How long was the Nassau Coliseum New Year’s Eve show? How much longer was Madrid?

EDITOR’S NOTE, March 2015:

The exploration detailed below has been rendered moot by the the official release of the December 31, 1980 show, which provides a definitive measurement for the show length: it ran 3:45:53; a full two and one-half minutes longer than the measurement reached here in June of 2012.  I have retained the discussion below for historical purposes.

Discussion of where the Nassau Coliseum currently ranks all-time can now be found here.

Before Sunday’s show in Madrid, it was commonly accepted that the December 31, 1980 show at the Nassau Coliseum was the longest show in Bruce Springsteen’s performing career.

But how long was it REALLY?

I previously explored the methodology for determining the exact starting and ending times of the concert when considering where the marathon show in Milan ranked all-time.

Determing the length of a show in the present day is easy, given the prevalence of digital recordings that capture the entire event.  Things are a little trickier with old shows, but fortunately, the Nassau show is extremely well documented, with the well known Crystal Cat release “Nassau Night” and the Great Dane “In the Midnight Hour.”  Most critically, there is a relatively new, professionally mixed recording made available by “EV2” of many of the songs from this show that helps fill in the gaps in the aforementioned recordings.  Brucebase has the details on this recording.

The First Set
The show begins when Bruce asks, “Ready to send out 1980?”  The Nassau Night recording has an edit in “Out in the Street” and the time before the start of “Racing in the Street.”  Fortunately, the EV2 recording has this part of the show captured in its entirety.

The first set ends when Bruce says “See you a little later!” and runs 75 minutes and 11 seconds.

The Second Set
The second half of the show begins with the drum introduction to “Cadillac Ranch.”  The Nassau Night recording has a small edit to “Fade Away,” and a larger edit to “The Price You Pay” and the time before the start of “Wreck on the Highway.”  All of these time gaps can again be filled with the EV2 recording.

Also notable is that the Nassau Night recording reuses a few seconds of the audience noise between “Ramrod” and “You Can Look” as the recording moves from disc two to disc three; the EV2 recording reveals the precise timing of this transition.

When Bruce says “thank you” and leaves the stage after “Rosalita,” the second set has lasted one hour, 39 minutes and 57 seconds.

The Encores
There is a short break of 55 seconds before Bruce and the band start playing again, beginning the first encore with “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.”  The recording reveals that this break, as well as the break between “Jungleland” and “Born to Run” are complete.  There is a small edit to “Jungleland” in the Nassau Night recording but the In the Midnight Hour and Ev2 recordings have this portion of the show preserved.

The remaining encore breaks appear to also have been preserved in their entirety.  Notably, between “Twist and Shout” and “Raise Your Hand,” music can be heard on the PA (James Brown’s “Night Train”), suggesting that the show was planned to end at that point before Bruce decided to come back for one more.

The show ends at the end of “Raise Your Hand.”  The recording does not capture any final “goodbye” or “thank you” from Bruce, which does suggest the possibilty that the actual “end point” of the show may have been a few seconds later than is known.

Tape Speed
A key revelation from the Ev2 recording is that the tape from which the Nassau Night release was sourced runs just a TINY bit slow.  In comparison to the EV2 recordings, the Nassau Night recording is between 1 and 1.25 seconds per minute slower. The speed difference is almost imperceptible except when doing a specific A/B comparison between tracks and their lengths.  Over a 222 minute show, however, the “slow” tape adds a little more than three minutes to the measured length of the show.

Adding Everything Up:
First Set: 1:15:11

Second Set: 1:39:57

Encores: 47:15

Entire Show: 3:42:33

For “ranking purposes,” it would seem fair to use the 3:42:33 measurement, given that this exercise is unfortunately not repeatable, as most shows do not have a 24-track, professionally mixed recording available for comparison purposes.  It is similarly fair to assume that at least some tapes have run “fast” or “slow” in the past.

With the advent of digital recordings, tape speed is no longer a concern.  The circulating recording of the Madrid show runs 3:49:52.  The recording has 2 minutes and 33 seconds of introductory music before Bruce’s first “Hola Madrid!”  and an extra 1 minute and 47 seconds after Bruce’s final goodbye.  Once these adjustments are made, the actual time of the Madrid show was 3 hours, 45 minutes and 32 seconds (3:45:32), easily the longest Springsteen show of all time.

In addition to the aforementioned recordings, I am indebted to Brucebase and a 1996 post on R.M.A.S. from Rich “Brucelegs” Breton, both of which were invaluable resources in conducting this analysis.

Was Milan the second longest Springsteen show of all time?

During Bruce’s marathon show in Milan on Thursday night, June 8,  the band played 33 songs and the show lasted a reported three hours and forty minutes.

Shortly after the conclusion of the concert, reports circulated (including on Bruce’s official twitter page) that this was Bruce’s second-longest concert ever, surpassed only by the show at the Nassau Coliseum on December 31, 1980.

There’s no doubt that the Milan show was the longest of the Wrecking Ball tour.  But was it really the second-longest ever?  This calls for some investigation.

(Disclaimer: this post contains what could be considered excessive minutiae, even for a die-hard Springsteen fan).


Historical Notes

Bruce Springsteen has never played a four-hour show.  It simply has never happened. 

Yes, there have been some instances where the time between the lights going down for the first song and the lights coming up after the last song exceeded four hours.  Those shows all included an intermission, however.  Not a break of a couple minutes before an encore – a planned, lengthy intermission, of twenty to thirty minutes (and in some instances, longer).

The length of the show is not an independent assesment of show quality.

Yes, many of Bruce’s “best” shows were long shows.  Obviously, a long show increases the likelihood of rarities appearing in the setlist, or perhaps indicates the band was playing well that night, or that Bruce was reacting to a particularly good crowd.  There have been, however, many great shows that were far less than three hours in length.

Playing for two hundred and forty minutes may be a great accomplishment for the band and deliver great value to the concertgoer but there is far more to a show than just its length.


How does one actually calculate the length of a show?

1. The show starts when Bruce first speaks to the crowd, or the band starts playing for the first time.  Introductory music played over the PA (or by a Calliope) cannot be factored in.

2. The show ends when the band stops playing or when Bruce says his final “goodbye” to the crowd.  Music played over the PA after the show cannot be counted.  Nor can there be any adjustment for how long it takes for the band to leave the stage once the final “goodbye” is said.  As the band has gotten larger (and yes, older), it stands to reason that it takes a little longer for them to leave the stage.  Hence the need for a definitive end point.

3. The method described above necessarily is used to determine the end of the first set and beginning of the second set for shows that included an intermission.  Obviously, the intermission time is not used in these calculations, as the length of intermissions varied widely and they haven’t been used since the 1992-93 World Tour.

4. Each of these starting and end points can be independently confirmed by audio recordings of the show.  Unfortunately, any other method is subject to bias in the collection of data, whether unintentional (checking one’s watch a little too late) or intentional.  Yes, there will occasionally be an incomplete recording of a show.  While it would present a problem if one desired to rank all shows by length, it does not hamper this specific analysis.

Notable long shows

The Longest Show Ever

As noted above, Bruce’s longest show is generally accepted to be the New Year’s Eve show during the River tour at the Nassau Coliseum.  The thirty-eight songs performed that night are a record, and the actual show length — more than three hours and forty-three minutes – is the record for longest show ever.

Notable Shows – but shorter than Milan

The longest show on the Rising tour was the final night at Shea Stadium on October 4, 2003, and ran just short of three hours and ten minutes.

The legendary St. Louis show on August 23, 2008 at the end of the Magic tour lasted three hours, ten minutes and fifty-one seconds.

Closing night on the Working on a Dream tour in Buffalo on November 22, 2009 had thirty-four songs in the setlist, the most different songs in one show since the band reunited.  The show lasted three hours and twenty-seven minutes.

The definitive recording (the IEM-audience mix) of the final night of the Reunion tour at Madison Square Garden on July 1, 2000 runs three hours and twenty-eight minutes, although it appears some of the encore break(s) were edited out of the recording.  For about eight years, this show held the record for the longest amount of time the band was on-stage before breaking (for an encore or intermission).  This record was broken at…

The August 30, 2008 show for the Harley Davidson 105th Anniversary Festival in Milwaukee, which lasted three hours and thirty-four minutes.  The band did not even leave the stage for an encore break that night, a frequent practice in 2008 in deference to Clarence Clemons’ aching back and knees.

The November 5, 1980 show in Tempe on the River tour lasted three hours, thirty-five minutes and four seconds.


Multiple recordings of the Milan show have already circulated thanks to the magic of the internet.  A review of the recordings, which cover the entire show, indicate that the June 8, 2012 show in Milan lasted three hours, thirty-eight minutes and thirty-one seconds (3:38:31).

Shows longer than Milan

The June 24, 1993 show at the Meadowlands – the Concert to Fight Hunger – was a thirty-five song blowout and included guest appearances from half of the E Street Band.  Note that the audience recording of this show released as “Meadowlands Night” contains almost the entire show but has an unfortunate edit of the last verse of “Born to Run.”  Fortunately, the complete song can be found on an alternate recording.   A careful review of the recordings indicate a show length of three hours, thirty-eight minutes and 46 seconds (3:38:46), just barely longer than Milan.

The final night of the Born in the U.S.A. tour, October 2, 1985 in Los Angeles, lasted three hours, thirty-nine minutes and eighteen seconds (3:39:18), about thirty seconds longer than Milan.


Was Milan the longest show of the tour?  Yes.  Longest show since the E Street Band reunited in 1999?  Yes.

Second-longest show everNot quite, although it’s probably in the top five.