San Siro Magic Night (Crystal Cat Records CC 899-01)
Stadio San Siro, Milan, Italy – 25 June 2008
Disc 1: Intro/The Daring Young Man On The Flying Trapeze, Summertime Blues, Out In The Street, Radio Nowhere, Prove It All Night, The Promised Land, Spirit In The Night, None But The Brave, Candy’s Room, Darkness On The Edge Of Town
Disc 2: Hungry Heart, Darlington County, Because The Night, She’s The One, Livin’ In The Future, Mary’s Place, I’m On Fire. Racing In The Street, The Rising, Last To Die, Long Walk Home, Badlands
Disc 3: Girls In Their Summer Clothes, Detroit Medley, Born To Run, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), Bobby Jean, Dancing In The Dark, American Land, Twist And Shout
Bonus tracks: Hersheypark Stadium, Hershey, PA, USA – 19 August 2008: Part Man, Part Monkey, Seven Nights To Rock, Gloria; Sommet Centre, Nashville,TN, USA – 21 August 2008: Good Rockin’ Tonight, I Walk The Line, I Fought The Law
Although they have, of course, released CDs by other artists, Godfather and Crystal Cat have established themselves as the two most significant Springsteen-oriented labels. It is therefore inevitable that there have been instances of shows appearing on both labels, and this situation has intensified recently with the release of several Crystal Cat versions of Magic tour concerts previously issued on Godfather. I have already reviewed this show in its Godfather incarnation (Summertime Bruce) and readers seeking comments on the quality of the performance are directed to that review. Here, I shall concentrate on those comparative issues which might lead collectors to prefer one version over the other: sound quality, packaging and bonus tracks.
The sound quality of this Crystal Cat title is very fine, though the taper had to contend with some technical limitations. As I pointed out in my review of the Godfather release, the Backstreets website referred to the “distorted sound, particularly at the beginning of the show.” This affects the sound of the songs up to The Promised Land (and particularly the opener, Summertime Blues). Things begin to improve from Spirit In The Night and for songs from the latter part of the set, specifically from Because The Night onwards, the sound is greatly improved. The Crystal Cat release captures this extremely well, and the sound is full, clear and detailed on these songs. Mary’s Place and the superb version of Racing In The Street sound particularly good, and, overall, there is somewhat more vibrancy and colour to the sound of the Crystal Cat version, though, unlike the Godfather release, the taper at times picks up surrounding audience noise rather loudly (especially on the first few songs) and some listeners may find this occasionally intrusive.
I am sure that I am not the only collector to have been impressed by both Godfather’s and Crystal Cat’s packaging; the former’s trifold card sleeves and the latter’s jewel cases and glossy booklets have provided a pleasing contrast and their recent Magic Tour releases have been graced by some superb concert photographs. Indeed, I described Godfather’s packaging for Summertime Bruce as “outstanding.” It must be acknowledged, however, that Crystal Cat has provided its recent releases with packaging that is undeniably stunning. The front and back inserts of this title are double-sided, with the front cover featuring a striking photograph of Springsteen and Clarence Clemons taken from behind and thereby revealing a view of the packed stadium. The rear cover depicts Springsteen hanging from his microphone stand and the inner sides of these inserts show the outside of the stadium and the audience beginning to gather within. Opening the jewel case reveals a twenty-page booklet of (with one exception) superb onstage shots. Mostly, these are close-ups but one dramatic photo, taken from an upper tier location opposite the stage shows the audience, the band onstage and the large screens on both sides of the stage. The exception to the in-concert shots is a posed photograph of Springsteen which occupies the centre pages. As with other Magic Tour titles, Crystal Cat also includes a single sheet insert with the 2008 tour itinerary on one side and Springsteen’s handwritten setlist on the other. Finally, as with Gothenburg First Magic Night, which I recently reviewed, there is additionally a trifold booklet. As well as containing further photographs, this booklet reproduces Karl Birthistle’s comments on the show from Springsteen’s official website. All of the inserts and booklets are printed on Crystal Cat’s customary glossy paper and, also as usual, the label sides of the discs are printed in full colour.
The discs are logically laid out with the main set on the first two discs and the encores and bonus tracks on the third. All but one of the bonus tracks have already appeared on Godfather releases, so there is little new here for the collector. The three songs from Nashville were included on the compilation of cover versions Born To Be Wild, as was Gloria from Hershey and Part Man, Part Monkey featured as a bonus track on Lyin’ In The Heat Of The Night. Only Seven Nights To Rock (which features a slightly rough vocal performance from Springsteen) is previously unissued. However, those who do not have them already will welcome these extras, especially as they come (as did the Godfather versions) in admirable sound quality. The equivalent Godfather release, Summertime Bruce, contains only the Milan concert with no bonus tracks, so Crystal Cat has the advantage here.
The Milan concert was one of the highlights of the Magic Tour, and it should be in the collections of all serious Springsteen collectors. I shall quite happily retain both releases. However, with its fine sound, superb packaging and generous (albeit largely already available) bonus tracks, Crystal Cat’s version is now the one for the new purchaser to acquire.