Thursday, May 8, 2008

Boot Tracker, May 7th 2008, Count Basie Theatre, NJ

Springsteen performed two of his classic albums in sequence last night in the Count Basie theater. I'll be honest from the get go. When I saw the set list I didn't know what to think of it. I still don't. I am not a fan of artists doing their albums in sequence live. To me it reeks to much as a classical recital. R&R is supposed to be something else, something that pushes the boundaries, an art form that is relevant, relating to the here and now. Lou Reed recently toured behind the "Berlin" album, ruining on stage what once was a masterpiece. I was affraid that Springsteen might be disappointing doing something of the same thing. I feel that performances of this kind reek too much of nostalgia, an d too little of what an artist is about in the here and now. Springsteen has always partly been driven by a desire to be true to his art. Is a recital truthful? I have difficulty answering that question. Of course you can count on the mighty ESB to always deliver and give a mighty performance, that isn't the problem. The question is if they can deliver two classic albums and live up to the expectations of fans who have been waiting to hear this for thirty years. In the case of "Darkness on the Edge of Town" including Springsteen himself. It is no secret that he was never satisfied with the way the album turned out and has been talking about recording it live almost from the day the album was released.

So the question is if this performance lives up to his and our expectations. It wont surprise anybody that the Red Bank performance doesn't. This isn't the majestic performance fans have created in their minds over the years, nor could it be. The recital of our fantasies is put together out of the best of the performances he's given over the thirty years he's been touring behind the material. Any current performance he'll give is bound to have moments where it doesn't live up to our mental picture. But perhaps this performance shouldn't be judged in that light, by those high standards. What I am listening to is a very solid rendition of a collection of songs that we all seem to agree upon. "Born To Run" and "Darkness on the Edge of Town" are the corner stones of his career. And I admit he still does them justice. Springsteen still delivers the material with a fervor. He sings every song like he still feels every word, is still able to give them new meaning. The band plays the material with a youthfulness that is uncanny and funnily enough, they play some of the songs better these days than they did during the legendary '78 tour. The E-Street Band is tighter than it has ever been, which helps songs as "Badlands" tremendously. But even though they play the hell out of the songs, you can't help but think back to the intro the Boss used to do before tearing into "Prove It All Night".

Maybe its the setting, the E-street Band back in the theater. The whole show, the circumstances almost forces your memory back to a time thirty years ago. But that is exactly where this evening sits uneasy with me. From the sounds of it the people in the Count Basie Theater got an amazing show, yet I cannot bring myself to enjoy this recording as much as I do an average Magic show. No matter how many killer solos Nils throws at this material, no matter how well the horn section works, how good Springsteen's voice is or how many solos Clarence nails, it does not live up to my expectations nor does it really bring back the shows thirty years past. I keep wondering if the show would have been better if the material played would have been more representative of his entire career. The Basie show would have been an excellent opportunity to throw us some real curve balls, although you may argue that this is indeed the mother of all curve balls, but maybe you understand what I'm getting at. Rare songs, rare covers, mixed with new material, stories that relate to the here and now, stories of Danny Federici, I can't help but miss that in this show.

This is undeniably nit picking from a fan who wasn't there though. As this recording illustrate, the Basie wasn't about to spoil their fun with concerns as these. The band is giving a hell of a show and seems to be getting an equal response. How could they not, small theater Springsteen is a rarity, the Boss crowd surfing even more so. Funny thing is, this recording even sounds like a classic audience tape. Some of the old warts are back that were missing from the arena tapes. People clapping out of time up front, sound drops, chatter, it is all there. The band sounds a bit distant, but a lot less hollow because of the acoustic. Theater tapes carry a lot less echo. This tape is a nice representation of an oddity in Springsteen's career. Fun to listen to, but nothing that will find you throwing out those classic albums with the trash. And lets be honest, how many bootlegs will you find these days that end with "Raise Your Hand"!

"Street Of Fire"

MP3 File

Download "Darkness on the Edge of Town" here
Download "Born To Run" here
Download the encores here

The official Count Basie Theater site

Recording: 3 out of 5
Show: 3,5 out of 5
Artwork: 3 out 5

Note: here's an alternative link to the entire show in one batch, courtesy of BTX.

Crystal Cat released their version of that already legendary Red Bank show Springsteen did at the Count Basie theater. Since it is a beefed up version of the recording that has already been floating around you can let it pass you buy. Crystal Cat really botched this one up. They made it into a two disc release. "Thunder Road" actually comes at the end of the first disc, destroying the concept of the show. I'm glad I got this one for free and didn't shell out my hard earned cash on a silver disc copy.

Get the Crystal Cat Red Bank release in mp3 here


Anonymous said...

I'll tell you...that was a fantastic review of the show. I'm not being sarcastic at all but I completely agree. I wasn't there and I'm sure if I was I would have enjoyed the hell out of the show, but made some compelling points.

One of my favorite things about being a Bruce fan and seeing him in concert is his ability to live & play in the NOW. He still plays a lotta oldies but finds room for a lot of new tunes and a few songs from The Rising every night (and I wish he'd still play some Devils & Dust stuff more often). He's an oldie...but he a contemporary too.

When Neil Young was inducted in to the rock n roll hall of fame they asked him to put Old Black (his Les Paul) on display but he wouldn't do it because he NEEDED it to make music. I kinda see Bruce the same way in that he still feels like he has something to say or sing or play for. Its his ability to be in the present that makes him so damn interesting. I love "Rosalita" and will never complain when I hear it in 2008, but it doesn't seem as "real" as it once did (although "Sandy" still does for sure).

Now I'm still going to give that Red Bank show a full listen and Im sure I'll enjoy it (and would have loved to have been there too). Bruce is still on top, but I'm just saying...that's all.

Thanks for reading my little "rant".

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comments and the post. Can you please reup the BTR link - it doesn't seem to be working properly.

Raymond said...

First of all , let me thank you for a fantastic site and for all of the hard work which I'm sure goes into making it as good as it tis.

That being said however, the link to the "Born to Run" file does not work.

Thanks again, and keep up the good work!!!

SoulBoogieAlex said...

Thanks for the heads up Raymond. I will fix the problem as soon as possible.

SoulBoogieAlex said...

The link should be working again.

Mission Man said...

Hi Alex, thanks for the review, I love your blog -- in fact, I've linked to it on my blog.

However, I have to disagree with you on parts of your review.

First, as a 35 year Bruce fan (since '73, my first 3 shows were in '74 -- in Arizona, for pete's sake), this is probably the one show other than Winterland or Passaic '78 that I really found myself kicking that I couldn't see. To see these two albums done in sequence to me would have been the thrill of a lifetime. See, I don't have a problem with what you call recitals, in certain cases. I saw the Who do both Quadrophenia and Tommy in sequence, and it was incredible to hear the songs in the order they were intended. I've seen a lot of Bruce shows, and I've obviously never seen a show like this. To see him do my two favorite albums of all time in sequence is a dream that will never be fulfilled -- but about 1500 fans got that wish Wednesday evening!

That said, please keep up the great work! I just discovered your blog recently, and it's a must-read every day for me!

Mission Man (aka Don)

Anonymous said...

from a longtime bruce fan who attended the are completely off base. the show was outrageous!! the band was loose and sounded great... after fifty plus shows, I feel as if I dont need to see stadium shows any more after this...the setting was perfect for this type of setlist...this was a once in a lifetime event for bruce fans and he delivered beyond expectations and really made something special rather than doing a typical "magic" show..if I want to hear gypsy rider, I will attend the giant stadium shows with no intimacy or feel

SoulBoogieAlex said...

Thanks for the comment. Just for clarity, I'm not disputing that the band gave one hell of a performance, I'm just questioning the sense of album shows.

Anonymous said...

It's obvious from your review that you weren't at the Basie on the
7th. I've been to many, many Bruce shows and not one can compare to this. It was the most amazing three hours for a true Bruce fan. The energy was crazy, the songs were amazing and I feel very fortunate to have witnessed it. Maybe the tapes can't do it justice and you just had to be there to appreciate what it is Bruce did that night.
It was a truly incredible night and I will never forget it.

temporarysaint said...

Dude I'll keep this short.How the hell can you review a show you weren't even at.I guess you'll respond with "I heard the tape".Thats no substitute for being there though.It sounds like sour grapes to me.Next time you write a review why don't you try going to the show first.Hope you have the guts to post this.

Anonymous said...

You got it soooo wrong. I have pit tickets for two Giant Stadium shows and I would give them up in a heartbeat for one more night in the balcony of the Count Basie. It was a dream come true. If you were there, you'd be singing another tune for sure.
It was insane!!!

SoulBoogieAlex said...

As a habit I rave about Springsteen's work. In fact this is one of the rare reviews on this blog where I voiced some mild criticism. I'm a big fan, otherwise I wouldn't be putting so much time and energy into this corner of the web.

Again my beef was with the album concept, not with the actual performance. The band played the hell out of those two classic albums. I would have loved to have been there and I have been playing this tape quite a bit in the past two days.

Pass the ketchup, I'm eating my words ;-)

Anonymous said...

I was at the show. It was fantastic. However, the jury is, in my mind anyway, still out as to whether or not sequential running orders are as good as a "normal " concert. I think therefore, that Alex is right to give his view on the principle.