Werchter Wrecking Ball Night (Crystal Cat Records CC 1025-27)
TW Classic Festival, Werchter Festivalpark, Werchter, Rotselaar, Belgium – 13 July, 2013
Disc1: Intro, Spirit In The Night, Badlands, Death To My Hometown, We Take Care Of Our Own, Jailhouse Rock, Man’s Job, Atlantic City, Wrecking Ball, Hungry Heart, The River
Disc 2: Youngstown, Murder Incorporated, Darlington County, Bobby Jean, Shackled And Drawn, Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, The Rising, Land Of Hope And Dreams/People Get Ready
Disc 3: Intro, Follow That Dream, Born In The U.S.A., Born To Run, Dancing In The Dark, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Twist And Shout, Shout, Thunder Road
Bonus tracks: Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, Studio 6B, G.E. Building, Rockefeller Center, New York, NY, USA – 27 February, 2012: We Take Care Of Our Own, Wrecking Ball; 2 March, 2012: Sexy And I Know It, Death To My Hometown, Jack Of All Trades, The E Street Shuffle
Springsteen performed at Werchter as part of the TW Classic Festival, which also featured Balthazar, Blondie, Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite, Santana and Keane. Spirit In The Night opens the show, and the now-customary heavy-handed prelude to the song makes for a rather lacklustre show opening. However, as Marco Lakerveld reports on the Backstreets website, “‘Spirit in the Night’ is followed by ‘Badlands’ and ‘Death to My Hometown,’ both energetic and intense.” After another frequently played Wrecking Ball number, We Take Care Of Our Own, we get the show’s first request in the shape of Elvis Presley’s 1957 hit, Jailhouse Rock. As the cover shot above reveals, the sign requesting the song, which received its first European performance, was accompanied by a teddy bear. “The amazing horns get the spotlight and are allowed to show their excellence,” contends Lakerveld, “Bruce is sounding raw and ready for a fight, and it just sounds perfect.” There performance is tremendous fun and after its conclusion another sign request (and another stuffed toy, this time a duck) leads to the tour’s second performance of Man’s Job, the first having come at the Mönchengladbach show of 5 July simultaneously released by Crystal Cat as Mönchengladbach Wrecking Ball Night and previously issued by Godfather as We’re Going To Play It Loose Tonight (both already reviewed). “The progress compared to the previous rendition in Mönchengladbach is remarkable;” argues Lakerveld, “moreover, you can see and feel the sheer fun on stage.”
Of the next song, Atlantic City, James Wilford writes on Springsteen’s official website that:
“The real highlight of the concert came after these first two requests, when Bruce was joined by Ben Harper (who played earlier in the festival) for ‘Atlantic City.’ Some might have expected this, as the blues-rock singer had covered the Nebraska song recently himself. Harper’s involvement prompted a slower version of the track, on which he and Bruce shared vocals – very powerful.”
Lakerveld was also impressed, writing that:
“Ben Harper joins Bruce, and together they offer us ‘Atlantic City.’ You know those shows where a special guest [is] introduced but nothing special is added? Well, this wasn’t one of those. This one, they really nailed it from the start. And although the styles and voices might differ, and their timing is not perfect timing, this Bruce/Ben team-up is impressive, sending some shivers down my spine. A real treat and a highlight.”
The next number, Wrecking Ball, is vibrant, energetic and hugely enjoyable and it is followed by Hungry Heart, which gives the audience an opportunity for some vocal participation. The first disc then closes with a distinct change of mood in the shape of an emotionally affecting rendition of The River, to which the audience gets a further chance to contribute vocally.
Disc two opens with two numbers which have had commentators praising the E Street Band’s guitarists. Wilford writes that, “Steve [Van Zandt] and Nils [Lofgren] offered some guitar masterclasses with solos in ‘Youngstown’ and ‘Murder Incorporated.'” “It becomes serious,” states Thierry Coljon of Le Soir, “when Nils produces a superb solo in ‘Youngstown,’ before the boss does the same in ‘Murder Incorporated.'” Lakerveld adds: “‘Youngstown,’ yes! ‘Murder Incorporated,’ yes! Especially on ‘Murder Inc.,’ Nils, Bruce and Stevie take turns on the solos, and believe me, they do it well.” Selena, posting on the Greasy Lake setlist thread, enthuses: “I will never tire of the Youngstown Murder Inc double shot. Two awesome rockin tunes!” Other posters agree, with candy’s boy contending that, “highlight of the evening for me undoubtedly: Youngstown into Murder Inc (which came with blistering extended solo work from both Bruce and Steve)” and Perisic arguing that, “Youngstown-Murder Inc is a great duo.”
Two songs from the Born On The U.S.A. album, Darlington County and Bobby Jean are followed by the show’s fourth and final Wrecking Ball song, Shackled And Drawn, which Lakerveld regards as, “a real stand-out for Cindy [Mizelle]’s extraordinary performance. Her vocals, her preaching…just out of this world, fantastic.” Waitin’ On A Sunny Day contains the customary vocal slot for a youngster from the audience (in this instance a girl with a very shaky grasp of the lyrics), before the main set and disc two conclude with strong performances of The Rising and Land Of Hope And Dreams, the latter of which ends with the usual snippet of People Get Ready.
The third disc kicks off with the encore’s opening number, Follow That Dream. Wilford puts the performance in context:
“The second major highlight of the show was at the beginning of the encore when Bruce granted a third request, another Elvis Presley cover. This time there was no sign; Bruce explained that a woman had written to him asking for ‘Follow That Dream,’ the Elvis song Bruce had changed a bit and adopted to make his own. She said it was a song she heard when she first saw him perform 25 years ago; incidentally, the song was the first that Bruce had ever played in Belgium, in Brussels on The River tour in 1981, making this moment even more special.”
After this restrained start, we enter more obvious, and very satisfying, encore territory with Born In The U.S.A., Born To Run and Dancing In The Dark. Things remain up-tempo with Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out and an Isley Brothers double shot of Twist And Shout and Shout, the latter of which includes the band introductions. The two Isley Brothers songs, along with the four Wrecking Ball numbers, receive their first performances in Belgium. Finally, the show concludes with a solo acoustic Thunder Road. “After five strong, powerful songs, the encores will end as they began, with a fragile, stunning prayer,” writes Lakerveld, “every note of ‘Thunder Road’ is clear, every word sounds sincere and pure; the acoustic version is simply far more powerful, compared to the full band version.” Whist I would be inclined to disagree that the acoustic version of the song is superior to the full band version, the simplicity of the former does lend the song a certain emotional impact.
“For me,” concludes Lakerveld, summing up the performance as a whole, “it was a powerful show. Energetic, with strong rock songs, power and spirit. It wasn’t an epic night in the end – not a continuation of the Monchengladbach/Leipzig/Rome run – but nevertheless a fantastic performance with personal highlights including ‘Jailhouse Rock,’ ‘Atlantic City,’ ‘Follow That Dream,’ and ‘Thunder Road.’
As with the other recent Crystal Cat releases, this is an IEM/audience mix and it has found favour with commentators on the Jungleland site. The first post by olli66 reads:
“for now I just listened to 30 seconds of Follow that dream
clearly an IEM/AUD mix
from the 30 seconds I hear real stereo seperation [sic] on the drums
I was hoping for an IEM/AUD mix since I already have the AUD source they used for the mix (which is fantastic)”
Later he adds:
“Well done CC. I don’t know how much better it could have been because I don’t know the source IEMs but this one is good…I compared BitUSA with the plain AUD tape CC used for the mix. Big improvement because that song suffered from volume fluctuations and bass heaviness on the audience tape…The other song I listened to was Follow that dream. I really love the natural sound of the plain AUD tape but the CC IEM/AUD mix really shines.”
Comparing this release with Wembley Wrecking Ball Night, the sound quality of which I found most impressive, hobbes4444 comments:
“I did an AB between CC’s London and this, and actually preferred the sound of London slightly over this one. Perhaps this has more feeds mixed together. Individual instruments are very clear here. Charlie’s parts are very high in the mix at times, which is fine, better than tons of horns in the mix. At times the guitars are there but a little low. London seemed pretty spot on throughout the entire show. I really like the London mix and this is certainly comparable. In terms of atmosphere, I’d say this is a little better than London which had a bit of echo (as it reportedly sounded in the stadium).
Bottom line, this is an improvement over the quality of the 2012 releases which were still pretty decent. If you’re a fan of IEM/AUD mixes, you should like this one. I actually think it’s better than the first couple of official downloads. Excellent work.”
The sound quality is doubtless helped by the excellent sound of the actual show. Posting on Greasy Lake’s setlist thread Perisic states that, “the sound was great,” and Growin’ Up goes further, calling it “awesome.”
In addition to the main show we are treated to a half-dozen numbers, also sounding very fine, from early-2012 broadcasts of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. All these songs appear, in audio-visual form, on the Apocalypse Sound DVD Wherever This Flag’s Flown, and readers are directed to my review of that release for details of the performances. It is gratifying to additionally have these performances available on CD, although the comedy rendition of Sexy And I Know It (featuring Fallon as Neil Young and Springsteen as his Born In The U.S.A.-era self,. while still funny, obviously suffers from losing its visual dimension.
As we have come to expect from Crystal Cat, the packaging is superb. The front and rear inserts, the twenty-eight page booklet, the additional tri-fold insert and the discs themselves bear numerous onstage photographs of Springsteen and the band. The booklet and tri-fold insert also have shots of the audience, the view from the centre microphone (before and after the arrival of the audience) and posters advertising the TW Classic from 2002 to 2013. In addition to the track listing and the list of band personnel, the booklet reproduces the accounts of Lakerveld and Wilford which my review has also made use of. The usual glossy paper is used for the booklet and inserts.
Overall, with an impressive main show, impressive sound and a generous selection of enjoyable bonus tracks, this is another very desirable Springsteen release from the Crystal Cat label.