“FOR THIS MAN, OVER HERE”
Looking back at rediscovered music
Call it the Barcelona Breakout: the May 17th performance, the first of two last night at the Olympic Stadium, found Bruce Springsteen reaching back for a version of “Prove It All Night” that included, for the first time since 1980, the long instrumental introduction.
The E Street Band played it this way throughout the 1978 tour, and twice in Los Angeles at the beginning of the River tour. And then it was gone. Fans had always discussed, or perhaps fantasized about, its return. But it was the longest of shots, and other exceptionally-welcome treats seem like shoo-ins by comparison, whether a few strong runs at “Lion’s Den,” the longed-for return of “The Price You Pay” in 2009, or “New York City Serenade” in 1999.
After reconvening the E Street Band in ’99, Springsteen has effectively run through his back catalog, an admirable feat for a recording artist celebrating close to 40 years of work. What’s remarkable is that he’s done this largely while presenting new music: to wit, last night’s Barcelona show featured six songs from Wrecking Ball, a healthy number by our count (we’d still argue in favor of a show where, unannounced, Bruce and the E Street Band play Wrecking Ball in sequence; hell, if they could do it once with The River, this wouldn’t be a stretch).
But back to the long-lost instrumental lead-in to “Prove It All Night.” Part of its myth remains tied to what many fans consider his greatest tour. The only other “tour specific” return that’s remotely comparable was the brief renaissance of another Darkness tour stand-out ten years later, when “Paradise By the ‘C'” reappeared out of nowhere in Rotterdam on June 29, 1988 and hung around for 12 shows of that European tour, never to be heard again.
Musically, last night’s breakout sounded pretty strong: Roy Bittan anchored the beginning, and Springsteen laid out some fine six-string work before Max Weinberg kicked things up a notch and they launched into the song proper. They played at a slightly slower tempo, but the fabled intro sounded otherwise much the way one might hope it would in 2012.
We don’t know yet the impetus for its return. Bruce said “this is for this man over here,” indicating the likelihood of a sign. Did Bruce just turn around and tell the band, “Hey, we’re doing ‘Prove It’ with the long intro” as if he were calling for something they played with some regularity? Did they work it up in rehearsal before the tour began? Maybe Steve Van Zandt’s solo during the song on May 15 was the spark. Maybe Bruce just felt like playing it. We’ll know in short order whether it’s a true one-off, a treat for European audiences (where the song was never played with the long introduction before last night), or becomes a regular part of the show.
Prove It All Night: That was something of a tag line in 1978. No beard, no tennis shoes, no hype, no shit. Just a raging fire that had to burn itself out, night after night. There’s a parallel to the work that Springsteen is doing now: at age 62, three-hour shows can’t be easy (anyone check the weather in Spain this week?), and Bruce appears to work himself at full-capacity every night. This time out, ninety-nine-and-a-half won’t do, and for a few more minutes no one saw coming in Barcelona, he showed you why.
Backstreets.com NEWS- Erik Flannigan and Jonathan Pont reporting –