Next week, “The River” runs through Albany.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band return to the Times Union Center on Monday, and the big buzz is Springsteen’s decision to play “The River” — his 1980 double album — at each show on the 35-date tour.
It’s news because Springsteen has previously performed the 20-song album only once in its entirety, during a 2009 concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Everyone’s favorite from the album will be heard. The tour’s three-hour-plus set also will include Springsteen classics such as “Rosalita,” “Dancing in the Dark,” “Thunder Road” and “Born to Run.”
Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band: The River Tour
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Monday
WHERE: Times Union Center, 51 S. Pearl St., Albany
HOW MUCH: Show is sold out
MORE INFO: www.timesunioncenter-albany.com
“The River” tour, Springsteen’s first in two years, follows last December’s release of “The Ties That Bind: The River Collection,” a boxed set that contains the original “River” album, along with outtakes, songs never released, and a two-hour concert film from 1980.
“This was the record where I was trying to find out where I fit in,” Springsteen said of “The River” during the tour’s opening night in Pittsburgh on Jan. 16. “I wanted to make a record that was big enough that it felt like life — or like an E Street Band show.”
This will be Springsteen’s eighth appearance on South Pearl Street. The show is sold out, although Times Union Center officials say some tickets might be released on Monday.
Local musicians say “The River” was big for Springsteen as a musician. And big for them as listeners.
Singer and guitarist Frank Jaklitsch said he listened to the album for months after its release, and learned every song.
“That album turned his writing around,” Jaklitsch said in an email. “It was always more than just cars and girls for me. But he started dealing with adult themes like commitment, marriage, loneliness, where you were going in your life — stuff I was struggling with.”
Jaklitsch also said it was thrilling for him — as a guy who grew up in Ridgewood, Queens — to see a guy from across the river in New Jersey talk about those kinds of things.
“And how could you not love a guy who exhausted himself, his band and his fans every night?” Jaklitsch asked. “I saw a few ‘River’ shows. They all were massive concerts. I still cannot believe what I heard and felt at those shows.”
Multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Michael Eck said he believes “The River” was part of Springsteen’s growing process as a songwriter and singer.
For a 16-year-old growing up in Slingerlands, the title track was like a movie, and it defined what growing up might mean: “Terrifying, yet calming, like a rite of passage or a warning shot from a .38,” Eck, also a publicist with Proctors and Capital Repertory Theatre, said in an email. “The rock tunes worked on the radio, but I was a sucker for the ballads, ‘Independence Day,’ ‘Point Blank,’ ‘Wreck on the Highway.’ Those rang like extensions of ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town,’ holding all the bleak promise of that disc’s title.”
Michael Hochanadel, The Daily Gazette’s longtime music columnist and reviewer, said artist performances of iconic albums is part of a trend. He said classic rockers are mining their catalogs to focus tours on these popular pieces and attract fans.
“This has also infiltrated the jazz world,” Hochanadel said in an e-mail. “The sole survivor of Miles Davis’ ‘Kind of Blue’ album, its drummer Jimmy Cobb, has assembled and fronted all-star crews to play that album live, including a show at The Egg.”
‘River’ songs redone
Though Bruce Springsteen’s catalog has always been ripe for great covers, songs from “The River” have been among the most remade, taken on by an eclectic group of artists. Here’s a look at some of the best:
• “Stolen Car” — Patty Griffin’s take stripped back the already-spare ballad even more in 2002 for her great “1000 Kisses” album, making the build even more subtle and the final lyrics, “In this darkness, I will disappear,” even more haunting.
• “Hungry Heart” — The biggest hit from “The River” has often undergone the biggest transformation, with actress-singer Minnie Driver turning it into a tender piano ballad in 2004 and New Wave balladeer Paul Young making it a swing number in 2006. However, Jesse Malin’s indie-pop twist on it in 2008 may be the best of them.
• “Drive All Night” — Glen Hansard took on the soulful ballad with help from Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder on harmonies and backing vocals and The E Street Band’s Jake Clemons on saxophone for a 2013 single that only grows more wrenching as it goes on, much like Hansard’s work with The Swell Season and the musical “Once.“
• “The Price You Pay” — Emmylou Harris stripped away all the big rock trappings of the original for her 1981 take, giving it more of a laid-back country feel. The combination helped make her “Cimarron” album part of the Americana, roots rock canon.
• “Jackson Cage” — John Wesley Harding takes the rousing Springsteen anthem into a more thoughtful, folkie direction, awash in pretty violins and acoustic guitars. It worked so well on the 1997 album “Awake” that Harding also tackled “The River’s” “Wreck on the Highway.”
Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at [email protected] or @jeffwilkin1 on Twitter. His blog is at www.dailygazette.com/weblogs/wilkin.
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