Saturday, April 28, 2012

Kirsten Proffit - My Devotion (2012)

My Devotion

Kirsten Proffit's new album, My Devotion will be released on April 30th. We fell in love with Kirsten's voice when we first heard it, nearly ten years ago. At the time we thought that there was nothing better than the sound of her voice paired with a crunchy electric guitar. There was plenty to love when Kirsten released her debut album, Lucky Girlin 2006 which quickly established her as one of L.A.'s finest singer-songwriters.

Kirsten's voice sounds better than ever on her new long awaited second album, and there's not a crunchy guitar in sight. Kirsten co-produced My Devotion with Michael Woodrum using a mostly acoustic instrumentation for a warm, rich, multi-layered sound that is positively brilliant. You can tell as soon as you drop the proverbial needle onto track one and feel the presence and texture of the acoustic guitar, then the mandolin confirms that something very special is going on here; this isn't your father's pop/rock.

Listen to "Whatever That Means"

My Devotion is, for the most part, about love. Kirsten comes at it from almost every angle, set to some of the most tuneful songwriting you could ever want to hear. We've been listening to it for several weeks now and every song already feels like an old favorite. "The Sweetest Kiss" is a great example; a gem of a love song, and I'm not even going to try to paraphrase the perfect description on Kirsten's website: “The Sweetest Kiss” is a hauntingly simple but lovely look at that moment when you “just know”. Regular readers know that we are all about the songwriting. You can be the greatest singer or guitarist or whatever, but without great songs to sing or play, you will never make a great album. My Devotion is a total delight from start to finish.

The closer you get to the songwriting process, the more magic it seems. Anybody can write average lyrics, and with practice might even write good lyrics. But to write really amazing lyrics like Kirsten does, is truly an art. Composing a melody out of thin air is the part of songwriting that seems like it could never be taught or learned; this ability is a gift, and Kirsten is a very gifted songwriter. All but one of the songs on this record were written or co-written by Kirsten. Many artists are reluctant to cover songs by their heroes, but Kirsten more than does justice to "Talk of the Town" by Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders.

Listen to "Talk of the Town".

Photos coutesy of Kirsten Proffit

The album's title is meaningful on several different levels. There is the devotion of love, which is the subject of most of the songs here. There is the devotion of Kirsten to her craft of being a singer, songwriter, and musician. But most of all, My Devotion is a tribute to her grandfather whose World War Two plane was nicknamed, "My Devotion". Kirsten describes the cover photo:

The B17 and crew is my grandfather and his crew. They flew all 25 missions in Europe in that aircraft. They were shot down over the Thames, barely made it to safety. They all survived. They were the 2nd American B17 to complete all 25 missions, right after the Memphis Belle.

In this time when music is, to many people, just a download, disposable as old newspapers, it's really refreshing to find an album where the cover means something; even amplifies an important aspect of the project. Click on the front cover (above) and the back cover (below) for a closer look. Back in the days before CDs, great album covers were made all the time, there even used to be a Grammy for this. The cover definitely makes this worth having on CD rather than MP3.

Kirsten was lucky to have some quality time to spend with her Grandpa in the years before he died. The song "Flood and Fire" is based on one such conversation. The beautiful sound consists of acoustic and electric guitars, piano, upright bass, cajon, mandolin, dobro, cello, and violin.

Listen to "Flood and Fire".

"Flood and Fire" has a superb melody to go along with its poignant lyrics and is our favorite song on the album. Kirsten has done her Grandpa's memory proud with My Devotion, and wherever he is, the Big Man is smiling.

We wouldn't leave you on a Saturday without a bonus video, so here's a live in-studio performance of "California", another awesome song from My Devotion.

Kirsten Proffit's Website
Kirsten Proffit's Facebook

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Joan Osborne Rocks the Blues at WFUV and on Her New Album, Bring It On Home (2012)

Bring It On Home

Saturday Video Fun: Joan Osborne is one of the most adventurous, and most talented singers I've ever run across. There is no limit to her abilities and she can take any type of music and make it her own. She has always sung blues-based rock and soul music but on her latest, she delves a little deeper into the blues than ever before, with stellar results. She is currently touring with the same amazing band that made the record. She and her band recently did a session at WFUV and you will see four of the songs from the new album performed in about the best quality live videos that you could ever hope to see. But first, a little about Joan's career.

Bring It On Homeis her seventh album and with the exception of her last, Little Wild One (2009), her last few albums have been flat out fabulous. After How Sweet It Is (2002) which had a good mix of classic soul and rock covers she sang in the movie Standing In the Shadows of Motown. This was an excellent documentary about the Funk Brothers, the house band who played on virtually every Motown hit, with very little publicity. Here is Joan singing "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted" with the Funk Brothers, from the film.

In 2003, Joan joined The Dead for their summer tour, sharing lead vocal duties with Bob Weir and Warren Haynes. The Dead was the first of several post-Jerry Garcia incarnations of the Grateful Dead. Although this combination looked strange on paper, it worked incredibly well.

Listen to Joan with The Dead - "Sugaree"

Photo courtesy of Joan Osborne

Joan had another period of creative success in 2006 and 2007 which resulted in the release of two albums in rapid succession, both of which topped my list of the best albums of 2007. Pretty Little Stranger came first and it was a country album. Next was Breakfast in Bed, a soul album. What made both of these albums great was that each consisted of half cover songs, hand picked from some of the best songs ever written. The other half of each album consisted of songs written by Joan, and these originals were every bit as good as the covers.

In 2009, Joan was reunited in the studio with the songwriting and production team that worked with her on Relish, her triple platinum major label debut in 1995. The hope was that working with Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian (of the Hooters) and producer Rick Chertoff, that lightning would strike twice and the success of Relish (driven by the megahit "One of Us", penned by Bazilian) would be repeated, it wasn't and the results were disappointing.

Listen to Joan with the Waybacks - "Melissa"

With little or no fanfare, Joan sang with a group called The Waybacks for a performance at Merlefest 2011, which in tribute to the Allman Bros. Band was the classic double album, Eat a Peach, in its entirety. This show is available at

Now in 2012 comes Bring It On Home,a dynamite set of blues, blues/rock and R&B. The very hot band that you are about to see, also did the album; Keith Cotton played keyboards, Andrew Carrillo played guitar, Aaron Comess played drums, and Richard Hammond played bass (Hammond used to play regularly in Chrissi Poland's band). In addition to the tour dates they're playing, they've also made stops at WXPN and WFUV. At XPN, they played a Free at Noon concert, about a 40 minute set which you can listen to at the NPR archive. At FUV, they did Words and Music from Studio-A which included both live performance and interview with John Platt which you can hear in its entirety on the WFUV website.

WFUV has a history of technical excellence when it comes to recording the many artists who come to the station to perform. Their CD compilations stand far above any similar radio station CDs, as far as the quality of the sound and superior performances. With that track record, it is no surprise that when they began recording performances on video, they would similarly be the best looking and sounding videos you will ever see on Youtube. Enjoy these four juicy slices of Joan's new album.

Joan Osborne's Website
Joan Osborne's Facebook

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Melody Gardot's New Album, The Absence, Due May 29th, First Track, Mira, Out Today

The Absence

Melody Gardot's long awaited third album, The Absencewill be released on May 29th. Since signing with Verve in the fall of 2007, Melody has gone from Philly local singer-songwriter to become a true citizen of the world. And now Melody has absorbed many of the cultures and musical influences of the places her travels have taken her, and incorporated them into her music. This comes through delightfully clearly on the first track from the album, Miri, the video of which was released today.

In the past, Melody's exquisite songwriting and singing always seemed to take on an extra dimension when she did the occasional song in French, but the addition of bossa nova to Melody's mix has us beside ourselves with excitement. And that's not the half of it, here's the label's description.

The Absence is the third record from Grammy-nominated Melody Gardot. Produced by Heitor Pereira, renowned for his work as a film composer (Despicable Me, It's Complicated, From Prada to Nada) and world-class session guitarist (Sting, Seal, Caetano Veloso), the Brazilian-born, US-based artist shared Melody's enthusiasm for driving off the beaten path of Western pop, jazz, blues and soul. And he was as adventurous as Melody when it came to inventive sonic ideas. From the deserts of Morocco to the streets of Lisboa, from the tango bars of Buenos Aires to the beaches of Brazil, The Absence captures the essence of each of these exotic locales, while at the same time remaining quintessentially Melody Gardot.

Here is the tracklist for The Absence.

1. Mira
2. Amalia
3. So Long
4. So We Meet Again My Heartache
5. Lisboa
6. Impossible Love
7. If I Tell You I Love You I'm Lying
8. Goodbye
9. Se Voce Me Ama
10. My Heart Won't Have It Any Other Way
11. Yemanja

Photos courtesy of the Verve Music Group

Melody Gardot's Website
Melody Gardot's Facebook

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Polly and the Billets Doux - Hold Fast EP Due May 8th

We knew that they were good when we first wrote about Polly and the Billets Doux back in 2009, but listen once to the title track of their forthcoming Hold Fast EP, and you can't help but love this band.

Hold Fast (EP)

That song has an unstoppable guitar riff as its backbone, lead vocals that fit right in the pocket, and when the bass and drums kick in, they are so tight it seems as if they might share the same central nervous system. And with Polly's appealing voice, what more could you want? Polly and the Billets Doux have spent the last two and a half years since the release of their debut album relentlessly touring every corner of England and it shows.

Here is a band that has not only built an adoring following with their energetic live shows, but the road work has honed their skills to such a fine edge that they make it look/sound easy. And that goes for their songwriting as well as their instrumental and performance abilities. The new EP shows off their range quite nicely, with two songs ("Hold Fast" above, and "Factory Whistle" which follows) that sound like they must be barnburners live, and two songs that are a little slower and more acoustic but no less compelling.

All their songs are written by the band, consisting of:

Polly Perry - Lead vocal
Andrew "Steeny" Steen - Guitars, vocal
Dan Everett - Bass, vocal
Ben Perry - Drums, percussion

We love their choice of words to describe their music as "genre-defiant" and "Their distinctive sound combines elements of jazz, blues, country, folk, soul and gospel to create a sumptuous and totally unique sound with a quintessentially English twist." In the following track, listen to the rather unique jazzy rhythm, and the amazing guitar work, which, like they said, is a little bit country and a little bit swing, with a decidedly British accent.

Listen to "Factory Whistle"

This band are all seasoned musicians, but Steeny will wow you on every track with his guitar. The Hold Fast EP is released May 8th; a page for it is already up at U.S. Amazon. Unlike a lot of English bands whose records are not yet released in the States, everything released by Polly and the Billets Doux is available on MP3 at either Amazon or iTunes in the U.S. Following is a discography in reverse chronological order. And for anyone wondering about the name, Billets Doux is French for love letters.

Cry Cry (Single)

"Cry Cry" is the band's second single, released in 2011. The two tracks are not from their album or either EP.

Follow My Feet (Single)

"Follow My Feet" is the first single, also released in 2011. "Follow My Feet" is from their album; the b-side, "Since the Fire" is not.

Fiction, Half-Truths And Downright Lies

Fiction, Half-Truths And Downright Lies is their first full length album, released in 2009; they plan to make their second later this year.

Head Of Steam (EP)

Head Of Steam is their debut EP, released in 2008. There are early versions of two songs that wound up on their album. For a bonus video, we have Polly and the Billets Doux performing a song on one of our favorite Youtube series, The Station Sessions, which records artists from all over the world, doing a song in a train station.

Polly and the Billets Doux Website
Polly and the Billets Doux Facebook

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Restoring the Faith, Bruce Springsteen, Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, 3/29/12

Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, 3/29/12, Photo courtesy Backstreets.

My Bruce story begins at WECI-FM, the Earlham College radio station. Earlham is a small Quaker college, located in Richmond, Indiana. When Bruce Springsteen released his first album in early 1973, it slipped quietly into our record library without causing much of a ripple. In the fall of '73, Bruce released his second album, The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle. Dave (now of Direct Current Music), my partner in crime running the station, was off on an off-campus program that fall.

I remember listening to Wild & Innocent when we received it from Columbia Records, to determine what tracks, if any, would be good for airplay. I think I picked "Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" and "The E Street Shuffle". Even though these tracks sounded good, the album didn't really grab me then. My last two years of school, in addition to my Saturday night WECI show, I also worked at the commercial stations in town, WHON was an AM top 40 station complete with jingles; WQLK was an automated station playing the music of the 30s, 40s, and 50s.

Fast forward to June of 1975. My radio experience in Richmond helped me to get the job I wanted at an FM rock station in Central Pennsylvania. When I graduated Earlham, I started working at WRHY, Starview, PA. Starview had its main studio, transmitter and tower on top of a small mountain midway between York and Harrisburg. The owner of the station liked the idea of calling the station Starview and so he located a remote studio in a mobile home in the tiny village of Starview. I was hired full time to do evenings, 7pm - midnight.

On my first day of work I met the program director, Pat Richards, at the trailer and followed him to the mountaintop studio. It turned out that I was replacing him on the air and even though I was only supposed to observe him that first night, when we arrived and Steve Martin, the afternoon DJ (no relation), had put on his last record, Pat ushered me to the DJ chair and informed me that I was on the air in about two minutes. I don't remember much else about that first night except I do remember playing "Cut the Cake" by AWB.

When I got my feet on the ground at Starview, both of Bruce's albums were getting airplay and I began to gain an appreciation. In July, Starview began to advertise a Bruce Springsteen concert to be held July 26th at Kutztown State College located between Allentown and Reading.

In addition to my air shift, it was also my job to produce commercials to run on the station so I got the assignment to make the spot for the upcoming Bruce concert. It was the station's procedure to play a finished spot for the client over the phone to get approval before the spot aired. My Bruce spot was bounced back to me because the promoter wanted to hear "Kitty's Back" in the commercial. So I recut the spot with "Kitty's Back" and it went right on the air.

Kutztown, 7/26/75, Photo by Leslie Klempner via Brucebase

Life as I knew it changed forever on the night of July 26th, 1975. I went to the Kutztown Fieldhouse on a hot and steamy night, we sat on wooden benches, and I had my mind blown by Bruce and the E Street Band; actually I didn't do much sitting. I had been to a good many concerts at that point in time (about eleven years of shows, starting with The Beatles), but I had never seen anything like this. Bear in mind that Born to Run had not yet come out, and we were hearing those songs for the first time.

Even the songs we knew from the first two albums, all took on entirely new context seeing him do them live. There were lots of stories, both in between and in the middle of songs (like "Growing Up") and he would launch each new song out of the ending of the song before. His energy was phenomenal. My friend Dave, who had gone on to work in the record business in Indianapolis, had virtually the same experience that summer. I don't remember the venue but his conversion was every bit as complete as mine. Courtesy of the good folks at Setlist.FM we can see the setlist from that Kutztown show.

Incident on 57th Street
Spirit in the Night
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Growin' Up
It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City
The E Street Shuffle
She's the One
Born to Run
Kitty's Back
New York City Serenade
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
A Love So Fine (The Chiffons cover)

One night in August that summer, shortly after I went on the air, Pat came rushing into the studio because he had gotten an advance copy of Born to Run from our Columbia rep. We then played the album in its entirety on the air. The album cover (vinyl, CDs were still years away) was really cool.

It was the cover we've come to know except it had no lettering except the name in script, just that iconic black and white picture of Bruce and Clarence against a plain white background. At the time, I may not have known how valuable it would become, but it still irked me when Pat wrote all over it with black magic marker. The album was pure magic beginning to end, and it got plenty of airplay. That fall Bruce made the covers of Time and Newsweek the same week, October 27th 1975.

For about the next twelve years, Bruce was in his own league, at least in my book. He released one great album after another and all of his concerts were life changing experiences, culminating in Tunnel of Love, the album and tour. The shows kept getting longer and longer. When I saw him on The River tour, the show was nearing the four hour mark.

That show was especially memorable, in a dark way, because that was the night, December 10, 1980, that John Lennon was shot. There was no announcement at the show, but getting in the car afterwards, there was nothing but Beatles music up and down the radio dial, and it was quickly clear that something bad had happened. Legend has it that at the time John was shot, Bruce was playing "Point Blank". I don't really know if that's true but it is certainly within the realm of possibility.

After Born to Run, Bruce concerts became big business. He routinely filled big arenas, often playing multiple nights. Back in 1984, Born in the USA with its seven top ten singles launched Bruce into the stratosphere of the concert business. The Born in the USA tour was a worldwide affair, mostly playing stadiums. I caught the tour in August '85 at Veteran's Stadium in Philadelphia. With the best outdoor sound system I had ever heard and a gargantuan stage with video screen, the Bruce show conquered the drawbacks of playing such a huge venue and he amazingly pulled off a meaningful music experience.

During the twelve years following Born to Run, I heard a great many more shows as I collected audio recordings and swapped them with collectors all over the world. Tape trading was way different then with no internet or PCs, tape lists were hand-typed, photocopied, and exchanged by mail. My collection was on reel to reel tape and shows were exchanged with cassettes in the mail. Today there is a vast archive of Springsteen concerts online, both on audio and video and some are available to trade and some can be downloaded.

Even though Tunnel of Love (1987) was a great album, it was controversial because Bruce used other musicians than the the E Street Band. The hiatus from the E Street Band continued through the Tunnel of Love tour in early '88. It was still a great show; this time I met Dave in Worcester, Mass. (Dave's record business career had taken him to New England). This show was bootlegged as Tunnel of Lust. I didn't know it at the time but this was my last Bruce show for almost 25 years.

Bruce's next albums came in 1992 when he simultaneously released Human Touch and Lucky Town. Although these albums had their moments, for me Bruce dropped back down to the world of mere mortals. From then through 2009's Working On a Dream, there were songs I liked a lot, but none of these albums rose to the level that would make me deal with the hassle of going to a big arena show. And even though the appeal of his records went up and down, the live audience continued to grow, making every new tour and every concert date a major event. I was content to remain on the sidelines of the Bruce juggernaut until this year.

When Wrecking Ball was released, I was initially reticent as I have been for most recent Bruce albums, you might say I had lost the faith. I don't know exactly why, but when Bruce's concert at the Apollo Theater was carried live on Sirius XM satellite radio I felt compelled to record it. I listened to the show live as it recorded and was completely blown away. This was more like the Bruce concerts from his first decade.

He talked to the audience like it was a revival meeting, his energy was off the scale, the setlist was full of great songs, old and new. The expanded E Street Band was in top form, the live mix sounded amazing over the satellite radio. Maybe it was the room, but Bruce seemed to rediscover soul music and best of all, even with the heavy themes of the Wrecking Ball songs, Bruce was having a huge amount of fun, and that is the one thing that seemed to me to be missing ever since Tunnel of Love.

I got a little of the faith back that night listening to the broadcast, and I started to really enjoy the Wrecking Ball album, I now consider it to be his best album since Tunnel of Love. Then came SXSW and I got some more of it back watching Bruce give the Keynote Address, live on the internet. I got some more of the faith back watching the YouTube videos and listening to audio recordings of Bruce's SXSW concert. At this point, if you haven't read last week's Bruce post, take time out now and follow this link to watch and listen to Bruce at the Apollo and SXSW.

Next, I went to the Bruce Springsteen exhibit at the National Constitution Center entitled From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen. My daughter had gotten tickets for us to go as a Christmas present and selected the date of March 23rd without any foreknowledge of all this Bruce activity. The exhibit is a must for all Bruce fans. It covers his whole life, from his first guitar all the way to the current day.

There is plenty to see, watch, and hear. There are lots of artifacts such as Bruce's car, guitars, clothes, and lots of songwriting notebooks. There are videos of rare performances there's even audio from Bruce's first band, The Castiles. When The Castiles did a cover song it sounded a lot like Vanilla Fudge doing "You Keep Me Hangin' On".

Wells Fargo Center, 3/29/12, Photo by Jennifer Kates

All this set the stage for what happened next. A few nights before the Philadelphia concerts on the Wrecking Ball tour, my other daughter called and asked, would I go if she could get tickets to the Bruce Springsteen concert. I said yes and on Thursday night we were seated in one of the VIP suites at the Wells Fargo Center for the second of two sold out shows. We had a great view of the arena (photo above).

Photo by Jennifer Kates

I could never have anticipated this happening in 2012 but Bruce gave as great a show that night as I have ever seen him give. My faith is now fully restored and I'm back, solidly in the fold. I'll mention some of the ways that this concert was incredible, as you watch nine of the best videos of the show from Youtube. When you consider that the next morning you could turn on the computer and read a complete account of the show with setlist, pictures, and video on, and consider that within 24 hours Youtube was rife with videos shot from every angle of the venue, the impact of the technology that we sort of take for granted, is huge.

When I first saw Bruce at Kutztown, there were no personal computers, there were no cell phones, if you took a picture it was on film and the only way to take a meaningful picture at a concert was to use an SLR with a long telephoto lens, and if you tried to record the show you were carrying a portable cassette tape recorder. With that in mind, check out how the concert began and stick with this video through the first minute or two of crowd anticipation, it's a good one.

We'll get into the details of the show and look at the setlist in a minute, but first watch this video of "My City Of Ruins". This is the one where he talks to the crowd and this will tell you everything you need to know about Bruce having fun like the old days. Later some of the videos are stage close-ups but this clip not only has great sound, but the wide perspective shows you the arena set up nicely and gives you a good sense of how Bruce can command such a large room.

It was an incredible show, lasting three solid hours with no break, most songs kick-starting as the previous song ends. Bruce and the band were all in top form and the sound was about the best I've ever heard in a big arena show. The Apollo show was flat out stunning in its quality but Bruce gave a full hour more at both Philly shows. Historically, Bruce as always done something extra special for the Philadelphia crowds; Philadelphia was the first city to really get behind him when he first started out. A big reason for that, was WMMR DJ Ed Sciaky, who played Bruce on the air from the first. The late DJ was my radio mentor. Bruce came down to play the Main Point in the early days before the E Street Band was formed.

In addition to his trademark high energy performances, one way he makes the show special for Philly is to play some old songs that are not necessarily part of the current tour. He did that again both nights in Philly and treated the crowds to songs so old and rare that the Bruce faithful could not believe their ears. The first night in Philly he did "Seaside Bar Song" a tune that predates his first album and as it ended he launched right into "Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street".

The second night was full of surprises, but no Bruce fan in their right mind ever expected to hear him do "Thundercrack" but he did, and there is a video of it below; I'll tell you more when we get to the song. Meanwhile, here is the first chestnut he pulled out near the beginning of the show, "Night" from the Born to Run album.

Setlist, 3/29/12:
We Take Care of Our Own
Wrecking Ball
Death to My Hometown
My City of Ruins
Jack of All Trades
Easy Money
Prove It All Night
Darkness on the Edge of Town
Waitin' on a Sunny Day
The Promised Land
Apollo Medley
Streets of Philadelphia
The Rising
We Are Alive
Thunder Road
Rocky Ground (with Michelle Moore)
Kitty's Back
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out

Reading the setlist you can see what a great set this was. All the new songs from Wrecking Ball sound great live and the set was quite generous with the classics. Before you see "Thundercrack", some background is in order. Before Bruce was signed to Columbia Records, he was in a group called Steel Mill and later the Bruce Springsteen Band. Their big song was 'Thundercrack"; it was sort of a precursor to "Rosilita". When Bruce was signed and they began doing "Rosilita", "Thundercrack" was retired from the live set.

He has never recorded it, and to my knowledge, he has never (or rarely ever) played it live in the E Street Band era. If you get the 35 year anniversary edition of Born to Run, it comes with a DVD documentary on the making of Born to Run. Also on this DVD is a bonus, Live at the Ahmanson Theater, Los Angeles, 1973. That performance includes tow early songs, "Wild Billy's Circus Story" and "Thundercrack". To explain what happened I'll throw it to Backstreets.

"We're gonna take you back to the Main Point," Springsteen announced, locating a girl holding a request sign he professed to having seen the night before: "Please play 'Thundercrack' for my Dad in Iraq." The audience participation favorite is "still a good one," as Bruce commented at the song's conclusion. "That was our showstopper."

All the time they were playing it, I kept thinking to myself "I don't believe they're playing this". To pull out a song that old and to work out a perfect sounding arrangement for such a large band in only one day is a feat unto itself. Enjoy "Thundercrack".

When Clarence Clemons died last June, it left Bruce with the question of how to fill the gaping hole in his band; Clarence, as Bruce's counterpart on stage, the Big Man was so much more than just a sax player. For this tour, Bruce supplemented the E Street Band with a full on horn section, a violin player, and backup singers. Playing sax in the horn section was Jake Clemons, Clarence's nephew, and he played the sax parts beautifully. Bruce paid tribute several times to Clarence and also to Danny Federici, the E Street Band's deceased organ player . With some facts from Wikipedia, here is the complete band personnel for the Wrecking Ball Tour.

The E Street Band:
Bruce Springsteen: lead vocals, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, harmonica
Roy Bittan: piano, synthesizer, accordion
Nils Lofgren: rhythm guitar, lead guitar, pedal steel guitar, acoustic guitar, accordion, background vocals
Patti Scialfa: background vocals, some duet vocals, acoustic guitar, occasional tambourine
Garry Tallent: bass guitar, rare background vocals, rare tuba
Steven Van Zandt: rhythm guitar, lead guitar, mandolin, acoustic guitar, background vocals, occasional featured lead vocal
Max Weinberg: drums, rare tambourine

Soozie Tyrell: violin, acoustic guitar, percussion, background vocals
Charles Giordano: organ, accordion, electronic glockenspiel, rare piano, occasional background vocals

Additional Personnel:
Curtis King: background vocals, tambourine
Michelle Moore: background vocals, tambourine, duet vocal on "Rocky Ground"
Clark Gayton: trombone, percussion
Edie Manion: saxophone, percussion
Curt Ramm: trumpet, percussion
Barry Danielian: trumpet, percussion
Jake Clemons: saxophone, background vocals
Everett Bradley: percussion, background vocals

Soozie Tyrell's violin sounded especially good on "Wrecking Ball" (the song) and it combined nicely with the E Street horns to make the Irish sounding "Death to My Hometown" really come alive. The next video is "Trapped", a Jimmy Cliff song that was also a nice surprise; Bruce first covered this many years ago.

I couldn't find a good video, but one of the best surprises of the night was "Streets of Philadelphia". This beautiful song from the movie Philadelphia is one that I've never heard him do live. This was the first appearance of "Darkness On the Edge of Town" on this tour. Somehow this song keeps getting better and better through the years.

The two Wilson Pickett songs he did at the Apollo have remained in the set for this tour, now known as the Apollo Medley. When you watch this video, you will see one of the several times Bruce went down into the audience to sing. He had a small platform in the middle of the floor and at one point with his back to the stage and outstretched arms he allowed himself to fall backwards into the crowd and crowd surfed all the way back to the stage.

Once again, from Backstreets: The family affair continued, as Bruce introduced his mother ("She’s almost 90!" he exclaimed), sister and a dozen or so other relatives — "the whole clan" — who were sitting at stage right. "My mom knows a little about this," he said, introducing "Rocky Ground."

"Rocky Ground" sounds great on Wrecking Ball, but it's even better live. Tonight it kicked off the encore. This video has a nice close to the stage view and great sound.

It was an encore for the ages, as "Rocky Ground" ended, Bruce said, "Alright Philly, here we go" as the band launched into "Kitty's Back". The entire horn section and most of the band all took solos in this epic fifteen minute version. The band sounded awesome on this jazzy classic from the second album; I've always hoped that jazz inflected material might surface again in his repertoire. It hasn't yet, but "Kitty's Back" sure sounded good.

Because it was the second song of the encore and because it was so long, it seemed as if the show would be over at its conclusion. But no, as "Kitty's Back" was ending, they ripped into a full throttle "Born to Run" and the place went nuts. As if that wasn't enough, as "Born to Run" ended, on came "Dancing in the Dark". In the following video you can see Bruce bring his mom onstage to dance with him. When that song was done, they weren't, and the finish was a killer "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out", complete with another tribute to Clarence.

When he got to the line "When the change was made uptown And the Big Man joined the band", the band stopped and Bruce reached up and pointed his microphone toward the sky and waited while the crowd cheered for what seemed like several minutes. When it was all over, Bruce had made good on all the promises he laid out at the beginning of "My City of Ruins".