[no title]JEMS Date: 26 Nov 1995 Location: Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles, CA Format: – Duration: –
01- THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD
02- ADAM RAISED A CAIN
03- STRAIGHT TIME
04- HIGHWAY 29
05- DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN
06- MURDER INCORPORATED
08- IF I SHOULD FALL BEHIND
09- BORN IN THE USA
10- DRY LIGHTNING
11- SPARE PARTS
13- SINALOA COWBOYS
14- THE LINE
15- BALBOA PARK
16- ACROSS THE BORDER
17- DOES THIS BUS STOP AT 82ND STREET?
18- THIS HARD LAND
19- DEAD MAN WALKIN'
20- GALVESTON BAY
21- MY BEST WAS NEVER GOOD ENOUGH
recording gear: MarcSound mics and pre-amp > Denon DTR-80P DAT recorder
It's hard to believe 20 years have passed since the Joad/solo acoustic tour. I traveled down from Seattle to represent for JEMS at the Wiltern. I couldn't remember how I got the tickets, but it turns out it was through work as my pal JS had come up with the convincing reason for our boss to send us down to "cover" the shows (see below).
Make no mistake, opening night in LA of Springsteen's first proper solo-acoustic tour was a mighty tough ticket. We wound up with relatively good seats, in the front third of the house, stage right if I recall. Until recently, other memories of the show beyond a few specific songs were few and far between for a couple of major reasons. The first being that we returned to our car after the show, which we had parked on a side street to avoid paying an exorbitant fee, to find someone had broken into the trunk and stolen the laptop I brought down from the office.
In 1995, laptops were rare, exotic and expensive. I believe the replacement cost was between $2000-3000. SM, our boss back in Seattle took the bad news well, but I do recall feeling like an idiot for having rolled the dice with the parking.
The second and ultimately bigger reason I don't recall the show is that I fucked up the recording. The Joad tour was a tricky one to capture because of the dynamics of very quiet songs and talking mixed with much louder moments when Bruce was strumming like his life depended on it. The result was a show for which it was quite difficult to set ideal levels: Go too low and you couldn't hear the quiet parts; go too hot and the loud parts were over-recorded.
Security wise it was tight show anyway, so I was in no position to openly check my meters. As such, I set the levels at the start for what looked right and let them ride. And they were fine until "Darkness on the Edge of Town" where, as suggested above, the loudest bits pushed the pre-amp to distortion.
I remember playing back the tape once I was back in Seattle, hearing the distorted parts and basically declaring failure. The tape wasn't usable. So I never did trade or circulate it.
Fast-forward 19 years and I'm becoming fluent in iZotope's incredible RX software. RX includes a de-clipping plug in, which I had used on a contemporary recording to positive effect. After seeing what RX could do, I exhumed my distorted DAT from opening night of Joad. I transferred the master tape into the computer and was immediately surprised that the show had far fewer moments of distortion than I had long believed. It was limited primarily to three songs: "Darkness," "Murder Incorporated" and "Does This Bus Stop."
I ran the tape through RX and while it didn't fix the problems completely, it did dramatically improve the affected passages to the point where I find the recording to be quite good. You'll notice where distortion occurs, but it doesn't get in the way and there isn't very much of it. Samples provided.
The dynamics of a Joad show remain challenging to master. Rather than super compressing the recording to flatten out all the levels, I've left the dynamics controlled but largely intact. The show sounds like I remember it.
As for the performance, Bruce came out knowing exactly what he wanted to do and how he wanted to do it, including what was expected of an audience, that was, for the most part, rapt and attentive to the benefit of the recording. The set was somewhat reminiscent of having seen the Christic Institute shows five years earlier, though the show stays in a pretty dark place until the exuberance of a fantastic "Does This Bus Stop" broke the mood.
After writing and sharing these notes with JS (who, by the way, was a major influence on my development as a writer), I was thrilled to receive his remembrances:
"There was no Seattle show scheduled, so we had to be there. I pleaded for and got the tickets to opening night through Harry, who was close friends with the Golden Boy, who handled all the investments for the Mogul, who had access to tickets to literally (literally!) everything, and not just because he was rich enough to buy every venue in North America. SM, our boss and perhaps the best (or at least kindest) boss ever, was totally cool with sending the two of us to LA for a few days, though surely one of us could have done the job on his own.
Before opening night occurred, however, Bruce added two shows in the Bay Area, which were opened by John Wesley Harding, who "a well placed source" told you would be opening the whole tour. By show time, however, we knew Wes was off the bill, which was both a disappointment and a relief. Our seats were in the 10th row--as I recall, Jackson Browne (a close friend of Bruce's) was a few rows behind us, and Tom Hanks (who was tight with Bruce after "Philadelphia") and his wife were sitting with Patti S. a few rows in front of us. The stars were truly out for this one.
The show was very intense, dimly lit, on fire during that brilliant arrangement of "Darkness," pretty light on the classics, and absolutely amazing. I was on the east coast and missed the Christic shows, so had not seen Bruce acoustic since the first Bridge show (which I attended with our late, great friend JR), and at that time in my life there was no show I would rather have seen. After the show, we got back to the rental car, the window was broken, and that fucking laptop was gone. I felt horrible and I think you felt worse. But SM smoothed it all over.
The next night, you got me a ticket to show #2, but before that SM arranged (through DK) for us to go to Bruce's taping of the Tonight Show, at the time an extraordinarily rare TV appearance. We didn't have seats, and for a brief while it looked like we might have to watch on TV in the Green Room. But Mavis Leno (Jay's wife) didn't come that night, so we got her house seats, front row, opposite side of the theater from where Bruce played, sitting next to the then-red hot "Showgirls" star Elizabeth Berkeley (who smelled wonderfully like vanilla), who had pulled strings to get tickets for her and her brother, who is an enormous fan. Later, the second night at the Wiltern was a bit anticlimactic as it was almost exactly identical to the first, but still great.
Re: your notes on taping the show... the levels were so up and down that, a few months later, when I bought a bootleg of that night from someone else's tape, you could hear the taper's heart beating on the recording. It was called "Sour Grapes," and EG at the Landing was nice enough to take it back when I told her I just couldn't listen to it with those creepy heartbeats thumping on the quiet parts. Remember the days of buying bootlegs of show?"
Thanks to JS for getting us to LA for the show in the first place and for his fantastic notes, SM for not crucifying me when the laptop got stolen, the engineers at iZotope for their brilliant software and to mjk5510 for helping to get this show up and out on its 20th anniversary.
BK for JEMS
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