Christic Benefit Concert
Acoustic Performance by Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, and Bonnie Rait. Shrine Auditorium in LA, November 16th 1990.
01. Brilliant Disguise 0:00:00
02. Darkness On The Edge Of Town 0:05:18
03. Mansion On The Hill 0:09:30
04. Reason To Believe 0:13:47
05. Red Headed Woman 0:18:50
06. 57 Channels (And Nothin’ On) 0:23:36
07. My Father’s House 0:27:22
08. 10th Avenue Freeze-Out (solo piano) 0:35:16
09. Atlantic City 0:39:36
10. Wild Billy’s Circus Story 0:43:32
11. Nebraska 0:48:06
12. When The Lights Go Out 0:53:45
13. Thunder Road (solo piano) 0:57:12
14. My Hometown (solo piano) 1:03:22
15. Real World (solo piano) 1:10:05
16. Highway 61 Revisited (with Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne) 1:15:00
17. Across The Borderline (with Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne) 1:19:08
Info from Brucebase:
Premieres of “Red Headed Woman”, “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)”, “When The Lights Go Out” (all on the guitar) and “Real World” on the piano. Furthermore we get first time acoustic guitar versions of “Brilliant Disguise”, “Darkness On The Edge Of Town”, “Mansion On The Hill”, “Reason To Believe”, “My Father’s House”, “Atlantic City”, “Wild Billy’s Circus Story” (no tuba from Gary this time) and “Nebraska” (of course to follow “Wild Billy’s Circus Story” – “Nebraska’s our next stop”). “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” is performed with Bruce alone on the piano. “Thunder Road” returns to the version last seen on the first leg of the Born To Run tour (with Bruce, not Roy Bittan on the piano). “My Hometown” gets its second acoustic hearing, this time on the piano, and not on the guitar as in 1988 on the SOS Racism show. Highlight is the magnificent solo piano “Real World” – an inspired performance and one of Bruce’s greatest. For encores Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne joins in on “Highway 61 Revisited” (Bruce on harmonica, Jackson on acoustic guitar, and Bonnie on tambourine) and “Across The Borderline” (performed on the Tunnel Of Love tour) – this time with Jackson on the piano and Bonnie on the slide guitar
Excerpt from Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock and Roll:
From June to December the only recordings Bruce made were two children’s songs, and in all of 1990 there were just two drop-in performances, both before Evan was born. After Evan’s birth, maybe the only two performers who could have gotten Springsteen out of the house and up on a stage, particularly by himself, were Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt, both of whom had been not just colleagues but friends for almost twenty years. The benefit at which they wanted him to perform was for the Christic Institute, a DC-based public-interest law firm that had taken the lead in publicizing the Reagan administration’s continued covert assistance to the Contras in Nicaragua, among other alternative issues. When it was announced that Springsteen would be topping the bill for a mid-November benefit for the institute, giving his first scheduled performances in over two years, the six thousand seats in the Shrine Auditorium sold out in forty minutes, as did the inevitable second show when it was announced.
In terms of Springsteen’s career, the Christic Institute benefits weren’t just his first scheduled concerts since the end of the Human Rights Now! tour. They were also the first concerts he had performed solo in at least eighteen years. Between the time he had spent away from performing and the ways in which he was trying to wean himself off so many unhealthy attitudes associated with his stage persona, Springsteen took the stage for the first concert on 16 November nervous, even exposed. It sounds a little funny, he told the audience before he started off the set with an acoustic rendition of “Brilliant Disguise,” but it’s been awhile since I did this so if you’re moved to clap along, please don’t. It’s gonna mix me up. Before he started “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” the next number, he reiterated, I’d appreciate if during the songs I’d get just a little bit of quiet so I can concentrate. That night, much of his between-songs patter consisted of similar apologies: for bad notes in a slow version of “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” and for forgotten lyrics in, of all songs, “Thunder Road.” After “Mansion on the Hill,” one enthusiastic fan shouted, “We love you Bruce,” and the newly self-conscious performer immediately replied, But you don’t know me. On the page, such statements might sound petulant, but when you listen to recordings of the event there is a vulnerability in Springsteen’s voice that simply wasn’t present in earlier performances, not even when he was telling the Freehold story before “Spare Parts” at the beginning of the Tunnel of Love tour.
Of the songs Springsteen performed at the first Christic concert, a third were from Nebraska, which made sense given the solo nature of the performance. There was nothing from The River, his ultimate band album, two songs from Born to Run, and one each from Wild and Innocent, Darkness, Born in the U.S.A., and Tunnel of Love. Most interesting of all was the fact that he premiered four new songs that night, three of which he hadn’t even recorded yet. These three songs (“57 Channels and Nothin’ On,” “Red Headed Woman,” and “When the Lights Go Out”), which he had apparently written since Evan’s birth, had one theme in common: sex. The latter two were also among his most sexually explicit songs, making what are almost the first uncoded references in Springsteen’s work to female genitalia. It doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to conclude that, since the birth of his child, Springsteen was enjoying not only the newness of fatherhood but also the resumption of conjugal relations with Scialfa. The next night he played a slightly different set, including the premieres of the more metaphorically inclined “Soul Driver” as well as “The Wish,” the song he had written about his mother nearly four years before. He may have been nervous, even a little off, but on the whole the two Christic shows were extraordinary, his finest and most spontaneous performances in years, and a powerful argument that he should have stuck to his guns and just toured for Tunnel of Love solo.