Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Bruce Springsteen 28: No Nukes

One of the last gasps of hippie idealism personified by Laurel Canyon musicians occurred in the wake of the “accident” at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in 1979. Led by John Hall, known back then as the guy from the band Orleans, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Graham Nash, and others coalesced to form Musicians United for Safe Energy, and staged a variety of events in order to raise awareness and money. Five concerts at Madison Square Garden later that year raised more of both, and were the centerpiece of a triple-album set plus a feature film.
Meanwhile, Bruce Springsteen had spent most of the year in the studio toiling and tinkering over what would become his fifth album, and hadn’t done any major shows since New Year’s Day. Naturally, his appearance with the E Street Band at two of the MSG shows, in front of what amounted to his hometown crowd, were big deals, and the excerpts included in the film did a lot to show the rest of the country what the excitement was all about. For Bruce, it was also another spark that started the fire of overt activism that has only grown in his work since then.
Both concerts were released for download and as a CD package via the Bruce Springsteen Archive website in 2018. Three years later, 13 songs compiled from the two shows were remixed and matched with the restored 16mm film footage for a double CD plus DVD or Blu-ray set, unabashedly titled The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts. From the opening crash of “Prove It All Night”, Bruce and the E Street Band attack the set like it stole their lunch money. They were fired up and ready; the occasion of the leader’s 30th birthday might have also added to the intensity. Following “Badlands” and “Promised Land” he takes the mood down to debut “The River”, and goes back to the party with “Sherry Darling”, both from the album in progress. From there, “Thunder Road”, “Jungleland”, “Rosalita” and “Born To Run” deliver the anthems.
The encore covers are included from both nights: “Stay”, with Jackson Browne and Rosemary Butler, who’d recently made it a hit again, plus Tom Petty; the classic “Detroit Medley”, which actually combined two medleys made famous by Mitch Ryder; Buddy Holly’s “Rave On”, hypercharged; and a ten-minute bash through Gary U.S. Bonds’ “Quarter To Three”. It’s even more compelling on screen, with the mildly pompadoured and sideburned frontman looking his coolest, even when tearing around the stage with his shirttails flying, Steve Van Zandt sporting a beret before he switched to the schmatta, and Clarence “Big Man” Clemons commanding his domain. (Neither audio nor video documentation of Bruce pulling his ex-girlfriend, the photographer Lynn Goldsmith, to the stage and then having her escorted from the building because she ignored his request for no pictures has been included.)
All in all, the No Nukes Concerts provides a good balance and perspective between the five discs from the 1986 box and 2006’s excavation of Hammersmith Odeon London ‘75. “Legendary” is a fitting adjective for this music.

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts (2021)—4

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