I bought the DVD of this particular show (in addition to the regular CD), so I never bothered with the SACD, since I assumed it was the same surround mix on both - can anyone confirm/deny? The DVD mix is fairly unimpressive (audience in rears mostly), so I figured I wasn't missing anything, especially since a non-hybrid SACD would be even LESS compatible with my usual listening environments (at least I can play the DVD at work on my PC, if I want to listen to just the audio).
Saw this one on Jon's "bubbling under" list. Hadn't played it in ages so I figured I'd give it a spin.
I'll start off by saying that I saw seven nights on this tour and I thought they were all amazing shows. One of the shows I caught was the final night of the tour at Madison Square Garden, the concert that about 75% of this disc was recorded at and the show was phenomenal. He played for almost four hours and pulled out "Lost in the Flood" for its first performance since 1978. That song had been on the top of my Bruce wishlist but I figured it would never happen. That night I learned to never say never where Bruce is concerned. When the CD was released, I was very happy to have a nice memento of one of the best concerts I ever saw and I gave it regular spins. When I built my 5.1 system I was psyched to see it was an available SACD title.
Now having said all that, it's with great disappointment that I have to give the 5.1 mix negative marks. This version of The E Street Band was 9 members strong with four guitarists, two keyboardists, a sax player plus the rhythm section. There is more than enough to be mixed into the surround channels. Unfortunately, this mix is typical of many live albums where you only have ambiance and applause in the rear speakers. (If you listen to just the rear speakers, they sound like a poorly recorded bootleg that was taped in the back of a venue with lousy acoustics.) The only exception to this is that Roy Bittan is often mixed to the rear right speaker to nice effect. However, this only happens when he's playing piano. If he's playing a synth, his playing is mixed towards the front. Early on you get some hint of Danny Federici's Hammond organ in the rear left, but that seems to disappear the further you get into this.
As for sonics, the disc sounds ok on the softer portions, but on the louder bits it feels a little harsh. Overall, it doesn't really have the sort of dynamic range you'd expect, I'd expect better sound from something recorded in the 21st century. Another annoying factor with this disc is that it's one of those titles where Sony decided not to put anything on the CD layer, forcing you to hold on to your original CD copy. Having said all that, I hadn't listened to this album (in either stereo or surround) for a long time and it was great to hear it again. The performances find the reunited band in top form. Listening to "Lost in the Flood" gave me goosebumps as it immediately brought me back to the feeling of my jaw hitting the floor when I was at the concert and realized what song the band had just launched into.
Given the mediocre fidelity and uninspired mix, I can't really see giving this anything more than a 5 and that's probably being generous. I imagine that if I liked the music less, I'd feel inclined to rate it lower. So I guess I'd say you've gotta be a huge Bruce fan to pick this one up. It's a real shame that his studio catalog hasn't been considered for 5.1 mixes. Given that the band has multiple keyboardists & guitarists, the material is ideal for surround mixing.
Until you brought the thread back up, I'd forgotten all about this one...and I have a copy, don't know how I missed the original thread from '04, beyond being (as usual) asleep at the controls...
The question I have is this: why did Sony bother to issue this on SACD when they'd already put out the mix on the DVD? Since the mix is, as noted, front-heavy (in general, typical and understandable for a concert recording), the concert disc should have been pretty much the last words, given the limitations of the remote recording.
And while I agree with the logical behind front-heavy L/C/R concert mixes, the music would often have been better served by isolating certain elements--keyboards, sax, backing vocals--more than they are. Putting the audience (and not much else) in the rears might seem logical but is in no way how one hears a show at the venue--not least if you're in the rear of the hall! But even if you're up front, while the band of course is very loud and in-your-face-and-ears, there's more than ambience going on behind. If you're lucky (or intelligent) enough to get an aisle seat in the middle (but a bit further front than back) my experience is you get the best the venue (and act) can sound, and the most sensible, but most concert DVD's don't seem to take such a 'sweet spot' into account; that is, the mix becomes clinical and conservative, which might work with different music and less musicians (or an orchestra), but here, having the band all around you--at least some of the times--would have made for a more satisfying listen.
My rating is a '4,' a step below mediocrity. The performances are as usual exemplary--and a fan always wants more than they got on such releases--but the mix and sonics leave something to be desired, and as said, why this was an SACD, and not a hybrid one at that, remains a mystery beyond Bruce's popularity.