.”) “Can you feel the spirit?” he then enquires of the audience before organ and piano lead us into Spirit In The Night. When Clarence Clemons’ saxophone enters, the sense of sleaziness essential to this song is complete and it is given an exuberant performance which is much appreciated by the audience.
Then, as has become a tradition on the Magic Tour, Springsteen takes requests from the audience, asking “Y-a-t-il des chansons que vous voulez entendre?” Fittingly for Paris the first “rabbit from the hat” (as the sleeve notes put it) is a song with a French title, Rendezvous. Not played since Indianapolis on 20th March, the song is given a tight performance and is immediately followed by Candy’s Room, featuring, as always, searing guitar work. A powerful full-band Atlantic City gives way to another rarity, Janey, Don’t You Lose Heart (last played at Hartford, CT on 28th February). Originally released as the b-side of the single I’m Goin’ Down in 1985, this song (like Rendezvous) eventually surfaced on CD on the career-retropective Tracks.
After a performance of Darlington County enhanced by the violin of Soozie Tyrell, there comes a perennial Magic Tour highlight in the shape of a superb rendition of Because The Night, which contains stunning guitar work from Nils Lofgren. This is followed first by an impassioned performance of She’s The One and then by the Magic album’s most overtly political number, Livin’ In The Future, “a song about sleeping through changes you thought you’d never see.” The mood then changes drastically as Springsteen introduces Mary’s Place by asking the audience if they are “ready for a house party.” and disc one ends on an upbeat note with a joyful performance featuring (as did the Milan performance two days earlier) additional brass.
Disc two begins with a faux pas by drummer Max Weinberg, who reacts to Springsteen flourishing a sign requesting Fire by starting to play I’m On Fire. After Springsteen puts him right, the band responds with a sensual performance of the correct song. Then comes another request. Springsteen performs a solo version of For You, accompanying himself on the piano, the slow and sombre version of the song surely more appropriate than the jauntiness of the full-band version. In this guise the song is one of the highlights of Springsteen’s repertoire and the conclusion of the song is greeted with appreciative applause.
The familiar harmonica opening alerts the audience to the start of The River, another sombre song which charts the devastating effect of an unplanned pregnancy, unlooked-for marriage and economic problems on a passionate young relationship: “All those things that seemed so important/Well they vanished right into the air/ I act like I don’t remember/And Mary acts like she don’t care.” (The fact that such a shatteringly emotional story co-exists on the same album as songs which feature such vacuous lyrics such as “ooh, ooh, I got a crush on you” frankly beggars belief.)
The Rising is then succeeded by Last To Die and Long Walk Home. These two songs work well together in concert, with the faster paced Last To Die contrasting effectively with the medium-paced and melodic Long Walk Home. Opening with Tyrell’s violin, and with an extended vocal from Steve Van Zandt, the latter song proves infectiously catchy. A thunderous performance of Badlands, which has the audience clapping along enthusiastically from the opening bars, gives way to Out In The Street. Used at times as an extemely effective show-opener, it brings the main part of the show to a triumphant conclusion.
“Pour toutes les jolies filles francaises,” says Springsteen, introducing Girls In Their Summer Clothes. It is rather a restrained number with which to open an encore, though it has done so numerous times. “A long, long time ago in a country far, far away,” is Springsteen’s introduction to the song that really gets the encore going, Tenth Avenue freeze-Out. The delighted audience are treated to a joyful performance of this classic from the Born To Run album and the title track ensues. The band was joined for Born To Run by Elliott Murphy, whose 1995 release Selling The Gold featured a guest appearance by Springsteen, and who has lived in Paris since 1989. According to Murphy’s official website, he was rather concerned by his unfamiliararity with the chords, whereupon his son Gaspard offered to teach him, claiming to know the song by heart. Springsteen then said, “Well, if you know the song Gaspard then you can come up and play it too!” Gaspard seems to cope better than his father. “It was obvious,” writes Harry Scott on the Backstreets website, “that he has no idea how the song goes!” Energetic performances of Bobby Jean and Dancing In The Dark follow, before the concert ends with another undisputed high point, American Land, also featuring Elliott Murphy (though not Gaspard this time).
Writing on Springsteen’s official website, Jean-Philippe Charbonnier refers to the “muddy sound” of this show. This is echoed by Godfather’s sleeve notes, which claim this to be a “common factor” of the Magic Tour concerts. However, this alleged problem does not seem particularly evident on this release. The sound is not top-notch but it is clear, full and detailed enough to make listening to these CDs a most enjoyable experience. It is certainly superior to that of the simultaneous Milan release.
Godfather’s CDs come in the usual trifold sleeve with some very nice photographs from the show, including one featuring Elliott and Gaspard Murphy. Echoing the Milan release, the title is printed in the blue, white and red of the French tricolore. There are sleeve notes but no booklet. If Springsteen set the bar high in Milan he certainly cleared it in Paris and I would recommend both releases to Springsteen collectors as they display the fourth leg of the Magic Tour at its absolute best.