Bruce Springsteen – Stade De France Wrecking Ball Night (Crystal Cat Records CC 1019-21)

Bruce Springsteen - Stade De France WreckingStade De France Wrecking Ball Night (Crystal Cat Records CC 1019-21)

Stade de France, Paris, France – 29 June 2013

Disc 1: This Hard Land, Burning Love, Growin’ Up, Intro: Once Upon A Time In The West, Badlands, Out In The Street, Lucille, Wrecking Ball, Death To My Hometown, Cadillac Ranch, Spirit In The Night

Disc 2: Intro: The Album “Born In The U.S.A.”, Born In The U.S.A., Cover Me, Darlington County, Working On The Highway, Downbound Train, I’m On Fire, No Surrender, Bobby Jean, I’m Going Down, Glory Days, Dancing In the Dark, My Hometown, Pay Me My Money Down

Disc 3: Shackled And Drawn, Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, The Rising, Land Of Hope And Dreams/People Get Ready, We Are Alive, Born To Run, Ramrod, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, American Land, Thunder Road

Stade De France Wrecking Ball Night is one of four Springsteen shows from 2013 recently given a simultaneous release by Crystal Cat.  The concert has previously appeared on the Godfather label under the title Lucille and I described it in my review as a “very enjoyable show, which, while not, in my opinion, among the very best of 2013, is nonetheless well worth having.”  Readers are directed to my review of Lucille for more detailed comments on the performance itself; this review will concentrate on comparing sound quality, bonus tracks and packaging.

Lucille contains five bonus tracks (Prove It All Night, Johnny 99, Reason To Believe, Jungleland and My Lucky Day) from the next night’s Hard Rock Calling show in London.  However, the fact that there was room for the bonus tracks was problematic.  As I wrote in my review:

“One problem I do have with this release…is the omission of the three pre-show acoustic songs, This Hard Land, Burning Love and Growin’ Up, despite the existence of at least one tape that includes them, which I feel gives a sense of incompleteness.  My sense of disappointment was compounded by [Caryn] Rose’s contention…on, that the pre-show songs were ‘magic.'”

There are no bonus tracks as such on Stade De France Wrecking Ball Night but there is a significantl bonus in the inclusion of the three pre-show performances absent from Lucille.

Rose effectively describes the pre-show songs as part of her account on the Backstreets website:

“Around 6pm, some acoustic guitar strumming came from the speakers, and Bruce walked out onto the stage, sunglasses on and acoustic guitar in hand. The stands were completely empty and the floor about half full. With a ‘Bon soir, Paris!’ he launched into a hearty version of ‘This Hard Land,’ visibly enjoying the fans in the pit singing the song back to him, stepping back from the microphone just a bit for the final, ‘Stay hard! Stay hungry! Stay alive!’ to let the audience’s very loud voice take precedence.

Saying, ‘Let’s see what we got out there,’ Bruce strode down from the microphone and onto the center platform, as what seemed like hundreds of signs magically popped up from the audience. Grabbing one from the center, he strode back to the mic and turned it to face the crowd: ‘Burning Love,’ complete with magic marker flames adorning the letters. Continuing on acoustic, Bruce vamped his way through the song, complete with Elvis intonation, leg-shake and shoulder shrug, grinning from ear to ear the entire time.  And then, finally, with a ‘Let me play something I know,’ an exuberant ‘Growin’ Up’ finished the preset.”

Godfather’s release derives from a largely impressive audience recording and in my review I commented that, “the audience recording utilized for the main show is, overall, admirably full and dynamic and largely very clear and detailed and these qualities enhance the enjoyment of listening to this show.  At times, however, clarity diminishes somewhat and there are very occasional minor fluctuations in sound quality.”

Crystal Cat, however, uses for this new release an IEM/audience mix, which has attracted somewhat mixed response on the Jungleland site.  Olli66, who is often hostile in his comments about Crystal Cat (and Godfather) releases, comments:

“Only listened to 2-3 tracks each yet from Werchter, Leeds, Paris and Mönchengladbach. Big improvement to the previous releases in terms of sound quality but even I can make out a lot of spots where the sync of the multiple sources is drifting apart and I strongly believe they could all sound A LOT better. But as we know CC prefers ‘harsh’/’bright’ sound instead of warm and natural sound.”

 Another poster, hobbes4444, responds by expressing both agreement and disagreement:

“Olli – I’m not sure how you can characterize these releases as bright and harsh…What I’ve heard, I’ve enjoyed…I…think that these mixes sound much better than the previous batch.  Whether that’s because CC has better material to work with, or is using different methods to mix…I don’t know.  But the bottom line, as you acknowledge, these are an improvement over previous releases.  They sound warm and full, not bright shrill and harsh (which I don’t think is characteristic of all CC releases).”

Also responding to olli66, radug612 states that, “I do agree with Olli to a certain extent – the top end is too prominent, especially Mighty Max’s high hats, but it still sounds pretty damn good for a boot!”  I would disagree with the contention that this release has better sound than the most recent of Crystal Cat’s previous releases – in particular, I thought that the sound of Wembley Stadium Wrecking Ball Night was excellent. (However, when writing about the sound of the new Werchter release, hobbes4444 finds Wembley and Werchter to be of similar quality, but considers Werchter to be better than Crystal Cat’s 2012 releases, so perhaps the latter are the “previous releases” referred to.)  My own opinion tallies with that of hobbes4444.  To my ears, the sound of this new release is indeed “warm and full” and there is a depth, punchiness and vibrancy that makes the sound of Stade De France Wrecking Ball Night a clear improvement over that of the older Godfather set.

The packaging is of Crystal Cat’s usual stellar quality.  The front and rear inserts, the twenty-eight page booklet, the additional trifold insert and the discs themselves contain numerous photos from the show, not just of Springsteen and the band, but of, for example, audience members’ request signs, the poster advertising the show (also seen n the front cover of Lucille), fans outside and entering the stadium and the usual view-from-the-microphone shots.  In addition to the track listing and list of band personnel, the booklet reproduces Rose’s Backstreets account.  The inserts are printed on the usual thick glossy paper, and the overall effect, as has become customary with this label, is stunning.

Clearly, due to the upgrade in sound quality, the splendid packaging and, perhaps most crucially, the inclusion of the three pre-show songs, this new Crystal Cat set is now the one to have.

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