Bruce Springsteen is known for being one of the best live concert performers in the rock music world. Short highlights from his shows have been captured over the years and can be seen in some of his music videos.
Here's a list of The Boss's best live performance promo clips that I'm calling the "elite eight." None of his guest performances with other artists are included. Plus, there's no lip syncing in these promos. Not included on the list are the many live music clips Springsteen has posted via his website in the last several years. I've added some background info to go along with each video.
1) Born to Run-Directed by Arthur Rosato, 1987. Nominated in the Best Stage Performance category at the 1987 MTV Video Music Awards,the video consists of Springsteen and the E Street Band performing his best known song of the 1970s. Interspersed in the video are shots from the 1985 Born in the U.S.A. stadium tour. NFL Films videotaped several of those shows, but a full length Born in the U.S.A. concert DVD has never been officially released. This "Born to Run" promo features the NFL Films footage.
Quick shots from Springsteen concerts at Dublin's Slane Castle, London's Wembley Stadium, the Los Angeles Coliseum, and other venues are shown. E Street Band member and future “Sopranos” and “Lilyhammer” star Steven Van Zandt, then embarking on a solo music career, makes a very brief, blink and you'll miss it appearance in the video as does Springsteen's sister Pam and manager Jon Landau. There's an interesting edit of Springsteen dancing with his then wife Julianne Phillips, immediately followed by a shot of The Boss and his future wife, singer Patti Scialfa, sharing a mic on stage. This video captures the excitement of a Springsteen live show better than any other.
Bruce Springsteen-Born to Run music video
2) Rosalita-Directed by Arnold Levine, 1978. This was the first concert video footage of Springsteen and the E Street Band to air nationally in the U.S., on ABC's excellent 1979 "Heroes of Rock and Roll" TV special. The full promo video was broadcast on MTV five years later, right before the June 1984 release of the "Born in the U.S.A." album. The "Dancing in the Dark" video featuring Courtney Cox wouldn't be filmed until the end of that month in St. Paul.
The "Rosalita" video comes from a July 1978 Phoenix concert. The clip features several women who excitedly make their way past security to get to Springsteen onstage. One plants a big kiss on The Boss at the edge of the stage as the song ends. The "Rosalita" promo is found on the "Bruce Springsteen The Complete Video Anthology/1978-2000" DVD, but the E Street Band intros ("Professor" Roy Bittan, "Mighty" Max Weinberg, etc.) have been edited out. They do appear intact in the "Rosalita" video found on 2003's "The Old Grey Whistle Test Vol. 1" disc and 2010’s “Thrill Hill Vault” DVD/Blu-ray disc in “The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story” box set.
The lighting's a little dark in the video, but it takes nothing away from the energetic performance by Springsteen and the E Street Band. Watch for lhe late E Street sax player Clarence "Big Man" Clemons spinning in circles on stage at the end of the promo. Four other songs ("Prove it All Night", "Badlands", "Born to Run", and "The Promised Land") were filmed for possible promo videos at this concert, too. They were finally released 32 years later, with “Rosalita” on the “Thrill Hill Vault” DVD/Blu-ray disc.
Bruce Springsteen-Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) music video
3) War-Directed by Arthur Rosato, 1986. A cover of the 1970 Edwin Starr hit, filmed at the Los Angeles Coliseum at the end of the 1985 tour. The Springsteen version was the first single released from The Boss's 1975-1985 three CD live box set. The video begins with Springsteen's intro in which he warns the audience, "Blind faith in your leaders will get you killed...cause what I'm talking about here is...War!"
In an interview reprinted in the book "The Ties That Bind: Bruce Springsteen A to E to Z", E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg told Billboard magazine that this was the first time the band had played the tune in concert. They didn't know Springsteen was going to tell his story before the song. Weinberg explained, "He (Bruce) came back to me and said, "Just watch my hand. He went through this...beautiful and touching monologue and he started to raise his hand. When he brought his hand down, everybody in the E Street Band hit that downbeat perfectly." Another of the NFL films videos, with "My Hometown" and "This Land is Your Land" being the two others.
Bruce Springsteen-War music video
4) Fire-Directed by Arthur Rosato, 1986. A fun clip taped at Neil Young's 1986 Mountain View, California Bridge School Benefit show. It's a year after the Born in the USA tour has ended, and Springsteen looks well and rested. He's joined by E Street Band members Nils Lofgren on guitar and the late Danny Federici on accordion. At one point in the song, Springsteen slowly gets up from the stool he's sitting on. But, he figures he has to be low key and stay calm, because this is an all acoustic set. However, this is The Boss we're talking about. So he does stand up and grooves with the music. At the song's end, he paraphrases The Big Bopper hit "Chantilly Lace" by saying, "Come here baby. You know what I like." But he jokingly regrets his amorous mood, telling the audience. "I just can't stand myself." Penned by Springsteen, "Fire" was a number two U.S. hit in 1979 for The Pointer Sisters and was recorded a year earlier by Robert Gordon.
Bruce Springsteen-Fire music video
5) Murder Incorporated-Directed by Jonathan Demme, 1995. Filmed at Tramps nightclub in New York City. The stage is darkly lit to match the mood of the song. "Murder Incorporated" was originally recorded in 1982 during the "Born in the USA" sessions, but not officially released until 13 years later on Springsteen's "Greatest Hits" album. Springsteen had split with the E Street Band in 1989, but they all reunited briefly in 1995 to record new tracks for the "Greatest Hits" project. Back on board was Steven Van Zandt, who had left the group in 1984.This live promo clip was made following the "Greatest Hits" recording sessions. A powerful, driving tune, Springsteen definitely makes his "guitar talk" with a fiery guitar solo at the end of the video. Clemons looks pretty cool dressed in a long white shirt, brown spotted vest, shades, and a dark brown beret during his short sax solo.
Bruce Springsteen-Murder Incorporated music video
6) Waitin' on a Sunny Day-Directed by Chris Hilson, 2002. Filmed in Barcelona during The Rising tour. A full concert video of the Barcelona show would be released on DVD in 2003. Bits of the concert appear in the "Waitin'" video. A good representation of the tour with a hot European crowd, totally into the show. At one point, they loudly join in unison to sing the chorus together. Bruce does his slide across the stage, as he did during the 2009 Super Bowl performance. Steven Van Zandt gets to sing lead briefly in the beginning of the video. The then newest E Street Band member Soozie Tyrell makes her Springsteen music video debut, on violin. Clemons is featured again with a sax solo at the end of the clip.
Bruce Springsteen-Waitin' on a Sunny Day music video
7) Leap of Faith-Directed by Meiert Avis, 1992. Springsteen's charisma is prominently displayed on this gospel flavored track from 1992's "Lucky Town" album. Before beginning the song, he announces to the crowd, "Tonight we're going to get to become major motion picture stars. Because here in the great state of New Jersey we're about to film...And so if you have committed any major crimes. The IRS and "America's Most Wanted" are looking for you. If you've abandoned your family in another state... Or if you're here tonight with somebody that you shouldn't be, get down! And, Elvis if you're out there, lay low, they're still looking for ya. Ah, let's do it. A one-two, a one-two-three-four" and the song kicks in.
This isn't the E Street Band. It's the "other band" as some Springsteen fans like to call them, including guitarist Shayne Fontayne, bassist Tommy Sims, drummer Zach Alford, and guitarist/saxophonist Crystal Taliaferro. Patti Scialfa and Roy Bittan are the only two E Streeters in this group. Like the "Born to Run" video, clips from Bruce's 1992 tour are mixed in with the performance. The Boss is shown crowd surfing in the audience. and returned to the stage. He finishes the song with a somersault. Springsteen's intro rap about the filming is missing from the "Leap of Faith" clip on the "Complete Anthology1978-2000" DVD.
Bruce Springsteen-Leap of Faith music video
8) Spare Parts-Directed by Carol Dodds, 1988. From Bramall Lane Stadium in Sheffield, England. A powerful song off of the 1987 "Tunnel of Love" album. The video starts with a beardless Roy Bittan performing a slow, moving piano solo. Springsteen is dressed all in black. He introduces the tune by saying, "This is... about a woman struggling to understand the value of her own independent existence...Trying to find something new and meaningful in her life. "
It's the story of a woman, Janey, raising her baby without any help from the boy's father, Bobby. The "Horns of Love", featuring Richie "La Bamba" Rosenberg, and Mark Pender of Conan O’Brien’s TV house band, add punch to the hard hitting song. On a side note, this clip was taped in July 1988. Springsteen's first marriage has just ended. His new love, Patti Scialfa, is now at the front of the stage instead of standing on a riser in the back, as in the Born in the USA tour.
Bruce Springsteen-Spare Parts music video
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Marshall Fish (author) on April 02, 2017:
Thanks Lyn! I appreciate the comment.
Lyn from England on April 01, 2017:
Very interesting collection.