Review Summary: Bruce wraps up The Seeger Sessions tour with a superb series of shows from Dublin, Ireland. Called one of the best live music tours of the past five years, this double disc set shows why. Rave on, Boss...
Having taken his Seeger Sessions musical ensemble on the road in 2006 for some electrifying big band folk music performances, Bruce Springsteen has been a man on a revivalist roll for the better part of a year. His little pet project casually recorded in the living room of his New Jersey home, last years We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
has enjoyed critical and popular success among the Springsteen devoted......and those devoted span the globe. So for his first official document of “The Sessions Band” live and in action, Bruce chose a country no stranger to traditional music as the place to capture his capable group of new players tearing it up for an evening of musical fun and frolic. Oh, and the recent Springsteen message of faith and hope in the face of all odds, etc.
Live In Dublin: Bruce Springsteen With The Sessions Band
was recorded on the final leg of a world tour that saw Bruce and company take their brand of loud folk music to fans and the newly converted alike, and if you saw the group early in the tour you were sure to be pleased. But its obvious from this recording the best was yet to come. As said before the album which inspired these shows was recorded live in Springsteen's living room with full band. And although some of the players have changed for the touring ensemble, the “live” part is not lost on this
incarnation of the group.
Not traditional folk music or “folk rock,” this album is much of what last years We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions”
was.....a loud, full bodied, revivalist celebration of folk / traditional music. With back up singers, a full horn section, banjo, piano, organ, percussion, steel guitar, pennywhistle, and maybe even a little washboard, the performances on Live In Dublin
are straight forward and bold from the beginning. Whether giving old Springsteen originals such as lead off track Atlantic City
a thorough reworking, blazing through gospel standards such as This Little Little Light
, or covering Paul Young's Love Of The Common People
with a thick reggae groove, The Sessions Band is tight and graceful, it's accompaniment always passionate and properly adorned.
And the cuts that standout here are indeed the ones that feature full participation from one and all. If you're familiar with Springsteen live you know as good as the E Street Band is, they are essentially rocks greatest “backing band” in the truest sense of that term. Always mindful, each member fills a specific and some would say narrow or limited role. The Sessions Band by contrast stretch out easily and often, with Bruce's wife Patti Scialfa sharing lead vocals on Springsteen's own If I Should Fall Behind
, building drama, joy, and hope on the old Negro spiritual Jacob's Ladder
, and turning Open All Nigh
from Bruce's own Nebraska
album into an Andrew Sisters style swing number that will surprise and delight even the most jaded Springsteen faithful among us. And on this track The Boss himself seems to channel the spirit of some long ago jazz cat, howling into the mic like, well, Bruce Springsteen. But Bruce Springsteen with a bad case of the swing / jazz bug. And he plays along just as well as the others.
It also pays to note that as good as the chosen material is for this album, whether taken from last years Seeger Sessions
album or newer additions, among the standout cuts are Bruce's own originals. Taking several tracks from his substantial catalog Bruce and band make good use of songs such as Growin' Up
from his first album, turning it into a galloping jig, pull off a fairly routine but toughened up reading of Highway Patrolman
, and perhaps most effectively turn Further On (Up The Road)
from The Rising
into an elegant Irish folk prayer, perfectly suited for these Dublin shows and audiences.
Why Dublin? Why not? Or maybe for better reasons? Perhaps Bruce's own American / Irish / Italian / roots? Or maybe the fact Irish have strong ties to tradition and the music that goes with it, as well? Or perhaps it's just where the wind led Bruce toward tours end? But one thing is certain. For this series of shows the moon, stars, and planets beyond must have been aligned in perfect trad music heaven, as this album is among the better live music recordings to come along this decade. The crowd sounds alive
, singing along at every opportunity, the band soulful and spirited, and Bruce on top of his game. “When Irish eyes are smiling,” indeed.....