From the opening notes of the high resolution download of the first night of Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band Live at Met Life Stadium 2016 I could tell this was going to be an epic performance. Bruce opens with "New York City Serenade," one of my absolute favorite of his songs -- from his second album, The Wild, The Innocent and The E-Street Shuffle -- backed by a real string section playing all those incredible skyward-reaching soundscapes like on the album!
That song sends shudders down my spine every time.
But I'm getting ahead of myself here...
The thing some of you may not have realized is that even if you were not at those concerts you can enjoy all of the music that was performed those nights from very high quality, officially sanctioned recordings which Bruce now makes available for sale to his fans.
For the last several years Bruce has been running a very well-oiled live music download service. So you can purchase choice archival releases such as the 1978 Cleveland show, which I reviewed last year when the service first started; you can click here to read that review.
These are professionally mixed, better-than-soundboard-quality recording of the tours, available more or less in real time. Folks, for many of us Springsteen fans -- whose only peers are the likes of Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead and Pearl Jam for completist obsessiveness -- this is a dream come true. Now you can get these recordings delivered right to your computer for playback on your home entertainment system, portable mobile devices or even put onto CDs if you'd like.
For this review I contacted the good folks at Bruce's music distribution service partner -- Nugs.net -- who have graciously granted me access to the three record-breaking shows and they do not disappoint.
Bruce's voice and guitar playing are in fine form and the rest of the band is (as always) spectacular. New member Jake Clemons' sax playing is downright eerie-great -- he is the nephew of the late Clarence Clemons (RIP) and has clearly stepped into those very large shoes with grace, respect and a whole lot of talent.
I am still going through the shows but there are moments I've been cherry picking to get a good idea of what I we can expect. You see, one of the joys of following Bruce's live concerts are the unique only-in-concert moments and special versions of songs that pop up. For example, on the first night a fellow in the audience apparently came dressed in a Santa Claus outfit, so the band brought him onstage and broke out a spontaneous (and fun!) version of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" -- in the heat of August!
"Happy Summer!" enthuses Bruce after the end of that one...
That first night they play "Brilliant Disguise" (from 1987's Tunnel of Love) and one of my all time favorites "Bobby Jean" (from 1984's Born in the USA) which was not played the on the other nights. This is cool stuff for those fans who went all three nights (and believe me, there are many who did!). Bruce knows what his fans are like...
The second night of the tour they broke out a killer version of "The Ghost of Tom Joad," a song that has gone through incredible transformation over the years from a moody folky acoustic piece to hard rocking roof raiser and this version is no slouch -- aided by Tom Morello (of Rage Against The Machine) who recorded the song with the E-Street band for the High Hopes album. On this second show they break out "Lost In The Flood" (from Bruce's debut Greetings From Asbury Park) for (apparently) the first time on the tour -- Bruce reads a fan's sign that says '150 shows but no 'Lost In The Flood' to which he replies "You! You! You! Tonight's your lucky night!," obviously pointing out the no-doubt thrilled fan.
On the third show of the run Bruce breaks out a trio of more tunes from Greetings From Asbury Park, all played back to back: "Blinded By The Light," "Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street," and "It's Hard To Be A Saint in the City." And helping them make that longest-show-ever record they broke out gems like "Incident on 57th Street" (from ...The E-Street Shuffle album) and a nearly 10-minute cover of Manfred Mann's "Pretty Flamingo" -- a song, which the band used to do back in the 70s. This is Bruce at his story-telling best. Rickie Lee Jones joins the band for "Spirit In The Night" on this night and the song is elevated to evangelical to levels.
Its really interesting hearing the band doing these early tunes. This is more than just memory lane run throughs, folks. These are special shows with lots of spirited invention.
And so it goes with Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band at Met Life Stadium 2016. You can buy the three shows individually as downloads (in formats including MP3, FLAC, AFLAC, FLAC-HD, ALAC-HD, etc.) or as physical CDs. You can also buy the entire run of shows at a special package rate of about $67 -- thats for about 12 hours of music which seems very reasonable, especially in this sort of fidelity. All of the shows sound real solid in 48 kHz, 24-bit fidelity. For what is no doubt a digital recording, you get crisp highs, warm-mids and a fairly punchy low end, all mixed on the fly in stereophonic sound for your listening enjoyment.
You'd almost think that Bruce was planning on making a live album out of these shows.
Oh wait. Yeah. That is what he did here.
And its all clearly done with a lot of love, so fine...
If you are a Bruce fan, do take some time to poke around his live music site. You'll find some other shows are presented in even higher fidelity -- for example, the August 1984 Brendan Byrne Arena show is available in 192 kHz / 24-bit resolution as well as DSD.
Pretty cool, eh?
Thank you Bruce and Nugs.net for finally making all this great live music available to your fans!