Bruce Springsteen – This Is Not A Dark Ride (Godfatherecords G.R. 858/859/860)

Bruce Springsteen - Not A Dark Ride Gr858

This Is Not A Dark Ride (Godfatherecords G.R. 858/859/860)

Stadio Comunale, Turin, Italy – 11 June, 1988

Disc 1: Tunnel Of Love,  Boom Boom, Be True, Adam Raised A Cain, Two Faces, All That Heaven Will Allow, Seeds, Cover Me[/Gimme Shelter], Brilliant Disguise, Spare Parts, War, Born In The U.S.A., Tougher Than The Rest

Disc 2: Ain’t Got You, She’s The One, You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch), I’m A Coward (When It Comes To Love), I’m On Fire, One Step Up, Because The Night, Backstreets, Dancing In The Dark, Light Of Day/Born to Be Wild

Disc 3: Born To Run, Hungry Heart, Glory Days, Have Love Will Travel, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Sweet Soul Music, Raise Your Hand, Twist And Shout

Bonus tracks: Chateau de Vincennes, Paris, France – 18 June, 1988: The Promised Land, My Hometown, Blowin’ In The Wind, Bad Moon Rising

Godfather’s This Is Not A Dark Ride brings us the first silver release of the opening concert of the European leg of the Tunnel Of Love `Express Tour.  However, it is far from the first time that the show has been circulated.  The Killing Floor database states that the show had two 4-LP releases, The Boss Is Back (Rosalita Records – also circulated with the title Tunnel Of Love European Tour 88 – Live In Turin) and At 6P.M. He Left “La Mandria” (Slip Slip Records) and also notes the existence of a CD-R entitled Torino 88.  Brucebase mentions a third LP release, stating that:

“Two sources circulate, one source was released on CDR ‘Torino 88’ and ‘At 6pm He Left Mandria’, which is transferred from the vinyl of the same name, the 4 LP set ‘Live In Torino’ and most recently on Godfather’s ‘This Is Not A Dark Ride’.  A second alternate recorder source was released on the 4 LP set ‘Tunnel Of Love European Tour ’88’.”

On Jungleland mjk5510 gives essentially the same details as Brucebase but also states that there are three recordings of the show:

“There are actually 3 recorders available for this show and here is how they stack up so far:

Recorder 1: Live in Torino (4LP Vinyl)
Recorder 1: At 8PM [sic]He Left… (4LP Vinyl & CDR)
Recorder 1: “this is not a dark ride” Godfather (CD)
Recorder 2: Tunnel Express Tour (4LP Vinyl-the source of this share)
Recorder 3: I have a 3rd recorder alternate tape source”

As well as being the start of the European leg, this concert was the first stadium show of the tour.  It was meant to be the first of two nights but only seven thousand tickets were sold for the second night which was cancelled, with ticket holders instead being admitted to this show.  It kicks off with the title song  from Tunnel Of Love, the first of eight songs from the album to be played during the evening.  As many readers will be aware, the shows were more stylized and choreographed than on previous tours, the band members entering the stage by passing a ticket booth manned by Terry Magovern, and bearing the legend, “this is a dark ride,” as if they were embarking on a fairground ride.  The song effectively sets the scene for the show, encapsulating, as it does, the mood of the album.  Springsteen said that, though, “letting another person into your life and trying to be part of someone else’s life,” can be full of, “wonderful things and beautiful things,” it can also be, “a frightening thing, something that’s always filled with shadows and doubts.”  despite the carnivalesque music heard here, the song certainly conveys those shadows and doubts with lyrics such as, “Then the lights go out and it’s just the three of us/You me and all that stuff we’re so scared of,” and, “It’s easy for two people to lose each other in this tunnel of love.”

The five-man horn section  on the Tunnel Of Love Express Tour consisted of Richie “La Bamba” Rosenberg (Trombone), Mario Cruz and Eddie Manion (saxophones) and Mark Pender  and Mike Spengler (trumpets).  Their contribution to the opening song sets the musical tone for the show, as they are employed extensively throughout the evening, including their prominent contribution to the set’s second number, John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom, which succeeds Tunnel Of Love without a break.  Virtually without drawing breath, the band then launches into Be True, one of my favourite non-album Springsteen songs.  Referring to this and another non-album favourite, Roulette, Springsteen said, “both of those songs should have been on The River, and I’m sure they would have been better than a couple other things that we threw on there.”  Then comes a disappointing rendition of Adam Raised A Cain.  Rolling Stone writer Steve Pond argues that in this tour, “the five-man horn section was smoothly integrated into the material,” and he is almost entirely correct, but this is the only number on which the addition of the horns sounds completely out of place.

Next up are two further songs from Tunnel Of Love.  The first is Two Faces, one of three songs (the others being Brilliant Disguise and One Step Up), which as Pond puts it, concern, “relationships…crumbling as trust gives way to betrayal and recrimination.”  Incongruously, the audience claps along – and at a speed suited to a faster song.  This is repeated during the sax solo played by Clarence Clemons to introduce All That Heaven Will Allow.  Those who attended the shows will doubtless recall that the song had a lengthy intro during which Springsteen and Clemons sat on a park bench like two old friends who had unexpectedly ran into each other and spent a few moments catching up.  The next number, Seeds, is the only other song which suffers from addition of the horns (though not as disastrously as Adam Raised A Cain) as their contribution only serves to undermine the air of unrelenting grimness the song should rightly possess. 

Cover Me, topped-and-tailed with slow vocal parts featuring Patti Scialfa and Springsteen at the start of the song and Springsteen alone at the end, deploys the horn section much more effectively and includes a snippet of the Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelte’ in the outro.  It is followed by the first single from Tunnel Of Love, Brilliant Disguise, the lyrics of which contain a pivotal point of the album: “I wanna know if it’s you I don’t trust/’Cause I damn sure don’t trust myself.” 

A gentle, pastoral piano melody played by Roy Bittan leads into a brief monologue spoken by Springsteen in Italian which itself precedes an abrasive, brutal Spare Parts, a song dealing with the obvious aftermath of the fact that, “Bobby said he’d pull out Bobby stayed in.”   The sense of bitterness continues as the first set finishes on a notable high with the combination of an angry War and a thunderous Born In The U.S.A.

The second set opens with what Jimmy Guterman, in Runaway American Dream: Listening To Bruce Springsteen, calls the, “austere, devotional,” Tougher Than The Rest, “a downtempo but upbeat presentation, full of laconic guitar, of the promises that filled songs like the then-still-unreleased ‘My Love Will Not Let You Down.'”  Unfortunately, this ends disc one, separating it from the rest of the second set, even though it would have comfortably fitted on to the second disc.

The second disc therefore begins with the opening number from Tunnel Of Love, Ain’t Got You, with Springsteen accompanied only by Max Weinberg’s drums during the earlier stages of the song, and a rampaging She’s The One.  Weinberg’s insistent drumming, the jagged guitar playing and the way Ain’t Got You segues into She’s The One is reminiscent of the way that Springsteen had previously prefaced the latter song with Not Fade Away or Mona.  You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch) returns to its roots through being performed in a playful rockabilly-style arrangement which enhances the song and this is followed by I’m A Coward (When It Comes To Love), “a light soul rocker,” in Guterman’s words, “built from pieces of Gino Washington’s ‘Gino Is A Coward,’ that for its length was able to turn fear of intimacy, one of the themes of Tunnel Of Love, into a joke.”  The unhealthy sexual obsession of I’m On Fire is followed by an appropriately sombre One Step Up, which is an understated highlight of the show, and the last song we hear from Tunnel Of LoveBecause The Night is another highlight, though Scialfa’s backing vocals jar, and then comes a frankly disappointing Backstreets.  Springsteen’s opening wordless vocalise bodes well, but there is a lack of intensity, almost a lightness of touch, about the performance which does the song no favours and, once again, Scialfa’s vocals are incongruous.  A joyous Dancing In The Dark is then followed by the second set’s concluding number, Light Of Day, characterized by Guterman as “a bit of roadhouse,” which includes the band introductions and an excursion into Steppenwolf’s Born to Be Wild.

The encores begin with a gorgeous slow acoustic rendition of Born To Run, its customary manner of performance on the tour.  Pond considers that performing the song in this fashion turns the song, “from a roaring anthem into a bittersweet acoustic ballad…what was once a hymn to the open road [becomes] an extraordinary elegy for lost innocence.”  Things move up tempo with Hungry Heart, which features the horns to good effect and, of course, gives the usual vocal slot to the audience.  The band then rocks out on Glory Days which is followed with Springsteen’s take on Richard Berry’s Have Love Will Travel, both making further prominent use of the horn section.  Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, with the horns effectively augmenting Clarence Clemons’ saxophone, is followed by very enjoyable renditions of Arthur Conley’s Sweet Soul Music and Eddie Floyd’s Raise Your Hand before a raucous Twist And Shout, with a call-and-response section based on the tune of La Bamba, closes the show.

This release has full, clear and well-balanced sound which provides a most enjoyable listening experience.  It is taken from a copy of the At 6P.M. He Left “La Mandria” album and Godfather has done a fine job in eliminating any LP surface noise.  ThundeRoad33, posting on Jungleland, rates the sound of this release as 8 out of 10.  Another poster, fmcleanboots, asserts that the recording, “seems a bit too fast to my ears,” and I am inclined to agree, though it does so, if at all, to a very slight extent.  The very beginning of Tunnel Of Love is subject to an extremely brief fade-in.

Unlike the main show, the bonus tracks have had previous exposure on CD, with three releases having featured the full complement of four songs.  They appeared on their own on the Great Dane release S.O.S. Racisme!, which came with issue number 14 of the Italian fanzine Follow That Dream.  They were also included on the compilation Acoustic Tales (Flamingo Records) and they served as bonus tracks on Christic Night (Crystal Cat).  The Brucebase website is very positive about these performances, writing: 

“‘The Promised Land’ and ‘My Hometown’ both get unique treatments – ‘The Promised Land’ includes Clarence on the saxophone, with him and Bruce singing the last chorus together. First acoustic ‘My Hometown.’ The two Springsteen originals are followed by fantastic solo performances of ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ and his first ever performance in Europe of ‘Bad Moon Rising.'”

The Killing Floor database is also largely impressed, maintaining that, “tracks 3 and 4 are great and My Hometown is good, too.”  Lynn Elder, in Bruce Springsteen: You Better Not Touch, is also most convinced by the latter two songs, commenting, “‘My Hometown’ and ‘The Promised Land’ are not the greatest versions ever, but both ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ and ‘Bad Moon Rising’ are strong and a lot of fun.”

The S.O.S. Rascisme concert was broadcast on French television, and this provides the source for This Is Not A Dark Ride and, as far as I am aware, all previous releases.  (However, although the Lebanese Tribute To Bruce Springsteen website gives this as the source for the Great Dane release, Elder maintains that it comes from an FM broadcast.)  Sound on the previous releases was not always as impressive as it should have been.  Of Acoustic Tales, Elder states that, “the first four songs from the broadcast of the SOS Racism [sic] concert  are not as good as they should be, rating a 7,” and S.O.S. Racisme! is awarded 8 out of 10.  To my ears the sound on the Crystal Cat release has just a little more presence and sharpness, as does this new release.  The momentary cut a little after four minutes of The Promised Land, which affects previous releases, is also present here.

The CDs are housed in Godfather’s customary tri-fold card sleeve with numerous onstage shots from the show.  There is also a four-page fold-over insert with the usual “Joe Roberts” notes and (a nice touch) a reproduction ticket.  Overall, the packaging is most attractive.

I hold both the Tunnel Of Love album (which Robert Santelli, in Greetings From E Street, rightly calls, “one of the most mature rock albums ever made”) and its associated tour in high regard, in the case of the latter partly because I am fond of any incarnation of the E Street Band which is augmented by a horn section.  Moreover, recordings from the relatively short Tunnel Of Love Tour do not appear all that frequently.  Consequently, despite reservations about some aspects of the performance, I would heartily recommend this release to Springsteen collectors.


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