Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
Hammersmith Odeon London ’75
Rock / Pop / Soul
The legendary, oft-bootlegged Odeon concert was finally “officially” released in DVD form as part of the Born to Run: 30th Anniversary 3-disc box. Though the box also included the long-awaited Born to Run remaster and a DVD about the making of the album, the jewel of the $35 box WAS the Odeon DVD.
The version released in February is a 2-CD music-only version intended to placate all the frustrated Springsteen faithful who tried in vain to get the DVD to play in their car stereos! The performances are so good, fans wanted the music in their cars and on their iPODs — not just on their TVs.
Vintage E Street
This 1975 show documents a young and hungry E Street Band that’s never been properly evidenced on CD; even the mammoth Live: 1975-85 contains only a single song recorded before 1978. It’s also the only official release to capture a complete Springsteen marathon — from the tender Thunder Road opener to the scorching cover of Gary U.S. Bonds Quarter to Three. The Odeon concert marked the moment when a London audience learned the undeniable fact that Newsweek, Time Magazine and Jon Landau had already reported in America: Bruce Springsteen was the greatest songwriter and performer to emerge in a decade.
Recorded immediately following the BTR sessions, the band was haggard from months in the studio and flagged from jet lag (which could explain their horrid wardrobe), yet their energy level was extraordinarily high. The album is swaddled in typical E Street Band brilliance — as Springsteen put it, “…we were armed with a setlist that I dare most young bands to match.” Familiar concert standbys like Spirit in the Night, It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City, Backstreets and Born to Run are typically excellent, though similar to previously released versions.
A few performances, though, are revelations: Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out and She’s the One pack a punch — at the risk of blaspheming, I’d say they were better than the originals; Lost in the Flood achieves the terror that eluded it on Asbury Park; E Street Shuffle is practically unrecognizable in its soulful makeover; Rosalita and Kitty’s Back are blazing, and they underscore the greatness of Roy Bittan and the rest of the E Streeters.
Amazingly, the 24-track tape of the entire show survived untouched in a vault over 30 years. The tapes were remixed and remastered for this release, and the sound is shockingly good. I wish I could say the same for the much-hyped BTR remaster that anchored the 30th Anniversary box. That orginal BTR album was badly in need of a remix to bring clarity to its cluttered “wall of sound,” but it’s still about as muddy as it was during the Ford administration. The disc is a lot louder and it does have a cool, jet black undercoating, but that’s hardly worth $35.
So, is there any reason to drop $35 on the Born to Run Anniversary? Only if you want to sweeten your DVD collection. The Odeon DVD is a nice artifact, though it was filmed in very low light and isn’t easy on the eyes. Another DVD, the Wings for Wheels documentary, is a well-made, exhaustive chronicle of the making of BTR, but it’s mostly for fanatics. The packaging is particulary disappointing; some archive photos and cheap cardboard inserts don’t do justice to this landmark.
Save some money: don’t buy the box, just buy the $10.98 Odeon concert.
Highly Recommended: 4.5 / 5 stars
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