This Is A Ghost StoryJEMS Date: 18 Dec 1980 Location: Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY Format: – Duration: –
01- BORN TO RUN
02- OUT IN THE STREET
03- SPIRIT IN THE NIGHT
04- WHO'LL STOP THE RAIN
05- DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN
07- INDEPENDENCE DAY
08- TWO HEARTS
09- PROVE IT ALL NIGHT
10- THE PROMISED LAND
11- THE PRICE YOU PAY
12- THE RIVER
13- I FOUGHT THE LAW
15- THUNDER ROAD
16- CADILLAC RANCH
17- SHERRY DARLING
18- HUNGRY HEART
20- CANDY'S ROOM
21- BECAUSE THE NIGHT
22- 4TH OF JULY, ASBURY PARK (SANDY)
23- FOR YOU
24- GROWIN' UP
25- STOLEN CAR
26- WRECK ON THE HIGHWAY
27- POINT BLANK
28- THE TIES THAT BIND
30- DRIVE ALL NIGHT
31- ROSALITA (COME OUT TONIGHT)
32- SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN
34- I'M A ROCKER
35- DETROIT MEDLEY
Track 06: first few seconds patched from Kiss Me, It's Almost Christmas
Track 09: last few notes patched from Kiss Me, It's Almost Christmas
Track 12: first four seconds patched from Kiss Me, It's Almost Christmas
Track 15: applause and "we're gonna take a short break" outro patched from Kiss Me, It's Almost Christmas
Track 16: first 1:15 patched from Kiss Me, It's Almost Christmas
Track 30: literally the last note and intro to Rosie patched from Kiss Me, It's Almost Christmas
Holy crap, now that's a set list! The River tour has weathered some criticism lately for going too far, pushing past the perfection of the Darkness tour and into something that started to collapse under the weight of its own 30+ song sets and durations running up to and beyond three-and-a-half hours.
Remember, this was the first all-arenas tour in the States (save for four dates at the start), and while Bruce had to prove it every night in 1978 to infect folks in every city with what fans in the northeast, Texas, Phoenix and a few other hamlets were already diagnosed with, on the River tour he had to make sure every fan, old and new, from the front row to the back of the rafters to behind the stage, got their money's worth. Different mission.
Of course one man's overlong is another man's epic. One man's stretch of pure maudlin is another man's deepest and darkest ride. For me, the E Street Band matures circa 1980-81 and I would argue they have never played better than they do on the River tour. That is, if your idea of the ideal E Street sound has Roy's piano front and center (this would be the last tour where it was) and Steve's voice high in the mix. The arrangements that emerge on the tour are at times jaw-dropping, like the outstanding version of "The Price You Pay" in the first set. 1980-81 had many little touches of brilliance, scene setters like the wonderfully poignant intro that drops us into "The River" or Bruce's incredibly intimate story leading into "Stolen Car." His voice is also in fine form, and the set is littered with moments where he pushes a line or a note that extra mile to make sure it strikes deeply.
The night also brings the first ever cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Who'll Stop the Rain," starting the list of beautifully fitting covers that would go on to be a hallmark of this tour and point the way towards where Springsteen's music would go soon after.
All that being said, let's focus on the second set. The ebb and flow of it is remarkable, starting light as can be with "Cadillac Ranch," "Sherry Darling," "Hungry Heart" and "Fire." The audience is lapping it up. Then we shift gears back to the Darkness era for the striking "Candy's Room" and "Because the Night." Things turn nostalgic as Bruce goes back to '73 for three songs from the first two albums, ending on the brightest possible note with "Growin' Up."
But grow up we will. It seems no accident "the key to the universe" found in the "engine of an old parked car" is leading us into a very different vehicle. From the joys of youth to the sobriety of adulthood in two songs! And "Stolen Car" glides right into "Wreck on the Highway," and if you weren't low or lost enough, "Point Blank" shocks us back to life. My God, man.
And Bruce shifts yet again, in the same set mind you, lifting us all the way back up with an ebullient "The Ties That Bind" into "Ramrod." And yet just when we think the party has returned and will carry us home the rest of the way, "Drive All Night." Are you kidding me? "Rosalita" restores normalcy and that's what you call a second set. Finally, any encore with "I'm a Rocker" is alright by me.
This show is most widely available on the aforementioned Kiss Me, It's Almost Christmas. That recording has many many issues, including cuts, speed problems, clipping, distortion, wow and flutter, a lot of audience chatter, inconsistent mic positioning and overall thinness. JEMS was lucky to borrow first generation cassettes of this superior source from friend of the firm, CB. The tapes needed some work and also had several tiny bits missing, which we've patched as best we could from Kiss Me. While it may look like a lot of patching above (we were inspired by our new friend MJK5510, who has done such a fine job patching alternate tapes together into new and more complete sources), the total amount of audio from the Kiss Me sources is only two minutes or so.
I'd call this one of the better 1980 audies. It has a bit of chatter and a very enthusiastic audience, but is otherwise quite full bodied, clear and punchy. Samples provided.
Thanks to CB for loaning his first-generation cassettes for this project. The good news is, the recording from December 19 is even better.
Wayne Darlington for JEMS
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