You may have heard that an acclaimed Bruce Springsteen concert has been released on home video formats recently called The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts. Whether you are a deep Springsteen fanatic or just mildly curious about this legendary artist, this is a near perfect performance that is just long enough to be satisfying for hardcore fans and yet short enough to not overwhelm the uninitiated.
Now… A little background…
After Springsteen’s double whammy of releases in the mid-1970s — the groundbreaking Born To Run in 1975 and its powerhouse follow up, Darkness On The Edge of Town — Bruce was ascending very rapidly to superstar status. I first saw him live at Madison Square Garden in 1978 and the energy in the room — the connection between fans and the band as well as the emotional impact of the concert — made me a fan for life… And, I’d already been following him since his second album!
In 1979, Bruce was invited to perform at a benefit concert for Musicians United For Safe Energy (aka MUSE). Unfortunately I was in upstate New York at that time in college so I couldn’t go to the show but I really wanted to. It was no doubt going to be a special evening with all the artists on the bill including Tom Petty Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne and many others.
A soundtrack album from those concerts — No Nukes: The Muse Concerts For a Non-Nuclear Future — was issued in the early 80s. Referred to most people I knew at the time as simply the “No Nukes” album, it was a good snapshot of the event but certainly not representative of everything that Bruce put the table that day.
His performances there have long been fan favorites and in need of an expanded view of what went down in those shows.
Now, with The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts we finally have the best possible document of Bruce’s legacy from those shows: a film with a high-quality Stereo soundtrack.
When I first started watching The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts I have to admit that I teared up because it captures that same energy and emotion that I experienced a year earlier in that same venue. Bruce is perhaps extra amped-up here because he knew he was being filmed — and this is significant given that by this time Bruce was renown for his fever pitch three-plus hour shows, increasingly giving even Dead Heads a new benchmark for epic concert experiences (for those not in the know, The Grateful Dead were by this time well known for there long dynamic concerts).
Bruce always delivers and in this show he and the band pull out all the stops, firing with all cylinders 1000-percent on. It is a spectacular experience.
If you didn’t have the chance to see Bruce this early on, you really need to experience The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts film to better understand what his first wave of star power was like…
Bruce breaks out early versions of some songs that would appear on The River a year later including the title track and “Sherry Darling.” There is a spectacular version of “Rosalita” and the “Jungleland” performance is simply spine tingling.
Honestly it’s hard to pinpoint one favorite moment on The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts because they’re all great and really need to be seen as a whole to best appreciate. Even the famous (so called) “Detroit Medley” (which was on the original No Nukes soundtrack) is way way more impactful taken in context with the full show.
And as good as it is to listen to just the audio soundtrack – available on CD and vinyl – when you watch the film and see Bruce interacting not only with the band and the audience, that is where his magic lies. Talk about knowing how to control and work an audience, I saw him reduce the 1978 Madison Square Garden crowd to hushed silence where you could hear the air conditioning system hum.
Consider that Born To Run was just a few years old at that point when Bruce breaks into “Thunder Road,” so listen how the audience sings along in perfect time with the band during a key verse. They know the lyrics down cold. If you’ve ever been to a rock show where people try to sing along with the group usually it’s a messy affair but these fans tapped in to the heart and soul of what Bruce was doing.
In that sense, the audience here on The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts is almost as important as the band itself. Bruce was the hometown hero and he was clearly the champion of Madison Square Garden at that point in time.
The film quality is excellent on the Blu-ray. It hasn’t been digitally cleaned up so expect to see periodic scratches and certainly film grain but in general the lighting and camera work are outstanding. Much of it was captured on handheld cameras working the floor of the show, improvising in the moment, capturing the essence of what Bruce was about on stage.
The audio sounds really good and is mostly in stereo. The 5.1 surround sound mix uses the rear channels mostly for a concert hall ambience. I’m ok with this because if you consider yourself as a fan sitting in the front row of Madison Square Garden at that time, this film is as close as any of us will get to that feeling of what it was like at that time and place.
In that sense, more than ever you need to own The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts, your time machine to front row center with Bruce and The E-Street Band.
You even get a concert ticket stub reproduction with the package. And how cool is that?!