Spotlight: Springsteen’s Archival Live Releases

 2005_07_31 Columbus, OH

My obsession with bootleg recordings is well documented on BourbonAndVinyl. I can still remember going back up to college my junior year. When I arrived, my friend and one of my future roommates, Drew arrived triumphantly holding a shoe box full of newly minted cassette tapes (yes cassettes, it was a long time ago, I also had a mullet). He announced that he had found the “motherlode” of Springsteen live bootlegs and it was his advice that we listen to all 10 cassettes, one after the another, immediately. After quickly mixing several large pitchers of vodka and Rose’s lime juice, aka the dreaded Kamikazes, we hunkered down. This was during the week prior to school starting and there were numerous parties around campus, chock full of drunken, new female co-eds in need of male upper class-men “guidance”. But were we joining in the fray? No, we were listening to some of the greatest live recordings ever laid down. I can still remember the excitement I felt hearing Springsteen and the E Street Band on those ’75 and ’78 bootlegs, at their prime strength. The music was spectacular, as was the Kamikaze inspired hangover. I now know what death tastes like, it tastes like Rose’s lime juice and Popov (Idaho’s finest vodka).

A year ago or so, I heard that Springsteen, much like Pearl Jam and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, was releasing select concert recordings on the 2014 tour as MP3 downloads. Pearl Jam has been doing this for years. When they started, I went a little overboard and bought say, four or five of them, immediately. Patience and discipline is in short supply at BourbonAndVinyl. Springsteen went on to release every single show on the 2014 tour which was made extra special by the presence of guitarist Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, The Nightwatchman). The E Street Band already had 3 guitarists including Bruce, but hey, you can never have too many guitars. I actually bought the 1-29-14 show from Capetown, South Africa. I showed a bit more restraint than the Pearl Jam situation.

Shortly after the 2014 shows were released, Springsteen released the E Street Band’s first show ever at the historic Apollo Theater from March 2012. It was a great show, broadcast live on XM/Sirius Radio. The penultimate moment was Springsteen calling for a moment of silence for his fallen comrade-in-arms Clarence Clemons, during the song “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”. It was at the moment in the song when Bruce sings, “…the change was made up town and the Big Man joined the band…” If that doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, you’re not human and you’re certainly not a fan of Springsteen’s.

Shortly after that, Bruce announced he’d be releasing “archival” recordings of select concerts from the past. I felt that old, pre Kamikaze excitement return. I felt like a junior in college and my roomie Drew had just showed up with a shoebox full of cassettes. Now, here at BourbonAndVinyl, I try to keep a very close eye on new releases from veteran acts. I scour magazines and social media but even I missed a few of these archival releases. Like the post on the Dylan Official Bootleg Series, I thought I’d compile a quick run down of these live releases. I believe, these live releases constitute as important a set of recordings as Dylan’s Bootleg Series. All of these have been remixed for MP3 or CD release.

Full disclosure – I do not own all of these. Again, the restraint thing took over. The wife would have thought I’d gone crazy. This is more of an attempt to chronicle and shine a spotlight on these recordings, in case you’ve missed them. I must say, the ones I own, sound fantastic.

1975 – Tower Theater, Philadelphia, PA – The 75 tour in support of Born To Run. I have this tour, uh, somewhat covered with other recordings, acquired in a shoebox my junior year in college. Ahem. Anyway, this is a great show from Philly. I love that “Mountain of Love” is on here, a great cover tune Bruce was still doing in those days.

1978 – The Agora, Cleveland, Ohio. This was the tour in support of Darkness On the Edge of Town. This was described by Rolling Stone magazine as Bruce’s greatest live album. This tour is where the legend was born. This show opens with a cover of “Summertime Blues”. Listen and prepare to understand the myth.

1980 – Nassau Veterans Colesium, Uniondale, NY. This tour was in support of The River, which was my first Springsteen album. He came to my hometown on this tour and my buddy, unbeknownst to me, had 2 tickets. He took somebody else because he didn’t think I was into Springsteen. I should say, ex-buddy. It was described in the paper as “the concert of the year” and it was only February. So, naturally I had to have this concert. It’s also very special as it was a New Year’s Eve show on Bruce’s home turf. This is a mind-blowing show. My bootleg experience had never covered this tour, which I consider as important as 78.

1984 – Bryndon Byrne Arena, East Rutherford, NJ. The Born In the USA Tour. What a show this was. This was the tour I first saw Springsteen. If the bootlegs had made me a convert, this tour made me a disciple. If you listen to all of these shows in chronological order, you get a sense that this show is the culmination of something. He built this live show from 75 forward, adding new material, dropping old stuff. It all starts to makes sense why he completely changed directions after this tour.

1988 – LA Sports Arena, Los Angeles, CA. The Tunnel of Love Tour. This is where the Boss, perhaps freaked out by the mega-fame he’d faced after Born In the USA, decided to try and reinvent himself and the band. He changed where they stood on stage, the set list, and the approach to the shows. I never heard much about this tour, but I love the setlist. I remember hearing they played the Amnesty International shows with Sting and others at the end of the tour which marked a decidedly political turn for Bruce. This one is on my shopping list.

2005 – Schottenstein Center, Columbus, Ohio. Devils and Dust Tour. I just found out about this show over the weekend. I purchased it immediately. This is the first recording I’ve heard of Bruce solo – no E Street Band, no band at all – just him and an acoustic guitar, harmonica, piano and what sounds like an electric piano. I love this show. Its quickly slipping into high rotation. He opens up with an obscure gem he did for a movie soundtrack, “Lift Me Up” and the set list meanders from there. Someone in the crowd interrupts Bruce as he’s leading into a tune and yells out a request, “Growing Up”. Bruce just says, “Nah, I’m not playing that one tonight…” Play what you want Boss, the deeper you go into the catalog the better. This does feature a ton of the Devils and Dust LP, so be prepared.

So there it is folks, a quick recap of Bruce’s archival Live releases. Check it out, maybe you’ll like one… or maybe like me on the Pearl Jam bender, you’ll buy them all. You can’t go wrong with any of the releases listed here.

Cheers!

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