New York City First Dream Night
New York, NY
November 7th, 2009
04 Prove It All Night
05 Hungry Heart
06 Working On A Dream
07 Introduction to THE WILD, THE INNOCENT AND THE E STREET SHUFFLE
08 The E Street Shuffle
09 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
10 Kitty's Back
11 Wild Billy's Circus Story
12 Incident On 57th Street
01 Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
02 New York City Serenade
03 Waitin' On A Sunny Day
04 Raise Your Hand
05 Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street
06 Glory Days
07 Human Touch
08 Lonesome Day
09 The Rising
10 Born To Run
11 Wrecking Ball
12 Bobby Jean
01 American Land
02 Dancing In The Dark
03 (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher (with Elvis Costello)
The first time I saw a picture of Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter I cried. It wasn't that he's a particular hideous looking creature, for he's regular looking middle-aged American (or at least he was in the picture I saw - he's now well past middle age in real life.) Rather it was the ability to put a face to the man who had written so many words that have moved me deeply. There was something about seeing the poet after hearing the poetry that brought tears to my eyes. I suspect that for many of us there becomes a connection to the artist beyond just the art.
I knew a girl in high school who carved up her arms with "Kurt Lives Forever" and such like after Cobain killed himself. People still mourn John Lennon and Elvis Presley though surely they didn't know them personally, and their songs can still be heard and thus cannot be mourned for. We live in a celebrity obsessed culture which celebrates not only the great works that people do but the people themselves. I suppose that is only natural. It is hard to separate the artist from the art. Which in the end, is my point, I suppose. We connect ourselves to the people who create objects that we love. Would I love Dylan less if he never changed his name from Zimmerman? Would I think less of Norah Jones songs if she was as fat as a sow? I don't know. But I do feel a connection to their images, to who I think they are as people beyond what I love about their songs.
When Clarence Clemons died there was an outpouring of emotion form millions of fans all over the globe. Though his death was not unexpected it still hit the community hard that the "Big Man" had finally left this world. Most of those people did not know the man, had never spoken to him or even met him, yet their loss was real just the same. Clarence had moved people with his sax through multiple decades of making music. He will never blow another note, but still he lives on - in dozens of albums, videos, and countless bootleg recordings like this one.
And what a fine bootleg this one is. In recent years a number of artists have found unique ways of presenting their songs in a live setting. Wilco recently did a run of shows in Chicago in which they played every single song they've ever released as a band. In 2007 Lucinda Williams played a string of shows in which she played a single album in concert from Lucinda Williams to World Without Tears over a week long stint in New York. Steely Dan did the same with some of their hits from the '70s, so did Lou Reed with his album Berlin and the Pixie's with Doolittle. I'm quite sure there are many more that could be listed.
Not to be left out Bruce Springsteen closed out his 2009 tour with a number of shows throughout the country in which he played some of his best albums live. On this night he played The Wild, the Innocent, and the E-Street Shuffle from start to finish. But since this is a Springsteen show he also played a few b-sides, tracks that got left off the final album, and a whole slew of songs from the rest of his career.
Its an interesting concept, playing an entire studio album in a live setting, but not always a successful one. Obviously there are things you can do in the studio - sounds you can create - that just can't be replicated live and as Lucinda Williams noted while playing Sweet Old World it might sound good to go from a big rocker to a soft ballad on an album, but its quite difficult to make that transition work live. For their part Springsteen and the E-Street band do a good job of recreating this album in concert.
As any fan can tell you Bruce Springsteen live is a behemoth. He plays long shows filled with theatrics, winding stories, and the best rock music this side of Mars. Some will tell you that his best work both in studio and live were in the 1970s and while that may be true every bootleg recording of that era that I've heard, quite frankly sounds like a mouthful of suck. The performances might be fantastic, but when the recording sounds like someone stuck a microphone deep into their hip pocket, I have a hard time listening.
Bruce and the boys might have been past their prime in 2009 but the sound quality is stellar and I'll be damned in the performance isn't pretty darn good. They start it off with a track that was originally planned for the album but got cut, "Thundercrack" which sets the stage for nearly three hours of rocking the house. They play several more tunes before Bruce introduces The Wild, The Innocent and the E-Street Shuffle. They play the album surprisingly well considering several of the tunes are long out of rotation. It is one of my favorite Springsteen albums, I just love the way those early Springsteen songs are crammed full of lyrics and seem to move in an out of genres with jilting rhythms and big horns. "The E-Street Shuffle" also contains lots of 70s era funk sounds that the boys left behind decades ago, but are able to - if not exactly replicate then modernize with flair. From the sound of things it also got the entire Madison Square Garden crowd on their feet and shaking it.
The rest of the album is played with just as much energy and exuberance. Songs like "Rosalita" are standards in their live sets, but they even pull off songs like "Wild Billy's Circus Story" and "New York Serenade" like they've been played a thousand times. It really is -all in all an - excellent representation of the classic album played live.
The rest of the show doesn't fair quite as well especially as the concert runs well into its second hour. On songs like "Glory Days" and "Dancing in the Dark" you can really tell that everybody is worn down and exhausted. But then they are able to pick it up again on excellent performances of "The Rising" and "Bobby Jean." There's also not a lot of the classic storytelling that Bruce is so famous for. Often during concerts Bruce will tell these long, winding stories about his family, friends and where the songs come from that are just as entertaining as the music itself. But here for whatever reason he pretty much just sticks to playing the tunes. The shows ends with a really energetic and riled up performance of "Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher" with Elvis Costello.
All in all its an incredible show that pays tribute to a great album, the hardest working band in show business and pays loving tribute to the Clarence Thomas. Rest in Peace Big Man.