Friday, 14 March 2014

Bruce Springsteen review: Just how good are the USB wristband downloads?


Since it was announced Bruce Springsteen would be issuing live recordings of his tour – after decades of pleading from fans and those in the music industry for such releases – the reaction has been fairly mixed.

The live shows for this writer have become the ultimate goal in enjoying Springsteen & The E Street Band’s music. If you were to offer me the chance of a 60-second meet-and-greet, signed memorabilia and a photo in a hotel lobby with the man, OR tickets to just one concert, I would take the concert every time.

So when the option to take home a live recording of the latest shows on the tour appeared, I went overboard. I ordered a dozen wristbands online – one for each of the Australian shows, including two I would miss, and one for a friend.

Then of course they announced you wouldn’t need a USB wristband, and could download straight from the net for a fraction of the cost. And I’d just spent more than $500. Bastards.

When the wristbands finally arrived I immediately returned half of them to Live Nation for a refund. I figured I’d keep a few and use them, and get some cash back for the rest. Not to mention the packaging was so bad that one of the tidy little black boxes they come in had in fact been destroyed in transit.

Now, after going to nine of the 11 Australian shows and making a last minute trip to New Zealand where I stood on a broken foot for twobrilliant shows (no, I won’t shut up about it. It still fucking hurts…) I’ve got round to using one of the USB wristbands to download a show.

The Wristband

I will admit to really liking the look and practicality of it. I don’t wear any jewellery other than a watch and this has become the male accessory I’ve been looking for to wear on the other wrist. It looks good, and it’s practical for carrying around important files, transferring stuff between computers at work, and everything else. It was a good buy regardless of the music.

Downloads

The first show I chose was Brisbane. The full album of Wild and Innocent… and plenty of Greetings… magic left me dying to hear it again.

But after plugging the USB in my laptop, opening the relevant files, launching the software and clicking the relevant show, nothing happened. There was just no response.
I tried it again a few times, but nothing was downloading, the screen didn’t even change.

Then after a few attempts a message popped up to warn me that despite not downloading a single beat of opening track Stayin’ Alive, I had used up the download limit for this USB.

Luckily the website where you can purchase downloads had an email address and within 48 hours of asking them for help I was given a code to enter on a specific link, and this I was told, would let me download my album.

So, following the link and instructions I successfully downloaded the Brisbane show in the higher quality FLAC file.

Of course I wanted to put this show in my iTunes or at least on some music player on my iPhone. Checking out various sites, conversion software and a few apps on playing FLAC files, I found myself with an album I couldn’t use, unless I wanted to lose the quality I had wanted or just play tracks from the laptop.

But before plugging in another of my remaining wristbands, I noticed I had left the web page I downloaded the tracks from open, so figured I’d try and download the Brisbane show in MP3 format too, without having to use up the wristband’s limit, which purchasers had been told would allow just one show to be downloaded.

It worked. I had the Brisbane show on a format I could use.

Of course then I remembered how great the Born To Run album had sounded in Auckland.
So yeah, I clicked download on that one too.

Again, it worked. No new code, no new wristband. It seems maybe some glitch in the system had just allowed me to get three recordings of two shows. Brilliant.
Of course I couldn’t have a Born To Run­ album show, without also having Sydney’s Darkness On The Edge ofTown. That would just be ridiculous.
And again, without leaving the webpage which I had entered a specific code to enter, the MP3 files downloaded.
Within 24 hours I had downloaded all available shows from the Australia and New Zealand tour in MP3 format to my computer – that’s 12 because Melbourne 2 was never released – all from one wristband without having to pay any more fees.
I’ve even gone so far as to raid my iPhone for photos and create album covers with an image of every show now in the iTunes artwork.
So this all means I really didn’t need to spend a load of cash on buying the wristbands for every show. I could have bought one – and used it to get all of them. Those brilliant bastards.
Sound quality
Despite expecting a low quality sound with the MP3 files, so far I have been nothing but impressed. And I say so far because I’ve only got through Brisbane and night two in Auckland.
The vocals are clear, the strings in Brisbane are still sensational, and both Curt Ramm’s trumpet solo on Meeting Across The River and Jake Clemons’ Jungleland solo sound incredible from the Auckland recordings.
Obviously it’s a lot to ask for the recordings to sound as good as ­Live 1975-1985 or Live In New York City¸ but for a three-hour live album, the MP3 download is incredible value for money.
USB Wristband refunds
I returned the six – five unwanted, one damaged – wristbands to retailers Live Nation on February 14. That was a month ago. I still have not heard anything about them, or had anything refunded. I will be contacting them shortly about the $250+ I expect to be refunded.