Near the end of Bruce Springsteen‘s 2009 Working on a Dream tour he began playing his early albums straight through. It was both an attempt to reward the diehard fans and a way to boost sales in markets that were reaching saturation point. Most cities got Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town or Born In the U.S.A., but when the tour returned to Madison Square Garden that November he decided to do something even more special. On the first night he performed 1973’s The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, and the next night he played The River.
Playing complete albums meant reviving some songs he had barely played in decades, like The River deep cuts “The Price You Pay” and “Crush on You.” The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle show was eagerly anticipated, and Springsteen didn’t disappoint. “We’re gonna do something that’s never been done before,” he told the crowd. “This was the second record that I made. It didn’t do that well, but it was an interesting record. Half of the songs are set in New Jersey, around our little street corner. The other half was sort of my romantic ideas and fantasies of New York City.”
Springsteen supplemented the band with a five-piece horn section and an eight-piece string section. For the grand finale of “New York City Serenade” he even brought out Richard Blackwell, who was on the original recording, to play conga. David Sancious played the famous piano intro to the 10-minute song’ sadly, he didn’t guest with the band that night.
“New York City Serenade” is a huge fan favorite, but Springsteen has played it only a handful of times since 1975. He did it five times on the 1999/2000 reunion tour with the E Street Band, and at Shea Stadium at the end of The Rising tour in 2003. He’s played countless rarities over the past decade, but this Madison Square Garden gig is the only time he’s dug out “New York City Serenade.”
The entire concert was pro-shot, and it’ll make a tremendous bonus DVD if they ever get around to releasing a deluxe edition of The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle.