Seekin’ Shelter From The Storm (Godfatherecords G.R. 788/789/790)
Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence, Italy – 10 June, 2012
Disc 1: Intro: Once Upon A Time In The West, Badlands, No Surrender, We Take Care Of Our Own, Wrecking Ball, Death to My Hometown, My City Of Ruins, Spirit In The Night, Be True, Jack Of All Trades, Trapped, Prove It All Night
Disc 2: Honky Tonk Women/Darlington County, Burning Love, Working On The Highway, Shackled And Drawn, Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, Apollo Medley [The Way You Do The Things You Do/634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A.)], The River, The Rising, Backstreets, Land Of Hope and Dreams [/People Get Ready], Rocky Ground
Disc 3: Born In The U.S.A., Born To Run, Hungry Heart, Seven Nights To Rock, Dancing In The Dark, Tenth Avenue Freeze-out, Twist And Shout, Who’ll Stop the Rain?
Bonus tracks: New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Acura Stage, Fairgrounds Racetrack, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA – 29 April, 2012: How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live?, Something You Got, O Mary Don’t You Weep, Pay Me My Money Down; Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey, USA – 2 May, 2012: The Weight
As can be seen from the above cover shot, Springsteen’s concert in Florence was played in rain that was, by the end of the show, torrential, which has led Guglielmo Latini, on the Backstreets website, to compare the show with that in Milan nine years ago: “Like the memorable show of San Siro in 2003, wet Italian nights seem to be the perfect occasion for concerts that, beyond amazing setlists, demonstrate for the ages the dedication of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s audiences.”
The beginning of the show is described effectively by Latini: “The Artemio Franchi stadium was completely filled when at 8:30 the notes of ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ rang out and Bruce, echoing Steve’s play on words [prior to the show Van Zandt had tweeted, ‘are you ready for the Frenzy In Firenze!’], came onstage yelling, ‘Are you ready? Are you ready? The frenzy in Firenze, here we go!’ before kicking off with a great rendition of ‘Badlands.’ When a rockin’ ‘No Surrender’ followed it, it was clear that a special night was about to come; at the same time, the first drops of rain began to come down, just the beginning of a crescendo that by the end of the show would have all the crowd soaked to the bone. ’We Take Care of Our Own,’ ‘Wrecking Ball,’ and ‘Death to My Hometown’ gave the audience a chance to jump and sing non-stop, until the moving music of ‘My City of Ruins’ warmed the souls, with tears falling when Bruce, speaking in Italian, said ‘Are we missing anybody?’ and, answering to the shout of the crowd, ‘I can hear them in your voices.’” Among these early show numbers redbossfan, on passioncolorseverything.com, selects two for particular praise, contending that, “the double of ‘We take care of our own’ and ‘Wrecking Ball’ were…powerful as ever.” Indeed, the latter song is presented in a wonderfully passionate and committed rendition.
Then comes what Latini rightly calls a “rousing” version of Spirit in the Night, with a fine contribution from the horns but marred, as elsewhere on the tour, by the inappropriate intro. A most welcome addition to the set is the tour premiere of Be True, which is always good to hear live, and this is followed by a poignant rendition of Jack of All Trades, with a dedication in Italian to the recent earthquakes in Italy and “all the people who are struggling.” The next song, Jimmy Cliff’s Trapped, was, according to Latini, “pure emotion, and the temperature jumped up with a never-ending solo by Bruce on a rocking ‘Prove It All Night.’ This exciting performance of the latter number, “went down a storm,” according to ESTREETMAN on the Stone Pony London message board, “and sounded brilliant tonight.” The song concludes the first disc of this set in very fine style.
A splendidly muscular Darlington County opens disc two, enhanced by the contribution of the horn section and the insertion, near the beginning, of a substantial excerpt from the Rolling Stones’ Honky Tonk Women. After this, as Latini describes, “Bruce launched the band into an ultra-rare, extra-fun, and totally unexpected version of Elvis’ ‘Burning Love,’ sounding great with the horn section and followed by the uninterrupted fun and energy of ‘Working on the Highway’ and ‘Shackled & Drawn.'” Burning Love, recorded by Arthur Alexander for his eponymous 1972 album and a big hit for Elvis Presley in the same year, was played by sign request. Springsteen picked up two signs from the audience, the other requesting My Love Will Not Let You Down, which was not played. Along with the night’s other tour premiere, Be True, Burning Love had been soundchecked a week earlier in San Sebastian.
Waitin’ on a Sunny Day (a title expressing an apt sentiment in view of the pouring rain) contains the usual vocal slot for a child from the audience. The “Apollo Medley” is, as usual, hugely enjoyable. Latini writes that, “the rare (in Europe) ‘Apollo Medley’ brought the show to another level.” ESTREETMAN describes the Apollo Medley as, “2 great soul songs…I thought the bands [sic] performance of the songs was superb,” but adds that it, “probably had the worst reaction of the night from the people around us.” The River, by all accounts, went down much better with the Italian audience, with its atmospheric wordless vocalise at the end.
A strong performance of The Rising is succeeded by Backstreets, which is always an enormous treat to hear in live performance. “My song of the night…absolutely brilliant,” is the entirely justifiable verdict of ESTREETMAN and this rendition contains more than a hint a of the spoken “Sad Eyes” interlude. The main set is then brought to a close by an inspired performance of Land Of Hope And Dreams, concluded, as usual, with a snippet of People Get Ready. The second disc ends with the first encore number, Rocky Ground, which spotlights Michelle Moore and is introduced as “a prayer for better time”. Of Moore’s contribution to this song redbossfan on passioncolorseverything.com writes, “once more I admired Michelle’s talent. She is such an amazing singer.” Obviously Rocky Ground would be more naturally placed at the start of disc three, and some collectors might find the fact that the song is detached from the remainder of the encore irritating, though to include the song on the third disc would have meant sacrificing one of the bonus tracks.
The third disc begins with the remainder of the encore, with exuberant performances of Born In The U.S.A., Born To Run, Hungry Heart, Seven Nights To Rock and Dancing In The Dark before Tenth Avenue Freeze-out brings its usual tribute to the late Clarence Clemons. Many of the 2012 shows have, of course, ended with this song, but here we are treated to a vibrant rendition of Twist and Shout. Yet another song may have been unexpected (especially as Springsteen had introduced Twist And Shout as, “one more for the diehards”), but, given the meteorological conditions, Who’ll Stop the Rain? must be considered an unsurprising choice to end the performance. Redbossfan, on passioncolorseverything.com, considers that the song, “was a great ending to an amazing show.” With a touch more hyperbole, Latini contends that, “a moving and highly appropriate ‘Who’ll Stop the Rain’ [was] a worthy finale to a historic night,” and concluded an encore which, “had been played in a surreal atmosphere of collective ecstasy.”
This splendid show has been compared to the excellent concert in Milan, released by Godfather as The Italian Promise and already reviewed. ESTREETMAN writes that, “I was at Milan and have just got back from Firenze, two great gigs,” before concluding that, “Milan is No1,” despite Florence also being, “a really enjoyable gig.” Kalle also plumps for Milan, stating that, “Milan won hands down.” However, other posters on SPL disagree. Redbossfan argues that, “Firenze got the much better show, not only setlist wise but from the entire atmosphere at the gig…Firenze was powerful, intense and magical, Milano was one big party. Both good in their own right, but for me Firenze clearly won,” and tailschao agrees, writing that, “personally I enjoyed Firenze more than Milan. The setlist was definately [sic] better.” More succinctly, jiskefet writes, “forget about Milan, this was it.”
The majority of the bonus tracks come from Springsteen’s second performance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the first having been in 2006. How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live?, O Mary Don’t You Weep and Pay Me My Money Down, all from the album We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (though the first song appears only on the expanded American Land Edition), made their tour debuts and these enjoyable but seemingly rather under-rehearsed performances are most welcome inclusions here. The other song from New Orleans is the old Chris Kenner number Something You Got, a song performed by Springsteen on several occasions between 1972 and 1974. Springsteen is joined for this song by Dr. John on vocals and keyboards, and this is very much the latter’s performance. The final bonus track, from Newark on May 2, is Springsteen’s take on The Band’s 1968 single The Weight. Inspired, as Robbie Robertson said, by the films of Luis Buñuel with their theme of “the impossibility of sainthood,” the song is performed as a tribute to The Band’s drummer and vocalist Levon Helm, who died on 19 April.
The sound quality of the main set is generally very good and at times excellent and I found that boosting both bass and volume had a very positive effect on the sound. I thought that My City Of Ruins, Spirit In The Night and Jack Of All Trades sounded particularly fine. However, Godfather’s notes admit that there is an almost inevitable diminution in sound quality later in the show due to the weather conditions, stating: “The hard rain was causing [the taper] a lot of problems…especially towards the end of the show (for this reason you’ll hear a slight decreasing in sound quality).” The sound remains quite punchy, but there is a distinct lessening of clarity evident from Born In the U.S.A. onwards and the final song, Who’ll Stop The Rain, sounds pretty rough. Audience noise is more discernable during the latter songs though during the rest of the show it is not generally intrusive. However, some talking can be heard in quieter moments of the show. The sound of the bonus tracks from New Orleans is, overall, very good, though just a trifle lacking in dynamics. The sound on The Weight is also very good, though the audience, which sings along enthusiastically, is quite prominent.
The three discs are housed in Godfather’s usual tri-fold sleeve which display numerous onstage shots, together with the list of band personnel and track listing. There is also a foldover insert with further relevant photographs and the customary “Joe Roberts” notes. The notes are a little more personal than usual, with their reference to, “Alice, one year and a half, her first Springsteen show ever, two blue eyes full of joy, can’t stop dancing on my shoulders.” There is also a photo of a sweet looking child – presumably Alice.
This is a terrific show, which I would place in the top three of the Wrecking Ball shows I have heard so far, together with Madrid and the second Paris show, which is the best of all. The addition of some interesting bonus tracks, the (largely) very good sound and Godfather’s usual attractive packaging make this another desirable release from the only label to be chronicling the Wrecking Ball Tour.