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Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - Live in Toronto is the latest music DVD I've added to my collection. I have owned it a while now and played it many, many times. When the DVD arrived I was a bit shocked, it looked dodgy. This particular Toronto gig was part of the Born in the USA Tour which ran from October 1984 to October 1985. The era when Bruce wore the headband, denim jacket, had an extremely tight butt and muscles bulging so why does the front cover depict a picture of him from a later period? That's the first question I asked myself. Inside the box there is only the DVD, not a shred of information. The second question was, is this official or a bootleg? Usually his DVD's have a statement on the back saying that they have been verified by him but not this one.
Let's Rock n Roll
Turning on the DVD - nothing happens, there's a black screen going snap, crackle and pop! Is it my TV? No, I don't think so. Slowly the show begins and there he is a bundle of energy with his electric band. The picture quality isn't so good and neither is the sound but hey, the gig is pretty cool except for the first quarter of the show, we don't catch a glimpse of the audience. We know he is talking to his fans but where are they?
Fifteen songs are featured on the DVD so there is no way that this is a complete show. The pace is electrifying and Bruce and the band really strut their stuff. He's like a kid at a party that has so much energy he doesn't know what to do with himself. Some of the dance routines are so hammy and funny; I am always in stitches watching him perform a hoe down dance with his guitar during 'Cadillac Ranch.' For someone who is so musical he has no co-ordination at all and must be the world's worst dancer. On the other hand he has perfected the dance that goes with 'Dancing in the Dark' and all the girls who get up on stage to dance with him during this song have perfected the moves also.
We see the importance of Big Man (Clarence) in this show and the fantastic relationship he had with Bruce. They are comical together and perform little scenes like the one during the song, 'Sherry Darling', where Bruce lays his head on Clarence's knee and tells him about his love life not going to well. Clarence has a clipboard and pen and pretends to be a doctor counselling him. It is so theatrical and silly. The sax is dominant, great fun to listen to and to watch Clarence dancing and running up and down the stage is exciting. I love the sound of his sax, it is so rock n roll.
There is a powerful version of 'Because the Night' performed about half way through the set. This is one of my favourite Springsteen songs and he really does give his voice and guitar some welly here. I think it's a shame that he doesn't play the guitar as much these days because he's a great guitarist and the contrast between his playing and Nils Lofgren is mind blowing. Nils is like the little pixie, dancing and twirling, jumping on his trampette with his fingers gliding gently over the strings while Bruce is the heavy artillery, using his guitar like an angle grinder.
The old favourites are played at this gig, like 'Bobby Jean', a lovely song, performed so romantically with beautiful words and phrasing. Then there's the crazy 'Rosalita.' Ah, now here something goes wrong. Half way through the song the filming stops and goes back to the beginning of the song. It's great to see the performance twice but a bit disturbing that this happens.
'Rosalita' is song number 11 and you can see Bruce has started to get really giddy and is just warming up. The rest of the band is having a lot of fun including Patti who joined just before the tour in 1984. It is noticeable that the chemistry between Mr. and Mrs. Springsteen isn't visible at this point, that comes later. He has a good rapport with the crowd and on this part of the DVD we do actually see the audience and how he has them eating out of his hand. I also noticed that the picture quality and sound started to improve and the last part of the film was like an official film of the concert.
'Jungleland' is in the best top ten Springsteen songs and I have seen him perform so many versions of the song. The one at Hyde Park in June 2009 is awesome but his version of the song on this DVD is excellent too. His voice isn't as perfected as it was at the London gig but there is something natural and raw about his performance. The way his body doubles up at the end and he lets rip with the primeval call makes my blood go cold. The notes he reaches here are so powerful, it's as if they are coming from the pit of his stomach. Clarence's sax here too is remarkable and now, he is sadly missed. He was such an integral part of the band and it is very noticeable on this DVD.
What you see on this DVD is the exuberance of the band and how they just want to carry on playing all night. Bruce often checks with the audience if they are okay and they aren't ready to go home. He's very talkative, much more than at other live concerts and very funny.
To wind up the concert Bruce does his Detroit Medley and if this doesn't have you up on your feet and doing your thing then I don't know what will. I cannot sit still watching this; it is such a vivacious performance. He starts with Shorty Long's hit, 'Devil with the Blue Dress,' followed by 'CC Rider', a 12 bar blues song first performed by Ma Rainey in 1924 and ends with lots of high notes on the Little Richard classic, 'Good Golly Miss Molly.' Fabulous, fabulous and by this time I'm dancing away, pretending I am there in Toronto with him. Just when you think he's going to say Goodbye and vanish behind the scene he reels into a Tex Mex version of 'Twist and Shout.' I'm not really a fan of this song but I love Springsteen's version, so raunchy and energetic. The show comes to an end, the band lines up, they bow and say thanks, and Clarence picks Bruce up and carries him off. It's the only way to get him off as he would go on forever. He's like the Duracell rabbit.
So here's the thing. The DVD has to be a bootleg. Both the sound and picture quality are poor at the beginning and there is a mix up half way through with 'Rosalita'. I paid £13.50 from Amazon, not from a private seller. I guess that's a bit pricey but it doesn't matter to me, I'm a collector and will buy anything to do with Bruce Springsteen. I have noticed that other fans have given the DVD 4 stars on Amazon and I am going to do the same because there is footage on here that cannot be repeated and for a Springsteen fan it is important to collect all snippets from his career.
Even if you aren't a fan and know nothing at all about Bruce Springsteen this is worth watching. It's an old fashioned rock show for 6- 60 year olds. It's a lot of fun, filled with raw energy, acrobatic and hammy. It will make you laugh and cry. You soon forget about the hazy picture at the beginning and poor sound and I bet you a dollar, pound or 5 zloty that you will be singing the songs from the Detroit Medley all week .