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Bruce Springsteen – Summer ’17 Australia And New Zealand (no label, BF-217)

Summer ’17 Australia And New Zealand (no label, BF-217)

Mt. Smart Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand – 25 February, 2017 (discs 1-3); various locations – 22 January – 21 February, 2017 (discs 4-9);  Scottrade Center, St. Louis, MO – 23 August, 2008 (discs 10-12); various locations – 1972-2017 (disc 13)

Disc 1: Darlington County, Working On The Highway, Glory Days, Johnny 99, Prove It All Night, My Love Will Not Let You Down, Out In the Street, Hungry Heart, My City Of Ruins[/Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out], Wrecking Ball, The River

Disc 2: Youngstown, American Skin (41  Shots), The Promised Land, Candy’s Room, Because The Night, The Rising, Badlands, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), 

Disc 3: Backstreets, Born To Run, Dancing In The Dark, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Shout, Bobby Jean, Thunder Road

Disc 4: New York City Serenade, American Land, Land Of Hope And Dreams[/People Get Ready], Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?, Growin’ Up, Spirit In The Night, Lost In The Flood, Kitty’s Back, Incident On 57th Street

Disc 5: Lonesome Day, Darkness On The Edge Of Town, My Hometown, Blood Brothers, Two Hearts/It Takes Two, The Ties That Bind, No Surrender, Long Tall Sally, She’s The One, Downbound Train, I’m On Fire, Thunder Road, Jungleland

Disc 6: The Promised Land, Night, It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City, Cover Me, Radio Nowhere, Ramrod, You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch), Drive All Night, Seven Nights To Rock, Trapped, Something In The Night, Brown Eyed Girl, Racing In The Street, Tenth-Avenue Freeze-Out

Disc 7: Atlantic City, Murder Incorporated, Death To My Hometown, Shout, If I Should Fall Behind, Don’t Hang Up, Long Walk Home, Twist And Shout, This Hard Land, Prove It All Night, Cadillac Ranch, I’m Goin’ Down, Waitin’ On A Sunny Day

Disc 8: Adam Raised A Cain, Rendezvous, Be True, Detroit Medley, Blinded By The Light, Lucky Town, Janey Don’t You Lose Heart,  Back In Your Arms, Better Days, Leap Of Faith, Secret Garden, Working On A Dream, No Surrender

Disc 9: Hungry Heart, Mary’s Place[/The Monkey Time], Roll Of The Dice, Jole Blon, Long Time Comin’, Growin’ Up, Fire, Follow That Dream, Who’ll Stop The Rain, I Fought The Law, None But The Brave, Sherry Darling, My City Of Ruins

Disc 10: Then She Kissed Me, Radio Nowhere, Out In The Street, Adam Raised A Cain, Spirit In The Night, Rendezvous, For You, Mountain Of Love, Backstreets, Gypsy Biker, Because The Night, Not Fade Away/She’s The One

Disc 11: Livin’ In The Future, Cover Me, Mary’s Place, Drive All Night, The Rising, Last To Die, Long Walk Home, Badlands, Girls In Their Summer Clothes

Disc 12: Jungleland, Detroit Medley, Born To Run, Dancing In The Dark, American Land, Thunder Road, Little Queenie, Twist And Shout

Disc 13: Tunnel Of Love, Coming Home, Cadillac Ranch, Prove It All Night, State Trooper, Kitty’s Back, The Patriot Game, Devils & Dust, Backstreets, Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?, Gulf Coast Highway, I’ll Stand By You Always, Blood Brothers

This is the second substantial no label/Wonderland Springsteen box set, following on from The River Tour 2016.  That set had the aim of presenting every song played on the tour, including some significant performance variations.  This set is somewhat less cohesive, containing, as it does, three discs presenting us with the complete final show of the Summer ’17 Tour of Australia and New Zealand, six discs with versions of all the remaining songs from that tour, three discs containing the complete show from St. Louis of 23 August, 2008 (nine years earlier than the other material!) and, finally, one disc containing the miscellany Odds & Sods, already released by Crystal Cat (though included here without the bonus tracks).

As stated above, the show at Auckland’s Mt. Smart Stadium (the third at the venue, after two concerts in 2014), ended the Summer ’17 Tour.  After a dozen performances in Australia, the tour concluded with two concerts in New Zealand, the other having been at the AMI Stadium in Christchurch on 21 February.  There were no tour premieres at the show, though three song received their first New Zealand performances.  Marlon Williams & The Yarra Benders and Jet were the opening acts

The show kicked off with three numbers from the Born In The U.S.A. album, beginning with what Backstreets reviewer Joe Wall calls the “Stones-y riff ” of Darlington County (with a verse sung by Nils Lofgren and solos from Soozie Tyrell and Jake Clemons) followed by, “a typically exuberant ‘Working on the Highway.'”

Next up is the seriocomic Glory Days.  The song’s protagonist, who ruefully looks back on his past, is at least partially based on Springsteen’s own experience, the first verse referring to a chance encounter Springsteen had with former Little League baseball teammate Joe DePugh in the summer of 1973.  New Zealand Herald reviewer Russell Blackstock writes that Springsteen already, “had the crowd eating from his hand,” and this extended version is great fun.

“A trashy, honky tonk, ‘Johnny 99’ ensued,” writes Wall, “with Soozie, Nils and Jake doing solos and joining Bruce on the pit stage lip to a stomping finish.”  Roy Bittan also contributes a piano solo to the song’s first ever performance in New Zealand.  The band then crashes straight into Prove It All Night, which is played without the ’78 intro, though, as Wall notes, the song concludes with, “an extended guitar duel,” featuring Springsteen, Lofgren and Steve Van Zandt.  A vibrant, energetic My Love Will Not Let You Down is succeeded by  an exuberant Out In the Street, with brief vocal contributions from band members.  Hungry Heart, writes Blackstock, “was another big crowd favourite.  As the opening bars of the song started, it was the cue for fans to get on their feet as Springsteen whipped them into party mood, and they sang with every word.”

After all this joyous abandon comes what Sarah Kidd, on the Ambient Light site calls a “poignant” rendition of My City Of Ruins, complete with the brief reference to Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out familiar from this tour.  Springsteen introduced the song by referring to it as, “a song about putting things back together after they’ve fallen apart…’cause everything falls apart.”  Blackstock calls the song “epic” and Wall reckons it to be a “magnificent” performance.  Rose Riddell of Coup de Main magazine notes that, although the song was, “written about his hometown of Asbury Park, New Jersey, the song felt just as pertinent and inspirational in New Zealand today.”  Marty Duda, on www.13thfloor.co.nz, writes that, “what was really notable was Springsteen’s intense, soulful vocal.  I swear if I closed my eyes, I could have been listening to Sam Cooke…it was that good.”

My City Of Ruins is followed by what Wall calls a “roaring” Wrecking Ball and what Kidd states was a “heartbreaking” rendition of The River, complete with Springsteen’s haunting falsetto wordless vocalise at the end.  This brings the first disc to a close.

The splendid performance of Youngstown which opens the second disc brought praise for Lofgren’s guitar contribution, with Wall writing that the performance, “saw Nils ripping a solo like a puppet on a string,” and Kidd arguing that, “with his outstanding solos (particularly during ‘Youngstown’)… the astonishing Nils Lofgren…threatened to steal the show more than once from the boss himself.”

A highly affecting rendition of American Skin (41  Shots), which, in Wall’s words, “brooded and cried” is the second New Zealand premiere of this show.  Blackstock notably also refers to the performance as “brooding” and attendee Sarah Hogan, posting in response to Kidd’s review, states that the performance was “outstanding.”

A rousing rendition of The Promised Land is followed by an electrifying Candy’s Room, the show’s third New Zealand premiere.  Because The Night is played in what Wall contends was, “the most intense version of the song on this tour,” Blackstock additionally referring to the performance as “blistering.”

A sturdy performance of The Rising gives way to, “the furious perfection of ‘Badlands,'” which Wall states, “had us bouncing in place and shouting like mad,” and this in turn gives way to the set-closer, a, “wild, joyous, goofy, exhausting ‘Rosalita.'”  This concludes the second disc.

The encore opened with what Wall calls, “a sublime ‘Backstreets’… Bruce delivered a vocal performance as raw and real as the words themselves.”  In addition to the sung vocals proper, the song includes a semi-sung, semi-spoken interlude largely consisting of the words, “until the end…forever friends.”  Duda was taken with Springsteen’s instrumental rather than vocal prowess, referencing his “mighty guitar solo.”  Of the remaining encore songs, Wall writes that, “the big four of ‘Born to Run,’ ‘Dancing in the Dark’ (the only song to acknowledge sign wavers on this night), ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-out’ and ‘Shout’ got one last blowout.”  Duda was also impressed, writing, “then, like a flurry of knockout punches…Born To Run, Dancing In The Dark and Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out…incredible.”

After the band concluded with a spirited Bobby Jean, as Wall writes, “a tear-jerking acoustic ‘Thunder Road” brought the tour to a close.”  Kidd was also impressed with the show-closer, noting that Springsteen, “serenaded the crowd with a stirring version of ‘Thunder Road.'” Posting in response to Kidd’s review, Melanie Hamer argues that, “the haunting version of Thunder Road stand outs for me.” Duda concludes that, “a stunning acoustic version of Thunder Road…summed up everything that had gone on before.”

Hamer and other attendees who responded to Kidd’s review clearly demonstrated that they went home happy: “We’ve seen Bruce many times, here and in Australia. Last night he was ‘on fire’ the band too!” (Maree Taylor); “Captivating vocals and musical genius” (Colin Rea); ” amazing performance” (Ruth Krippner); “He was stunning last night.  I saw him night 1 in Auckland on the Wrecking Ball tour when he played Born in The USA top to bottom (along with some notable extras) and for me, last night out did last time.” (Hamer); “Auckland was our 7th Bruce & ESB concert.  We rated it one of the best.” (Ellenor Whitfield); “Was my 20th Bruce gig in 29 years.  It was just as good as the first gig bank [ sic] in Dublin in 1989.” (Darren McClure); “Awesome show straight from one song into another without skipping a beat.  Best concert I have ever been to.” (Fiona Rountree).  No surprise, then, that Blackstock argues that Springsteen “electrified” the audience.

A wonderfully atmospheric New York City Serenade, complete with strings, opens the six-disc section of further songs from the Summer’17 Tour.  All the songs from the tour are included, including a few alternative versions of songs performed in Auckland.  It is the first of two songs from the 30 January concert at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre.  It is followed by a boisterous American Land, which Springsteen introduces thus:

“Tonight we want to add our voices to the thousands of Americans who are protesting at airports around our country the Muslim Ban and the detention of foreign nationals and refugees.  America is a nation of immigrants, and we find this anti-democratic and fundamentally un-American. This is…this is an immigrant song!” 

The next eleven songs come from tour’s opening concert the at Perth Arena on 22 January, described by The Guardian as “an epic, inspiring show.”  However, despite the quality of the show, it appears that the audience was less than responsive.  “I hesitate to mention the crowd’s enthusiasm because Aussies are, on the whole, less boisterous concert attendees than others around the world,” writes Wall,  “but, aside from hearty pit disciples, this crowd was comatose for 75% of the night.”  The songs from this show take up the rest of disc four and continue on to disc five. 

Land Of Hope And Dreams, with its customary excerpt from People Get Ready at the end, comes across as less resolute and purposeful than many other live renditions.  The next four songs all come from Springsteen’s debut album Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., beginning with Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?  in a performance that comes across as rather too stately, though Charlie Giordano’s organ solo is sprightly enough.  Growin’ Up possesses a little more vivacity and charm and contains, as David Prestipino of The Sydney Morning Herald writes, “a personal interlude that was classic Springsteen.”  This takes the shape of the familiar monologue describing how he acquired his first guitar.  Then come an exuberant Spirit In The Night, with the now-customary opening containing some call-and-response with the audience, and a tremendously powerful Lost In The Flood, which features what Wall calls, “the night’s first blistering guitar solo from Bruce.” 

There follow sparkling performances of a duo of numbers from the second album, The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle, of which Wall writes:

“‘Kitty’s Back’ shined [sic] a spotlight on Charlie, Jake, Roy and an extremely hip-looking Garry [Tallent] and ended with Bruce and Steve injecting the sprawling tune with psychedelic guitar work…’Incident’ followed…a full-on, blown-out ‘Incident.’  Gorgeous, melancholy, rousing and on this night offering a soothing ‘Good night, it’s all right’ to a world waiting for shit to go down. “

Of these early songs, Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?, Lost In The Flood, Kitty’s Back and Incident On 57th Street receive their only performances of the tour.

A solid Lonesome Day and an emotive Darkness On The Edge Of Town are followed by the quietly moving My Hometown.  The final song from the tour’s opening show, Blood Brothers, has already appeared as one of the bonus tracks on Wonderland’s Sydney 2/7/2017, reviewed on 1 February.

Energetic renditions of Two Hearts, ending with the usual snippet of It Takes Two, (25 January- Perth) and The Ties That Bind and No Surrender Two (30 January – Adelaide) are followed by four songs (Long Tall Sally, She’s The One, Downbound Train and I’m On Fire) from the  show of 7 February at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, which constitutes the major part of Sydney 2/7/2017.

Thunder Road is the first of two songs from the show at Brisbane Entertainment Centre on 16  February.  Unlike the performance from Auckland, this is the full-band version though, like the Auckland version, it closed the show.  The splendid rendition of the epic Jungleland was played before Thunder Road, being the encore’s opener.  Springsteen dedicated it to a Canadian fan named Brett, who had travelled widely to be at numerous shows but had never heard the song live, though we do not hear the dedication here.

Disc 6 opens with The Promised Land from Hanging Rock, Macedon on 11 February.  This acoustic rendition, described by Wall as “quietly rousing” opened the show.  It is followed by eight songs from the show of 27 January, the last of the three nights at the Perth Arena which opened the tour.  The first four (Night, It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City, Cover Me and Radio Nowhere, the latter of which appears as a bonus track on the Sydney set) followed the opener, New York City Serenade.  Of this quartet, Backstreets reviewer Steven Strauss writes:

And here I thought an opening (post-‘NYC Serenade’ of course) couldn’t get any more scorching than night two [where New York City Serenade was followed by American Land, The Ties That Bind and No Surrender], but along comes Bruce to outdo himself again with ‘Night.’  Does any other song in his arsenal establish as breakneck of a pace?  ‘It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City’ kept it going, Bruce and Stevie reprising their guitar duel, ahead into ‘Cover Me’ and ‘Radio Nowhere.’  Australians seem to love his newer material, inspiring Bruce to engage in a deafening ‘I just want to hear some rhythm’ call-and-response with the crowd.”

Exuberant performances of Ramrod and You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)  are followed by an arrestingly beautiful Drive All Night, rightly described by Strauss as, “transcendent as always.”  The last Perth number is an animated rendition of Moon Mullican’s Seven Nights To Rock, which is, in the view of Strauss, an “encore highlight.”

A tightly-sprung performance of Trapped, a tour premiere, is the first of five songs on the sixth disc from the show which directly followed the Perth performances, from the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on 30 January.  The next three numbers were also tour premieres and, indeed, were only performed once on the tour.  A haunting performance of Something In The Night is described by Backstreets reviewer Brenda VanHorn thus:

“The stage went dark, one by one the musicians dropped off, until all that was left was one man, one voice, with a heartbeat drum telling a story of tragedy and anguish, finishing with a howl of pain and frustration that we all felt.”

Next comes the Van Morrison classic Brown Eyed Girl, played, as  Brucebase relates, “by sign request of some Australians dressed up as characters from TV show The Honeymooners.  They are called up the stage to join and even play the piano.”   Footage can be seen on YouTube and posting there in response to a query regarding their identity, Craig Fields states that they are, “Jon Pemberton a local Adelaide radio personality his brother & I assume their partners.”  The fourth song is a superb rendition of Racing In The Street.  VanHorn writes of, “the swell of piano notes,” which created, “music so beautiful my soul aches.”  The fifth number, which ends disc six, is a full-band Tenth-Avenue Freeze-Out, one of two numbers from the encore for which the E Street Band was joined by Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora (the other, Shout, comes later).

The seventh disc initially takes us back to Perth for very effective performances of three songs from the second show of 25 January, Atlantic City, Murder Incorporated and Death To My Hometown.  None were played at the first show and so all three are tour premieres. They were played along with Johnny 99 and Wall writes of:

“A Sessions-style ‘Johnny 99’ (in which Steve was caught unawares for his guitar solo as Bruce busted his chops with “c’mon, Little Steven, c’mon,” the favor returned when Bruce’s solo made Steve laugh out loud) bookended by jackhammer renditions of ‘Atlantic City’ and ‘Murder Incorporated’; a typically rousing ‘Death to My Hometown’ (Bruce spitting the line ‘no dictators were crowned’).”

A vivacious Shout, which includes the band introductions, is the Adelaide performance with Richie Sambora mentioned above.  It seems most odd that it should be separated from Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.  The moving solo acoustic If I Should Fall Behind started the show’s encore.  As VanHorn writes: 

“The encores began with a dedication of ‘If I should Fall Behind’ to Brady, from his mom in memory.  Bruce performed solo, his voice and guitar the only sound in the crowded arena.  It was a pure, heartfelt expression of love that surrounded us and lifted us up, a prayer of beautiful harmony and promise.  We are in this together.”

The Adelaide Review writer Walter Marsh, equally impressed, writes of the, “threadbare, solo delivery of If I Should Fall Behind that brings the entire arena to a deathly hush.”

Unfortunately, we do not hear the dedication and the song’s beginning is marred both by the inclusion of a few seconds of Rosalita, which followed Shout without a break, and a rather sudden start.

Springsteen’s rendition of The Orlons’ Don’t Hang Up, the first of three songs from 2 February at Melbourne’s AAMI Park has already appeared as a bonus track on Sydney 2/7/2017.  Like Don’t Hang Up, which opened the show, Long Walk Home, with which Springsteen began the encore, is a solo acoustic performance and in this guise it effectively conveys what Springsteen was trying to say in the song: “In that particular song a guy comes back to his town and recognizes nothing and is recognized by nothing…His world has changed.  The things that he thought he knew, the people who he thought he knew, whose ideals he had something in common with, are like strangers.”  .  Like If Should Fall Behind, the song unfortunately cuts in rather suddenly. 

Twist And Shout closed the show  accompanied by fireworks which are heard clearly here.  Wall writes that:

“Bruce discovered he had the wrong guitar for “Twist and Shout”; Kevin [Buell] popped out with the right one, and Freehold’s favorite son thrashed a version of the first song he ever learned to play on guitar, with some ‘boogaloo’ piano from Roy and a look of ecstasy on his mug.” 

The disc concludes with five songs from the same venue two nights later.  A full-band This Hard Land, featuring piano and violin solos, was a sign request (this was first show of the tour where sign requests were taken) and tour premiere Prove It All Night, complete with the ’78 intro, provided a distinct contrast with the previous number, New York City Serenade (not heard here).  As Wall writes:

“Bruce always surprises – it’s why we keep going back – but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more unlikely way to roar the E Street Band back up again than with Roy’s piano intro leading to Springsteen’s tour de force guitar work on the ’78 version of ‘Prove It All Night.’  Where ‘NYC Serenade’ was Bruce’s definition of an epic in 1973, only five years later the stripped-down Darkness on the Edge of Town gave rise to this cherished, slashing-guitar rendition of ‘ Prove It.”  Heard back-to-back they were a masterclass on Springsteen’s precocious rise in the ’70s from boardwalk poet to street-racing, working man gunslinger.  It also had Steve drop his consigliere role and smash a monster solo.”

The next three songs were played together near the end of the main set.  Of Cadillac Ranch Wall writes: “Solos from Steve, Nils on pedal steel, and Soozie on fiddle flavored the River rocker with a touch of crackling country and western.”  An exuberant rendition of I’m Goin’ Down is then followed by a jaunty Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, which gets off the ground after more than one false start and which contains a vocal turn from a youngster plucked from the audience.

The eighth disc is supposed to open with two songs from Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena show of 9 February.  “‘Adam Raised a Cain’ had been played sporadically during the 2013 and 2014 tours,” notes Wall,  “but without a horn section its blazing guitar assault was unobstructed, and on this version Bruce wielded his Fender like a dagger.”  The second of these songs, Detroit Medley, is another song which has already made an appearance on the Sydney release.

A wonderfully deft and agile Blinded By The Night comes from the Hanging Rock show and the brief spoken intro has Springsteen lamenting that his only number one single came via the Manfred Mann version despite (or because of, according to Springsteen) the errors in the lyrics.  

Then, according to the track listing, come eight songs from the 14 February concert at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.  The show opened with New York City Serenade, and we hear the six songs which followed it (Lucky Town, Janey Don’t You Lose Heart, Rendezvous, Be True, Back In Your Arms and Better Days) plus two others (Leap Of Faith and Secret Garden).  Five of these numbers (Lucky Town, Janey Don’t You Lose Heart, Better Days, Leap Of Faith and Secret Garden) have previously appeared on Sydney 2/7/2017.

Of the other three songs, Backstreets reviewer Sean Sennett writes :

“‘Rendezvous’ was stunning and was followed by an equally uplifting ‘Be True.’  Next was another sign request, ‘Back in Your Arms.’  Professor Roy kicked it off, and Bruce and the band followed.  As the song twisted and turned, Bruce gave it his all before confiding, ‘the band has this all fucked up!’  He steered the E Streeters to focus on Nils as the ship was turned around. ‘We’re gonna get our asses into this thing if it kills us,’ Bruce announced.  To say his singing in the final furlong was magnificent would be underselling it.  The song was saved, and with great humor Bruce added, ‘Before you commit suicide, let me play you this next one.'”

Steve Bell, writing on themusic.com.au, also writes of how Springsteen turned around the performance of Back In Your Arms:

“Back In Your Arms…of which the band completely makes a meal, Springsteen stopping them mid-song and soliciting guitarist Nils Lofgren to play the right progression to get them back on track.  What to many would be an embarrassing situation becomes a fun diversion courtesy of Springsteen’s everyman appeal, the consummate frontman shrugging it off with a grin and jumping straight back [to] the soul sermon without the slightest setback.”

The ability of Springsteen to rescue a failing performance is also commented on by the Point Blank website, which adds that, “an emotive ‘Back In Your Arms’…was plagued by mistakes but Bruce came out victorious through it.”

In reality, we do not hear all of the 14 February Brisbane songs together, as two of them appear out of order.  As indicated by my track listing included above, Rendezvous and Be True are not, as listed on the packaging, the sixth and seventh songs on the disc; instead they appear second and third, separating them from the other songs from the same show and also splitting the two Sydney numbers, Adam Raised A Cain and the Detroit Medley.

Working On A Dream, displaying what Rolling Stone reviewer Brian Hyatt calls, “a rare…moment of unabashed optimism” from Springsteen, is from the Brisbane concert played two days later.  No Surrender comes from the 18 February show at the Hope Estate Winery, Hunter Valley.  Newcastle Herald reviewer Jim Kellar notes that, “a kid in the crowd from South Point, New Jersey, hopped on stage and helped sing his own request song, No Surrender.”  Viewing the performance on YouTube, however, indicates that the fan, identified by posters as “Bill,” is rather too old to be described as a “kid.”  This ends the eighth disc.

Disc nine returns us to Brisbane on 16 February for a further eight songs.  First up is a wonderfully ebullient Hungry Heart.  The audience sings lustily at the beginning and the performance is also enhanced by a lengthy play-out.  Then comes an irrepressibly high spirited Mary’s Place.  An energetic Roll Of The Dice is also most enjoyable, despite a complete hash being made of the song’s beginning, leading Springsteen to say, “I’m making this up as I go along.” 

Jole Blon and Long Time Comin’ have already appeared as bonus tracks on Sydney 2/7/2017.  The latter song was succeeded by Growin’ Up.  As I wrote in my review of the Sydney set:

“Springsteen invited fifteen-year-old Nathan Testa on to the stage to play acoustic guitar on the song after spotting his sign that read “Missed school, in the shit now, can I play Growin’ Up with you?”  Nothing unusual in that, one might think.  However, this was not the first occasion on which Testa joined Springsteen onstage – in March 2013 in Brisbane he had been pulled out of the audience to sing on Waitin’ On A Sunny Day.  Oddly, we hear Springsteen noticing the sign, reading what it said and inviting Testa onstage, together with the audience’s reaction as he makes his way to the stage, but the song itself is not included here.”

However, now we do have the song, complete with the introduction.  It is a most enjoyable performance, with Testa performing a vocal duet with Springsteen, as well as playing guitar.  The performance includes a short mid-song spoken interlude in which Springsteen tells of acquiring his first guitar, noting that, “I realized it wasn’t about how well you played it, but  it was how good you looked doing it.”  At the end Springsteen, jokingly referencing Jon Landau’s notorious comment, says, “I have seen the future of rock and roll and its name is…Nathan Testa!”

Fire is rather less slow and sultry than some versions but enjoyable nonetheless.  Lastly from Brisbane comes Springsteen’s take on Elvis Presley’s Follow That Dream, from the 1962 film of the same name.  Stated by Springsteen to be one of his favourite Elvis songs, it was first performed, in a slower version with some altered lyrics (and, later, a further added verse), in 1981 during the River Tour.  This rendition is a little faster than the original River Tour performances.

Who’ll Stop The Rain, I Fought The Law and None But The Brave, three songs from Hunter Valley, have also already appeared as bonus tracks on Sydney 2/7/2017.

A bouyant Sherry Darling is the first of two songs from the 21 February show at the AMI Stadium in Christchurch, New Zealand which bring the ninth disc to a close.  Of the second, My City Of Ruins, James Croot writes on www.stuff.co.nz:

“He unleashed potentially the [most] emotional part of the night – his 2002 song My City of Ruins, which Springsteen dedicated not only to those who lost their lives on February 22, 2011 [in the Christchurch earthquake], but also the emergency service workers during both that time and in the Port Hills fires last week (he later dedicated My Hometown to his nominated charity of the night – the Christchurch City Mission).  I saw many tear-stained faces during the marathon 10-minute version.”

After nine discs featuring songs from last years’ antipodean tour, Wonderland fill out three of the four remaining discs with the show from the Scottrade Center, St.Louis, MO on 23 August, 2008.  Brucebase notes that the show has appeared in three audience-sourced incarnations, the CD releases,Lying in the Heat of the Night (Godfather) and St. Louis Magic Night (Crystal Cat) and the torrent All The Stars Shining (Ev2),  which the site contends is, “probably the best of the bunch.”  Two multiple IEM/audience torrents (Ev2 – 8 x IEM/audience; Hoserama – 8 x IEM/ALD/2 x audience) have since appeared as well as the official recording, which, as with the Antipodean shows, is utilized for this release.

I reviewed the Godfather release in October 2008 and readers are directed to that review for full details of the performance though I will say here that I concluded that it was, “probably the best performance from a great tour.”  Brucebase was also impressed, stating: “Wow, what a show.  Has to go down as one of the best of the Reunion era.”  Since then, the show has garnered numerous plaudits from many sources.  Posters on Springsteen’s website, responding to the show’s official release state: “An amazing show” (Jack Mahoney); “What a show…One of the best concerts I’ve been to.” (Josh Gilbert); “I was there.  You knew it was a special night…The energy, the excitement.  Relentless!” (Karen Young); “I was there, phenomenal show!!” (Steve Hutsko).  Additionally, posters on YouTube are also mightinly impressed, stating: “might be the best show from the Magic Tour.  Rowdy, fun and an absolutely riveting performance (Spring Sting 1978); “wonderful concert” (Teresa Pascual); “love this show” (Steve P); “a totally AMAZING show” (Randy Rappe); “Best show given since the 88 tour, maybe even since 81.” (Meint Hofstee).  The notes accompanying the EV2 version on Jungleland argue that, “no question, St. Louis was a peak performance, with a mind-blowing setlist and the energy to match.”  The notes accompanying Hoserama’s torrent state:

“St. Louis 2008 is considered to be one of the top shows of Bruce’s live shows over the past 15 years, and depending on who you talk to, one of the top shows of his whole career.  The band was in rare form towards the end of that 2008 American Leg, and everything just came together in a perfect storm for St. Louis.  Everybody I’ve spoken to raved about this show, and I consider it a damn shame that I didn’t personally get to see it!”

Attendee 610tcm responds on Jungleland with a post stating that, “it was the best Bruce show I’ve ever seen.  It was an amazing, emotional show that I got to share with friends.  We still talk about this show.”

The final disc presents the Odds & Sods collection, the Crystal Cat release of which I reviewed on 7 April 2017, concluding that, “this is a disc which belongs in every serious Springsteen collection…[a] gem of a release.”  The disc included in this set does not contain the three bonus tracks (one a pre-song speech) which Crystal Cat added to its version, though one of them, Don’t Hang Up, does appear on disc seven. (The other is Blood Brothers.)

All the material on this set, except for Odds & Sods, has been sourced from the official releases available as downloads or CD-Rs from Springsteen’s website.  The Australian and New Zealand songs have the same high level of sound quality as previous releases of recent shows from this label.  The sound quality of the St. Louis show is also excellent, though a notch down from the Antipodean material.  There are, however, examples of brief and unnecessary fade-ins added to songs which begin suddenly.  This is clearly noticeable on Youngstown and Backstreets, which begin the second and third discs respectively.

The discs are housed in a box similar to the previous The River Tour 2016 set and also come with a twenty page booklet.  This has the track listing, numerous onstage shots and pictures of some promotional material and tickets for some of the shows. The sticker on the front of the box indicates that this is a numbered edition of three hundred.  Upon opening the box I found that the discs were in thin round-ended antistatic inner sleeves, rather than the smooth over-sized ones used for the River set.  The discs themselves all contain the same posed photograph of Springsteen, clearly taken from the shoot for the cover of the Magic album.

Overall, there is much to recommend about this set.  The complete show from Auckland is terrific and the six discs of additional material from the 2017 tour are also most enjoyable, with many excellent performances.  Furthermore, the inclusion of the exceptional St. Louis show in upgraded sound quality constitutes a very desirable bonus, though, with no connection to the main body of material, it would surely have been more logical to have released it separately.  The addition of Odds & Sods is even more puzzling and I imagine that the vast majority of collectors who would be interested in this set will already have the Crystal Cat version, though any who have not will doubtless be grateful for its inclusion.

The inclusion of unconnected material may not be overly problematic.  However, as stated above, four songs from the first Sydney concert appear in this set, despite obviously already being included in the Sydney 2/7/2017 release.  Furthermore, another fourteen of the seventy-five songs from the Antipodean shows included on discs four to nine have already appeared on the fourth disc from the Sydney set, which is entitled “Rarities from the Australian Tour 2017.”  Although the reason for this is obviously to make this set a comprehensive record of the tour, purchasers of the Sydney set may well feel short-changed.  Also, though there are runs of numbers from the same shows, there are also examples of songs from the same concerts appearing on different discs, when it would surely have made more sense to keep them together.  Additionally, there is the discrepancy between the disc content and the track listing noted above with regard to the eighth disc.

Overall, despite the overlap of material with the Sydney set, this release has a very great deal to recommend it, with much to enjoy from the Summer ’17 Tour, not least the complete Auckland show, a significant sound upgrade of a superb concert from 2008 and (for those who do not have it) a chance to acquire the splendid compilation Odds & Sods.  Consequently, this release is highly recommended to Springsteen collectors.

 

 

If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

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2 comments

  1. Surprise, surprise. A Wonderland title without major glitches! Excellent review, as usual. Reviews of LIVE IN BASEL 1988 and EAST RUTHERFORD 1984 will be most welcome.

  2. This review was just an incredible tour de force. Thanks so much!

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