Last week I counted down my favorite songs that Bruce re-did acoustically. This week I will be doing the exact opposite and counting down my favorite songs that Bruce did originally did acoustically but now plays a full electic version with the E Street Band.
5. State Trooper-
This particular version is recorded with the Arcade Fire, for all you hipsters out there. Originally on the Nebraska album, I first noticed this song on the season finale of the first season, of the HBO hit show "The Sopranos". I like this song, don’t love it, but it’s definitely worth a listen The song doesn’t change much too much with the E Street Band, just adds a drum beat and an electric guitar with a pretty cool slide effect. That isn’t the case with the other songs on the list. I definitely prefer the original version, the single voice and acoustic guitar definitely give the song a more frantic feeling when it gets to the chorus of “Mr. State Trooper, please don’t stop me.” That is definitely lost with the E Street version, and is probably why Bruce doesn’t play it all that often.
4. Reason to Believe-
Oh hell yeah! This blues-rock version rocks just kicks all kind of ass! Seriously this song was the highlight of the night when I saw Bruce on March 7th, 2008 at the HSBC Arena in Buffalo, NY. From the awesome harmonica intro, the pounding drums, to the Doors-esque guitar work this song. Another Nebraska song, Bruce played this pretty regularly in the 80’s(albeit in a much tamer version, see the Live 1975-1985 box set for an example) and on his solo tours. This version of the song was played pretty regularly on the first leg of the Magic Tour, and then got inexplicably cut, and rarely played since. That’s a shame, and something I would love to see changed on this tour.
3. The Ghost of Tom Joad-
This song, minus Tom Morello’s incredibly masterful solo, is very similar to the original acoustic version heard on the album of the same name. It’s almost as if Bruce took the song, turned it up to 11, and it has definitely works as Bruce has played this song with a decent amount of regularity on every tour since it’s release. Named after the main character from John Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes Of Wrath”, the song’s lyrics tackle injustice in society. The song was made popular when it was covered by the band Rage Against the Machine (Hence Morello appearing with band on that night, and on multiple other occasions). I personally can’t stand the Rage version, but if it made more people seek out the original then I’m all for it. As excellent as the original version is, I think I prefer the live version as Bruce sounds downright pissed off in it. And the video I included, taken from the 25th anniversary of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame concert at Madison Square Garden, just might be Bruce’s best performance of the song.
Now this is a song where I prefer the changed version as opposed to the original. Bruce’s 3 folk albums (Nebraska, Ghost of Tom Joad, and Devils & Dust) all have a common theme of struggling working class, even more so than the other albums. “Youngstown” is a song that fits in perfect of on Tom Joad, and does an excellent job of showing the struggles of what happens to factory towns when the factory goes under. But instead of being a song of loss and lament, like on the album, the song turns into a song of bitterness and anger, when performed live with The E Street Band. I love that Bruce still performs the song in this manner to this day. And check out Nils Lofgren’s CRAZY solo at the end. If that doesn’t get you fired up, something’s wrong
1. Atlantic City-
As with most of the lists I do, #1 shouldn’t come as a shock. There’s not much to say about it, just listen for yourself. It’s one of Bruce’s best songs, no matter which version you listen to. Even the completely different version he did with Seeger Sessions Band, is pretty great too. The fact that Bruce plays this song so regularly to this day, in any version, is a testament to what a great song it is. There‘s one story that exemplifies what an incredible song “Atlantic City” is and what emotions it can bring out in you. One time when fellow-blogger Rory and were driving down to Atlantic City, NJ we were listening to Bruce the whole way down. When we hit that last mile of the Atlantic City Expressway, we played the E Street version of “Atlantic City“. We couldn’t help but get excited especially when we heard the song kick in with the full band, with the smell of the ocean air, and the bright lights of the casinos. We were high-fiving each other and singing along in anticipation of a great night in AC. The next day, on the drive home, we played the depressing original acoustic version to commiserate with our hungover, poorer selves as opposed to the night before. Now that’s a powerful song.