Twist And Shush (Godfatherecords G.R. 800)
Hard Rock Calling, Hyde Park , London, UK – 14 July, 2012: Thunder Road, Shackled And Drawn, Because the Night, We Are Alive, I Saw Her Standing There, Twist and Shout, Goodnight, Irene; 54th Annual Grammy Awards, Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA, USA – 12 February, 2012: We Take Care of Our Own: Olympiastadion, Berlin, Germany – 30 May, 2012: When I Leave Berlin: Roskilde Festival, Festivalpladsen, Roskilde, Denmark – 7 July, 2012: The E Street Shuffle; Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, FL, USA – 23 March, 2012: American Skin (41 shots); Rock In Rio Festival, Parque da Bela Vista, Lisbon, Portugal – 3 June, 2012: The River; Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy, Paris, France – 4 July, 2012: Independence Day; Ullevi Stadium, Gothenburg, Sweden – 27 July, 2012: Drive All Night
Godfather’s single-disc release Twist And Shush opens with a selection of songs from The Hyde Park concert, beginning with the show opener, Thunder Road. Springsteen describes the song as “something special” and “a little love letter,” pointing out that it was the first song he played on “British soil” (at the Hammersmith Odeon on 18 November 1975). It is played as it was at times on the Born To Run Tour, with Springsteen on vocals and harmonica and Roy Bittan on piano. This version, of course, will be familiar as the only song from 1975 on the official release Live 1975-1985 and from the official release of the Hammersmith show. Thunder Road has been my favourite song for more than three-and-a-half decades and I simply adore it played in this fashion. The Kid In The Front Row Film Blog concurs, stating that, “they did a stripped down and hauntingly beautiful version of my favourite song, ‘Thunder Road.'” ESTREETMAN, posting on the Stone Pony London message board, was also impressed, writing, “Thunder Road with Roy brilliant start to the show…great.” Despite essexboy’s contention, also on SPL, that the performance “lacked a little intensity” and that Bittan is “not as good as he was back then,” I found that the song made a wonderful start to the disc and the Brucebase website rightly calls it, “exquisite.”
The next three numbers all arrive in fine versions which are very enjoyable, though thay are less revelatory than the opener. They contain the embellishments which have become familiar from live performances. Because The Night, for example has the lengthy guitar solo from Nils Lofgren and Shackled And Drawn the call-and-response and the start and the vocal contribution from Cindy Mizelle. We Are Alive is heard here from the beginning of the actual song, without any spoken introduction.
Finally we get the two numbers which closed the show. Paul McCartney, playing guitar rather than bass, joins Springsteen on stage for I Saw Her Standing There, which Laura Williams, writing on the Virtual Festivals website, calls an “impassioned duet.” Keeeping the Beatles theme going, we then hear what CNN’s Linnie Rawlinson reckons to be “a sizzling version” of, and Brucebase a “raucous,” Twist And Shout.
This, of course, is the show that is notorious for the curfew being enforced, preventing Springsteen from continuing beyond Twist And Shout. A rather nonplussed Springsteen is heard to say, “they told me it’s late, but they can’t throw us outta here now can they? Oh, they’re gonna kill the power. I’ve been told they can throw us outta here now, so we’ll see you next time,” before signing off by singing a very brief snippet of the old folk standard Goodnight, Irene. “A fine show and a farcical conclusion,” as Brucebase puts it.
After the Hyde Park songs, we get one number each from a variety of venues. In Staples, Springsteen and the E Street Band opened the 54th Annual Grammy Awards with the live premiere of We Take Care Of Our Own. It is a superb performance and Springsteen and the E Street Band are accompanied by a 14-piece string section. Stuart Levene, writing on Backstreets, was clearly impressed: “What may not have come through on television, but was fully evident in Staples in glorious fashion, was the soaring string section that elevated ‘We Take Care of Our Own.’ The mini-orchestra didn’t overpower that front-row lineup of guitars, but was a perfect accompaniment that gave the song extra firepower…It’s a huge bonus.”
Florian Spintler and Sylvia Griffin write on Backstreets that, “you know you’re in for special night when Bruce starts the show with an acoustic guitar,” and here we get the opening number from the Berlin show of 30 May, When I Leave Berlin. This is Springsteen’s first performance of the title track from the 1973 LP by English folk singer-songwriter Wizz Jones. Brucebase refers to the song, which was soundchecked several times, as “a beautiful cover.”
For The E Street Shuffle, Springsteen is joined on the Orange Stage at the Roksilde Festival by Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, F. Knuckles, Captain Kirk Douglas, Damon “Tuba Gooding Jr.” Bryson, James Poyser and Mark Kelley of The Roots, the hip hop/neo soul band. Formed by Trotter and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson in Philadelphia in 1987, the band is known for a jazzy, eclectic approach to hip hop which includes live instrumentals. Introduced by Springsteen as ‘my friends from New York City,’ they were, As Backstreets writer Dirk Jungmann states, “sharing background vocals and adding some cowbell percussion; Black Thought had to be turned up in the mix as Bruce noticed that his voice was almost drowning in the brass sound of the extremely powerful horn section.” The performance comes complete with a lengthy, percussion-filled coda.
Of the Florida performance of American Skin (41Shots), Backstreets’ Glen Radecki writes: “The performance was offered without comment, but it was patently obvious that the killing of Travyon Martin was the impetus for the song’s appearance, with this show the band’s only visit to Florida during the first leg of the tour. In a show full of peaks, ‘American Skin’ was the standout performance, starting as a slow burn before exploding with a Nils Lofgren guitar solo and ending with the band building behind Bruce repeating the ‘you can get killed just for living in your’ lyric.” It is a performance of enormous emotional impact.
From Lisbon’s Rock In Rio Festival comes a very fine performance of The River, described by Diogo Augusto on Backstreets as, ” a particularly touching rendition.” The close of the song with its, wordless vocalise and harmonica part, is haunting.
I have already written about the high quality of the Paris performance of Independence Day in my review of La Vie En Rose. It will suffice here to add Radecki’s view: “but the biggest highlight and surprise of the show came when Bruce sat at the piano. Introducing the song as ‘something special for the evening,’ Bruce performed ‘Independence Day’ for the first time on the tour. The choice of song may have been predictable, but the solo-piano arrangement and magnificent performance were certainly not.”
The final song on the CD is tour premiere Drive All Night. The performance is absolutely gorgeous and here, as elsewhere in a live setting, it is clearly superior to the version from The River. Ivar Noer, writing on Backstreets calls it, “tonight’s highlight…this saw Jake Clemons delivering two simply amazing sax solos, which prove exactly why he is part of this tour and deserves to stay here for the long haul.”
Aside from the usual audience audio tapes, Brucebase notes the following audio-visual recordings for the songs presented here – London: “Six songs were later broadcast on Sky Arts (in the UK) and Palladia (in the US)“; Los Angeles: “TV Broadcast. Audio ripped from the broadcast…The ceremony is broadcast live by CBS”; Berlin: “Pro-shot video of ‘When I Leave Berlin’ is posted to the official Bruce Springsteen Youtube channel following the show”; Roskilde: “Pro-shot video of ‘The E Street Shuffle’ is subsequently posted to Bruce’s Youtube channel”; Tampa: “Pro-shot video of the entire song is later posted on YouTube and Bruce’s official website”; Lisbon: “Six songs are streamed live on the Youtube Channel of Rock in Rio (‘Spirit In The Night,’ ‘Because The Night,’ ‘No Surrender,’ ‘She’s The One,’ ‘I’m On Fire’ and ‘Shackled And Drawn’). Subsequently two more videos are posted on Youtube – ‘The River; and ‘Twist And Shout.'”; “Paris: Pro-shot video of ‘Independence Day’ is subsequently posted on Bruce’s Youtube channel”‘ Ullevi: “‘Drive All Night’ is subsequently posted to Springsteen’s Youtube channel.” These are the sources utilized by Godfather for this release, and it is good to have some further material (in addition to the Apollo rehearsal show) in professionally recorded sound. which greatly adds to the enjoyment of listening to this disc. Independence Day sounds particularly fine, though there is occasional extraneous noise, sounding similar the clicks and pops on a vinyl record, during the Hyde Park performance (particularly prevalent on Thunder Road, which also has a very minor, split-second glitch just after the minute mark), and a more persistent background noise during the early part of Drive All Night.
Twist And Shush comes in Godfather’s trademark tri-fold sleeve with several onstage shots featuring Springsteen and Paul McCartney. There are the usual “Joe Roberts” notes and the sleeve also reproduces James Meikle’s account of the concert from The Guardian, with its headline “Twist and shush for the Boss’s big finale,” which provides the title for this release.
Obviously, despite the fact that they take up less tham half the time on the disc, the Hyde Park songs, with the presence of Paul McCartney, provide the raison d’être for this release, with an extremely satisfying selection of songs added to make a very well filled, virtually eighty-minute CD. Some collectors (myself included), may lament the absence of the other seven songs from Rock In Rio which are detailed above, but Godfather was clearly aiming for a single-disc “Hyde Park plus” release and, taken on those terms, Twist And Shush is a real gem.