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.
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.
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
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.