The Greatest Rockstar In The World (Eat A Peach EAT 94/95)
Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA, USA – 21 September, 1988
Disc 1: Sting Intro, Born In The U.S.A., The Promised Land, Cover Me, The River, Cadillac Ranch, War, My Hometown, Jungleland, Thunder Road, Glory Days, Born To Run, Raise Your Hand
Disc 2: Chimes Of Freedom, Get Up, Stand Up, Every Breath You Take
Bonus tracks: Wembley Stadium, London, UK – 2 September, 1988: Spare Parts, She’s The One, Glory Days, Light Of Day/Land Of 1000 Dances; Palais Omnisport Bercy, Paris, France – 4 September, 1988 – Bobby Jean; Stadio Communale, Turin, Italy – 8 September, 1988 – Working On The Highway, Because The Night; Alameda Coliseum, Oakland, CA, USA – 23 September, 1988 – Tunnel Of Love[/Tears Of A Clown], Brilliant Disguise, I Ain’t Got No Home
1988 was an unusual year for Bruce Springsteen in terms of live performance. First came the Tunnel Of Love Express Tour, which was a departure from previous tours for a number of reasons. It only kicked off on 25 February 1988, in Worcester, MA, despite being a tour in support of an album released in October 1987, and it was relatively brief, winding up on 3 August in Barcelona. The performances were more choreographed than on previous tours, with band members occupying unfamiliar positions on stage and the Miami Horns (renamed The Horns Of Love) were more prominent than on any previous tour on which they had featured. Moreover, Patti Scialfa also played a more upfront role – a development which you would ascribe purely to musical reasons only if, in the words of Dave Marsh in Bruce Springsteen: On Tour 1968-2005, you were, “as dumb as a doorstop.”
Things took an even more unusual turn during the show in Stockholm on 4 July, where Springsteen publicly announced that, along with Sting, Peter Gabriel, Youssou N’Dour and Tracy Chapman, he would be taking part in the Amnesty International Human Rights Now! Tour to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights. The short tour, which began in London on 2 September and concluded in Buenos Aires on 15 October, took Springsteen to areas of the world in which he had not previously played, including some countries (Hungary, India, Côte d’Ivoire, Zimbabwe, Greece and Costa Rica) to which he has not yet returned. As well as the named artists above, there were other special guests and various local acts.
Springsteen was the final act on the bill, presenting what Christopher Sandford refers to in Springsteen: Point Blank, as a “one-hour bite” of his music. The exception was the concert in Abidjan, the capital of Côte d’Ivoire. This show featured Ivorian reggae singer Ismaël Isaac and Johnny Clegg, described by Wikipedia as, “an important figure in South African popular music history, with songs that mix Zulu with English lyrics and African with various Western music styles.” As the Backstreets book Springsteen: The Man And His Music notes: “This is the first show of the tour in which Bruce is not the final performer. All artists on the tour relinquish the closing spot to the immensely popular African artist Johnny Clegg.” The music of Clegg, who has led bands Juluka and Savuka (his band at the time of this tour) and also toured and recorded as a solo artist, is well worth checking out and I would highly recommend as starting points the Johnny Clegg And Savuka CD Third World Child and the DVD Live And More…, credited to Johnny Clegg with Savuka & Juluka.
Another notable aspect of the tour was the frequency with which the artists guested during each others’ sets. As Jimmy Guterman writes in Runaway American Dream: Listening To Bruce Springsteen:
“There was plenty of interplay between the bands. Every night they’d perform Bob Marley’s ‘Get Up, Stand Up’ and Bob Dylan’s ‘Chimes Of Freedom’ en masse, and each performer showed up during other performer’s sets. Sting would regularly sing ‘The River’ with the E Street Band, sometimes along with L. Shankar, the violinist with Gabriel’s band. Another member of Gabriel’s troupe was former E Street keyboardist David Sancious, who had a chance to play again with his old boss.”
Gary Graff, writing in The Ties That Bind: Bruce Springsteen A to E to Z, notes that, in addition to Shankar and Sancious, “percussionist Mino Cinelau fom Sting’s band became [an] adjunct E Street Band member.” Furthermore, in addition to Sting singing on The River, Springsteen guested on Every Breath You Take and Guterman, who attended the Montreal show, notes that Roy Bittan, Clarence Clemons and Nils Lofgren also accompanied the former Police frontman on this song. Several sources refer to a genuine friendship developing between Springsteen and Sting; additionally Marsh refers to Sting as, “the best foil Bruce ever had, the first who stood next to him as an equal in celebtity and creativity…[who]…occasionally wandered into his set to take the piss, one night appearing with a vacuum cleaner.”
The first dusc kicks off with a brief introduction by Sting, who describes Springsteen as, “the greatest rock star in the world,” thereby providing this release with its title This is followed by a muscular Born In The U.S.A. with an extended instrumental coda, the anthemic The Promised Land and an energetic Cover Me, which together make for a very enjoyable start to the show.
The River sees Sting, introduced as “my new best friend,” joining Springsteen and it Sting who begins the song and handles the majority of the vocals, which adds a pleasing alternative dimension to the performance. This is followed by an effervescent rendition of Cadillac Ranch, the best of the rather vapid rockers from The River, which almost invariably works well in live performance and things remain up-tempo with Edwin Starr’s War, a song played extensively during both of the 1988 tours. A distinct contrast is provided by My Hometown, which is prefaced by a surprisingly effective spoken introduction during which Springsteen contrasts the sense of freedom his younger self experienced through rock ‘n’ roll music with the lack of freedom caused by present day human rights violations – and not just the obvious faraway violations. As he says:
“Human rights violations aren’t just something that happen a thousand miles away around the world. When you pass that homeless man or woman on the street, there are human rights being violated. When people in this very city are deprived of their economic and social rights, there are human rights being violated. Now tonight you have the opportunity to let the voice of your hometown be heard all around the world. You got an opportunity to let the voice of freedom and decency sound just a little bit louder.”
Next up is a very fine performance of the epic Jungleland. This release’s notes call this, “a superb version that highlights the power of Clarence Clemons on the saxophone,” though I thought that this rendition was particularly effective during the quiet vocal and piano section. Not played during the Tunnel Of Love Express Tour, the song had made a surprise appearance during the previous show two nights earlier in Philadelphia and it would not be heard again until the Reunion Tour of 1999-2000. Then we hear a full-band Thunder Road imbued with lightness of touch and a joyful spirit which enhance the song.
A brash Glory Days contains the band introductions and it is succeeded by a spirited Born To Run, before Springsteen’s set proper and the first disc end with the Eddie Floyd number Raise Your Hand, played on numerous occasions by Springsteen since 1976.
The second disc also opens with a Sting intro – this time he introduces Jack Healey, the executive director of Amnesty International USA, whom he refers to as “the father and the architect of this whole tour.” Springsteen is then joined by the other performers, including Baez and U2’s Bono [and also The Edge according to Wikipedia] for Bob Dylan’s Chimes Of Freedom in a version which, as Brucebase points out, “unusually includes the ‘mad mystic hammering’ verse.” As with other shows from the tour, the concert concludes, as it began, with The Wailers’ Get Up, Stand Up. Both songs come across very well, with Springsteen’s vocals being particularly effective in the latter song, though I thought Tracy Chapman’s vocal performance was the highlight of both songs.
Following Springsteen’s set we are offered a pleasing pendant in the shape of an six-and-a-half minute rendition of Every Breath You Take from Sting’s set, on which Springsteen guests. Guterman, whose view of Sting is that, “the guy and his music are insufferable,” nonetheless praises both the song (“the best song he’ll ever write”) and its performance on this tour, which he witnessed in Montreal:
“The two took on ‘Every Breath You Take’ with great feeling, never oversinging, getting inside the song…never rushing, pushing deeper, as the joy of the performance held sway over the paranoia of the lyrics. It’s one of the most controlled and elegant performances of either man’s career.”
The short running time of this tour’s shows afford Eat A Peach the opportunity to add a generous selection of bonus tracks from the tour. The first four are from Wembley Stadium, beginning with what Brucebase points out was, “the first (and only) ‘Spare Parts’ without the horns and the familiar piano/spoken introduction.” Next up is a vivacious She’s The One and this is followed by Glory Days, perhaps a surprising inclusion considering that the song was played in Los Angeles, though this version is characterized by the audience singing at the start of the song before Springsteen comes in, rather in the manner of live performances of Hungry Heart. Finally, we get an energetic Light Of Day, enhanced by a snippet of Chris Kenner’s Land Of 1000 Dances, with its “na na na na na” hook, during which Springsteen encourages the audience to sing along. The song also contains the band introductions.
Bobby Jean is the sole number to feature from Paris, the only city to host two shows on this tour. Interestingly, Springsteen had performed at a televised concert organized by SOS Racisme the day before his Paris show during the Tunnel Of Love Express Tour and one might speculate as to the extent which that experience encouraged him to participate in the Human Rights Now! Tour. Things remain upbeat with two songs from Turin, Working On The Highway and Because The Night, the former being very high-spirited, the latter a strong performance with a splendidly mellifluous guitar solo from Nils Lofgren.
The bonus tracks conclude with three numbers from the Oakland show. The first is Tunnel Of Love, of which Brucebase notes: “The sole ‘Tunnel Of Love’ of the tour, without the usual intro used on the Tunnel Of Love Express Tour, includes ‘Tears Of A Clown’ in the outro.” Songs from the Tunnel Of Love album were rarely performed on this tour and there are none in the main show so it is nice to get a second example in the shape of Brilliant Disguise and both are effective performances. Finally we get Woody Guthrie’s I Ain’t Got No Home, played by Springsteen alone on acoustic guitar and harmonica. This is the first of only five live performances of the song by Springsteen, though he also recorded the song for the album Folkways: A Vision Shared – A Tribute To Woody Guthrie And Leadbelly.
The performances on this tour have divided opinion. Graff writes that, despite the sets’ truncated duration of seventy to eighty minutes, “they were undeniably intense and passionate.” Conversely, Clinton Heylin, in E Street Shuffle: The Glory Days of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, argues that brevity was a major problem: “It was a strangely muted end to the E Street era. The sets themselves lasted barely long enough to raise steam, let alone hands. And the set lists…were extremely predictable.”
In notes on the Jungleland website which discuss the source used for this release “BK for JEMS” effectively discusses this difference of opinion in the context of the main show on this release:
“The distinct nature of the tour makes it something of an anomaly in Springsteen’s concert history, separated from a traditional album tour in support of an extremely worthy cause. The set list in fact omits any song from Tunnel of Love, going back to something closer in spirit to 1985’s outdoor shows, albeit in a much shorter form at under 90 minutes. It hits hard, moves fast, and then its over.
Perhaps because of those unusual circumstances, Amnesty performances have never been held in particularly high esteem, but that’s probably more a reflection of the set lists and durations than the performances themselves. One listen to this recording reminds that the show often jumps with energy and perhaps even some palpable intention to win over the fraction of the audience that wasn’t there to see Springsteen primarily.”
Brucebase notes four sources for this show:
“Audience tape. Four recording sources circulate, available from Mark Persic’s Master tapes and released on CDR ‘Los Angeles 88.’ A second source was released in September 2015 recorded by legendary taper Mike Millard from a first generation tape via JEMS. A third source was also released in September 2015 from a 1st generation tape transfer (mjk5510), this source also includes Bruce guesting on Sting’s ‘Every Breath You Take.’ A fourth source is available from the master tapes (malcolmb). All four sources are very good to excellent quality.”
Eat A Peach utilizes the second source mentioned by Brucebase for this release, adding Every Breath You Take from the third source. BK states that, “Millard’s recording isn’t at his best, breathtaking level, but is still very nice, on par, though different sounding, than the two extant recordings, one of which, by the legendary Persic, provides a patch to complete Millard’s tape.” In fact there are two patches from the Persic tape. The longer, at around a minute, adds Sting’s intro to Chimes Of Freedom, and a change of source can be clearly heard; the second is a seven second patch during My Hometown. The Jungleland notes by mjk5510 which accompany the third source refer to the second source used here as “excellent.” The sound on Every Breath You Take and on the majority of the bonus tracks is slightly inferior to that of the main show, while still being eminently listenable.
This release features Eat A Peach’s trademark single card sleeve, together with two inner sleeves to house the discs and a four page fold-over insert with notes credited to “Billy Devon.” The design combines the tour logo with numerous onstage and offstage shots, which prominently feature Sting and Bono as well as Springsteen.
Overall, the combination of an enjoyable show, very good sound, a generous and thoughtful selection of bonus tracks and attractive packaging make this a desirable release for Springsteen collectors.