Breakfast Blend: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, “Prove it all Night”

The Biletones have had as busy a summer–one that has compounded just how crazy my day job has been–playing no fewer than five gigs since June, with one more benefit ahead mid-October.

Demanding or not, it is big fun, not just playing, but playing live is among the greatest feelings I have experienced.

Unfortunately, because the band does have day jobs and busy lives, we only manage practice once a week, and with that many performances on top of one another, we have pretty much kept the same set list all summer.

And, needless to say, we have become sick of most of the songs we play, no matter how much we might like them at the core.

Since there is roughly a month between the last two shows this run, we did troll one another for song suggestions, coming up with roughly ten tunes new to us to throw onto the possibles for the October soiree.

One that made the cut was The Boss’s Prove it all Night, a great cut from his equally great Darkness on the Edge of Town record.

Darkness made my Essential 50 albums, and it clearly stands as my favorite Springsteen album amongst a very strong body of work.

Say what you will about Springsteen, being a superstar, dismissing his “art” due to his fame along with the spectacle of arena rock that follows him, but, mark my words, his band is as strong and tight as any other group whoever hit the stage, and no one is more dedicated–performance by performance–to delivering a quality and entertaining show to his minions as is Springsteen and his cartel.

Similarly, Bruce is an excellent song writer, penning a variety of numbers over the years that do indeed explore the angst and uncertainty of life that we associated with rock’n’roll. In fact, because Bruce and his band have endured, we have seen him grow and reflect upon life, not just as an artist, but as an aging and maturing one who accepts his life and fate and is able to translate that experience into songs that hit a chord with his audience.

If there is a problem with Bruce and the band, he has a voice, and they have a sound that seem to make it hard to break out. Rarely do the songs from album to album differ in essence and approach as say the Stones do when you compare Aftermath to Beggar’s Banquet to Their Satanic Majesty’s Request.

True, Bruce has had his more than interesting explorations, such as the uber-satisfying Nebraska but as noted, the essence of the band has been constant over the years, and thus I think as a result he gets dismissed a little.

In fact, Springsteen and the band have been largely missing from this site (there are other bands too I have thought of that deserve reminders of just how good they are) so I thought I would try to right.

The clip below is and excellent example of the Springsteen way, which is basically concocting a four-minute gem for an album, and then blowing it into a ten-minute tour de force live.

What is different about this clip, is that Bruce is the lead guitar player, and he delivers killer notes and tone (thank you Mr. Telecaster!). Roy Brittan also provides a  lovely keys in this treatment, but the guts all go to Bruce.

7 thoughts on “Breakfast Blend: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, “Prove it all Night”

  1. That’s a great clip of one of my favorite Springsteen songs.

    I’ve told this story before, but apparently not on the site. When I was in high school a new kid moved into town from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. His name was Bob or Robert, and we had a few “playdates.” The one I remember and speak of here, he brought his Springsteen album (or albums) over my house, and debated whether the Dolls or Springsteen was better.

    I wish I had a transcript, though it’s almost certainly better for my self esteem that I don’t. What I remember is that he lost, however, when he said the Dolls were like the Monkees and didn’t even play their own instruments.

    Looking back now I’m assuming we didn’t have more playdates because those were fighting words.

    Looking back now I’m not surprised I grew to admire Springsteen a lot. Darkness on the Edge of Town and The River took the punk challenge and toughened up. The music and the songs are for the most part great, and the context is excellent. This is first rate rock music.

    But in my eyes Springsteen always ended up being more about Springsteen than his songs. So despite all the great songs he wrote and his great band played, at the center of it all was this creator named Bruce, who aspired to the whole magilla. And that aspiration got in the way of his actual achievement.

    I think my point is that as listeners, we want to find the songs and bands and ordain them. We want them to do it because they love it, but think that it becomes important because we love it.

    But for some reason with Springsteen, his giganticness has always gotten in the way of all his moves. Not fatally. Nebraska is a great album of songs, but it is known more as Springsteen goes acoustic.

    I only saw Bruce and the E Street Band once, but it was notable. My gf now wife was working at Rolling Stone and we ended up with seats on the floor at Madison Square Garden about 15 rows in front of the stage. It was the Tunnel of Love tour. It’s a good record, and he played lots of the oldies. It was a crowd pleasing show, as I gather they all were.

    I admired the showmanship, but I was continually reminded during it that it was show biz. Not rock and roll, but show biz. Not the music, but the presentation of the context for the music.

    It was a great show, the musicianship was fantastic, the songs were fantastic, but what I came away with was a bit more evidence why I wasn’t a giant fan of the Boss.

    I’m happier with a bit of a mess.

  2. I was told many times that I’d love the NHL and Bruce Springsteen if I’d just experience them live. Did both and was unimpressed.

    Maybe concurrently?

    • that is a great sort of synopsis, Peter, and I tend to agree with you on the messy part. I think that is why when artists are young and hungry and working out of their angst their art is so much more vital (at least to me).

      It is why I love a new band like the Clash when they are all over the place, but lose interest with more mainstream shit like Combat Rock.

      however, I do think it is a tad naïve to sort of label the E Streeters (as an example) as slick and show biz.

      surely, they are very well rehearsed and strong musicians, but the Alice Cooper and the Dolls were show biz, too. Hell, the whole idea of driving a successful band is just that.

      but, that is why I admire the likes of Dylan and Prince and Neil Young and Joni MItchell: because they could simply keep re-recording the same shit (like most artists when they lose their angst and become comfortable) but they will try to deconstruct themselves and reinvent their art at the risk of public rejection.

      my brother never liked the Boss either, Steve.

      and, I can understand a performer not speaking to you, but, Springsteen is a very fine tunesmith and lyricist and his band is indeed dedicated, no matter how rehearsed.

      Gottta be something there to want to deliver three-plus hours worth of yourself every time you go out there.

      Whether what he or she does during those three hours is your cup of tea or not is another thing, though.

      • My problem isn’t professionalism or entertainment or authenticity. Really! For me it is the proper balance between core values of being human. There is the head and the heart and the, um, let’s call it the sex. I think you can interpret anything by finding a balance between those three spheres. For instance:

        Prince is disciplined and precise. He uses words economically. His head is strong. He writes revealingly, but abstractly about personal things. He’s emotional, but also weirdly distant. His heart pulses, and wears a mask. His sexy is upfront, but rarely lascivious. Even a song like Come seems more a call for the head and the heart not to get too comfortable. That’s a religious incantation, one that perhaps protests a bit too much, but comes from the gut or groin for sure.

        Springsteen sings of the suburban life I grew up in, and he name checks in the early songs all the details about cruising and getting with girls and making your parents mad, but like perhaps his greatest performance, Rosalita, it’s all about becoming a star. That’s what he’s looking for, and to his great credit and achievement he went and got it. But in that I hear mostly head, and the heart that he wears on his sleeve is tied too tightly to the abstractions that jiggle in his gray matter. He’s interpreting his head to try to fit his heart, but the head is the master. As for sex, what’s your favorite bedroom song by Bruce?

        Elvis Costello is way more awkward and driven than the Boss, and certainly his genius is more in his head than the Boss’s. But I hang on Costello, even now, because I hear in his music, from the beginning, an attempt to use his generously endowed mind to rip his way into the world of heart and sex. He hasn’t written much bedroom music either, but he has written gorgeously emotive music and lyrics that will certainly endure.

        Okay, now I’ve opened about 10 cans of worms, maybe more.

  3. 1) I don’t necessarily not like Springsteen. Some of the early stuff is quite good. I guess I’m bothered by the fact that he’s the Average Joe answer to “who’s the best live” and I’m always bothered by the Average Joe. Heck, three minutes into the video the song hasn’t even started yet. Overdone.

    2) You sure can make words, Peter.

    3) At first liking Costello, obviously heavily influenced by Springsteen, better than Springsteen, seems backwards. But I like Hellacopters better than MC5 and Stooges too, so who am I to talk? One can improve upon influences. And when talking wordsmith music, doesn’t it all trace back to Dylan anyway?

    • Elvis and Bruce both come straight outta Dylan. I don’t think there’s much of Springsteen himself in Costello’s world. If anything, I think songs like Hungry Heart show more Costello influence on the Boss. (A quick Wikipedia trip leads to a story that Joey Ramone asked Springsteen to write the Ramones a song, and so he wrote Hungry Heart. But he didn’t give it to them, and it became his biggest hit until 1984’s Dancing in the Dark.)

  4. Pretty sure I read somewhere along the line that Bruce was a Costello influence (as he was a Phil Lynott influence).

    I kind of hate that Hungry Heart story (which I’ve read a million times) because I can kind of picture what the Ramones version would’ve sounded like and the Springsteen version flat-out sucks.

    But the Ramones pretty much sucked at that point too. “Road To Ruin” showed some cracks. “End Of The Century” was dangerously close to bad and everything after that sucked.

    Conclusion – who cares?

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