After the three tapes from the Bottomline in '75 it is fast forward to 1976 from bureaus of Fanatic records. This Monmouth tape is what I would like to call a scholar tape. The sound of the tape is a too tough a nut to crack for the casual listener. Transferred from a cassette to digital format the recording sounds distant and has an annoying metallic static that comes with old tapes sometimes. Time can be very unkind to cassettes and this tape did not age like a fine wine to say the least. Soundwise this really is a recording for fans who want to collect them all. That is not to say these weren't great shows. As with quite a few Fanatic releases, anybody willing to bite through the hiss and the static, will find pure gold and an opportunity to track Springsteen's development as an artist.
The contrast between those '76 shows and the '75 shows is startling. By that time Springsteen was knee deep in the big muddy of his lawsuits with Mike Appel. As well known Appel was preventing Springsteen from entering the studio with Jon Landau again. A month before this show Appel had send Springsteen a formal letter stating such, citing a contract Springsteen had signed on the hood of a car. That formal letter would lead to the two gentlemen filing suit and counter suit. Springsteen hit the road again to finance his legal battles. Even without a new album to support the tour was a big success and Springsteen took the opportunity to test the waters for a couple of new songs and introduced new covers. This recording here is the second show of what would become know as the Lawsuit Tour.
The feel of the '76 tour is decidedly more somber than the '75 tour. In '75 Springsteen had been on a high, his hard labor seemed to be paying off at last. So the legal difficulty with Appel must have felt like slamming into a brick wall. After all this hard work it was uncertain if he could cash in on his success and make it into a viable career. The trouble with Appel also caused Springsteen to reflect on his relationship with his father more. I think this really was a period where Springsteen struggled to find a way to take his life into his own hands. Throughout his youth and now with Appel, he had to deal with father figures that sooner seemed to be out to break his spirit than give him the support he needed. But then again, R&R thrives on strife, so in a sense Springsteen owes both men a few of his greatest artistic triumphs. The cover of "It's My Life", originally by the Animals, debuted on this tour. As did his own compositions, both on this recording, "Something In The Night" and "Rendezvous". Especially the first two were glum, brooding pieces. In the intro to "It's My Life" Sprinsgsteen would recount his violent and destructive relationship with his father, often choosing the small claustrophobic kitchen of their family home as the scenery. Unfortunately, that story id difficult to decipher on this tape. "Something In The Night" is a song that breathes unease and restlessness, stripped of the promise and youthfulness that so much of his earlier music held, here in a version with very different lyrics than the take that eventually would make the "Darkness" album. Gone were the grand tales of the Cosmic Kid in these new pieces, they are replaced with songs on adolescent angst. But maybe it is because of that angst that the encores in these shows seem so much more cathartic, proving the power of R&R to exorcise demons, night after night.
"Something In The Night"
Download the full show in mp3 here
Sound: 2- out of 5
Show: 3,5 out of 5
Artwork: 4- out of 5