So Bruce Springsteen will be playing a gig in New Zealand next March, for the first time since 2003. I was never much of a Springsteen fan until I saw a film of him playing live. Before, I'd always assumed (wrongly) that his singer-songwriter stylings were too American, too bar-room, too colloquial for my indie-flavoured tastes. I also bought into the misguided notion that 'Born in the USA' was a jingoistic clarion call, when it was actually a deeply critical protest song about the lingering stigma of the Vietnam War in America. (Hearing lyrics properly has never been a strong point).
Then I watched a compilation from the Old Grey Whistle Test, the venerable BBC live music show that ran from 1971 to 1987. The precursor of the often more accessible Later With Jools Holland, the Whistle Test usually featured in-studio performances recorded in a freezing cold BBC studio under harsh lights with no audience present. But as Bruce Springsteen was such a rare commodity in Britain in the mid- to late-1970s, a film clip was shown instead. And what a clip! Shot in Phoenix, Arizona at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum on 8 July 1978, the performance of Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) from Springsteen's second album is a classic example of rock showmanship, conveying the huge connection the performer enjoyed with his audience. Particularly the female ones, if the multiple stage invasions are anything to go by. (Bruce, they're meant to chase you, not the other way round). Aside from Springsteen's imperilled virtue - which is sorely tested and ultimately proves conquerable - there's a wonderful camaraderie with the E Street Band, all duelling breaks and playful duck-walks. This clip is the bottled essence of a rock 'n roll show.
I just hope this was the set-closer of the night in Arizona, because a number like this it would be a impossible to top, even for a consummate live performer like Springsteen.
n.b. Turn the clip up to 1080p if you have the bandwidth. And turn the volume up.
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Music: Later With Jools Holland s38 e05, 5 May 2011