After listening to countless bootlegs during this tour, an official release is like a breath of fresh air. No frustration whatsoever about instrument separation or intrusive audiences, no muddiness nor a band that sounds like its playing three soccer fields away. The "Magic Tour Highlights" simply sounds, well, magical. Though I had heard the videos of most of these tracks through YouTube or Springsteen's site, I was struck by how good they sound. The tracks have clearly been remixed allowing every subtle note to come to the surface. If you thought Tom Morello's solo on "The Ghost of Tom Joad" sounded amazing before, you're in for a surprise. Taking into account that this is an mp3 based download, that's no mean achievement. The tracks sound as full and rich as what you would expect from a CD. You may think you have all of this in a bootlegged version, but you really haven't.
"Magic Tour Highlights" is a charity release, with the net proceeds going to the Danny Federici Melanoma Fund. With such a noble cause it is hard to have any gripes. A charity download like this makes donating fun and then some. But I can't help having a few reservations on how this whole release was handled. First of course there's the title. Though these are without a doubt fine moments from the Magic tour, it is questionable if they were indeed the highlights. Charming as Alejandro Escovedo's guest appearance may have been, his vocals were a bit off from time to time, nice but no tour highlight. Besides, shouldn't this judgment call be made at the end of the tour, the best may be yet to come. But that gripe is absolutely nitpicking from yours truly. What did make me frown however was the difference between the European release and the American one. I would have loved to tell you how good the videos were, but for us Euros there are no videos to be bought, no digital booklet to be gotten. I'm a bit mystified by this distinction as I would have gladly parted with just a bit more of my hard earned cash to get all those goodies.
Gripes soon forgotten however. Danny's performance on "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" is absolutely stunning. A very nice testimony of why he was such an important element of what made the E-Street Band. And lets be honest, after downloading so many bootlegs, you must have a pretty strong argument not to shell out a few bucks for the Melanoma Fund this way.
The Magic Tour Highlights are available through Amazon and iTunes.
Read what Tom Morello has to say about his collaboration with the Boss.