It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years since I was basically dragged out to see Bruce Springsteen on the Born To Run tour back in 1975.
Of course I had heard the album.
I worked in a record store, and there was essentially no escaping Born To Run that year.
It was everywhere. Rolling Stone was boldly proclaiming this guy as “the future of rock and roll”. Similarly bold pronouncements could be found in cover stories for both Time and Newsweek. The hype was absolutely enormous. And it was everywhere.
Personally, I thought the album was decent enough.
Basically equal parts Dylan; Phil Spector; and Roy Orbison, the influences we’re the right ones, and Born To Run had a cool “thoughtful street poet” sort of vibe to it…even if the cinematic scope of some of the songwriting was a bit, well “dramatic”.
But a free ticket to see “the future of rock and roll” was still a no-brainer.
30 years (and some 31 Springsteen concerts I have seen since that life changing night in 1975) later, and I am still thanking my friend Jerry Fritzmann (God rest his soul) for that ticket.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s performance that night not only did live up to all of the hype (no small task), it actually surpassed it. Not since I saw the Beatles on TV as a seven year old boy did a single rock and roll performance leave such a lasting impact on me.
Springsteen actually DID become the “rock and roll future” Rolling Stone had so boldly predicted, although it would be several years later before the public would fully catch up to the fact.
The highlight of last year’s 30 year Born To Run commemorative boxed set was the remarkable DVD of a complete 1975 show from London’s Hammersmith Odeon.
That same show has now been released as a 2 CD set, marking the first official release of a complete performance on CD from that pivotal period…where the E Street Band really cut it’s teeth as a world class live band.
Springsteen himself has remarked often in interviews that he was not fond of the performance that night. He has since revised that perspective (on the liner notes of the BTR box).
But on an initial listen here…at least during the first few songs…it’s hard to disagree with Bruce’s original assessment.
Bruce and the band sound somewhat tentative at first, as though all of the hype surrounding the arrival of the “future of rock and roll” in England was about to eat these good old Jersey boys alive. On future show-stoppers like “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out”, the band seems to be rushing through it, lacking much of the stagecraft that they would hone to diamond like perfection on later tours.
But about halfway through, something magic happens as the band begins to slowly find it’s groove. Beginning with “Shes The One”, The E Street Band catches fire, and you can start to see why they became arguably the best live band in the world.
And from there it never lets up.
Bruce and The E Street band tear through frenetic versions of “Born To Run” and “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City” that hum along like…well, like a chrome wheel, fuel injected, last chance power drive.
Even when the tempo is slowed down for “Backstreets” and “Jungleland”, the band matches the dramatic ebbs and crescendos of those miniature street operas note for note.
By the time of “Kittys Back”, the band takes off an an extended jazz improvisation…with more than a slight nod to Van Morrison…with Roy Bittan attacking the ivories like a madman, as Max Weinberg pounds away a backbeat that never loses a step.
The Brits are then sent home Jersey House Party style with the closing trifecta of “Rosalita”, “The Detroit Medley”, and “Quarter To Three”.
I’ve gotten a lot of flack from my friends over the years because of my “obsession” with Bruce Springsteen.
And I have to admit I occasionally question my own sanity over things like travelling clear across the country just to catch one of his shows (which I’ve done more than once).
But rediscovering the Born To Run tour on this CD makes it crystal clear just what it was, and still is, about Springsteen that makes me believe in the promise of Thunder Road’s “One Last Chance To Make it Real”.
Did I mention I love Bruce Springsteen?