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Music Review: Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band – Live At Count Basie Theatre, Red Bank NJ, 05/07/08 (Bootleg)

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Don’t ask me how these things make their way to the Internet, but thank God they do. And in this case, they made it to cyberspace in both audio and video. Ah, the wonders of technology…

As anyone who has seen Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band on the current world tour for the Magic album already knows, right now these guys are turning in some of the best shows of their career. The concerts since returning to the States from Europe earlier this year have in particular been nothing short of spectacular. Watching the setlists change from night to night has also been something of a die-hard Springsteen fan’s wet dream.

But if you want to talk about a dream setlist, I personally can’t imagine anything could possibly top seeing Springsteen and the band run through the entire Born To Run and Darkness On The Edge Of Town albums in a single night. Every song. In their original order. In 2008. In a small, intimate theater setting.

Couldn’t happen, right?

Well, in fact it did happen just a few weeks back, on May 7 at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, New Jersey. And if you happened to have an extra couple thousand dollars lying around (not to mention travel costs for those fans who aren’t natives), and had fast enough fingers to beat the rest of the crazies with bucks trying to score a ticket, then you too could’ve witnessed this historic night.

When I first heard about this setlist, I nearly cried that I missed it.

But I like I said, thank God these things have a way of finding their way onto the Internet. Now, since Blogcritics doesn’t condone bootlegging, I’m not going to tell you where to find this amazing show. But for those of you who have ever downloaded a concert, I’ll just say that a quick check of the usual places could yield you sweet pay dirt.

The concert was a benefit for the Count Basie Theater itself, and ended up raising a cool $3 million dollars to help renovate the historic building. After an introduction by NBC’s Brian Williams, Springsteen took the stage and let the crowd in on the secret that they would first play Darkness in its entirety, followed by a break, and then they would do all of Born To Run. This was followed by a collective, ecstatic gasp from the crowd.

From there, the band launched into a false start of “Badlands,” prompting Bruce to comment that they “fucked up,” and that he knew “there was a reason we’ve never done this before.” After the false start though, the E Street Band gathered itself and proceeded to burn through the two classic albums.

Many of these songs are already performed live regularly of course, notably “Badlands,” “Born To Run,” and “Promised Land.” Even “Prove It All Night” began showing up again somewhat regularly on the last leg of the American tour, where Nils Lofgren’s scorching harmonics during the guitar solo have been a highlight, and are no less so here.

But hearing the rarely played songs from Darkness is still quite a treat. Bruce still hits those howls during “Something In The Night” effortlessly all these years later, and on “Streets of Fire,” the vocals take on almost a plea-like quality even while the E Street Band rocks it as hard as ever. Hearing “Factory,” in its original album arrangement was also a pleasant surprise.

The Born To Run material comes across equally strong, especially the segue of “Born To Run” into “Shes The One.” On “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out,” the E Street Band is expanded to include a full horn section, including usual Jersey suspects like trombonist La Bamba. And of course, there is nothing quite like hearing “Meeting Across The River” and “Jungleland” back to back as they were originally conceived.

The encores are also a lot of fun, as the by now over-the-top crowd is treated to the rarely played Darkness outtake “So Young And In Love,” “Rosalita,” and “Kitty’s Back” complete with that expanded horn section. I just wish I could’ve been there.

If you are able to find this recording on the net, be advised that the audio is a little spotty in places, but generally not bad as far as audience-made recordings go. The crowd is also irritatingly loud at times, like when the girl screams out for “Streets Of Fire,” after the song has already started.

Below are some video highlights, captured by someone on YouTube going only by the name of Madeline Maddog.

This video montage captures quite a few of the highlights, including the false start to “Badlands” and Nils’ great solo on “Prove It All Night.” The video also jumps around from song to song quite a bit — but nobody expects the whole show start to finish, right? The quality is likewise variable, with lots of places where the image is either obscured by crowd members, or a bit blurry. But it is also remarkably clear much of the time, and certainly captures the energy of the evening.

If you are unable to find this for yourself on the net, I also wouldn’t worry too much. With the 30th anniversary edition of Darkness On The Edge Of Town coming up this fall, I have a very strong hunch that pro-shot footage may see the light of day on a DVD as part of that expected deluxe boxed set.

In the meantime, enjoy. And thank you Madeline Maddog, wherever you are.

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    I smell a BSCA show.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Smell it you may, but apparently not this week.

    -Glen

  • http://www.foryoubruce.com Laser

    Glen, great review. Bruce always lives up to the challenge of providing us with the unexpected. It is how he stays true to himself and makes the journey for his fans never-ending. As another legend(leonard cohen) sang just this past week, “hallelujah, hallelujah your faith was strong but you needed proof” Bruce gives us all the proof we need.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Thanx Laser. Sounds like Cohen sets up a perfect segueway to Bruce’s own overlooked 1992 gem “Living Proof” there doesn’t it?

    -Glen

  • http://www.confessionsofafanboy.com Josh Hathaway

    Nice work, “Iguana” Glen. I was pretty floored by the set list of this show. One of my favorite things about it is that they fucked up “Badlands.” You can probably tell us how many times that song has been played since ’78, but you’re going to need a few extra hands. I’ve seen them once and I heard it. Of all the songs to misfire on, that’s the one they booted. Hilarious!

    The Stones did a thing a couple years back where they went deep cut on a different album each night. I think it would be cool if Bruce did that on a handful of shows- maybe play one album straight through each night over the course of a few shows. You could have Darkness night, BTR, Greetings, etc. The River would be tough because it’s a double and because he doesn’t play “Price You Pay,” but I think it would be a whole lot of fun to see him tear into those albums.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Thanx Josh. I just wish I’d have been there. And you’re right…Bruce doing one of these type of shows for “The River” is just about the only way you’d pry a performance of “The Price You Pay” out of the man. Less of an impossibilty than I would’ve thought after this show though. Who knows…?

    -Glen

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    There’s been a number of cool shows like this lately. The Complete Wilco five-night run in Chicago and Phil Lesh’s current five-night stand in SF where he is recreating two Dead albums a night. More bands need to do this. The hits are boring after a while.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    btw, Bud Light for the birthday Rockologist

  • http://www.themidnightcafe.org Mat Brewster

    Cool stuff Glen. Funny I was just listening to a Bruce bootleg and thinking about doing a review. Guess you beat me to it.