Bruce Springsteen Releases Legendary 1975 Hammersmith Odeon Concert on YouTube
The concert film was originally released on DVD format as part of the three-disc 30th-anniversary edition Born to Run boxed set in 2005 and the audio of the performance was released as a standalone album the next year. Since then, a vinyl pressing has also been released.
The performance offers a unique and somewhat rarely-seen glimpse into Springsteen in the early years of his career. The 16 individual YouTube videos, culled painstakingly from original 16mm film and 24-track audio over the course of an entire year, include 14 songs from Bruce's first three albums along with a cover of Gary U.S. Bonds' "Quarter to Three" and an early iteration of the Detroit Medley which remains a staple of Springsteen's live shows to this day.
The November 18, 1975 concert chronicled here finds Springsteen at a crossroads. Fresh off the unlikely stateside success of his third album, Born to Run, Bruce and the E Street Band crossed the Atlantic for their first European performance, backed heavily by an all-out promotional assault by Columbia Records. The man who today commands the attention of sold-out stadium audiences worldwide and is always willing to sling on a guitar and jump onstage for impromptu Asbury Park club performances was famously nervous.
Young Bruce is Jersey street rat perfection. Unshaven in an oversized wool hat and a wrinkled button-down shirt, Springsteen seems to embody the characters that fill his early work. This is particularly evident when flanked by the impeccably clad Clarence Clemons and Little Steven Van Zandt, both of whom are dressed perfectly from finely pressed suits with floral lapel buttoneers to stylish hats. Bruce looks just as likely to be someone dragged into the spotlights through a stage door from a back alley as he is to be the next big musical sensation Columbia Records hoped the skeptical British audience would see him as.
From the moment his silhouette emerges from pitch blackness to breathe the first few bars of "Thunder Road" into his harmonica, Springsteen's command of the performance and the room is total. Even when he veers off-course, slithering on his stomach off the stage and into the orchestra pit during the pre-coda of "Spirit in the Night," he returns to the stage just in time to direct the band crashing back a final chorus, perfectly timed.
While it's often said that a second Hammersmith Odeon performance, hastily added six days after the first due to incredible demand, was the best show of Springsteen's original European run, there's no denying that what we see in these videos is a testament to the swaggering power of the E Street Band's most iconic lineup.
Highlight reel moments abound, but no single song exemplifies this era of Springsteen's career better than the rollicking 12:32 rendition of "The E Street Shuffle." The opening track of his second album, The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle, is reimagined as a soulful, piano-led groove that Roy Bittan locks the band into from the very beginning. The song borrows heavily from Sam Cooke's R&B classic "Having A Party" and finds Bruce bantering easily with the audience while leading the band through a beautifully intricate and impossibly tight performance.
Bruce Springsteen has spent the better part of the last half-century finely tuning his live performing chops and becoming one of the biggest concert draws in the world. The opportunity to experience the artist in this formative state, with such intimacy and vulnerability, is one that every fan will relish.
Watch it from the beginning below: