Whenever I feel like a break on the Magic tour these days, I like to go back to one of Springsteen's acoustic tours. Not working today, I allowed myself to wake up slowly with this fine recording from the Devils & Dust tour, Springsteen second full scale solo tour. Also know as the "Shut the fuck up tour". The tour found Springsteen looking back on his entire body of work, reflecting on his accomplishments. Maybe after the relative failure of the Vote For Change tour he felt the need to step back a little, reflect on his accomplishments and determine the direction his career should take. Though there was the political reference here and there through the tour, they were sparse. Devils & Dust was very different from the Ghost of Tom Joad tour in that fashion. The Boss may have been in a reflective mood, that didn't mean he stopped pushing the envelope as well. Through out the tour he tinkered with arrangements to well known songs, experimenting with new arrangements, instruments and microphones. Not everything he did turned out an unambiguous creative success, but it did affirm that Springsteen wasn't quite ready yet to lean into his past successes.
During this Hollywood show at the Hard Rock Café, the audience got treated on an alternative career overview. Very little hit songs featured in the set list, but throughout the evening his strength as a song writer quietly unfolded. The stunning version of "Drive All Night" is worth the price of admission alone, featuring Little Steven on guitar and the Big Man on sax. Especially Steven's guest spot is revealing of a sort. In the E-Street Band Steven operates in the shadow of the over qualified Nils Lofgren these days. His fine picking here demonstrates that van Zandt is quite the guitar player in his own right. Near the end the illustrious duo comes back on stage adding a little extra to a playful "Thundercrack". Other than on the Tom Joad tour, there isn't a whole lot of talking during the Devils & Dust shows. Springsteen tended to let the songs speak for themselves on this tour. And speak they did. Especially during that second American leg, the audiences got treated to rarities that had hardly seen the light of day during his career. "Santa Anna" and "I Wanna Marry You" are the most obvious selections on this recording. Depending if you're a fan of the infamous bullet mic, there's some treats on here for you as well. Both "Born in the USA" and a rousing slide blues version of "Johnny 99" get treated to a voice covered by static.
The sound on this recording is more than a little decent indeed. Because of the acoustic nature of the tour Devils and Dust got treated on many fine bootlegs. Though this one is a tad distant and a little lacking in warmth and depth when it comes to the instruments, I'd say it is one of the finer recordings of the tour. If I have any gripes with this recording it is the obnoxious talker close to the taper who after "Reno" questions "how can anybody applaud a song about a prostitute". In one stroke this man misses both the point of the song and fails to recognize that prostitutes are indeed fellow human being performing a profession that goes back further than Maria Magdalene. The prostitute that's part of the backdrop of the story "Reno" is trying to tell is another example of Springsteen allowing us a peek into the lives of the disenfranchised. A point the talker painfully misses. Talkers like that ticks me off more than a drunk calling out for "Rosalita". This is a minor glitch in the recording however and will hardly take away from the enjoyment of the show, which at times was a fanatic's wet dream.
Download the full show in mp3 here
A small request, use mp3s for personal use only. Keep them in your iPod or on your computer but never use a mp3 based CD in a trade. The quality of mp3s deteriorate rapidly every time a CD is ripped. Using high quality music files such as FLACs is essential in keeping the trading pool healthy.
Recording: 4- out of 5
Show: 4,5 out of 5
Artwork: 3 out of 5