Bruce Springsteen – Live/1975-85

Live/1975-85 (1986)

A

1. Thunder Road 2. Adam Raised A Cain 3. Spirit In The Night 4. 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) 5. Paradise By The “C” 6. Fire 7. Growin’ Up 8. It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City 9. Backstreets 10. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) 11. Raise Your Hand 12. Hungry Heart 13. Two Hearts 14. Cadillac Ranch 15. You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch) 16. Independence Day 17. Badlands 18. Because The Night 19. Candy’s Room 20. Darkness On The Edge Of Town 21. Racing In The Street 22. This Land Is Your Land 23. Nebraska 24. Johnny 99 25. Reason To Believe 26. Born In The U.S.A. 27. Seeds 28. The River 29. War 30. Darlington County 31. Working On The Highway 32. The Promised Land 33. Cover Me 34. I’m On Fire 35. Bobby Jean 36. My Hometown 37. Born To Run 38. No Surrender 39. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out 40. Jersey Girl

 

I get wary of gushing about Bruce Springsteen because everybody gushes about Bruce Springsteen. I mean, he obviously has his detractors, but among liberal elitist East Coast rock critics such as myself? Who among us will ever have the temerity to tear down the Boss? As someone who hasn’t chugged the kool-aid (I have only sipped on it lightly in between devouring giant hunks of the Drive-By Truckers pork shoulder), I honestly thought I was gonna be able to offer at least a couple of anti-Bruce hot takes in the course of putting this page together. But dammit, turns out I like the guy even more than I thought! I mean, we haven’t gotten to Bruce’s ‘90s output yet, so we’ll see what happens. But for now, all we’re left with is cranky old Wilson & Alroy, who once opined: “If he’s the Boss, you can call us the Disgruntled Employees.” That’s such a terrible dad joke and I love it. I have been exhibiting elderly man traits since I was like 16 anyway so don’t worry about it.

But honestly, this is an almost perfect live compilation. It cuts out the fat from the E Street Band’s prime era performances, leaving us with only the juiciest goodness. That might seem like a ridiculous thing to say about an album that’s three discs and 40 songs long, but the truth is that Live mostly omits the masturbatory jam band stuff that ticked me off so much on Hammersmith Odeon ‘75 in favor of a broad but well-curated selection of Bruce’s best songs, performed with extra gusto and rendered with pristine mixing. Honestly, if you’re new to Bruce (either because you’re from another country that doesn’t give as much of a crap about him as we idiots here in the US of A do, or because you’re like 12 and your dumbass parents are busting your balls for not listening to “real music” so they grounded you until you run out and buy a Bruce Springsteen CD), you might as well get this first. It has most of the same songs as any of his greatest hits comps, except they sound fuller and more fun, with the added bonus of all the best deeper cuts from his early albums, a few fantastic covers, and no slow, boring songs like “Jungleland.” What more could you ask for? (If the first thing that came to mind upon reading that question was “a blowjob,” then congratulations, you’ve come to the right record review site).

Admittedly, there is a little bit tiresome stuff at the very beginning and ending of this thing, which is when the E Street Band were at their most soul papa pretentious and their most bloated and bombastic, respectively. Let me explain. Live proceeds chronologically through the ten-year period mentioned in the title, covering each of Bruce’s tours during that time. Weirdly, there’s only one song from the Born To Run tour (the same stripped-down piano-only arrangement of “Thunder Road” that also opened Hammersmith Odeon), but the Darkness, River, and U.S.A tours are all amply represented. Not everything is brilliant – some of the early stuff like “Spirit in the Night” is a bit loose and jammy for my taste, and I definitely didn’t need to hear a hilariously overdramatic six-and-a-half-minute version of “Cover Me” or an utterly pointless, boringass solo acoustic rendition of “No Surrender,” for instance. But considering how many damn songs there are on this thing, it’s remarkable how frequently revelatory they are. Here, let me list a few examples because I’m nice:

-Where the heck did that kickass bluesy distorted guitar tone Bruce unleashes at the beginning of “Adam Raised A Cain” come from? Who knew this guy could actually ROCK, ya know?

-”Growin’ Up” is a catchy yet super dinky little song in its original form, but on here it’s an epic anthem of freedom and release.

-There are several covers on here, and they are all phenomenal in different ways. The upbeat party soul of “Raise Your Hand”! The haunting electrified folksiness of “This Land Is Your Land” (which also features an incredibly eloquent book review courtesy of the Bruceman: “There’s a book out now called Woody Guthrie: A Life.” *stammers for like fifteen seconds* “It’s a really good book.”)! The wailing angry protestin’ of “War”! The… Tom Waits-iness of “Jersey Girl”!

-You wouldn’t think the songs on Nebraska would transpose all that well to the Born In The U.S.A.-era stadium stage, but the three selections that appear here work incredibly well with just some background synth and more energetic vocal performances added to otherwise faithful acoustic arrangements. Something about Bruce’s ridiculously over-the-top singing on “Reason To Believe” totally wins me over every time.

-Bruce’s long spoken-word intro to “The River” about his infamous relationship with his dad and beating the draft is absolutely captivating and makes the 11-minute runtime seem like a breeze.

And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg! As opposed to actual icebergs, which generally don’t contain any Bruce Springsteen songs as far as I’m aware. Usually just ice. But seriously, these discs are so damn good. Especially the River tour/early U.S.A. tour stuff on disc 2. That’s the sweet spot.

If you just said “that’s what she said” to yourself, then congratulations, you’re still on the right record review site.



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