Because of the ongoing coronavirus crisis and the overcast weather, there hasn't been much in terms of barbecues or sunbathing happening around the city for Memorial Day Weekend. If you're like me, then you're probably stuck indoors somewhere trying to find ways to demarcate a "holiday" weekend like this from any other day during the pandemic. But here's one way you can do something patriotic today to mark the occasion: you can watch over a dozen full or partial Bruce Springsteen concerts in glorious quality from the last 40+ years on YouTube.
There's a treasure trove of classic Springsteen live concerts grouped into playlists on his YouTube page. Some are previously-released home videos, like the Live In New York 2000 show, the Live In Dublin concert, and London Calling: Live In Hyde Park 2009. Some are classic concerts from his vault that have been released on bonus discs and alongside reissues, like the Hammersmith Odeon 1975 show and Thrill Hill Vault 1978, and others are special shows never before released like Live At The Carousel in Asbury Park, NJ 2010.
A lot of these shows have been slowly uploaded here over the last couple years, but a few have only been fully added in recent months or weeks. During the shutdown, I've found myself slowly making my way through them (as well as live footage from other bands) whenever I was really missing going to concerts—Springsteen has always been an extremely passionate performer regardless of his live configuration or backing, as these concerts from various tours clearly demonstrates.
A few highlights if you want to dip your toe in the water: Springsteen formed The Sessions Band in the mid-2000s, resulting in his wonderfully underrated We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions album, filled with covers of traditional and folk songs popularized by Pete Seeger (It remains his only major album of entirely non-Springsteen material). The short-lived group only toured in 2006 (though they've had a few small reunions or guest appearances at E-Street Band shows in the subsequent years), and next to the E-Street Band, they were the best musicians Springsteen has ever played with. Live In Dublin, which is in full on YouTube, remains the definite document of that tour, but I am partial to their performance at The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, 2006, which was their first official show together. (There are also a few videos showing the recording of the Seeger Sessions album here.)
In the running for the best Springsteen shows of all time is the aforementioned Live at the Hammersmith Odeon, London '75, which sees prime Springsteen touring after the release of Born To Run. Despite the show achieving legendary status among Bruce fans, Springsteen wrote in his memoir that he experienced severe angst about performing live after the show. Few things make the hairs on the back of my neck standup like hearing the unadorned early version of "Thunder Road."
If you want to go back a little older and get a feel for just how electric (and jammy) the E-Street Band was in the early '70s, I highly recommend this recording of early live classic "Thundercrack" from Live at the Ahmanson Theater, Los Angeles, 1973.
Then there's Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band’s The River Tour: Tempe 1980, also considered one of the group's best ever shows. Twenty-six songs from that show are available to stream on YouTube—and it includes a performance of "Fire," which remains the sexiest song the man ever wrote.
Live In New York City 2000 was an extremely important moment in the history of the E-Street Band, celebrating the reunion after a lost decade in which Springsteen parted ways with the group, decamped to Los Angeles, and released the weakest albums of his careers. Their first tour in 10 years ended with "an emotional series of 10 concerts at New York’s famed Madison Square Garden." This was a tour where Springsteen debuted a song that would become one of his all-time great anthems (even though the studio version wouldn't be released until a decade later): "Land Of Hope And Dreams."
The Devils & Dust era is another underrated part of Springsteen's career, and there are two great documents of it: five solo acoustic performances that define intimate, and his VH1 Storytellers episode from 2005, which includes this lovely, delicate duet with wife Patti Scialfa on "Brilliant Disguise."
There are a bunch of more recent shows from post-2009 available as well, including full album performances of Darkness On The Edge Of Town from 2010 and Born In The USA from 2013. There's also a compilation of live versions of covers and super rare tracks, from Lorde's "Royals" to the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" to AC/DC's "Highway To Hell." I have a particular soft spot for anytime Springsteen busts out a mid-'60s gem like The Easybeats' classic "Friday On My Mind."