Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
Hammersmith-Odeon, London '75
First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2011, Volume 18, #5
Written by John Metzger
Fri May 6, 2011, 06:30 AM CDT
With the E Street Band by his side, Bruce Springsteen quickly earned a sterling reputation on the basis of his exhilarating concert performances. The word "legendary" doesn’t even begin to describe them. He and his outfit had an encyclopedic knowledge of rock history, and by effortlessly melding his cinematic tales with snippets of familiar fare from the past, they were able to capture the imagination of a generation of suburban renegades, from coast to coast.
Considering how lucrative archival releases have become, it is somewhat surprising that Springsteen’s early sojourns have been so poorly documented. In fact, until Hammersmith-Odeon, London ’75 was issued 31 years after the fact, the only official collection of concert material to have been culled from the vaults was the three-disc boxed set Live/1975–1985. As good as it was, the package failed to portray Springsteen’s commanding stage presence in all of its glory, simply because it was a hodgepodge of pieces that were selected from so many shows and tours that they could never completely coalesce.
Therefore, Hammersmith-Odeon, London ’75 was the first true portrait of Springsteen’s early years. Initially, it had been presented as a concert film that came packaged in the Born to Run boxed set. Later, the set was issued as a standalone recording. The outing should have opened the floodgates for a series of archival releases. Yet, it still remains one of the few officially sanctioned documents of Springsteen’s star-making performances in the 1970s.
With only three albums under his belt — Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.; The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle; and Born to Run — Springsteen already had amassed an enviable collection of songs by the time that he descended upon the Hammersmith-Odeon in London. An extraordinarily talented songwriter, he not only penned epic tales, but as a vocalist, he also learned how to inhabit them. While he frequently was pegged as a disciple of Bob Dylan, Springsteen just as aptly could have been dubbed the next Van Morrison.
Like Morrison, Springsteen had a healthy respect for the role that R&B played in the development of rock ’n‘ roll. It isn’t surprising, then, when Van Morrison’s Moondance emerges from inside Kitty’s Back during the show that is featured on Hammersmith-Odeon, London ’75. In fact, it sounds perfectly natural. He just as gracefully incorporates Sam Cooke’s Havin’ a Party into the fabric of The E Street Shuffle and runs through a medley of material that includes Little Richard’s Good Golly Miss Molly, Mitch Ryder’s Devil with a Blue Dress On, and the oft-covered blues staple C.C. Rider.
Not surprisingly, the hype that surrounded Springsteen in 1975 was immense, and this only added to the enormous pressure he faced as he took his entourage overseas. Nevertheless, although he was notoriously soft-spoken and shy, he always found a way to deliver the gospel of rock ’n‘ roll with all of the fire-and-brimstone fury of a preacher. His performance at London’s Hammersmith-Odeon not only lived up to his reputation at home, but it also went a long way toward establishing his presence on the other side of the Atlantic.
Hammersmith-Odeon, London ’75 features the entirety of Springsteen’s performance, and although the show is considerably shorter than many of the concerts that he since has staged, it features a stellar set list that touches upon the full range of his output. He surrounded himself with friends, and he drew strength from them. On song after song throughout Hammersmith-Odeon, London ’75 — from the desperation of Thunder Road to the explosive charge of Born to Run, from the haunted strains of For You to the heartfelt yearning of 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) — Springsteen and the members of the E Street Band stood together to face down the challenges that they collectively faced. In the process, they parlayed their transmissions from the streets of New Jersey into anthems that were felt around the globe.
Of Further Interest...
Hammersmith-Odeon, London '75 is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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