Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Reviews: Bruce Springsteen's "Live in Dublin"

Boss shows brilliance on "Live In Dublin"
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 06/5/07



(Columbia Music Video)

New Jersey's favorite son stretches far beyond his usual fare in this concert DVD done live in his ancestral homeland, which captures his adventurous (and ultimately brilliant) foray into music most closely associated with folkie Pete Seeger. By the time Springsteen and his 17-piece ensemble reached Dublin last November, Bruce and the band had greatly extended their range and repertoire — completely reworking vintage Springsteen favorites such as "Atlantic City" and "Growin' Up," while pumping new life into real, real oldies such as "O Mary Don't You Weep" and "Mrs. McGrath."

The 57-year-old Springsteen, often bathed in simple blue light, is the focal point — but his all-acoustic band is the driving force in these performances. From guitarist Marc Anthony Thompson to saxophonist Eddie Manion to banjo player Greg Lizst, everyone gets their chance to shine — Springsteen is generous with the spotlight and his approving smiles. The Boss also brings along wife Patti Scialfa; the pair harmonize on a gorgeous version of "If I Should Fall Behind" that revisits the song as a waltz.

"Open All Night," from Springsteen's sparse "Nebraska," becomes a bit of jumping jive, complete with an Andrews Sisters' vocal break courtesy of Scialfa and E Street Band member Soozie Tyrell.

Springsteen sings with his sleeves rolled up — he's working, but it's clear this is a labor of love. For those who prefer Bruce and his E Street Band running full throttle down some Jersey highway, this set provides a reminder that Springsteen does some of his best work while visiting the exits along the road.

Arriving in stores today, the DVD includes two bonus tracks not included on the companion CD release: "Love of the Common People" and "We Shall Overcome."

Larry McShane
The Associated Press

Live in Concord, CA (2006)

Bruce Springsteen
and the Sessions Band
Live in Dublin

(Columbia ***1/2)

Dan DeLuca
Phildelphia Inquirer

By the time Bruce Springsteen's tour for last year's release, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, hit its final European leg, the folk foray was firing on all cylinders. Live In Dublin - which is being released on DVD and double CD - uses the Seeger disc as a starting point. Songs like the antiwar "Mrs. McGrath" and the biblical blowout "O Mary Don't You Weep" benefit from impassioned in-concert performances, and a 17-piece band allows Springsteen to freewheel onto rootsy back roads not accessible from E Street.

What makes this Live set essential for open-minded fans who haven't sworn unwavering allegiance to Clarence Clemons, though, is the radical reworking of selections from the Boss man's catalog. "If I Should Fall Behind" becomes a lovely Irish waltz, "Open All Night" (one of three Nebraska songs) swings like Bob Wills careening down the New Jersey Turnpike, and "Growin' Up" and "Blinded by the Light" are given spiffy, full-bodied new arrangements. The high point, however, just might be "How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live," the 1929 Blind Alfred Reed song that Springsteen has retrofitted with rage and new lyrics about the government's bungling of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath.

Folksy Springsteen triumphs in Dublin
By Larry Katz
Boston Herald Music Critic

Monday, June 4, 2007 - Updated: 07:09 PM EST


Live in Dublin Grade: B+

First came the CD/DVD DualDisc. Next an expanded version with an added handful of songs. Now a live concert DVD (as well as a two-CD set and a two-CD/one-DVD package) of Springsteen’s musical love letter to Pete Seeger arrives in stores Tuesday.

Bruce serves up a batch of old folk Americana -- "Old Dan Tucker," "Erie Canal," "Jesse James," etc. -- but he does it his way: in epic, stadium-rock style. While his backing group plays (mostly) acoustic instruments, at 18 musicians it may be the biggest folk ensemble ever assembled. If not, it sure sounds like it, with horns honking, fiddles sawing, guitars strumming, backup singers gospelizing, pedal steel whining, banjo plinking, bass thumping, drums beating and more.

And it’s grand fun. Recording in Dublin after months of touring, the Sessions Band cuts loose in funky lockstep with its Boss, goosing and gassing the roots material and making an irresistible offering to skeptical fans by delivering nine Springsteen songs, including "Atlantic City" like you never heard it before.

The DVD falls short on extras. All you get is another two songs that pointlessly require additional clicking to access. Why not just make ’em part of the show? Small matter. "Live in Dublin" is a public domain party that takes the stuffiness out of folk tradition as surely as Seeger did. And give Bruce and companions imagination bonus points for doing the done-to-death "When the Saints Go Marching In" as a ballad.

New CD captures live Springsteen
By Chris Kozak
Toledo Free Press Staff Writer

For an artist who, many years ago, was reluctant to release live recordings, Bruce Springsteen has certainly made up for lost time. The new, and fantastic, “Live In Dublin” is his fourth live recording in the past 10 years. Springsteen concerts have always been about more than rock ‘n' roll; they are as much about girls and cars as faith and redemption.

“Live In Dublin” is no different.

This 23-song set, recorded during three nights in Dublin, Ireland in November 2006, is simply joyous. It's a big tent revival, where you can hear the crowd throwing their hands, and voices, into the air in pure jubilation.

Backed by the mammoth 18-person Sessions Band, the two-CD set pulls heavily from “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions,” a rag-tag collection of folk, bluegrass, gospel and traditional Americana music released last year. A complete 180 degrees from the stadium punch of the E Street Band, the Sessions Band nonetheless packs a wallop in its own right. Slide guitars, violins, mandolins, field drums, penny whistles and voices, voices, voices engulf and empower the disks.

Don't let the lack of Stratocasters fool you: “Live In Dublin” rocks, not only breathing new life into songs that make up the backbone of American music, but radically reworking classic Springsteen cuts.

The set opens with “Atlantic City,” the once somber cut now jumping and jiving into a hand-clapping rocker that sets an ambitious pace for the remainder of the record. “Growin' Up” and “Blinded by the Light” have become, save for the lyrics, nearly unrecognizable: the former as an easy going country ditty; the later as something from a smoky 50s gin joint.

With “We Shall Overcome” recorded live in the studio, sans overdubs or retakes, it would be easy for the songs to adapt to the same personnel on stage. Yet these recordings, which sound like a magical night around a campfire on the open prairie 100 years ago, reaffirm the originals.

“Old Dan Tucker,” “Jesse James,” “Jacob's Ladder” and “When The Saints Go Marching In” highlight this strong set. There are no lulls, no tracks to skip.

Embracing these songs, Springsteen proves that in the hands of a master, they are not songs of days gone by, but are simply timeless.

“Live in Dublin” will be released June 5, with a DVD of the concert also available.


Boss Man's 'leave the preaching to the choir' policy reaps live jackpot

In these demographic-specific times, Springsteen's desire to reach out and encompass a wider tradition than ever ironically means he gets smaller audiences. Yet the largest band of his career - the live incarnation of The Seeger Sessions album outfit – is the most the most mournful and celebratory. And, all due respect to the chaps and chappessses on
E Street, possibly the best.

You can't see the most racially complex and gender-blended band of Bruce's career on this set from Dublin barn The Point (recorded over three November nights last year). But you certainly can hear it - and also how much they had increased in fluidity and sense of purpose from their debut performance in New Orleans earlier that April.

That show had added emotional edge, given the distinctive Crescent City thread Bruce brought to proceedings, in the post Katrina protest climate. Here, though, The Boss’s mastery of several traditions in American music simply teems with glee and finery. On "Old Dan Tucker", second song in, bright country fiddle, weird but rapturous brass and massed harmonies make the overcooked "Atlantic City" seem an odd opener.

Bruce's connection to folk protest deepens, in righteously swaggering preacher and congregation style, on the epochal rewrite of "How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live". A Depression era classic that Springsteen found on a Ry Cooder album and then amended with his own brilliantly Bush-baiting verse is perhaps the most politically extreme and, as hammered home here, exultant performance of his career.

Arguably even more profound, certainly as dramatic, is "Eyes On The Prize". Gilded by pedal steel and prowling stand up bass, the duet between Springsteen and raw throated guitar player Mark Anthony Thompson is like Sinatra and Sammy Davis doing revolutionary Gospel.
The stately waltz of "If I Should Fall Behind", a duet with Patty Sciafla, meanwhile brings the drama of the human heart into focus, while the choruses of "When The Saints Go Marching In" and "This Little Light Of Mine" rock free and easy.

In short, it's everything Springsteen's big-hearted thoughtfully impassioned take on Americana ever set out to be. Swing out sisters and brothers, swing out.

UNCUT Magazine

1 comment:

ChrisMooreMusic said...

I have to admit, as a BIG fan of recent Bruce Springsteen songs, I haven't piked up the Seeger Sessions yet. I really do like cover songs in moderation, but I wasn't sure that I could go a whole album without a Springsteen original. Maybe I'll give it a shot...