40 tracks of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band live and rocking in various theatres, arenas and coliseums over a decade may seem excessive, until you consider the fact that, over three decades later since this live monolith’s initial release, few live acts can come close to matching the heavyweight reputation of their epic, marathon shows.
Sequenced with a reassuringly cavalier attitude to chronology, Live / 1975-85, features Bruce and his definitive backing band in their prime, and here and there some of these 40 tracks truly eclipse the studio originals. There’s also plenty of space for songs which have never found their way on to any of The Boss’s studio albums, such as “Because the Night”, a phenomenal song that no less a fiercely independent and unique a wordsmith as Patti Smith made her own. While Springsteen’s version here is solid, it doesn’t quite set alight in the same way as Smith’s does. However, there are plenty of times throughout this five vinyl, three CD, epic of an album when The Boss and his band mates absolutely ignite, and you rediscover one of their songs that you had previously overlooked. For me it was the stunning version of “The River”, a song which I previously didn’t really care much for, but in truth it could be any one of dozens of tracks on this album.
If you ever doubted the live impact of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, then Live / 1975-85 features all the evidence you’ll ever need to convince you that, even if you never do become a fully converted fan, you have to give them credit for unfailingly delivering committed and passionate rock and roll performances.
While nearly three and a half hours of album may be a bit of a task to listen and digest in one sitting, Live / 1975-85’s non chronological approach does lend itself to the dipping in and out at random approach, so you could pick a single side of vinyl at random and guarantee to be thoroughly entertained. Sure, much like the similarly lengthy 69 Love Songs by The Magnetic Fields, fans of the album owe it to themselves to listen to Live / 1975-85 in one sitting at least once a year, but understandably, it’s just not practical to do it particularly frequently.
Unwieldy run time aside, you can’t really pick holes in Live / 1975-85, and it is fitting that it is one of the finest live acts in the history of rock and roll delivered such a generous offering. Yes, perhaps there’s the odd track which doesn’t quite hit the mark full on, and maybe there’s a argument to be made that “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” should have closed the album, but in the grand scheme of such an immense album, these are very minor quibbles. Live / 1975-85 is a definitive live release from one of the true giant acts of the rock and roll genre, and you can’t really take anything away from it.