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Chris Hilson
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

On October 16, 2002, two months into his world tour in support of "The Rising", Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band took the stage of the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona, Spain to create the kind of soul-stirring concert experience that transforms Springsteen neophytes and fans alike into true believers.

Live in Barcelona captures Springsteen and the E Street Band at the peak of their form performing a dream set-list of new songs, classic hits, audience favorites and seldom-heard rarities. Containing more than two-and-one-half hours of music running the course of two DVDs, Live in Barcelona marks the first time an individual Springsteen concert has been released in its entirety. This special DVD release includes "Drop the Needle And Pray: The Rising On Tour", a bonus featurette of material never-seen-before including rare live footage, exclusive interviews with Springsteen and E Street band members, and unpublished photos chronicling "The Rising" tour.

Rated NR

Widescreen 1.78:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English PCM Stereo
Not Closed-captioned

Runtime: 162 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 11/18/2003

• “Drop the Needle and Pray: The Rising On Tour” Documentary

Search Titles:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band: Live In Barcelona (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 25, 2004)

Bruce Springsteen doesn’t indulge in change easily. It takes him a while to embrace new ideas and concepts. Bruce filmed full live performances for potential video release as far back as 1985 when he had some stadium concerts shot. However, those never saw the light of day other than in the form of some music videos; 18 years after the fact, we’re still waiting to get the full concerts.

Bruce didn’t even release a proper live album until 1986, and any form of filmed performance would have to wait until 1992. He appeared on MTV’s Unplugged that year, though he cheated and played with his band. This came from a pre-fab situation, though, and didn’t represent a regular concert. Performed in front of a small, invited audience, Plugged demonstrated some elements of a Bruce show circa 1992, but it definitely didn’t offer anything that approached a regular and complete concert.

He came closer to that with the release of Live in New York City at the end of 2001. Shot during a series of Madison Square Garden shows in the summer of 2000, these presented a reasonable approximation of a Bruce concert but still didn’t give us a full performance. Most of the DVD showed the edited HBO broadcast, while other numbers were tossed in as bonus tracks. The amount of material was great, but it still didn’t let us sit back and watch a complete Bruce show from start to finish.

With the DVD release of Live In Barcelona, we can finally do that. Shot in Spain on October 16, 2002, Barcelona indeed represents a full show from that stage of his Rising tour. Named after the album of that name, Barcelona includes 10 songs from that record: the title track plus “Lonesome Day”, “Empty Sky”, “You’re Missing”, “Waitin’ On a Sunny Day”, “Worlds Apart”, “Mary’s Place”, “Countin’ On a Miracle”, “Into the Fire” and “My City of Ruins”. “Land of Hope and Dreams” came from the Live in New York City album.

After that, we have to leap all the way back to 1984 to find the next-newest material. That year’s career-defining smash Born in the USA offers its title track plus “Dancing in the Dark”. Bruce skips 1982’s Nebraska and includes only “Ramrod” from 1980’s The River. 1978’s Darkness on the Edge of Town gets stronger representation via the title tune, “Badlands”, “Prove It All Night” and “The Promised Land”.

From 1975’s seminal Born to Run we get yet another title track as well as “Thunder Road”, “She’s the One” and “Night”. 1973’s The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle gives us “Incident on 57th Street”, while 1973’s debut Greetings from Asbury Park, New Jersey contributes “Spirit in the Night”.

I hate to offer semi-holier-than-thou statements like this, but here goes nonetheless: I think I have a pretty good sense of Bruce’s stage performances, and of this tour in particular. I’ve seen Bruce live 55 times, with 30 of those shows coming from the 2002-2003 Rising tour. I went to the first official show at the Meadowlands in August 2002 and attended the final concert at Shea Stadium in October 2003. That means I feel very comfortable with the show and can comment on how Barcelona fits in with the rest of the tour.

Pretty well, I’d have to say. The Rising show always remained a fluid thing, as Bruce varied the setlist considerably from performance to performance. In fact, we continued to get tour premiers all the way through that final Shea concert.

Nonetheless, things seemed pretty well established by the end of 2002, whereas the European shows in the fall found the show in a looser state. The Rising tour started as a surprisingly static piece given Bruce’s general tendency to play around with the set. During the first leg in August 2002, the songs barely changed from night to night, as most of those shows presented virtually identical sets.

That started to change during the second leg in the US in September and early October, and those variations continued into Europe. Bruce was still working through what he wanted to do, so Barcelona doesn’t find the show as firmly established as it would become, but it comes a lot closer than those early concerts did.

By the way, it may sound contradictory to refer to the early static setlist shows as being on shaky ground while I call those that changed from night to night as “established”. That’s because an unchanging set is so unusual for Bruce. Usually he does this due to some lack of comfort. The biggest example was the 1988 Tunnel of Love Express tour, which enjoyed very few changes from start to finish. Bruce was in a weird frame of mind for that year due to marital woes and his burgeoning affair with Patti Scialfa. The static set seemed like a reaction to the other turbulence and his general unhappiness.

The consistent early Rising sets feel like the same thing. Among the Bruce community, people discussed how they felt he kept the shows so similar because of the “message” he wanted to communicate, and that’s partially true. Clearly the early concerts included an overriding theme, one that went somewhat by the wayside as the tour progressed. (Some self-proclaimed Bruce experts declared that this wasn’t a show to see more than a couple of times since they “knew” it’d never change. Whoops!)

Personally, I think the static nature of the earlier shows connects more to Bruce’s attitude. For the first time in a decade, he hit the road with a band behind a new album, and he wanted to make it work above all else. That meant he needed to get a level of comfort with that material, which in turn meant that those moments dominated. Once things settled, he loosened up.

And he loosened up considerably. On the 1999-2000 tour, Bruce played with no particular album to tout. That meant a level of flexibility he wouldn’t normally have. A new album usually fills about 10 slots in the set, so that doesn’t leave tons of room for old chestnuts. Without those constraints during the Reunion tour, he played 114 songs over 134 concerts. That’s a pretty remarkable number. In comparison, the Stones did 117 shows during their 2002-03 tour and managed 78 different songs, which was a record for them; by comparison, on their 1989-90 tour, the Stones played 115 shows but only offered 37 unique tunes!

No one expected Bruce to do concerts with remotely as much variety during the Rising tour, and given the static nature of that first leg, there seemed to be little reason to change those feelings. However, once Bruce started to spice things up, he really went nuts. As a result, across the 120 Rising concerts – not counting rehearsals that were open to the public – Bruce played 148 different tunes. 14 fewer shows but 34 more songs – that’s quite an accomplishment.

Barcelona offers a good idea of the variations that began to occur. If we compare its setlist to that of opening night on August 7, we find it lost only four songs and added seven.

Friends sometimes ask me which Bruce show was my favorite, but I really can’t say. I saw so many of them on this tour that it’s very difficult to compare and contrast. I know that opening night was the worst of the bunch, and I know that my favorite moment came from the Miami show. Bono guested on “Because the Night” and made it an absolutely amazing performance that I’ll remember fondly forever. I think guest stars at shows usually suck, but Bono lived up to expectations; he and Bruce really worked well together and made the song amazing.

Viewing Barcelona against my many memories of the Rising tour, I’d put it down as an above-average show but not a real classic. To be sure, the band plays with a lot of fire, especially in the early moments. The crowd seems very exuberant and intense, which acts as a positive and a negative. On the one hand, they add real energy to the proceedings, and they clearly egg on Bruce at times. He seems obviously delighted by their spark.

However, the crowd acts as a negative during the quieter moments. They were so amped up that they rarely backed down and acted in a more subdued manner. For gentler songs like “You’re Missing”, this created distractions as they clapped loudly; that song doesn’t work with audience participation and suffers as a result.

Nonetheless, the crowd mostly aids the performance, and Bruce and company make it a good one. I can’t point to any particular standout moments, but I also can’t find any that follow below par. Bruce goofs the lyrics badly during the solo piano “Spirit In the Night”, but he makes this a fun moment.

In a good choice, the first disc ends with the conclusion of the main set. DVD Two captures the encores in their entirety. Some editing occurs to eliminate pauses while the band leaves the stage, and you’ll see an odd and short fade to black on disc one in an attempt to hide the layer change. (It actually makes the switch more distracting than it otherwise would have been.)

Most of the editing seems fine. I’ve seen some complaints about “MTV-style editing”, and I’ll agree that the program does include a few too many quick cuts. However, these don’t seem extreme or especially distracting to me. For the most part, the direction keeps things focused well and stays with the appropriate action long enough for us to appreciate it. It’s not the best-directed concert program I’ve seen, but it’s more than adequate.

Ultimately Live in Barcelona offers a solid look at a full Bruce Springsteen concert experience. No DVD will ever fully capture what it’s like to see Bruce live, and I won’t pretend that the video comes close. Nonetheless, it brings the on-stage action across well and presents an above-average show.

Purse-strings note: of Barcelona’s 24 songs, eight of them offer repeats from NYC’s 25 tunes. Both DVDs include “Prove It All Night”, “Darkness On the Edge of Town”, “Badlands”, “Ramrod”, “Born to Run”, “Born In the USA”, “Land of Hope and Dreams”, and “Thunder Road”. Note that the versions of “Born in the USA” differ radically, however; the NYC program offers an acoustic, solo rendition, while Barcelona gives us the full band take most familiar to fans.

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B-/ Bonus D+

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: Live In Barcelona appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Pretty much just as good as the NYC video, Barcelona offered a strong image.

Sharpness consistently appeared crisp and distinct. Concert videos inevitably encounter a few out of focus shots, and I saw one or two of those, but they were quickly corrected, and the vast majority of the program showed no signs of those concerns. Almost all of the show displayed detailed and well-defined images. Jagged edges were inconsequential, and I also noticed no edge enhancement, but some shimmering occurred in backgrounds and amp grilles. The videotaped program demonstrated no issues related to artifacts or other interference; it seemed clean and fresh.

As with NYC, Bruce’s show used a pretty subdued palette; he and the others wore mainly black and other very dark tones, so most of the colors came from the lighting. These hues appeared consistently clean and accurate, as I detected no bleeding or noise attached to them. Colors came across as warm and natural, and the lighting never obscured the performers unnecessarily. Black levels seemed good but took on a somewhat bluish tone at times that rendered them a little less accurately than I’d like. Low-light shots looked fine, though, as shadow detail was clear and distinctive. Overall, Barcelona looked very nice. I flip-flopped between giving it a “B+” or an “A-“ and went with the latter because of the set’s clarity and precision; even with the modestly loose blacks, it still looked great.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Live in Barcelona seemed good but not quite up to expectations. As one anticipates from a concert presentation, the soundfield remained anchored in the front. However, the stereo imaging was a bit erratic. Bruce’s vocals stayed around the center but weren’t stuck there as firmly as I’d like. Most of the instruments were accurately located and they demonstrated nice breadth and delineation. Some of them seemed somewhat vague and broad, though. That especially impacted upon the drums, which often appeared to spread all the way across the spectrum and lacked a very firm sense of place.

As for the surrounds, they largely offered a general sense of ambience. The mix went for a “you are there” tone, which unfortunately seemed slightly boomy at times; the apparent attempt to place us in the arena could result in a little excessive echo. Nonetheless, these concerns were minor, and I thought the rear speakers added a solid impression of depth and dimensionality to the presentation.

Audio quality sounded decent but unexceptional. Bruce’s vocals showed too much echo and portrayed a moderately distant sound. They still came across as acceptably accurate, but they lacked the natural tones I’d like. The reverberation caused sibilance at times. Midrange dominated the piece and dynamics seemed only moderately good. Most high-end material was fairly clear and well rendered, though that “arena echo” added to the proceedings made things looser than I’d like. Drums took on an odd jangly sound that seemed less than accurate. Bass response was adequate but no better. Low-end seemed somewhat lacking, and I didn’t get the sense of warmth from the track that I expected. I’ve heard worse, but I’ve also heard better, so Barcelona only earned a “B-“, which came as a disappointment after the excellent audio for NYC.

Only a smattering of extras appears on Barcelona. The main attraction comes from Drop the Needle and Pray: The Rising On Tour. This nine-minute and four-second documentary includes some performance bits like the Asbury Park rehearsal show and the MTV piece plus interview snippets with Bruce plus bandmembers Patti Scialfa, Danny Federici, Clarence Clemons, Garry Tallent, Roy Bittan, Steven Van Zandt, Nils Lofgren and Max Weinberg. They chat about the new album, the focus in live performances, changing setlists, the use of general admission, working together after a long break. A lot of this is simple puffery; a few decent note emerge, but not anything fans won’t already know, so “Needle” ends up as a pretty bland program.

Also On DVD presents ads for three other Bruce releases. It includes stillframe tracklistings for Live In NYC, The Complete Video Anthology 1978-2000, and Blood Brothers. Oh, and in an intriguing possible teaser, after the end of “Needle” we get something called Fenway – September 7th, 2003. This five-minute and 32-second piece opens with shots of Bruce and the band as they arrive at the park and take the stage to the strains of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, and we then see a show montage as we listen to their rendition of “Diddy Wah Diddy”. Hopefully this foreshadows a DVD release of the Fenway concert in question – and the pro-shot Giants Stadium and Shea shows would be great too!

As one who saw the tour in question many times, I’m happy to get a solid documentation of that show, and Bruce Springsteen’s Live In Barcelona indeed gives us a good approximation of a Rising tour performance. The concert isn’t one of the absolute best, but it seems strong as a whole, and the DVD reproduces it reasonably well. The disc presents very good picture with acceptable but somewhat thin sound and only a small roster of extras. As a DVD, it’s not as good as Live in New York City, but it remains a solid package overall, and I definitely recommend it to Bruce fans.

Footnote: the first run of Barcelona came with a flaw that affected DVD Two. Many folks had problems with this disc, and some – that’d be me – couldn’t get that platter to play at all. Hopefully the version you’ll find on the shelves will offer the corrected disc, but if it doesn’t, call 1-800-255-7514 (New Jersey residents call 856-722-8224) to have them send you a replacement. I did so – the disc came within a few days and worked flawlessly.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.6451 Stars Number of Votes: 31
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