Darkness On The Edge Of Town

16 Jun



Saw Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band at Wembley last night and it was a great show. The highlight of the three hour-plus set came when they played the ‘Darkness On The Edge Of Town’ album, from 1978,  in its entirety. This made my evening because it was the first Springsteen album I ever bought!

Stadium gigs are not my preferred way of listening to music, I prefer more intimate venues.  I’m happy to make an exception for  The Boss though, since the first time I saw him, at the NEC in Birmingham back in 1981, was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.  That’s largely through the sheer effort that both Mr Springsteen and the E-Street Band put into the show. They really, really, do put their all into connecting with the audience.  The only reason I can put up with uncomfortable seats, queues, and a limited range of mediocre food and drink at premium prices is to know that the performers are committed to making the evening work – and that means a big performance style that matches the  size of the venue – not a problem for this act 

The full set-list of the show can be found at the excellent Blogness On The Edge Of Town fanzine. (http://bit.ly/168xiPa ).

The reason why I bought ‘Darkness’ first is because in the long gap between it and the earlier ‘Born to Run’, I’d got  all the earlier material on cassettes via friends!

It’s a sombre, mature and, above all, substantive collection when, for the first time, Springsteen’s industrial blue-collar vision came together into a coherent, extended vision (realised at greater length and in a slightly more cinematic way in his next double album (‘The River’)). It’s a songscape populated by men frustrated and rebellious at the extinguishing of their, generally modest, hopes and dreams. Of protagonists trying, not always successfully to do the right thing. And yet, it’s not all gloominess – there’s a sense redemption, of better days ahead, of refusing to be beaten down,

The four standout tracks are those which opened and closed each side of the original vinyl (‘Badlands’, ‘Racing In The Street’ from side one and ‘The Promised Land’ and ‘Darkness On The Edge Of Town’ from side two). Add to these the ace ‘Factory’ and you’ve  got half of the collection which were five-start classics when issued and which sounded at least as fresh, urgent and authentic when played last night.

I’m not enough of a Springsteen obsessive to know if this is the first time they’ve done the whole of ‘Darkness’ (although I note ‘Born To Run’ and ‘Born In The USA’ were featured in recent Italian shows), or when and if they’ll repeat the experience but it was a privilege to hear this extraordinary, charismatic and grounded ensemble reprise it live  – and in a venue just four or five miles where I was born too. Special.


3 Responses to “Darkness On The Edge Of Town”

  1. villagerambler June 17, 2013 at 9:38 pm #

    I’m extremely envious! I checked out the setlist – what an amazing show that must have been. Darkness has always been one of my favourites too. Now if he can just do the same with “The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle”…

    • esther millson February 23, 2014 at 9:07 pm #

      This isn’t to do with Mr Springsteen – but an up-and-coming recommendation… Visit ericaband.com for a young, Gloucestershire-based, three piece band called Erica – who’ve just had a super review in Kerrang magazine (see below).

      KKKK (Out of Five)

      WHEN Paul Simon sings of “the Mississippi Delta shining like a National Guitar” in the song Graceland, one continent and two generations away three musicians understand instinctively just what it is he is speaking of. It is the idea of music being a thing of both soul as well as a transcendent beauty that can span both cultures and styles. So while Sons Of The Highland is ostensibly the work of three lads from the pastel coloured fields of Gloucestershire, in effect this is the work of keen and attentive students of the People’s Republic of Rock’N’Roll.
      The first cut of this 12 song set will have listeners wondering quite what this is all about. Eschewing the notion that new acts should make their point quickly and not waste the busy listener’s time, Lucky 7 meanders into life slower than a paddle boat on the bayou. By the time the song snaps itself into form, moonshine and mosquito nets have given way to the more modernistic stylings best exemplified by Pearl Jam. This is familiar stuff, and of all the bands that have emerged onto arena stages in the past 20 years, none have spewed more detritus in their wake than Pearl Jam. But while Middle America and the middlebrow chew on the greasy bones of Nickelback and Creed, Erica – a name that is gonna take some getting used to – at least aspire to purer heights, and sometimes reach them. When this happens – as it does on Faith and Sons Of The Highland – it is magnificent.
      But whatever the weather, there is not a moment on this dense and dexterous set where Erica don’t sound like men who mean it. Standing proud in the fine tradition of power trios – where bands from Rush to Motorhead, from The Police to Green Day work just that little bit harder to fill the space – the arrangements here are thoughtful and usually deft. Occasionally the piece does become lost in a cul-de-sac of off-the-peg riffs (as is the case in the delightfully named Cuppa) but such lapses of taste and Judgement do not detain the listener for long. Elsewhere this is the work of a group who have taken care with the songs they have written and (increasingly rare, these days) have learned to translate these songs into living form not with the help of modern recording devices but rather the time-honoured tradition of standing in front of an audience of strangers.
      On the strength of Sons Of The Highland, Erica will be turning these strangers into friends wherever they may find them.

      • alastairt February 25, 2014 at 9:37 pm #

        Thanks for the recommendation. Kerrang is not on my reading list so I will check out Erica with interest.

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