Various locations, 16 January – 14 September, 2016
Disc 1: The Ties That Bind, Sherry Darling, Jackson Cage, Two Hearts[/It Takes Two], Independence Day, Hungry Heart, Out In The Street, Crush On You, You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch), [Here She Come Walkin’/]I Wanna Marry You, The River, Point Blank, Cadillac Ranch, I’m A Rocker
Disc 2: Fade Away, Stolen Car, Ramrod, The Price You Pay, Drive All Night[/Dream Baby Dream], Wreck On The Highway, Loose Ends, Meet Me In The City, Roulette, I Wanna Be With You, From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come), Be True, Detroit Medley, Rebel Rebel, Purple Rain
Disc 3: Thunder Road, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Night, Backstreets, Born To Run, She’s The One, Meeting Across The River, Jungleland, Shout[/Can I Get A Witness], Spirit In The Night, Born To Run
Disc 4: 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, Pink Cadillac, Jersey Girl, My Love Will Not Let You Down
Disc 5: Badlands, Adam Raised A Cain, Something In The Night, Candy’s Room, Racing In The Street, The Promised Land, Factory, Streets Of Fire, Prove It All Night, Darkness On The Edge Of Town, Iceman, Rendezvous, The Promise, Because The Night, Fire, Save My Love
Disc 6: Blinded By The Light, Growin’ Up, For You, Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?, Lost In The Flood, Spirit In The Night, It’s Hard To be A Saint In The City, Lonesome Day, Into The Fire, Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, Mary’s Place, You’re Missing, The Rising, My City Of Ruins
Disc 7: The E Street Shuffle, 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), Kitty’s Back[/James Bond Theme], Incident On 57th Street, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), New York City Serenade, Radio Nowhere, I’ll Work For Your Love, Long Walk Home, My Lucky Day
Disc 8: Tougher Than The Rest, Tunnel Of Love, Brilliant Disguise, Human Touch, Roll Of The Dice, Better Days, Lucky Town, If I Should Fall Behind, Living Proof, Secret Garden, Murder Incorporated, The Ghost Of Tom Joad, Youngstown
Disc 9: We Take Care Of Our Own, Shackled And Drawn, Jack Of All Trades, Death To My Hometown, Wrecking Ball, Land Of Hope And Dreams[/People Get Ready], American Land, Nebraska, Atlantic City, Mansion On The Hill, Johnny 99, Reason To Believe
Disc 10: Mansion On The Hill, Thunder Road, The Ghost Of Tom Joad, Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?, Long Walk Home, Growin’ Up, For You, I’ll Work For Your Love, This Hard Land, 4th Of July Asbury Park (Sandy), Take It Easy, New York City Serenade
Disc 11: American Skin (41 Shots), Because The Night, Spirit In The Night, Born To Run, Light Of Day[/Land of 1000 Dances], Bobby Jean, Shout, Death To My Hometown, It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City, Prove It All Night, Growin’ Up, Dancing In The Dark
Disc 12: The Fever, Trapped, Thundercrack, Rocking All Over The World, Pretty Flamingo, Twist And Shout[/La Bamba], Travelin’ Band, Lucille, Jole Blon, Summertime Blues, Seeds, Boom Boom, Shout[/Can I Get A Witness]
Disc 13: Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town, Who’ll Stop The Rain, Dream Baby Dream, Back In Your Arms, Follow That Dream, Streets Of Philadelphia, This Hard Land, Frankie, None But The Brave, You Never Can Tell, American Skin (41 Shots), Light Of Day[/Land Of 1000 Dances], Seven Nights To Rock
This thirteen-disc boxed set covering 2016’s The River Tour, with no label name appearing anywhere but coming from Wonderland, kicks off with The River. It is not, however, a complete performance from a single show, but a compilation drawn from many different concerts. Each disc in this collection has a title, so that the first disc is called The River – Part 1.
Christopher Phillips, writing on the Backstreets website, notes of the album and its live performances:
“From the jokes to the lonely nights, the built-to-last record sequence has all the peaks and valleys of a typical Springsteen concert in its bones. More than any other of his albums, as Springsteen told us…The River was really created and sequenced to give listeners something like the experience of an E Street Band concert: ‘That’s why we took all the time we did with it,’ Bruce told us, ‘it was our idea of new material that played like a show…with The River, we were taking a swing at trying to get some of that feeling and some of that ambiance onto the album.’ So seeing it come full circle – from the live show everyone raved about, to studio material meant to simulate it, back to the concert stage – is a deeply satisfying cycle.”
The start of the first disc takes us back to the tour’s opening show at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh on 16 January with what Scott Mervis, of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, rightly calls a “jubilant” rendition of The Ties That Bind. The effervescent performance of Sherry Darling comes from the Metlife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ on 23 August, the first show of the final leg of the tour and the first of three at the venue. Jackson Cage is one of seven songs from The River given an outing on 27 January at the first of two shows played at New York’s, Madison Square Garden, which in November 2009 had been the venue for the only complete performance of The River before this tour. Phillips writes that, “the musical highlights just start piling up as The River rolls on…the rhythm section on ‘Jackson Cage,’ with Max’s steady propulsion punctuated by monster fills, working in tandem with Garry’s complex basslines and giving Roy’s piano something to ride.”
Phillips goes on to comment that, “the River portion of the River Tour may prove not to be for everyone – there were times during the quieter stretches of tonight’s album sequence when the Garden might as well have been a coffeehouse, with the chat level in the audience” – something echoed by several other Backstreets writers in accounts of other shows and also by Caryn Rose on jukeboxgraduate.com, who writes in her account of the Madison Square Garden concert that, “the talking people are crazy-making…These tickets were so hard to get, and cost so much money, and the performances were so magnificent, but yet it was like being in the loudest bar you could think of on a weekend.”
The lively performance of Two Hearts comes from the Verizon Center in Washington, DC on 29 January and it concludes with the customary snippet of It Takes Two. It is followed by an affecting Independence Day taken from the Prudential Center, Newark, NJ on 31 January. An enjoyably animated version of Hungry Heart comes from the show of 2 February at the Air Canada Center in Toronto. Steven Strauss, who writes numerous concert reviews for Backstreets (and who was invited onstage, to his clear delight, to sing during Growin’ Up at the Oracle Arena in Oakland on 13 March), comments that, “the Toronto crowd was by far the most engaged and vocal of the tour…[and]…was exceedingly eager to show Bruce how impressed they were by singing loudly throughout, even garnering a stated ‘A+!’ grade from Bruce after the ‘Hungry Heart’ sing-along.”
An ebullient Out In The Street comes from the show at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix on 10 March. Backstreets reviewer Jon Greer notes that the song, along with Crush on You and You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch) brought, “the show-within-the-show to a fever pitch.” The rather heavy-handed version of Crush On You that we actually hear comes from the show of 8 February at the Union Center, Albany, NY (another show which featured much audience chatter, as Strauss notes). The wonderfully energetic performance of the equally vacuous You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch), with an extended play-out, is drawn from the full-album performance of 28 July at Frognerparken in Oslo, the second concert in that city and the penultimate one of the tour’s middle European leg. This show was opened by local band The Dogs.
Things slow down with I Wanna Marry You, from 21 February at the KFC Yum! Center, Louisville, KY. The song is preceded by the Here She Comes Walkin’ introduction, which is beautifully done. Courier-Journal reviewer Jeffrey Lee Puckett was impressed, arguing that, “a long, slow build-up to ‘I Wanna Marry You’ elevated a good song to an outright great one.” The excellent performances of The River (BB&T Center, Sunrise, FL – 16 February) and Point Blank (Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA – 18 February) are both profoundly moving. Springsteen’s wordless vocalise and harmonica part at the end of The River are most atmospheric and Point Blank’s dramatic piano and cymbals introduction (first heard on the original River Tour) is highly effective in setting the scene for the song. A high-spirited Cadillac Ranch, featuring Soozie Tyrell on violin, was played at the third of three shows at the L.A. Sports Arena in Los Angeles on 19 March, the cheery music belying the song’s underlying theme. The first disc then concludes with the vapid but nonetheless enjoyable I’m A Rocker from the Moda Center, Portland, OR on 22 March.
Disc 2 completes The River and adds another nine songs and is therefore designated The River Part 2 + More. Fade Away (introduced by Springsteen as, “a little Jersey soul for ya”) and a hauntingly elegiac Stolen Car, which begin a run of almost wholly slow songs at the album’s tail end, come from the Sprint Center in Kansas City (7 April) and The Palace Of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, MI (13 April) respectively. Then comes a slightly leaden Ramrod, the only rocker among the last nine River songs, drawn from the concert of 3 April (misdated 30 April on the track listing) held at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK. Greer argues that:
“I don’t think I’ve ever been at a Springsteen show with less crowd energy overall. There were people in the back who never stood and didn’t even applaud at the end of The River or even at the end of the show…You could tell Bruce was struggling to supply the energy from the very start – and, the professionals that he and the band are, they kept it up – but the extra elevation that occurs when a crowd gives it right back to them wasn’t happening here.”
The Price You Pay emanates from the Royal Farms Arena, Baltimore on 20 April. Magnus Lauglo writes on Backstreets that, “the last third of The River is challenging for the crowd, due to the higher number of slow songs. Bruce counteracts this, in part, by cranking up the tempo on a more anthemic ‘The Price You Pay.'” However, he rightly notes that there is no way to “rush through” the “multiple obscure ballads” at the end of the album with the inevitable effect on the attention spans of numerous audience members. He also doubts (essentially correctly, as it turned out) whether the full-album performances would continue beyond the tour’s first leg.
The achingly beautiful version of Drive All Night, which contains a brief reference to Dream Baby Dream, was played on 23 April at the first of the two concerts at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. The performance grows in intensity as it progresses until it reaches a highly emotive conclusion. Jonathan Punt contends on Backstreets that, “toward the end of ‘Drive All Night,’ Springsteen delivered one line (‘dry your eyes, pretty baby!’) with an intensity that shot through the arena. That moment moved the number up a level.” Then comes the final song from The River, Wreck On The Highway in a nicely restrained performance from 3 March at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI. As the song concludes, Springsteen informs the audience of the essence of The River:
“Well, The River was about time – time slipping away and how, once you enter the adult life, when you choose your partner and you choose your work, the clock starts ticking and you walk alongside not only the people you’ve chosen to travel with, but you walk alongside of your own mortality and you realize you have a limited amount of time to do your work, to raise your family, to try and do something good. That’s The River.”
Backstreets writer Marya Morris, who reviewed the Milwaukee show, is another to comment on audience chatter during the later, slower numbers from The River, stating that fortunately the “loud and enveloping sound” at the show drowned out “chitchat,” though she also rather curiously claims that the audience, unlike at some other venues, was “phenomenally attentive.”
The remainder of disc features nine further songs, the first six of which are outtakes from The River. The first is Loose Ends, performed at the XL Center, Hartford, CT on 10 February. It was the third show in succession to feature the tour premiere of a River outtake, the other premieres being Be True and Roulette. Lowell D. Kern writes on Backstreets that, “although not everyone in the Hartford crowd seemed to either recognize ‘Loose Ends’ or realize the significance of getting another lost classic, a powerful performance left the cognoscenti overjoyed.”
The first Swedish appearance of the sprightly Meet Me In The City, from the first show at Ullevi, Gothenburg on 23 July, opened the show and acted as an introduction to a full album performance of The River. Indeed, the song preceded every complete performance of The River during the tour other than the one in Paris. Two earlier shows at this venue in June made Gothenburg the only European city to host three concerts during this tour. The audience clearly enjoyed the song and can be heard clapping along enthusiastically throughout.
The splendid performance of Roulette is taken from the second of two shows at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza (better known as the San Siro) in Milan on 5 July. As with Loose Ends, the song, another classic among the album’s outtakes, seemed lost on the more casual fans, Ralf Dissman writing on Backstreets that, “as great as it was to hear ‘Roulette,’ it was far from getting the greatest response of the night.” A muscular I Wanna Be With You comes from the first European show at the Camp Nou, Barcelona on 14 May, its first performance in Spain, and the fast-paced From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come) was played as the result of a sign request on 9 September at Citizens Park Bank in Philadelphia. Clinton Heylin, in E Street Shuffle: The Glory days of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, has similar things to say about the two songs, characterizing I Wanna Be With you as, “one of those great throwaway songs too in the moment to make it through the quagmire of the Springsteen selection process,” and From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come) as, “one of those great rockabilly throwaways [Springsteen] used to bring to the Darkness sessions just to keep the band on its toes.”
Be True, one of my favourite Springsteen songs, comes from the concert at Wembley Stadium on 5 June, its second appearance of the tour and its first performance in England. Backstreets reviewer Connor Kirkpatrick was clearly very impressed:
“Few songs sound as pure as ‘Be True,’ which allowed the E Street Band to truly reassume its 1980 sound. Each member of the band was integral to the performance, with Roy Bittan’s piano and Max’s cymbals defining its opening. Stevie’s vocal accompaniment turned rhetoric into conversation, creating the sense of young men appealing to the love of a girl. Jake Clemons’s saxophone brought ‘Be True’ to its climax, as Bruce stood alongside him with a smile on his face.”
The rendition of the Detroit Medley, dedicated to an audience member called Stephanie who was celebrating her twenty-second birthday, comes from the show at First Niagara Center, Buffalo, NY on 25 February. Strauss notes that, “Bruce opened the encore with perhaps his biggest love letter of a cover to red-hot rock ‘n’ roll: a feverish ‘Detroit Medley,’ and Niagara Gazette reviewer Thom Jennings notes that, “the band was absolutely on fire.”
We then return to the tour’s opening night for Springsteen’s tribute to the recently deceased David Bowie, which took the form of opening the encore with Rebel Rebel, the lead single from Bowie’s 1974 album Diamond Dogs. Springsteen tells the audience:
“I don’t know if people know, but he supported our music way, way, way back in the very, very beginning – 1973. He rang me up and I visited him down at Philly when he was making the Young Americans record and he covered some of my music – Hard to Be a Saint in the City and Growin’ Up – and he was a big supporter of ours…I took the Greyhound bus down to Philadelphia, that’s how early it was…Anyway, we’re thinking of him.”
“With the crowd shouting along…’Rebel Rebel’ was a major highlight,” contends Phillips, “a fantastic blast of rock ‘n’ roll that felt perfect for the E Street Band.” Caryn Rose’s more measured view, on the Ultimate Classic Rock website, is that it was, “a solid, credible rendition of the Bowie classic.”
The next song, Purple Rain, is the first encore number from the second Brooklyn show of 25 April, which closed the first leg of the tour. The song had opened the first show, in tribute to Prince, who had died two days previously, making that the only show of the first leg not to open with Meet Me In The City (which is instead played second), and it got its third and final outing at the first show of the tour’s second leg in Barcelona. Phillips writes that, “as the encore opened with ‘Purple Rain,’ in the same slot where ‘Rebel Rebel’ appeared as a tribute to David Bowie on this tour’s opening night, Lofgren and his guitar once again provided a transcendent moment.”
It was during this show that Springsteen, confirming Lauglo’s premise, informed the audience that, “tonight this is going to be our last official performance of The River from start to finish…We’re gonna open up our setlists over in Europe. So let’s go down to The River one more time and see what we find.” There were only three further complete performances on the tour, all during the second, European leg in Paris (second show), Gothenburg (third show) and Oslo (second show).
Although The River was the only album to be played complete during the tour, this set continues the complete album theme on several of the other discs, so that the third, Born To Run + More, consists of the Born To Run album in its entirety, though compiled from different performances, followed by three additional songs.
First up, of course, is Thunder Road, the quintessential Springsteen number, in a full-band rendition from the Bryce Jordan Center, Penn State University, University Park, PA on 18 April, where it closed the main set. This performance does not make for an impressive opener to the Born To Run section of disc 2, being somewhat staid and therefore rather uninspiring. Much better is the performance of Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out from the Blue Cross Memorial at the War Memorial, Rochester, NY (one of the tour’s smallest venues with a capacity of 13,000) on 27 February. Strauss notes that:
“Though Roy messed up the introduction (a trend tonight for the tour debuts), it was everything that you could possibly want in a performance of ‘Tenth’: an extra-long rev-up, Bruce in full-on preacher/James Brown mode, a crowd that knew every single joyous word. Tonight’s version fell somewhere between the ecstatic, congregational style of the Reunion tour performances and the reflective, memorial style of the Wrecking Ball tour performances. And given what this tour seems to be about, that felt exactly right.”
On the disc Bittan’s error is omitted. Springsteen in “preacher/James Brown mode,” actually consists of no more than him repeating “bring it up” while encouraging the audience to sing along and the intro is no longer than is customary.
The Nationals Park show in Washington, DC on 1 September is the source for a sparkling and melodic performance of Night, which followed Rosalita. Strauss writes that, “instead of slowing down the pace like he did with ‘Pretty Flamingo’ [on Tuesday 30 August at East Rutherford], Bruce built upon the unbridled momentum of ‘Rosie’ with ‘Night,’ a sign request for ‘Trapped,’ and the only tour premiere – and my personal highlight – of the night: ‘Better Days.'” These versions of Night and Better Days appear elsewhere in this set.
What starts as a rather ordinary performance of Backstreets, from the show of 31 March at the Pepsi Center, in Denver grows in terms of emotional substance in as the song progresses. There is a brief spoken interlude, with Springsteen repeating the words, “forever friends…’til the end,” and an effective guitar solo. “It of course ended with Bruce giving his all to the song’s signature howl into the void,” opines Strauss, “and on this night in Denver the crowd joined in mightily.” Born To Run is the 7 September performance from Citizens Bank Park, which has already appeared on the previously released Philadelphia set and it is followed by She’s The One from the United Center in Chicago on 28 August. Like Backstreets, the song begins as no more than a solid performace but gains in intensity as it progresses.
Beautifully played tour premiere Meeting Across The River comes from the second Madison Square Garden show of 28 March. Backstreets reviewer Jonathan Pont writes:
“Roy Bittan began to play the introduction to ‘Meeting Across the River,’ its first appearance on this tour…Garry Tallent’s bass notes rolled out to gird the piano part. It was a striking version: as it concluded, Springsteen let the ovation play out, and the dramatic pause became part of the show.”
Like the title track. the final number from Born To Run, Jungleland, comes from Philadelphia but this time from the concert played earlier on 12 February at the Wells Fargo Center. Caryn Rose and Glenn Radecki, writing on Backstreets, were clearly impressed by the performance, as was the audience:
“The big surprise of the night came next [after Human Touch], as the familiar opening notes of ‘Jungleland’ received a supersonic roar of approval and welcome from the crowd, as Bruce held the guitar aloft in the spotlight. Perhaps it was that applause that caused him to miss the cue for the first line of the second verse. He continued with a grin, and the crowd just sang louder in response. They cheered for Jake Clemons when he stepped up to play his uncle’s signature solo, and they applauded in recognition as Bruce acknowledged him in the shadows after the solo ended. Come the final verse, as the band dropped out after ‘wounded, not even dead’ there was silence, followed by a loud cheer, followed by a large ‘Bruuuce’ before the Philadelphians joined Bruce for the final ‘down in Jungleland.’“
That Springsteen and the band can still produce stunning performances of songs such as Meeting Across The River and Jungleland four decades after recording (albeit with some personnel changes) them is surely testament to their greatness. Jungleland always seems to take on an extra dimension when preceded, as on the album, by Meeting Across The River and the song’s opening, with Soozie Tyrell’s violin also harking back to the recorded version, provides a scalp-tingling moment.
The three additional songs on the disc all feature guest appearances by other artists. A vivacious rendition of The Isley Brothers’ Shout, which contains the band introductions and reference towards the end to Marvin Gaye’s Can I Get A Witness, comes from the show of 14 April at The Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, MI. The show ended with Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out and Shout, with Bob Seger (who had been watching from stage left) contributing tambourine and backing vocals to both numbers, thereby establishing a link with the original River Tour of 1980-81, the opening show of which saw Seger guesting on the final song, Thunder Road (its second performance of the night). Springsteen introduces Seger as, “one of my great heroes.”
An entertaining Spirit In The Night, with Rickie Lee Jones, comes from the third East Rutherford show of 30 August. Jones featured on several songs on percussion and backing vocals, though Brucebase states that she was “mostly inaudible throughout.” Caryn Rose’s Backstreets account does not refer to her at all, other than in the setlist, where she is mentioned as appearing on this song only. Springsteen clearly enjoys interacting with the audience during the performance and, near the end, we also hear him call for a sign from the audience, which resulted in the playing of Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues (heard on disc 12).
The disc concludes with a second, and more vibrant, version of Born To Run, played on 23 February at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. This was the second song of the encore, and it is included here as Springsteen was joined by Joe and Johnny Grushecky (though the booklet only mentions Joe).
The fourth CD is entitled Born In The USA + More and again features a full album together with three further songs. The disc kicks off with Born In The U.S.A. in the performance of 13 July which has already made an appearance on Wonderland’s Paris/Lisbon set. Cover Me is taken from TW Classic Festival, Festivalpark, Werchter on 9 July and it is also played with great gusto. Played in response to a sign request written on an audience member’s T-shirt, it was the first performance of the song in Belgium. The quality of the performance, and the fact that the lyrics are darker than the music suggeests, makes the song more than, “a throwaway, a disco concession,” which is Patrick Humphries’ description of it in Springsteen: Blinded By The Light (unlike Heylin, Humphries uses the term “throwaway” in a clearly pejorative sense).
Darlington County, from the previous show of 5 July in Milan, features a verse sung by Nils Lofgren. Then we hear a couple of performances from the tour’s third leg. The rockabilly-tinged version of Working On The Highway with its acoustic opening comes from the Washington, DC concert of 1 September and Downbound Train is from the previously released Philadelphia show.
An atmospheric I’m On Fire was played on 21 May at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid. No Surrender opened the encore at Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena on 15 March in a splendidly vibrant performance. The audience gets a chance to sing at the beginning of a sparky performance of I’m Going Down from Barcelona. It is followed by an equally zestful rendition of Glory Days from the second European concert three days later at the Estadio de Anoeta, Donostia/San Sebastián. An exuberant Dancing In The Dark comes from the tour’s final show of 14 September at the Gillette Stadium in Foxborough MA.
The closing song from Born In The U.S.A., My Hometown, comes from the 17 July concert at the Olympiastadion, Munich. Backstreets reviewer Andrew Telesca notes:
“A hush fell over the crowd as Soozie and Nils picked up acoustic guitars for an emotional ‘My Hometown’…The orchestration relied heavily on persistent keyboard and synth, with Garry and his fretless acoustic-electric bass melody heavily featured in the closing verse. Bruce stood with his eyes closed in soft lighting at center stage as the Band played the outro.”
Born In The U.S.A. outtake Pink Cadillac, one of four tour premieres played on 22 June at Telia Parken in Copenhagen, was a sign request and received its first ever Danish performance in what Strauss calls “a raucous version,” and the audience claps along enthusiastically at the start of the song. It is a little slower and more bluesy than the familiar recorded version. Tom Waits’ Jersey Girl, from the concert of 14 June at Malieveld in The Hague, was another sign request and is given a sublime performance. This was only the second time it had been played outside North America, the first occasion being in Vienna in 2009. The fourth disc concludes with the first Scottish performance of the lively My Love Will Not Let You Down from the 1 June show at Glasgow’s Hampden Park.
Disc 5 brings us Darkness On The Edge Of Town + The Promise. The opening track from Darkness, Badlands, comes from the Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis on 6 March, where it was played in place of the setlisted Backstreets. This fiercely passionate performance, complete with audience singalong and false ending, is one of the best I have heard for some time. The same applies to a staggeringly intense Adam Raised A Cain comes from Berlin’s Olympiastadion on 19 June. Ralf Dissman notes on Backstreets that:
“Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band…had a surprise for us…a song…with a screeching guitar intro. They ripped into a ferocious version of ‘Adam Raised a Cain,’ a European debut for this tour. And they nailed it – Bruce’s guitar playing was awesome.”
An emotionally charged Something In The Night emanates from the second Milan show of 5 July and Candy’s Room is taken from the second Gothenburg performance of 27 June. Ivar Noer’s Backstreets account calls it, “a fantastic performance…As on the Darkness album itself [Something In the Night] was followed by a great ‘Candy’s Room,’ the first of many effective couplings throughout the evening.”
Sign-requested tour premiere Racing In The Street is taken from the show in The Hague. Liselotte Schuren writes on Backstreets that it was, “a long and intense version of one of the most beautiful songs in [Springsteen’s] repertoire…The playing of Roy Bittan, in his leading role on piano, brought the audience to ecstasy.”
An appropriately stirring rendition of the anthemic The Promised Land is drawn from the Werchter show and the concert at the Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater, Virginia Beach, VA on 5 September saw the emergence of the sombre but poetic Factory, the last song from Darkness On The Edge Of Town to feature on the tour. The performance is beautifully enhanced by the subtle contributions of Nils Lofgren and Soozie Tyrell.
Streets Of Fire, from the tour’s penultimate show of 11 September at the CONSOL Energy Center (where the tour had begun), was the first American performance of the song during the tour. In an otherwise powerful performance, the song is played marginally faster than the album version, which slightly reduces its emotional impact. Prove It All Night, from the United Center, Chicago on 28 August was the show’s second number, following the show opener, New York City Serenade. Marya Morris’ account on Backstreets notes that Prove It All Night, “serv[ed] as the “hard open[ing]” of the show and, that “Steve Van Zandt’s blistering solo sent the crowd into its first of many a frenzy.”
Then come two performances already released on the previous Paris/Lisbon set, Darkness On The Edge Of Town from Lisbon, completing the faux-album section of the disc, and Iceman from Paris constituting the first of the outtakes that eventually appeared on The Promise.
The sprightly Rendezvous is from Copenhagen and Strauss considers it “a major highlight” of the show. A tour premiere, the song had not been played since 12 July 2012 in Vienna. Tour premiere The Promise, one of Springsteen’s greatest songs, opened the set at the first Gothenburg concert of 25 June in its solo piano guise. It was the first time that the song had opened a show and the performance is stunning, providing another scalp-prickling moment. Richard Williams, in Long Distance Call: Writings On Music, argues that this “muted and mournful” song contains “more of the author’s essence” than any other.
A vigorous rendition of Because The Night, from the 3 June performance at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, contains the now-customary guitar solo from Nils Lofgren. Fire was a sign request from the Donostia/San Sebastián concert. Backstreets correspondent Connor Kirkpatrick writes that, “the renowned bassline of ‘Fire’ echoed through Anoeta Stadium, almost pulsating.” Springsteen teases the audience with a lengthy introduction and Patti Scialfa’s vocal contribution enhances the performance.
The delightful Save My Love, described by Heylin as a, “a simple song of affection,” was another premiere played at the Coventry show. Strauss notes that the performance of this “rare Darkness outtake,” which Springsteen tells the audience was inspired by staying awake as a youngster listening to the “small squawk box transistor radio underneath my pillow,” was “loose, a little sloppy, but so much fun.” The audience was apparently unimpressed, Strauss noting that the sign request, “received almost no reaction from the crowd when Bruce flashed it to the cameras,” and that, “the stoic crowd receiv[ed] the actual song in much the same way they greeted its sign.”
Listening to the Darkness songs on disc 5 reminded me why it is my favourite album of all time and the performances here are so impressive that I think I will find myself listening to this disc as often as I listen to the actual album. Moreover, the outtakes which fill out the disc serve to confirm the number of terrific songs Springsteen was producing at this time – not forgetting that two others, Independence Day and Point Blank, later emerged as two of the strongest numbers on The River.
Two albums from different eras of Springsteen’s career share the billing on the sixth CD, entitled Greetings From Ashbury [sic] Park, NJ + The Rising. From this point there are no further complete album sequences for the simple reason that no further albums had all their songs played during the tour. Of the two on this disc, Springsteen’s debut LP gets closer to completion, with seven of the nine songs being performed and consequently featuring here. Wonderland continue to programme the songs in the original album order – or at least that is clearly the intention. Unfortunately, there is an error on disc 6, so that For You, although placed correctly in the booklet’s track listing, appears out of order on the disc.
The disc opens with sign request Blinded By The Light from Copenhagen. Strauss writes that, “Bruce was in fast-and-loose spirits…this Greetings gem was given the full band treatment. Despite a false start [not heard here], it was a relentlessly fun performance, with Bruce repeatedly wiping rivers of heat-induced sweat out of his eyes to keep up with the flood of lyrics.” Unlike Strauss I thought that the full band arrangement (with pounding drums to finish) overwhelmed a song that needs a certain lightness of touch. Brucebase counts this as a tour premiere, although a substantial section of the song was played at the second Brooklyn show, sung by a young girl from the audience who held up a sign reading “I’ve been Blinded by the Light! (I’m 10 years old and I know all the words. Try me!)” Springsteen autographed her sign before she left the stage.
Growin’ Up is another song from Paris which appeared on the Paris/Lisbon set and this is followed by the misplaced For You, which was the show opener and a tour premiere in Coventry. The song is played in its heart-rending solo piano version. “Hearing the song in this context recalibrated its emotional effect,” argues Strauss, “scaling back the romanticism for a sadder vibe,” before adding that it was a “beautiful rendition.”
Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street? comes from the tour’s last show in Foxborough. The performance, less heavy-handed that that of Blinded By The Light, conveys the spirit of the occasion, described by Rose on Backstreets as, “buoyant, loose, celebratory.” Next comes the second appearance on the tour of Lost In The Flood, from the first Oslo how of 29 June at the Ullevaal Stadion. It is an intensely powerful performance, complete with Roy Bittan’s brief though haunting piano part at beginning and end, which I have very much liked since hearing it played in the version from Greenvale, NY on 12 December 1975 on the old vinyl bootleg Hot Coals From The Fiery Furnace. The Greenvale concert, which saw the first known performance of It’s My Life and also contains the officially-released version of Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town, was a terrific show with an interesting soundcheck, and it cries out for an appearance on CD.
An effervescent Spirit In The Night from the second show at Dublin’s Croke Park on 29 May, the song’s second appearance in this set, is followed by It’s Hard To be A Saint In The City from the show two days earlier at the same venue. The song was a sign request and it receives its first Irish performance. Kirkpatrick writes:
“Springsteen accepted a sign request for ‘It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City.’ Caressing their guitars, the E Street Band gently opened the song in a move that transformed the atmosphere of Croke Park from a stadium of 80,000 people to that of an early-’70s backstreet club, with an intimacy that bordered on sensuality…Roy Bittan’s piano seamlessly seeped into the E Street rhythm, evoking a youthful vitality that defined Springsteen’s first foray into music. The E Street Band were obviously in their element, as were the audience, who celebrated the song by dancing as it grooved towards its climax.”
The section of the disc dedicated to The Rising begins with an energetic Lonesome Day from the concert in Glasgow and an emotionally affecting Into The Fire is drawn from the first Paris show of 11 July at the Accorhotels Arena. The latter song was tour premiere and it had not been performed since September 22, 2012 at MetLife Stadium. A contrast is provided by the enjoyable but essentially inconsequential Waitin’ On A Sunny Day from Manchester’s Etihad Stadium on 25 May, which includes a vocal contribution from a youngster drawn from the audience. The pounding drums at the song’s conclusion jar with the otherwise deft performance of the song. This is followed by a sparkling rendition of Mary’s Place from 5 September at Virginia Beach.
The Pittsburgh concert of 11 September featured six songs from The Rising, including the tour debut of You’re Missing in its first performance since the Devils & Dust Solo And Acoustic Tour of 2005 and played in a full-band arrangement for the first time since the Rising Tour of 2002-03, with Springsteen’s harmonica taking the place of the closing organ solo. Phillips notes that,“the real intake of breath came…as Roy Bittan began his lullabye [sic] introduction to ‘You’re Missing’…Springsteen stood still at center stage to deliver the heartrending vocal, and the years melted away.”
The Rising is the performance which has already appeared on the Paris/Lisbon release and it is followed by the tour premiere of My City Of Ruins from Madrid. Connor Kirkpatrick describes this excellent performance as, “one of the defining moments of the concert,” going on to describe the performance as follows:
“‘My City of Ruins’ made its tour debut, transforming Bernabéu stadium into a cathedral. Stripped down compared with the Wrecking Ball Tour, this rendition of ‘My City of Ruins’ was characterized by a simplicity of sound. With fewer musicians on stage, and despite the absence of the conversation that came with the song in 2012, ‘My City of Ruins’ conveyed intimacy while maintaining intensity…Roy Bittan’s piano proved to be spectacular, a sonic metaphor for the narrative of the song itself, as he and Bruce took the crowd to near silence and then almighty crescendo.”
Another doubling up of albums occurs on the seventh disc, The Wild, The Innocent And…Magic + More. The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle section of the disc is almost complete, lacking only Wild Billy’s Circus Story, but Springsteen saw fit to perform only three numbers from Magic during the tour.
Disc opener The E Street Shuffle comes from the show of 5 September at Virginia Beach, which featured four consecutive songs from The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle (Kitty’s Back, The E Street Shuffle, Incident on 57th Street and Rosalita). It is the fast, album-style version and the performance, which includes a drum solo from Max Weinberg, is full of vitality.
4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) is from Glasgow. The song was played as a result of a sign request from a man in the audience who had had the song played at his wedding. Kirkpatrick writes:
“Roy Bittan assumed an unfamiliar position next to Bruce, accordion in hand, as the E Street Band passionately felt their way into a gorgeous rarity. Despite being 3,500 miles from Asbury Park, seeing a smiling E Street Band groove to the beat of the music, the stadium of 50,000 felt intimate and spirited. As we’ve seen before on The River Tour, the E Street Band assumed a youthful vitality that allowed them to channel their younger selves, with ‘Sandy’ melting into the audience as though being performed for the first time.”
Kitty’s Back comes from the Virginia Beach Show, which opened with an emphasis on early material, Springsteen playing six consecutive songs from Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ. followed by four from The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle, including this performance. This rendition of the song is long, with plenty of soloing (including some improvisation on the James Bond Theme), though I found the performance a little staid.
The next song, tour premiere Incident On 57th Street, is delivered in a superb solo performance which opened the second Dublin show. Kirkpatrick was duly impressed:
“The opening chords of ‘Incident on 57th Street’ emanated from the piano as the audience fell with Bruce into the lyrics of his 1973 masterpiece…Bruce’s solo performance magnetized the audience. The atmosphere of Croke Park was transformed, becoming intimate and exposed, as the singer appeared so absorbed that he didn’t once turn his head to the audience. Sitting alone at his piano, Springsteen looked either at the keys or directly ahead, like a man alone at the back of a bar with nothing left but his music.
This intimacy did not, however, translate into a somber tone. ‘Incident”s progression was powerful and empowering, with Bruce’s playing becoming more intense as the song quaked towards its climax. The crowd of 80,000 swayed together while the final lyrics, ‘Goodnight, it’s all right, Jane’ echoed throughout the stadium. The smiling faces and teary eyes of his audience were projected on the screen behind Bruce, which he noticed as his solo performance concluded.”
Rosalita comes from the encore of the show of 24 March at the Keyarena at Seattle Center, Seattle. It is a good-natured performance but lacks the vital energy of the best live versions. For New York City Serenade, the opener from the second East Rutherford show of 25 August, the E Street Band is augmented by the violin section of Sam Bardfeld, Joe Deninzon, Mazz Swift, Sara Caswell, Todd Reynolds, Joyce Hammon, Rachel Golub and Jamey Choi. Peter Jon Lindberg, writing on Backstreets, rightly calls it “a magnificent rendition.”
The brief Magic section of the disc kicks off with the lively and melodic album-opener Radio Nowhere, played by sign request at the final show of the tour in Foxborough. The song gets only its second outing after being premiered in Trondheim in July. The tour’s only performance of I’ll Work For Your Love comes from the Wembley Stadium show of 5 June. It is a tender and heartfelt solo acoustic performance which Springsteen began in too low a key. He restarted, laughingly claiming “it’s going to be good, going to be worth all the time we spent!” Tour premiere Long Walk Home is breathtakingly beautiful in the solo acoustic performance which opened the encore of the tour’s penultimate show in Pittsburgh. “Movingly performed alone on acoustic guitar,” notes Phillips, “‘Long Walk Home’ was a long time coming, a stand-out from Magic.” It remained in the setlist for the tour’s last show three days later.
My Lucky Day was the only tour premiere from the Berlin concert. It had last been played on 30 June 2013 in London. Brucebase notes that it is the first song from Working On A Dream, and the one-hundredth song, to be played on the tour. Dissman notes that, “although we aren’t aware of it being soundchecked, it sounded really good. Exactly the same arrangement as in 2009, with Steve [Van Zandt] playing the guitar solo at the end.”
Disc 8 is designated Tunnel of Love, Lucky Town + More. As with Magic, we only get three songs from Tunnel Of Love. The downbeat Tougher Than The Rest from the first Dublin show of 27 May is nicely enhanced by Patti Scialfa’s vocal contribution. Tour premiere Tunnel Of Love comes from the first Gothenburg show and its performance may have been inspired by Nils Lofgren, who replied “Tunnel Of Love” when asked on Twitter what song he would like Springsteen to include on the setlist. The song had not been played since August 2, 2008 in Foxborough. “With Patti back on stage, argues Noer, ‘”Tunnel’ seemed to fit well, and the interplay between her and Bruce sent thoughts back to those hot summer days in ’88. An extended outro solo from Nils made this a real highlight.” Brilliant Disguise, from Barcelona, is both the third song from Tunnel of Love on the disc and the third to feature Scialfa, who these days does not participate in every show. It is a shame that Springsteen did not play more songs from what I consider to be a very fine album.
Scialfa is again on board for Human Touch, performed in Boston on 4 February. Boston Globe reviewer Sarah Rodman praises Springsteen’s interaction with band members, commententing on his, “swaying with guitarist-vocalist (and wife) Patti Scialfa, who was particularly great on an intimate-yet-rocking version of ‘Human Touch.'” The very fine performance of this song, far superior to the album version, also features a particularly effective guitar part from Springsteen at the end. The lively rendition of Roll Of The Dice comes from the concert of 31 July held at the Letzigrund, Zurich. It was the second of two consecutive tour premieres from that show after None But The Brave, both being sign requests. Strauss notes that, “The song began with a long buildup that had Bruce repeatedly bellowing, ‘Are you ready to gamble with the E Street Band?! Are you ready to put it all on the line with the E Street Band?! Am I just stalling because I’m afraid to start the song?!'” However, this build-up is not included here. Given the title of this disc it is curious that these two songs from Human Touch precede the four numbers from Lucky Town.
Better Days and Lucky Town are the two songs from the Human Touch/Lucky Town duo of albums which (along with everything else except I Wish I Were Blind) I found to be entirely ordinary until I heard the superb live versions from MTV [Un]plugged with the “Other Band.” Unlike Strauss, I found the rendition of Better Days, the sole tour premiere from Washington on 1 September (which also features Scialfa) to be rather pedestrian and under-powered, though Lucky Town from the first Milan show of 3 July, fares better in a more energetic performance. Another song from Lucky Town which I have grown to love, since its appearance on the Live In New York City CD and DVD releases in 2001, is If I Should Fall Behind, which appears here in a performance from Werchter. It was one of two tour premieres, the other being Mansion On The Hill, both played in solo acoustic arrangements. Receiving its only appearance of the tour, If I Should Fall Behind closed the show, and the performance, featuring Springsteen alone with acoustic guitar, is quietly beautiful. The quartet is completed by a spirited performance of Living Proof, a tour premiere from the third East Rutherford show, which was dedicated to Springsteen’s and Scialfa’s oldest child, Evan.
That East Rutherford show featured three other premieres, Kitty’s Back, Pretty Flamingo and Secret Garden (the latter for only the third time at a full show), all of which had been rehearsed at the extensive soundcheck. Two of these, Kitty’s Back and Secret Garden, were also played at the next concert in Washington, DC and it is that version of Secret Garden which is included here. It is a lovely performance featuring a beautifully restrained saxophone part from Jake Clemons. The next song, Born In The U.S.A. outtake Murder Incorporated, provides a total contrast in a muscular rendition from Manchester.
The stunning performance of The Ghost Of Tom Joad from the second East Rutherford concert gains much of its excellence from the vocals and the breathtakingly virtuosic guitar playing of Tom Morello, who also joined the band on stage for three other numbers, Death To My Hometown, American Skin (41 Shots) and Badlands. It is followed by my favourite song from The Ghost Of Tom Joad, Youngstown, taken from the Cleveland show of 23 February. It was one of two tour premieres played at this show from albums which had not yet been represented on the tour, the other being Growin’ Up from Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. Jeff Niesel, reviewing the show on clevescene.com, was impressed by Nils Lofgren’s “fierce guitar solo,” while Billboard reviewer Michele Amabile Angermiller, writes admiringly of , “a blistering version of ‘Youngstown’ that included an intense Nils Lofgren guitar solo, so it is unsurprising that Springsteen namechecks Lofgren at the end of the song. Williams argues that the song is, “the album’s highlight, a song that does for the steelworkers of Ohio what Dylan did for the people of the Minnesota iron in ‘North Country Blues’ thirty years earlier.”
The ninth CD is the last to combine two albums, bringing us Wrecking Ball + Nebraska. The first seven songs, including American Land, one of two bonus tracks on the “American Land” edition of the album, come from Wrecking Ball. A dynamic performance of We Take Care Of Our Own, from Copenhagen, was one of four tour premieres played at this show. Shackled And Drawn from three days later in Gothenburg, was one of three tour premieres with Tunnel Of Love, which preceded it and opener The Promise. It is a lively performance, but one misses the vocal contribution of Cindy Mizelle.
The beguiling rendition of Jack Of All Trades was played on 25 August in East Rutherford. Springsteen is joined by the violin section of Sam Bardfeld, Joe Deninzon, Mazz Swift, Sara Caswell, Todd Reynolds, Joyce Hammon, Rachel Golub and Jamey Choi, to splendid effect. An immediate contrast is provided by Death To My Hometown, in the performance which has already appeared on the Philadelphia release. and this is succeeded by an animated Wrecking Ball from Newark. Land Of Hope And Dreams is always effective in live performance and, as is customary, this rendition from Munich ends with a snippet of People Get Ready. Although included on Wrecking Ball in 2012, the song had been performed live since 1999, originally appearing on both the CD and DVD versions of Live In New York City.
The final Wrecking Ball song is American Land from the second Los Angeles show of 17 March, which also saw the tour’s first performance of Death To My Hometown. This enthusiastic performance was a tour premiere.
The five-song section devoted to Nebraska opens with a performance of the title track from the first Paris concert. One of the show’s three tour premieres, along with Reason To Believe and Into The Fire, the song is made only its second appearance at an E Street Band show since 1985, the first having been in Belfast in 2013. However, it is an appropriately dour solo acoustic, not a full-band, rendition, with Springsteen playing guitar and harmonica. Atlantic City is the usual slowed-down, heavyweight full-band performance, featuring Max Weinberg’s portentous drumming and comes from the Manchester show. Mansion On The Hill, from 23 August in East Rutherford is another acoustic performance. The song is performed as a duet featuring Springsteen and Scialfa and it works absolutely beautifully in this arrangement.
A rollicking Johnny 99, from the concert of 17 June in Munich is a full-band performance with piano, guitar, violin and saxophone solos from Roy Bittan, Nils Lofgren, Soozie Tyrell and Jake Clemons respectively. Closing the ninth disc is a vibrant, full-band Reason To Believe. This performance is the Paris tour premiere mentioned above.
Disc 10 is entitled Acoustics + More, though oddly the “More” section allegedly consists of only one song (there are in fact two non-acoustic numbers). It opens with a second acoustic version of Mansion On The Hill from Werchter, this time featuring Springsteen alone. The song was a tour premiere, along with If I Should Fall Behind, which was also played in a solo acoustic arrangement. Thunder Road closed the Madrid show and it was performed in a solo acoustic guitar version for the first time on the tour. The Ghost Of Tom Joad, from 16 July at the Circus Maximus in Rome is a solo acoustic guitar performance, providing a complete contrast with the version hear this set’s eighth disc.
In contrast to these guitar-based performances, Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street? is heard in a slow solo piano arrangement, which opened the Wembley Stadium show, where it was one of three tour premieres, along with Seeds and I’ll Work For Your Love. Near the end of the song, Springsteen stops and laughs and is heard to say, “there’s one out there,” and he then ends the song by whistling (not even very good whistling!), marring what had up to that point been a beautiful rendition of the song. The acoustic guitar rendition of Long Walk Home is the above-mentioned performance from the tour’s final show, meaning that we get two acoustic versions of the same song in this set. It is another splendid performance, but it does not quite match the ethereal quality of the Pittsburgh version.
A vivacious solo acoustic guitar version of Growin’ Up, the only song played in a brief acoustic pre-show performance on 3 July in Milan, is most enjoyable. It is played at a more moderate pace than the album version, though not slowly. The next song is a solo acoustic guitar version of For You, which ended the Munich show. The song only appeared four times during the tour, the piano version opening two shows (Coventry, 3 June, as heard on disc 6, and Virginia Beach, 5 September) and the guitar version closing two (this one and Oslo, 29 June). It is a most effective performance, though I think the song is more suited to the piano than the guitar
Unfortunately, I’ll Work For Your Love, having appeared on disc 7, is repeated here, though without the false start. The disc’s final acoustic number is an effective rendition of This Hard Land from 17 May in Donostia/San Sebastian. It was a tour premiere and the show closer. 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) comes from the final show in Foxborough. The song is performed in a striking arrangement solo guitar arrangement until the band joins in for the closing bars. YouTube poster Shelley Romano enthuses that it is, “absolutely the most beautiful version of this song, which is my favorite, I ever heard.” The booklet labels the song “acoustic” but Springsteen plays electric guitar, albeit quietly and gently.
Take It Easy, from the 19 January show in Chicago is played as a tribute to Glenn Frey, founding member of the Eagles who had died, aged 67, on 18 January. The performance has elicited much comment from reviewers and fans. Springsteen begins the song alone, playing acoustic guitar, and is later joined by Soozie Tyrell on violin. The song is performed at a rather slow pace, lacking the vivacity of The Eagles’ original, leading several commentators to criticize the performance. YouTube poster Had Enough complains that Springsteen turned “an upbeat GREAT song” into “a ballad”, Chicago Tribune reporter Greg Kot similarly notes that, “the Eagles’ version felt light on its feet…Frey once sang it with a wink, but Springsteen sang it straight, almost solemnly,” and Dan Caffrey, writing on the Consequences of Sound website, claims that, while Frey often sang the song “with humor,” Springsteen “kept a straight face.” However, the performance clearly made a more positive impression on the audience, which sang along throughout, and on The DePaulia reviewer Marty O’Connell, who calls it, “a beautiful sing-along rendition.” Springsteen, rather unfortunately in the circumstances, mispronounces Frey’s name.
A second magical performance of New York City Serenade comes from16 July Rome show of 16 June. This tour premiere and show opener has the Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra (known for its association with Ennio Morrocone) providing strings, just as it had done on July 11, 2013 in the same city. This closes the tenth disc.
The eleventh disc bears the unwieldy title of Even More Songs Performed With Other Artists + More. American Skin (41 Shots) is the above-mentioned East Rutherford performance featuring Tom Morello and is an excellent and profoundly moving rendition. Because The Night, from the second Dublin show features Bono from U2 to good effect on vocals. Only Bono took the stage although the whole band was present at the show. The last time Bono made a guest appearance at a Springsteen tour show had been in November 2002 in Miami, also on Because The Night.
The set’s third version of Spirit In The Night, from 9 September in Philadelphia, is included due to the presence of original E Street Band drummer Vini Lopez, who provided tambourine and backing vocals for the song and also for It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City. I found it to be the most captivating of the three performances. Born To Run is also included for the third time, due to the participation of Elliott Murphy and his son Gaspard (though the booklet only mentions Elliott) on guitar and backing vocal during first Paris show. I found the whole performance rather pedestrian.
Joe and Johnny Grushecky guest on “Light Of Day,” less frantic than the best live versions, which includes the Na Na Na hook from Cannibal & The Headhunters’ 1965 version of Land Of 1000 Dances. The performance, from the penultimate show, was a tour premiere. The performance of Bobby Jean from Seattle on 24 March allows us to hear Eddie Vedder sharing lead vocals with Springsteen, though, in my opinion, his contribution does little to enhance the performance.
At the Boston show of Peter Wolf joined Springsteen for the latter part of Shout, on vocals and tambourine. Rodman comments that Wolf, “got into the action on a wild and woolly take of the Isley Brothers’ ‘Shout’ that brought the night to a raucous close, but you got the sense that if it had been allowed, the band would’ve kept right on playing.” The song contains the band introductions.
Death To My Hometown is the third song included here from the first East Rutherford show to feature Tom Morello. It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City is the above-mentioned version from Philadelphia featuring Vini Lopez, which, like the Dublin rendition concludes with the customary extended playout featuring Springsteen and Van Zandt on guitar.
The performance of Prove It All Night, from the last night of the tour, opens with the ’78 intro. It was the show’s second number after New York City Serenade. Rose, writing on Backstreets, sums up the performance thus:
“With a nod to Roy Bittan, the piano introduction to ‘Prove It All Night’ began, making it obvious that this wasn’t any ‘Prove it,’ but ‘Prove It ’78,’ complete with the accompanying Springsteen guitar wizardry. Tight and compact, his intro solo was executed with precision, strong, almost linear. And then, as Bruce brought the guitar neck down for the last time, the band came thundering right into place and the body of the song kicked in. There are so many of those moments to watch at a Springsteen show, but this one was breathless as you followed the solo, waiting for that moment of, well, climax. The power of the arrival of the band was a declaration of intent: the E Street Band is here and ready for business. It was almost a second opener.”
The last two songs on the disc include contributions from those who might be considered “other artists” only if one defines the term extremely loosely – perhaps this is why they appear after Prove It All Night. The booklet notes that Growin’ Up featured, “two young boys,” both ten years old, who “assisted as backup singers,” in this performance from 12 April at the Schottenstein Center, Columbus, OH. They make some errors with the lyrics, such as singing “massacre” instead of “masquerade.”
Dancing In The Dark comes from 5 April at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. The booklet notes the presence of, “a group of girls onstage.” Brucebase, more specifically, notes that, “a massive group of girls was invited on the stage during ‘Dancing In The Dark,'” and photographs reproduced on Backstreets show how large the group was. As their audible contribution amounts to little more than a few screams, I am puzzled by the necessity of the song’s inclusion here. Strauss writes at length of the contribution to the show, both positive and negative, of these “cowgirls” in his Backstreets account of the show.
The penultimate disc in this collection, A Bit Rock ‘n’ Roll + More, begins with the previously released rendition of The Fever from the Philadelphia set. A fine performance of Jimmy Cliff’s Trapped comes from first Oslo show and this is followed by the performance of Thundercrack which, like The Fever, was included on the Philadelphia set. John Fogerty’s Rockin’ All Over The World, the penultimate number from the last show in Foxborough, was the tour’s last premiere and was accompanied by fireworks, clearly audible here. Rose’s Backstreets account refers to, “the crowd singing loud and proud, the band smiling approval across the stage…Bruce tying his music back to its roots.” Seemingly expecting the show to end there, Rose also argues that it would have constituted, “the perfect ending, the absolute right decision,” though one more song, Bobby Jean, was played.
Springsteen’s take on Manfred Mann’s Pretty Flamingo, heard here in its performance from the third East Rutherford show, has been a firm favourite of mine since I acquired the marvellous 1975 performance from The Roxy in Los Angeles (available on CD on Crystal Cat’s The Roxy Theatre Night, reviewed March 2008) on the LP The Boss Of E Street. Rose, on Backstreets, argues that, “when ‘Pretty Flamingo’ is the thing that acts as the chaser for the first half of the show, well, it’s been quite a show. Bruce grabbed the maracas and got the band to ease down a couple of gears, Charlie Giordano vibing some organ underneath while Bruce rapped to the crowd.” It is a nicely done performance, though not the equal of the Roxy version, and the spoken introduction, which also concerns a seemingly unattainable “lovely woman,” doesn’t have quite the same charm. Springsteen talks of his sandwich preferences and his extreme dislike of mustard – initially baffling until it is revealed that in this version of the tale he sees the object of his romantic fantasies through the window of a luncheonette. At the end of the song Springsteen initially seems to confirm the woman’s unattainable status, quoting the title of The Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want, but then reveals that, “sometimes you can,” as this particular woman turned out to be one with “red hair!”
A thoroughly enjoyable Twist And Shout comes from the Barcelona show and, at only six minutes, is noticeably shorter than many live renditions. The section where Springsteen encourages the audience to sing along seems to be based on La Bamba, but rather more loosely than usual.
Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Travelin’ Band opened the encore at the Coventry concert. Strauss argues that the lacklustre second half of the show, which contained to many “crowd pleasing ‘greatest hits,'” may have led Springsteen to respond to a sign request for the song, thereby revitalizing the show:
“There was almost no momentum going into the main set closing ‘Badlands,’ which may have been what inspired Bruce to spot out of nowhere a sign for Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Travelin’ Band,’ only its fifth performance in the Reunion era. Simply put, the Band crushed it, scrambling to remember how to play this raucous classic. This curveball re-animated everything – Bruce, the band, the crowd, and the rest of the encores, easily the best of the tour – immediately restoring the level of energy sustained throughout the first half of the show.”
A splendid performance of Little Richard’s Lucille comes from the first Milan concert. Brenda VanHorn, writing on Backstreets has particular praise for Bittan, arguing that when he, “joined in with the piano riff, his playing was out of this world.” An enjoyable Jole Blon, from the second Gothenburg concert, features violin and accordion solos from Soozie Tyrell and Charlie Giordano. “The performance was flawless,” contends Noer, “a great moment.” A joyous rendition of Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues, with Steve Van Zandt taking the additional vocal part, is from the last East Rutherford show.
Seeds comes from the Wembley show. Kirkpatrick was mightily impressed by the performance:
“A dark, impassioned performance of ‘Seeds’ followed. Bruce’s voice roared, practically spitting out the lyrics, as the E Street Band maintained a mechanical rhythm behind him before launching into the riff that defines this Born in the U.S.A. outtake. Originally known as ‘Gone Gone Gone,’ the song allowed Bruce’s passion to manifest in a ferocious guitar solo which had Nils Lofgren and Steve Van Zandt grooving alongside him. Springsteen’s solo was underpinned by Max Weinberg, his eyes pinned on Bruce, his mighty drums nearly shaking Wembley Stadium.”
An exuberant performance of John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom, featuring an organ solo from Charlie Giordano, comes from the show in Rome and it is followed by the disc’s final song, the third performance of Shout, from Oakland. This is the set’s “guest-free” version, and it contains both the band introductions and the reference to I Need A Witness.
The set’s final CD is entitled Last But Not Least. It begins with what Strauss calls a “joyous” rendition of Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town, played in Manchester, despite it only being May, in response to a sign request from a man in the audience dressed in a Santa suit. Strauss goes on to say that, “Bruce allowed Santa himself to accompany by singing – hysterically off-key, off-pitch, off-melody, off-everything – Clarence’s old ‘You better be good for goodness sake’ part.”
The set’s third John Fogerty-penned number, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Who’ll Stop The Rain, opened the 26 July concert in Trondheim. Noer writes that:
“Considering the weather, it wasn’t a shock to get the tour premiere of ‘Who’ll Stop the Rain’ as an opener, but it was a fine River Tour moment: an arrangement harkening right back to 1980/’81, with Bruce alone on the guitar during the first verse before the band kicking [sic] in.”
Next comes Dream Baby Dream, the Suicide song performed by Springsteen on numerous occasions during the Devils & Dust Solo and Acoustic Tour and covered on High Hopes. This show-opening, full-band performance at the Casa Arena, Horsens, Denmark on 20 July, was a tribute to Suicide vocalist Alan Vega, who had died four days earlier. Hannet Johannes, writing on Backstreets, calls the performance, “a heartfelt version…intense and haunting. You could feel his pain through every word. It was a lovely tribute.”
The beautiful, bitter-sweet performance of Back In Your Arms was a sign request at the first Dublin show. Kirkpatrick notes that, “as the band played a gentle, extended intro, Bruce began to speak, like a preacher to his congregation,” and we get the usual lengthy spoken introduction in which Springsteen asks the audience, “have you ever been in love? And have you done something that fucked up a good thing?”
Kirkpatrick goes on to say that:
“Despite being a song for the brokenhearted, ‘Back in Your Arms’ was perhaps the definitive performance of Dublin 1. It’s true that the E Street Band are in their element when playing high-powered rock songs; it’s also true that when they strip down their performance to the core, they reach something elemental. ‘Back in Your Arms’ exemplified the E Street Band’s ability to create magic.”
He particularly praises Springsteen’s “soulful, heartfelt vocal” and Jake Clemons’ “stirring saxophone solo,” which “cemented ‘Back in Your Arms’ as the magical moment of the night.”
Then it is back to Horsens for an enchanting performance of Follow That Dream, which Brucebase notes is the 125th song to be played on this tour. Springsteen’s adaptation of the Elvis Presley classic had only been played on four previous occasions since 1993. Like Dream Baby Dream it was a tour premiere. Springsteen’s Oscar-winning song Streets Of Philadelphia comes from the performance of 9 September in that city and was dedicated to the show’s charity beneficiary, Philabundance. Rose, on Backstreets, argues that, ” it is an undeniably powerful and important song that should actually get played in more places besides the city in its title.” Considering the song’s subject matter, it beggars belief that some members of the audience (thankfully unheard here) saw fit to cheer every mention of Philadelphia. (Actually, when one considers many people’s perceptions of Born In the U.S.A., perhaps it is not surprising at all.)
This Hard Land is heard in what Dissman rightly calls “a beautiful solo version” which closed the second Milan show. The next song, Frankie, a tour premiere at Horsens and the first Danish performance, is marred by a false start, Springsteen commenting that, “so far the band’s not doing so good.” Johannes nevertheless considers it “a wonderful version.” It is indeed a splendid, though not faultless, performance of what Heylin calls, “one of Springsteen’s most important works.”
Tour premiere None But The Brave comes from the Zurich show, the last of the European leg of the tour, where it preceded the version of Roll Of The Dice heard on disc 8. The song, which Heylin characterizes as, “an uplifting roar of affirmation in which the E Street Band go higher and higher,” was played by sign request and received only its seventh performance overall, fourth with the E Street Band and second in Europe. Strauss singles out Jake Clemons for particular approbation, writing that, “Jake in particular showed his mettle on this beloved, sax-heavy outtake – he always seems to come through for such big, unexpected moments…the whole thing was a beautiful, near-flawless performance.” Unsurprisingly, Springsteen namechecks Clemons as the song ends.
From Horsens comes another tour premiere, the first Danish performance of Chuck Berry’s You Never Can Tell – only the fifth outing for the song at an E Street Band show. Johannes considers it, “a great version, with solid solos by Roy, Soozie and Nils.” Springsteen’s take on the song has been a favourite of mine since acquiring the 1974 Cleveland performance (most recently available on Godfather’s Where The Four Winds Blow) on Hot Coals From the Fiery Furnace, and it is good to have this much more recent version, one of only four further performances at E Street Band shows, all between 2009 and 2016.
The poignant performance of American Skin (41 Shots) comes from the Virginia Beach show and, unlike the version on disc 11, does not feature Tom Morello. Similarly, the second Light Of Day included here is also the “guest-free” version, the performance on disc 11 having featured Joe and Johnny Grushecky. The song comes from the final concert in Foxborough, where it follows what Rose, writing on Backstreets, calls, “a frenetic, rave-up version of the ‘Detroit Medley.'” She goes on to say that Light Of Day was, “the perfect follow-up to the Medley, the crowd not needing an engraved invitation to sing on the ‘Land of 1,000 Dances’ refrain, spurring Bruce’s energy.”
The thirteenth disc and this set then end with an energetic performance of Moon Mullican’s Seven Nights To Rock, taken from the Washington, DC show, which Strauss claims, “raucously elevated the…encores.”
As with the previous Wonderland releases, the source for this set is again the series of official recordings available from Springsteen’s website and, on the whole, the sound is excellent. Again, there are some balance issues, with Nils Lofgren’s guitar solo during the “guest-free” Because The Night being unnaturally recessed – as it was in both the Philadelphia and Paris/Lisbon releases (the version with Bono is not so badly affected). His solos in Tunnel Of Love and Johnny 99 also suffer from the same problem, though to a lesser extent, but his solo in Lucille is barely audible. Soozie Tyrell’s violin is also affected during Johnny 99 and Jole Blon. Some posters on Springsteen’s official have complained at the low level of audience sound on these recordings, which diminishes the live feel. This is a matter of individual taste, and bothers me not at all.
The discs are housed in a hinged box, in brown and yellow colouring, featuring a familiar River-era shot of Springsteen and the band on the front and brief notes about his set on the back. There is a sticker on the front indicating that this is a numbered limited edition of 350. The twenty-page booklet features the same photo and notes on its front and back covers; the interior pages mostly contain the track listings of the thirteen discs, though there are two double-page spreads featuring dozen onstage photographs – a little disappointing considering that the bottom of the box promises the purchaser a “full colour booklet.” The box has the same dimensions, in terms of height and width, as the now sadly defunct 4Shure series of complete shows, so that it slightly larger than it needs to be to house the CDs. The plastic inner sleeves, again like the 4Shure releases, are a little large, rather loose and smooth, so that the discs fall out of them easily if care is not taken. The box looks reasonably attractive, though natural colours would have improved its appearance. The photo of Springsteen and the band, from the box and booklet front cover also adorns the discs. This set would also have benefited from some nicely printed inner sleeves and more extensive and informative notes. There are also a couple of typographical errors, the reference to “Ashbury Park” mentioned above and “Non But The Brave.”
The are a few issues with this set. Wonderland has mixed up the songs completely, so that there is not a single instance of a song immediately succeeding another from the same show. This means that there are no examples of particularly effective pairings or sequences of songs, of which I have noted some instances above, appearing in this set. Also, the set could have been even more comprehensive than it is. For example, there are some guest performers who are not featured, such as the completely different string section at the penultimate show, the past and present band members’ children (Madison Federici, Jarod Clemons and Olivia Tallent on tambourines, and Jason Federici on accordion) who appeared at the second Los Angeles show, Strauss in Oakland and the little girl who sang Blinded By The Light (who surely deserves inclusion as much as the two boys who sang on Growin’ Up). Also, although at least one example of every complete song played during the tour is included, there are some partially-performed songs which do not feature, such as Chapel Of Love, snippets of which were inserted into I Wanna Marry You at the first two Los Angeles show, and The Trashmen’s Surfin’ Bird, included in the Rome performance of Ramrod. As noted, For You is misplaced and I’ll Work For Your Love is duplicated. Though many songs appear more than once, having been performed in different arrangements (or with guest artists), Long Walk Home, rather strangely, appears twice in essentially similar acoustic renditions. There are also some performances included which have already seen the light of day on the Philadelphia and Paris/Lisbon sets, which could easily have been avoided (except in the cases of Icemen, Thundercrack and The Fever, each played only once on the tour). Some songs appear in frankly odd places. New York City Serenade is stuck by itself on the end of the acoustic disc (though, as noted above, it turns out not to be the only non-acoustic number), the second prove It All Night is randomly dropped into the disc devoted to performances with other artists, Jersey Girl is appended to the disc containing Born In The U.S.A., whereas Murder Incorporated, an outtake from that album, is on another disc and You Never Can Tell and Seven Night To Rock surely have more right to inhabit the Rock ‘n’ Roll disc than Trapped or Pretty Flamingo.
None of these concerns, however, is significant enough to preclude the conclusion that this is a wonderful release. It was a splendid idea to issue a compilation of all the songs played on the tour, especially on a tour which contained numerous complete performances of one double album, thereby avoiding extensive repetition of material. Whatever the feelings of the chattering casual fans, indifferent to the glories of “lost classics” such as Loose Ends or Roulette (some of whom, as Rose notes on jukeboxgraduate.com “really weren’t familiar with the River album before the tour”), Springsteen collectors will find a great deal to enjoy here. There are so many highlights, including the duet version of Mansion On The Hill, My City Of Ruins, both renditions of New York City Serenade, the near-solo 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), The Promise, The Ghost Of Tom Joad with Tom Morello, Drive All Night, Back In Your Arms, the Pittsburgh Long Walk Home, Meeting Across The River and Jungleland – to say nothing of the stunning fifth disc in its entirety. The 4Shure label has released the complete shows up to 18 February (Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA) and, of course, every concert from the tour is available as a download or CD-R set from Springsteen’s official website. Aside from those completists whose level of fanaticism and financial wherewithal incline them towards the purchase of all of the complete shows, I cannot imagine that there is a single Springsteen collector who would not want this set.
If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)