Thursday, September 6, 2018

Album Review: Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band - 6/5/81 Wembley, London

Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band
June 5th, 1981 Wembley, London
**** out of *****

The Site has been releasing shows from Bruce's past for anyone to download and enjoy. While all of the recent shows have been recorded and uploaded, every month or so the site will dig into the archives for a blast from the past. Last month the site offered up the June 5th 1981 Wembley Stadium show and it is a behemoth; over three and a half hours of music.

This performance was during the bands six night London stand on the worldwide River Tour. The European leg was Springsteen's first shot at playing to this market and he poured his all into it, so much so that the Western European leg was delayed three weeks due to Springsteen's exhaustion from the first two legs. There is a weariness in Springsteen's voice on the selected night, but the band is whip crack tight and the (slightly) reserved Bruce lends himself to the quieter/softer numbers.

The biggest surprise of the show has to be the pacing and song placement, this is immediately evident as the concert starts with none other than "Born To Run". Springsteen and crew used this as the opener on The River Tour and it is almost as if crowds weren't prepared for it right off the bat. The guitars are low in the mix for "Prove It All Night" but gradually increase in volume as the show goes on while the "Out On The Street" is a touch sluggish not hitting the joyful high of studio or other live takes.

On the flip side the introspective "Follow That Dream" is successful with only minimal instrumentation and Bruce's raspy/weary vocals. That sense of foreboding works amazingly well for "The River", "Independence Day" and "Darkness on the Edge of Town" but the lesser played "Johnny Bye-Bye" never captures the 50's rockin' sound the group were shooting for while a mid-set "I Fought The Law" feels misplaced. The emotion and seriousness embedded in Springsteen's take on Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" is hypnotic while the cover of Creedance Clearwater Revival's "Who'll Stop The Rain?" nails the dramatic aspects of the song.

"Badlands" is grandiose, opposite of the some of the tighter/manic performances this group of players have banged out during this number and the performance on this night is an upbeat highlight of the first set. The odd pacing however returns as Springsteen chooses to wrap up the first set with the introspective "Thunder Road", it is a wealth of riches from a song perspective, but the performance aspect of the beginning of the show never truly locks in.

The second set flows better to start as "Hungry Heart" is already crowd pleasing, "You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)" is revved up hip swinging rocker and both "Cadillac Ranch" and "Sherry Darling" keep the party flowing with Clarence Clemons saxophone solo in particular highlighting the last of those.

The whole show hits a cinematic high-point however in the middle of the second set as "Because The Night" steals the evening. The band uses the songs dramatic opening to capture the audience, slamming them on the notes as the effort climbs before Springsteen shreds his voice screaming the mantra into the English air; this track alone reason to download this show.

After the blistering song, the band takes some time to gain it's footing again as "I Wanna Marry You" (complete with odd static sounds), and "Point Blank" are downers and normally blazing pair of "Candy's Room" and "Ramrod" never fully coalesce. Show closer "Rosalita" contains group intro's but the band is waning a bit, needing a break to gather themselves (who wouldn't) as the second set ends.

This being Bruce Springsteen however more is never enough and the encore finds all of the players back and completely energized as "I'm A Rocker" totally captures the Jersey shore rock jangle Springsteen envisioned. The heightened poetic tale of "Jungleland" is huge in scope as the piano of Roy Bittan sings, but not as lovely as Springsteen does though on the stripped down Elvis Presley cover "Can't Help Falling In Love".

The bands "Detroit Medley" finally ends the night paying respects to Little Richard by way of Mitch Ryder and is a dynamite exclamation mark on huge night of music. The River Tour had more famous shows, and probably a few better played, but the fact that THIS is a good-to-average night in this bands life circa '81 is a huge testament in and of itself.

Springsteen and the E-Street Band are a hurricane force, June 5th, 1981 Wembley, London proves that they always blew strong; their passion and commitment to the rock and roll spirit are still palpable almost forty years later.
Support the band, download the show and peep some video below:

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