Bruce Springsteen with The Seeger Sessions Band Tour
|Bruce Springsteen with The Seeger Sessions Band Tour|
|Tour by Bruce Springsteen with The Sessions Band|
|Associated album||We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions|
|Start date||April 20, 2006|
|End date||November 21, 2006|
|Bruce Springsteen with The Sessions Band concert chronology|
The Bruce Springsteen with The Seeger Sessions Band Tour, afterward sometimes referred to simply as the Sessions Band Tour, was a 2006 concert tour featuring Bruce Springsteen and The Sessions Band playing what was billed as "An all-new evening of gospel, folk, and blues," otherwise seen as a form of big band folk music. The tour was an outgrowth of the approach taken on Springsteen's We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions album, which featured folk music songs written or made popular by activist folk musician Pete Seeger, but taken to an even greater extent.
The tour began on April 20, 2006, with the first of four rehearsal shows at Asbury Park Convention Hall as well as a promotional appearance there on ABC's Good Morning America. Then came a successful performance before a non-Springsteen crowd at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on April 30, in a city still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Katrina; Springsteen voiced discontent over government handling of the aftermath of Katrina, much to the satisfaction of the handkerchief-waving audience.
The tour's first proper leg then began in May with 10 regular concerts and one special television concert in Western Europe; the first was at The Point Depot in Dublin on May 5. A return to the United States for the second leg saw 18 concerts from late May to late June, ending at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey on June 25.
Springsteen said in various languages during the latter stages of the European leg of the tour, "See you in the fall!" Accordingly, the tour's third leg consisted of 27 shows in Europe again, during October and November. This leg was sometimes dubbed The American Land Tour 2006, after a new Springsteen song that was being played as well as the We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions - American Land Edition reissue of the album. It began on October 1 at the PalaMalaguti in Bologna, Italy, and concluded on November 21, 2006 at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland. No further American shows took place.
Material from the Seeger Sessions album dominated the set list of the 2½ hour shows. Especially in the numbers played first, such as "John Henry" and "O Mary Don't You Weep", the typically 18-strong band put up a huge sound, with a four-acoustic-guitar-led rhythm section creating a strong beat, punctuated by plenty of violin, banjo, and trumpet solos as well as multiple false endings. Audience participation was encouraged for the later "My Oklahoma Home" ("Blown away!") and sing-songey "Pay Me My Money Down", while "Jacob's Ladder" was musically illustrated by three or four key changes. The San Francisco Chronicle wrote, "[Springsteen] used every trick in the trade to make these 100-year-old songs sound bigger than life."
To these album numbers Springsteen added more songs from the same cloth, such as Seeger's "Bring 'Em Home" (cast towards the Iraq War rather than the original Vietnam) and Blind Alfred Reed's "How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?" (with Springsteen writing new verses regarding New Orleans and Katrina).
On the first two legs, Springsteen also played from four to eight of his own songs per show. A few were straightforward versions of recent material, such as "Devils & Dust", "Long Time Comin'", and "My City of Ruins". Others were drastically re-arranged takes on old material, such as "Atlantic City", "If I Should Fall Behind" (changed into waltz time), and "Ramrod". The most remarked upon of these was Nebraska's "Open All Night", whose already surreal lyrics about New Jersey's industrial landscape were brought to the level of a "showstopping rave-up" by being rapped against a big band swing arrangement and a pseudo-Andrews Sisters female backing vocal trio.
On the third, European leg, the enormous reception the band had received earlier in the year was not lost in the larger shows, and with Springsteen's arrangements of over ten of his original works into folk-like performances to add to the ever-expanding repertoire of Seeger-influenced songs. "The Seeger Sessions Band [was] no longer the ragtag collection of fine individual players they were some months ago, but a tight unit here toward the end of the tour — a band," Backstreets.com reported. The shows were seen by many to be among Springsteen's absolute best. Late in the American leg, he had debuted the Irish jig-styled "American Land", which now closed many of the European shows. On November 11 at Wembley Arena, the band debuted a new Springsteen composition titled "A Long Walk Home", which was a ballad about the current state of American politics, which a special comments about the just-completed mid-term elections having restored "some semblance of sanity" to the country.
Commercial and critical reaction
Both the album and the tour proved more popular in Europe than in the U.S. The first sign of domestic weakness came when the local Asbury Park rehearsal shows, placed in the very heart of Bruce fandom, were not full; in the past, these had been extremely difficult tickets to get. European shows, on the other hand, did very well, with for example shows in London, Manchester, and Amsterdam all selling out in ten minutes or less. Some of Springsteen's most devoted fans were now overseas, and Milan and Barcelona provided especially fervent crowds, some of whom were mass singing the new album's songs even before the show started.
When the shows returned to the United States for the second leg, however, mediocre or poor ticket sales became quite noticeable; PopMatters talked of "the bizarre alternate universe that has swallowed Springsteen's strangely under-attended summer tour ... Rambling along languidly in almost clandestine fashion, it may take the prize for the Worst-Pitched Concert of the Summer." The shows were mostly booked in outdoor amphitheatres, and lawn areas as well as sections of seats were often deserted. Springsteen commented to the sparse crowd in Columbus, Ohio, "We are not great in numbers, but we are mighty!" The Indianapolis venue saw a "yawning green lawn (empty as it was)." A Milwaukee area venue, already cut down in size, was only about half full. For a show outside Chicago, The Chicago Tribune reported that "Springsteen faced a sea of empty seats ... The 11,000-seat pavilion was barely half full, and the 17,000-capacity lawn was barren."
Yet despite attendance woes, the U.S. shows received almost universal praise from critics and concert-goers. While they were without the E Street Band and do not include any of Springsteen's biggest hits such as "Born to Run", fans were consistently kept on their feet singing along.
David Hinckley of the New York Daily News wrote of the tour, "In Saratoga Monday night, Springsteen kept a full house on its feet pretty much the whole show. No one left wishing for 'Born to Run'." Joan Anderman of The Boston Globe said that the "homespun symphony of accordions and fiddles, pedal steel guitars, and joyful voices was filled with the irrepressible spirit that's the very essence of folk music." Dan Barry of The New York Times, writing as an old folk music follower, described how "music exploded from the stage: rock and bluegrass, jig and reel, spiritual and swing, honky-tonk and acoustic blues... he raised his audience up with old songs and spirituals that he had infused with rocking urgency, then toyed with so that brass and guitar could harmonize, an accordionist could jam with the Boss, and a tuba player could know rock-concert adulation." The Chicago Tribute review quoted above went on to say, "The no-show Springsteen faithful missed a good one." Newsday said the show had both high points and stumbles. And Reuters' Erik Pederson wrote that even "without 'Born to Run' et al., this was Springsteen at his best – delivering impassioned, interactive, socially conscious music while never failing to entertain."
Explanations for the poor U.S. attendance varied, including two straight records without the E Street Band, aftereffects from the morose solo Devils & Dust Tour the year before, and backlash from the political stances of the Vote for Change tour the year before that. The most common reason offered was the title association with banjo-picking Pete Seeger, and the consequent (mistaken) impression that this tour was going to be dour folk music. As PopMatters said, "At first the idea of enduring a folk-powered evening of Pete Seeger songs made me want to sprint home and smooch my copy of Born in the U.S.A. ... And that's why this Seeger business is such an out-of-left-field surprise: against all odds, it's fantastically fun. Seeger's name is on the ticket, sure, but in Springsteen's hands the music gets an enormous, big-band, horn-powered treatment that can only be explained with commas: gospel, blues, folk, rock, and zydeco."
In any case, by the conclusion of the leg, things rebounded. Crowds were bigger and knew the material, and the final two New Jersey shows (which had sold out, although not right away) contained very enthusiastic audiences. Springsteen appeared quite grateful, and thanked the fans for "taking a risk by coming out to see us." He closed out the last American show with a "song that explains what we're trying to do ... not what we're trying to do – what we're doing", the 19th century circus ode and lament, "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze".
And, when tickets for third leg shows back in Europe went on sale in July, some shows such as those in Dublin sold out within minutes, and others sold out with unprecedented rapidity for music of this genre, usually unseen in arena formats, thus marking again a stark contrast in the tour's reception on the two sides of the Atlantic.
A year later, Springsteen rated the whole experience highly, saying that the Sessions Band were "a tremendous discovery, and just an amazing group of musicians," and saying that he looked forward to working with them again. "American Land" would retain prominence as the accordion-dominated show-closing jig in Springsteen's subsequent E Street Band Magic Tour.
Broadcasts and recordings
In addition, performances sequences from the tour were included on the expanded DVD portions of the October 2006 We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions - American Land Edition album reissue.
Three late-in-tour shows at The Point Depot in Dublin were filmed, to materialize in June 2007 on the Bruce Springsteen with The Sessions Band: Live in Dublin DVD, Blu-ray, and CD, a release whose title represented a belated removal of the Seeger connotation from the venture (and one that has been kept since). A 90-minute theatrical version played in various U.S. major cities on June 4, 2007, the day before the commercial release of the DVD/CD.
The band ranged in size from 17 and 20 members on stage, depending upon availability on a given night. About half the members had played on the Seeger Sessions album, while the other half were new.
- Bruce Springsteen - lead vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica
- Marc "Chocolate Genius" Thompson - acoustic guitar, background vocals, some featured lead vocals
- Patti Scialfa - acoustic guitar, background vocals, some featured lead and duet vocals
- Frank Bruno - acoustic guitar, background vocals, occasional drums and washboard
- Soozie Tyrell - electric violin, background vocals
- Sam Bardfeld - violin
- Greg Liszt - banjo
- Marty Rifkin - pedal steel guitar
- Charles Giordano - piano, organ, accordion
- Jeremy Chatzky - upright bass, occasional electric bass
- Larry Eagle - drums
- Lisa Lowell - background vocals
- Curtis King - background vocals
- Cindy Mizelle - background vocals
- Art Baron - tuba, occasional trombone
- Eddie Manion - saxophone
- Mark Pender and/or Curt Ramm - trumpet
- Richie "La Bamba" Rosenberg and/or Clark Gayton - trombone
Scialfa missed a number of shows (especially in Europe) due to family duties.
Pender and La Bamba missed some shows, or parts of shows, due to Late Night with Conan O'Brien commitments.
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- "Setlists: 2006". Backstreets.com. Retrieved 2007-06-07. See "May 12 / Milan, Italy / Forum" and "May 14 / Badalona, Spain / Pavelló Olímpic" entries.
- Joel Selvin (2006-06-08). "Springsteen gives old folk songs — and a few of his own — a mighty roar with his Seeger Sessions Band". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2006-06-30.
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- "Setlists: 2006". Backstreets.com. Retrieved 2008-02-10. See "November 17 / Dublin, IRL / The Point Depot" entry.
- "Setlists: 2006". Backstreets.com. Retrieved 2006-11-14. See "November 11 / London, GBR / Wembley Arena" entry.
- "Springsteen rocks N.J. for TV show". Home News Tribune. 2006-04-24. Archived from the original on 2006-09-18. Retrieved 2006-06-30.
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- "Setlists: 2006". Backstreets.com. Retrieved 2006-06-30. See "May 30 / Columbus, OH / Germain Amphitheatre" entry.
- Dave Tianen (2006-06-15). "Born to strum: Springsteen rouses crowd with renditions of classic folk". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Archived from the original on 2006-11-18. Retrieved 2006-06-30.
- Dan Barry (June 28, 2006). "The Boss Lets Freedom Ring, With Banjo". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-07-04.
- Michael Riley (2006-06-27). "Running on all cylinders". Asbury Park Press. Retrieved 2006-06-30.
- "Setlists: 2006". Backstreets.com. Retrieved 2006-06-30. See "June 25 / Holmdel, NJ / PNC Bank Arts Center" entry.
- "Third Bruce Springsteen gig in Dublin sells out". Ireland On-Line. 2006-05-07. Retrieved 2006-07-06.
- "News Archive: August 2007". Backstreets.com. August 28, 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-28. See "Dates are set; Bruce revs up E Street Machine for Fall" entry.
- Erik Remec. "Bruce Springsteen - Magic". FREE! Magazine. Retrieved 2008-05-25.[dead link]
- "Statement" (Press release). Shore Fire Media. 2007-11-21. Retrieved 2007-12-11. Shows a musician having been "a member of the Sessions Band."