“Yikes! I’ve never seen any of that stuff myself,” said Bruce Springsteen after watching some amazing clips from The Bruce Springsteen Archives at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, when they were shown at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park on April 27, as part of the Asbury Park Music and Film Festival.
“I’ve lived many lives,” he said after watching 10 clips from as early as 1973 to as late as 2012.
In a surprise, he participated in a panel discussion on the Paramount stage, after the clips were screened, with his film archivist, Thom Zimny — who is doing so much important work for Springsteen these days “he’s like another member of the band,” Springsteen said — and Chris Phillips of Backstreets magazine.
I’ll talk about the clips one by one below, but want to mention a a few pieces of news coming out of discussion, first.
Springsteen said he is planning to release a film of his April 30, 2006 performance with the Seeger Sessions Band at the New Orleans JazzFest. He considers that show, he said, to be among his Top 5, ever. He also said, about that rootsy Seeger Sessions project, “I wanna do that again sometime.” (May 4 Update: He has released the clips to YouTube; they are viewable here.)
The event also included two clips from Springsteen’s legendary 1975 stand at the Bottom Line in New York, and Zimny said one of the shows was filmed in its entirety by Barry Rebo, a friend of the band who was allowed to film at shows.
These were the clips, in the order they were shown, along with some of my thoughts and some excerpts from what Springsteen said about them.
“When You Walk in the Room,” from one of the Bottom Line shows in August 1975. A kind of Holy Grail find for Springsteen fans, as the Bottom Line shows have taken on legendary status, over the years. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen E Street band members standing so closely together on a stage. The song is a Jackie DeShannon song that has been covered by the band only a few times since the ’70s, and the excitement in the air is palpable.
The Bottom Line shows “changed the life of the band,” Springsteen said, during the discussion.
“After we came out of the Bottom Line, we were finally contenders … we were no longer expected to be good, we were expected to be great.”
“The Way You Do the Things You Do”/”634-5789” medley, at the Apollo Theatre in New York, on March 9, 2012. The concert that kicked off the Wrecking Ball Tour. Springsteen talked about learning from soul-music masters like Smokey Robinson, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin before performing these hits by The Temptations and Wilson Pickett, respectively. Springsteen, Patti Scialfa, Curtis King, Cindy Mizelle, Everett Bradley, Soozie Tyrell and Jake Clemons sing together beautifully, and Springsteen ventured not only up into the theater’s balcony, but onto a small ledge from which lights were suspended, to sing part of “634-5789.” The he climbed back down to the stage on a pipe.
Later, Springsteen said that this was not planned, but happened spontaneously. “I don’t know what I was thinking,” he said.
“New York City Serenade,” from 1973, with a beautiful, long introduction by original E Street Band pianist David Sancious.
“Quarter to Three,” also from the Bottom Line in 1975. Springsteen and the band at their most manic, with Springsteen even venturing out into the audience to dance on one of the club’s long, narrow tables. An incredible clip.
“The Promised Land,” Nov. 8, 1996 at a benefit concert at St. Rose of Lima School in Freehold (where Springsteen attended grammar school). An intense solo acoustic performance, dark and haunting, shot close up from start to finish.
“My City of Ruins,” with the Seeger Sessions Band, April 30, 2006 at the New Orleans JazzFest. The song was written about Asbury Park, of course, but took on new meaning at this show, which took place less than a year after Hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans area.
“Rock ‘n’ roll is best when there are large stakes on the table,” Springsteen said during the panel discussion.
“Who Do You Love?”/”She’s the One” medley, June 1988 at Stadion Feyenoord in Rotterdam, Netherlands. A very entertaining clip from the Tunnel of Love Tour, complete with some very energetic maracas playing by Clarence Clemons.
“Even without a saxophone, he was still legendary,” said Springsteen.
He also said, “There may be a Tunnel of Love (Tour) show (on film), start to finish, that we can get to someday.”
“Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy).” Back to 1973, with another black and white clip. A pensive, delicate, unusually slow version of this song, with lovely accordion playing by Danny Federici. Springsteen talked about how this song was about leaving Asbury Park, and starting another phase of his life. He also joked, “I thought I was going to fall asleep at any moment,” because of the song’s slow pace, but praised Federici’s playing.
“Tell Her,” a cover of The Exciters’ hit, by Patti Scialfa with Cats on a Smooth Surface, at the Stone Pony’s 10th anniversary celebration concert in 1984. Springsteen was in the audience. “That’s the night I met my wife,” Springsteen said.
“Growin’ Up,” from Nov. 22, 2009 at the HSBC Arena in Buffalo. Clarence Clemons’ last concert with the band. He died in June 2011.
“It was lovely to see him again (in the clip),” Springsteen said. “I miss The Big Man.”
During the panel discussion, Springsteen noted that the band did not film itself often during its early days, though Rebo sometimes shot shows on his own initiative.
“We were superstitions about being filmed,” Springsteen said, the belief being that “a magician should not look too closely at his magic trick.”
He also disliked being filmed, he said, because when you see yourself on film, you never sound or look as good as you think you do. “You have to get over that,” he added.
The turning point, when he got over his dislike of being filmed, was the “Live in New York City” concert film, in 2001, he said.
Springsteen, Zimny and Phillips also talked a little about the “Springsteen on Broadway” Netflix special that Zimny directed in a very straightforward way.
“The Broadway show went so well, we just said, ‘Let’s not fuck this thing up,’ ” Springsteen said.
The camerawork and editing “had to be invisible,” Zimny added.
As far as Asbury Park itself goes, Springsteen said, while discussing “My City of Ruins” (originally written as a prayer for the city’s resurrection), “It’s lovely to come through Asbury, and see it so alive.”
It was also noted that a new version of the documentary “Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock ‘n’ Roll” — with added Springsteen interview footage — will be shown at the Paramount Theatre, April 28 at 3 p.m., as part of the festival. Springsteen saw the original version of the film when it was screened at the festival two years ago and thought, ” ‘Why am I not in this? I should be in this,’ ” he said.
By the way, you won’t be seeing any clips from this event on Facebook or YouTube. Before entering the theater, people had to put their cellphones into pouches that were locked; the pouches were unlocked only when they exited.
For festival information, visit apmff.org.
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