Spanish Eyes (Godfatherecords G.R. 773/774/775)
Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid, Spain – June 17, 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, Youngstown, Murder Incorporated
Disc 2: She’s the One, Talk to Me, Spanish Eyes, Working on the Highway, Shackled Drawn, Waitin’ on a Sunny Day, Apollo Medley [The Way You Do The Things You Do/634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A.)], The River, Because the Night, My Love Will Not Let You Down, The Rising
Disc 3: We Are Alive, Thunder Road, Rocky Ground, 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
Godfather here present us with a recording of Springsteen’s second-ever show at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, home of legendary football team Real Madrid. (The first, during the Magic Tour, was on 17 July 2008.) As I stated in my review of Godfather’s previous release, The Italian Promise, this is Springsteen’s longest show, clocking in at an amazing three hours and forty-eight minutes, and all without a break!
Of the show’s opening, riverdude2, posting on the Greasy Lake website, writes, “when the band and Bruce finally took the stage at 21.35, the roar in the stadium was incredible. Badlands followed by No Surrender was the way to open a show like this and the crowd went crazy.” A muscular We Take Care of Our Own continues to build the excitement and this is followed by wonderfully enthusiastic renditions of Wrecking Ball and Death to My Hometown. A superb My City of Ruins, with splendid contributions from the horns and the backing singers, sees Springsteen addressing the audience in both English and Spanish during the introduction and the mid-song “roll call.”
Spirit in the Night, according to the Backstreets website review by Alfonso Adánez and Sal Trepat, was “revitalized with the new intro [and] sounded more powerful and soulful than ever.” While I would agree that, largely to the contribution of the horn section, the current incarnation of the song is “powerful and soulful,” as I stated in my review of The Italian Promise, “Springsteen’s decision to begin with an address to the audience, in mock-preacher persona, about the E Street Band’s ‘mission’ unfortunately does nothing to enhance the song.” However, I would take umbrage with ol’catfishinthelake’s opinion, as expressed on Backstreets’ BTX forum, that, “the modern version of Spirit [is] overlong and a bit dull.” As heard here, the song positively bristles with joie de vivre.
Then comes what Roland, on SPL, calls a “beautiful version” of the song which initially appeared as the b-side of Sherry Darling in Europe, Be True. “It was a brilliant performance by the band,” conclude Adánez and Trepat, “Bruce sang it beautifully, and Eddie Manion’s solo was just perfect.” The understated and poignant Jack of All Trades give way to three songs which see the band scale new heights, according to Adánez and Trepat: “As the night went on, Bruce’s energy level just seemed to increase and increase, and a lot of adrenaline was spent on stunning performances of songs like ‘She’s the One,’ ‘Youngstown’ [and] ‘Murder Incorporated’ (with its blistering guitar solos).” Murder Incorporated ends the first disc and She’s The One kicks off disc two and as the band launches straight into the latter song, it is an unfortunate side break. Consquently, we hear a a little of the beginning of She’s The One before disc one fades out and a couple of seconds of the end of Murder Incorporated at the beginning of disc two.
After this comes what tailschao, posting on the Stone Pony London message board, calls an “indescribably fun” performance of Talk To Me. Springsteen is joined on stage by Southside Johnny, who included a terrific version of the song on his 1978 album Hearts Of Stone. “I agree Talk To Me was the funniest part of the show,” writes Roberto, also on SPL, “anyway, as a brief conclusion, the show was VERY VERY VERY FUNNY.” Adánez and Trepat clearly also enjoyed the song, writing: “Another highlight…was ‘Talk to Me.’ No big surprise here, as it had been played before on the current tour. But having Southside Johnny…as a guest was a memorable thing to behold. It was a flashback to 1978, as we had onstage the three guys behind those fabulous Jukes albums: Southside Johnny, Bruce Springsteen, and Miami — yes, let’s call him Miami again for once — Steve Van Zandt. It might not have been a popular or well-known song among the 60,000 people in the stadium, but both Bruce and Johnny gave a formidable performance, soulful, strong, and fun, and absolutely everyone danced and had a great time. For a few minutes we felt like we were in a small club in the Jersey Shore in the mid-’70s. It was the first time the trio had been together on a stage in Europe.” Several others have also expressed their appreciation of the performance. YankeesBruceFan, podsting on the BTX forum writes that, “highlight was SSJ coming on stage to do Talk to me.” On the same forum Troilo states that, “a highlight was Talk to Me with Southside Johnny, with a funny rap between them about how to beg for forgiveness to your woman (like Bruce used to do in Back in Your Arms, only this time done in a mocking way).” On the Greasy Lake website, riverdude2 calls the performance, “an elongated, at times very amusing and warm duet.”
We then get a very special moment in the shape of the premiere of Spanish Eyes. In the words of Adánez and Trepat, “the world debut of one of the mythical outtakes from the ’70s marked one of the highlights of the show. After numerous rehearsals during soundchecks in both San Sebastián and Madrid, the song finally made it onto the setlist. ‘Spanish Eyes’ was dedicated to the Spanish women, and being in a huge stadium didn’t matter at all: none of the intimacy was lost, and there was magic and nuance behind every note.” The soundcheck also included One Way Street and Havin’ A Party, neither of which, unfortunately, appeared in the show, perhaps surprisingly in the case of the latter song, considering the presence of Southside Johnny.
A drastic change of tempo ensues with a vigorous Working on the Highway, with a lengthy instrumental play-out taking the song to five-and-a-half minutes. This is succeeded by a vibrant rendition of Shackled And Drawn, with an excellent vocal contribution from Cindy Mizelle. Waitin’ On A Sunny Day features the customary vocal spot for a child from the audience, the one here being much younger than some recent participants, and the audience as a whole gets the opportunity to make a vocal contribution at the start of the song. Then comes the joyous Apollo Medley of The Way You Do The Things You Do and 634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A.), giving the horn section and the backing singers another chance to shine. The next song, The River, provides a very emotional moment. The song is dedicated to a young man named Nacho, a 20-year-old who died shortly before this concert, which would have been his first Springsteen show. Family and friends had sent messages asking Springsteen to dedicate a song to him.
“Another gift for Madrid,” according to Adánez and Trepat, “was a spectacular ‘Because the Night,’ with Steven doing the final guitar solo.” This is followed by what tailschao calls “fantastic” performance of My Love Will Not Let You Down. Riverdude2 was highly impressed by both songs, contending that, “Because The Night and My Love Will Not Let You Down were absolutely red hot versions.” An stirring performance of the The Rising (which ends abruptly at the end of disc two) is followed by We Are Alive, with its moving quiet opening giving way to the faster Johnny Cash-like second part.
Although they neglect to mention an excellent rendition of Rocky Ground, featuring Michelle Moore, Adánez and Trepat otherwise sum up the climax of the show splendidly:
“A magnificent ‘Thunder Road’ closed the main set. Bruce and the band looked real happy, the audience was on fire, so after a little pause they quickly began the encore part of the show, with lots of greatest hits that raised the ‘craziness’ level even more. The audience was one big roar. ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ was a blast, and it really gave an extra push to a show that had already passed the three-hour mark a while ago. At the end of ‘Hungry Heart’ Bruce left the stage via the right side of the ramp, went into a group of workers who were waiting there, danced with them, jumped on some flightcases just a few feet from the seats. Anyone who could rushed over, and all hell break loose (in a good sense). The audience was hysterical. The party went on and on, with delirious vesions of ‘Seven Nights to Rock’ and ‘Dancing in the Dark.’
Come ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-out,’ the show had surpassed the Milano mark from a week before, and Bruce still looked as fresh as when he came onstage hours earlier. The roar from the crowd was huge, and Bruce couldn’t resist doing ‘one more for Madrid.’ A long and loose ‘Twist and Shout’ brought Southside back to the stage and put an end to the show, which by then had just made history: Bruce had just played the longest set of his career. All we could see then were happy faces everywhere in the stadium, faces of disbelief and surprise at the length, intensity and joy of the show.
Let’s say it again: it is incredible what this man is doing at 62, playing some of the longest, most intense shows of his career. His honesty, attitude, and dedication to his fans is just incredible. He’s a man on a mission. And right now he’s provin’ it all night, every night.”
Although this may seem rather hyperbolic (if not actually hagiographical), the extraordinary nature of the performance is also attested to by posters on SPL (where some comments on recent shows have been heavily critical). Roberto writes: “Fucking incredible. Very very intense. The Santiago Bernabeu is enormous, and when it is full, it is really impressive…When the audience gets crazy, the ambient [sic] is terrific…It is not that the show was fantastic because it was long. It finally got so long because everybody in the arena, including, of course, Bruce, were having such a good time, that nobody wanted to go home…and it finally resulted in a fantastic show.” Tailschao comments: “Fucking incredible… Jesus lord…The venue security guy in front of me had been stealing glances at the stage here and there all night, and when the show ended he looked at his watch and shook his head to himself in genuine amazement. That says it all, I think.” Posters on other sites also express admiration for the performance. On the BTX forum, rickettsia states, “this must have been one of the best gigs in his entire career. Absolutely unbelievable atmosphere and stadium reaction, I have never seen anything like this in my life (and I have seen him 6 times).” Riverdude2, concludes that, “the Madrid 2012 show was quite simply the best I’ve ever seen Bruce and the ESB play in a stadium…a very very special show. “
The sound quality of Spanish Eyes is very punchy and dynamic, effectively conveying the excitement of the event. During the first couple of songs the sound leaves something to be desired in terms of balance and clarity; thereafter, there is a distinct improvement in balance and clarity, though the sound is a little lacking in refinement. To my ears some of the encore numbers sound particularly good, though Born In The U.S.A. is afflicted with an overwhelmingly thunderous bass. Also, a distracting rumbling sound can occasionally be heard in the background and audience noise can sometimes be obtrusive; for example, a great deal of talking can be heard during Springsteen’s spoken introductions to the Apollo Medley and We Are Alive, during the acoustic opening section of the latter song and during Rocky Ground.
This release is packaged in Godfather’s customary tri-fold sleeve with plenty of onstage shots, including some (as can be seen above) featuring Southside Johnny, track listing and list of band personnel. There is also a four-page foldover insert with the usual “Joe Roberts” notes and further photographs. In one photo a young female fan, clearly referring to the recent marathon concert in Milan, holds up a cardboard sign bearing the words, “Bruce relax I’m too old for 3:40 show.” I hope she wasn’t too disappointed!
The historical significance of this issue, chronicling Springsteen’s longest ever show, will no doubt make it attractive to Springsteen collectors, but, as Scott Bernstein’s Hidden Track (www.glidemagazine.com) account says, the performance, “wasn’t just about quantity – quality was there also,” and this is demonstrated by the enthusiastic comments quoted above. Clearly, Godfather’s latest Springsteen release is a worthy follow-up to The Italian Promise.