Live in New York City (2001)


Disc One 1. My Love Will Not Let You Down 2. Prove it All Night 3. Two Hearts 4. Atlantic City 5. Mansion on the Hill 6. The River 7. Youngstown 8. Murder Incorporated 9. Badlands 10.Out in the Street 11.Born to Run Disc Two 1. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out 2. Land of Hopes and Dreams 3. American Skin (41 Shots) 4. Lost in the Flood 5. Born in the U.S.A. 6. Don't Look Back 7. Jungleland 8. Ramrod 9. If I Should Fall Behind

 

It was a great day for rock and roll when the E Street Band reunited for some new songs on Bruce's Greatest Hits compilation. It was even a better day when they decided to get back together for an indefinite time period and kick off a tour with no album to support (unless you count the box set Tracks). And of course, what better place to record a video and audio momento such as this than Madison Square Garden in New York City? So all of the pieces were in place for something phenomenal. Yet for some reason, this release falls a bit short of being the incredible listening experience that it should be. It's great - no mistake there - but it seems like something is missing. So what exactly is it?

Well, it's definitely not the song selection. Springsteen is one of those rare artists that can play a concert for two hours (actually, three hours, in his case) and play virtually anything from his catalog and have it warmly received. He rarely plays many of his "hits" in concert (the exception may be Born to Run), and, because of the level of intensity at every Springsteen show, no one really seems to care. Plus, there's the fact that most of these songs here are appearing in a live format for the first time. Even though he put out the mammoth collection, 3 disc set Live 1975-1985 right as this band was parting ways, there's not a lot of duplication here from that record.

When I listen to this collection, there are a few things that stand out as being less than stellar. For one, some of the songs simply go on too long. I have no problem with a 10 minute song (such as Jungleland), but I do have a problem with a 10 minute song that should probably only be about half that length (such as The River and/or Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out). The extra length seems to serve no real purpose and just causes these great tunes to drag. The latter song is particularly offensive as Springsteen uses the track to try to pump up the crowd by talking about making this a "rock and roll revival" and laboriously introduces every member of the band. I mean, this goes on and on and on and on. I wish he would just take two minutes between songs rather than making the introductions a "song" themselves. It may have its benefits in an actual show, but doesn't translate well onto a made for home recording.

Then, at the risk of sounding blasphemous, it almost sounds like there's a little too much E Street Band here. During several songs, he lets many of the members sing a line or a whole group of lines during the songs. Now, I'm sorry, but apart from Steven Van Zandt, none of these guys are very good singers. Even his wife, Patty Scialfa sounds better accompanying her husband with background vocals then taking the lead. Maybe that's just my taste, but witness the fiasco of the last song If I Should Fall Behind as he lets everyone sing a line as a way to close the show. Ironic since this is one of the few "non" E Street Bands on the album. Even more ironic that the original version without the E Street Band sounds much better than what is here.

Even though I'm harping on the negative, there's a lot more here to like than to dislike. It's nice to see several newer songs (Land of Hope and Dreams, Murder Incorporated and American Skin (41 Shots)) appear here, especially since some had never been released in any format whatsoever before they were released on this record. It's also nice to hear some older songs resurrected, such as the aforementioned Jungleland and the brilliant Lost in the Flood. I've also become a much bigger fan of the "alternate" version of Born in the U.S.A. that appeared on Tracks that's much more somber and haunting. The version here is more faithful to stripped down version than the original that was so misunderstood by so many people.

The two songs from the "new" box set, you could argue, could have been replaced by better ones, but that's being nitpicky. There was just too much to choose from when selecting material. Ultimately, every fan of The Boss will like this one - and it was great to see the old band back together again.

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