Friday, October 22, 2010

Johnny 99, two versions

Aside from being a fan of much of Bruce Springsteen's music, I find that I also enjoy the ways in which he takes a given song, and changes it from night to night.  He'll play it one way one night, or one year, and reinvent, or reinterpret it, on another occasion.  As an example, here are two versions of Johnny 99, a song from the great 1982 album, Nebraska.

The first is how he played the song on the Born in the USA tour.  This particular video is from a show toward the end of the tour, in Paris, 1985.  It is a good one for those unfamiliar with the song, because the lyrics are pretty clear, and it is closer to the album version than is the second version.  Basically just Bruce, his harmonica, and the guitar work of Nils Lofgren.

This second version is a good example of how Bruce can give a song a new sound, yet one that is somehow true to the original.  You get a lot more instruments, and a more celebratory feel, which may seem strange for a song about a guy who kills a man and then gets a 99 year prison sentence, but this is Springsteen we're talking about.  This video is from a concert in Hyde Park, London, in 2009.  It shows that the years have not slowed Bruce, or the band.  In fact, I think they are musically better than ever, though of course Danny Federici, and his organ, are missed.  It also shows Bruce's tendency to be a ham on stage, and his ability to get the crowd going.

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