Wednesday, March 07, 2012

I Don't Know If I Believe in God, But I Saw Bruce Springsteen at Max's Kansas City Once

Sometimes I think perhaps somebody up there likes me.

Case in point: I've been yelling for years about how a certain early 1973 Bruce Springsteen show I attended was a) life-changing and b) demonstrably glorious, if only there were tapes of it somewhere to play for non-believers.

Springsteen completists are doubtless aware that a version of "Wild Billy's Circus Song," from the same Max's shows, turned up on the Bruce four CD box a while back, but other than that -- nada.

But now, via the intertubes, suddenly there's more.

Here's how I described the experience in a poorly compensated memoir for the Barnes and Noble website in the late 90s.
As it happened, Bruce was making his semiofficial New York debut that week, on a double bill with the similarly debuting original (Bob Marley and the) Wailers. (To put this in perspective: This was at Max's Kansas City, a club that sat fewer than 200 people. I don't want to say, "Those were the days," but frankly, they were.) Every rock critic in New York showed up for what would be their first exposure to live reggae, and yes, the Wailers' opening set was rapturously received by all (few bands have ever had two front men as charismatic as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh). After intermission, however, I realized that the aforementioned highly jaded press contingent, having already had their tiny minds blown by a bunch of Rastas turning the beat around, were not about to fall for any "New Dylan" hype and had beaten a hasty exit. This left me in the odd position of being alone in the back of Max's with 30 or 40 of Bruce's buddies from the Jersey Shore. I was, literally, the only stranger there.

And the show was everything I'd hoped for, and more. Bruce and his E Street Band opened with a version of "Spirit in the Night" that made the album take sound anemic. He went on to preview the far richer material he had already written for what became his sophomore masterpiece, The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle, going so far as to use a mellotron on a gorgeous "New York City Serenade" that sounded like a Phil Spector record made flesh...
Ladies and germs -- from 7/23/73, please enjoy Bruce -- along with, among others, the late Danny Federici on the aforementioned mellotron, plus the criminally underrated David Sancious on piano -- at Max's Kansas City, with that aforementioned version of "New York City Serenade."

You can read the rest of the Springsteen piece, including the amusing (at least to me) bit about how he played "Route 66" after I yelled a request for it, over here.

In the meantime, lovely as the above is, it's obviously an audience recording; will whoever has the rest of the actual board tapes from those shows please post them on-line somewhere?


dave™© said...

"Bruce and his E Street Band opened with a version of 'Spirit in the Night' that made the album take sound anemic." In my experience, just about every song I've ever heard Bruce and the band do "live" falls under that description.

Jonny Scaramanga said...

This is a story to make any music fan jealous.

There are tons of shows I've been to I wish I could have recorded. These days it's so easy I imagine there's hardly a show worth seeing that doesn't get recorded in some way, but the gigs I saw in the 90s...

Phillydog said...

I could have seen him at the late, lamented Main Point in Bryn Mawr Pa, but it was not to be. The Point was a similar size room to Max's & Bruce blew the walls out whenever he played there.

And I totally concur regarding David Sancious. His fusion band, Tone was nothing less than amazing. I did catch them at the Main Point 3x.

dave™© said...

I went to a Red Bank Rockers show on their first tour in (IIRC) 82-83 at a small club in Palo Alto, CA called the Keystone. Before the show, I was standing at the edge of the "dance" floor, checking out the site lines, when this slightly shorter, average looking guy came down from his table to do the same. I looked at him and said hi and he did the same. When I went back to my table, all my friends seemed very excited and I couldn't figure out why. "You were standing next to Springsteen!" one of them said - I had no idea. I looked over at his table, and there he was - with his mom, who lived in town! (Speaking of covers, he came out for the second encore and lead a blistering version of "Lucille")

Anonymous said...

I want to publicly thank you for turning me into a Springsteen fan. You took me to see Bruce at the Bottom Line twice (74 & 75) and getting me tickets to see him at the Capital Theater in Passaic, Nj also in 74.
Talk about being spoiled!

I also think my vinyl copies of his first two album were promo copies you copped from CBS for me, to turn me on to him and agree to go with you to that first Bottom Line show, Steve, you're the man!!!!

PS: The new album's OK, it's slowly growing on me. Don't worry, I bought it.


Anonymous said...

did the Wailers play "Tall Cool One?" "Out of Our Tree?"

Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary said...

I once had a friend from NJ. One very snowy evening, she & her boyfriend decided to go to the movies. But, alas, when they got there, the proprietor said the movie was being cancelled that night because nobody else came out into the snow.

A fellow walked up behind them & asked the proprietor how much he'd need to show the movie. The proprietor came up with a number & the guy said, "Fine. Open 'er up." And shelled out whatever cash was necessary.

And my friend & her boyfriend & Bruce Springsteen had the theater all to themselves.