Springsteen's "Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts" has the best live version of "The Promised Land"

The E Street Band high-octane's set in support of a non-nuclear future sizzles

By Kenneth Womack

Contributing Writer

Published November 20, 2021 10:30AM (EST)

Bruce Springsteen (Danny Clinch/Shore Fire Media)
Bruce Springsteen (Danny Clinch/Shore Fire Media)

On March 28, 1979, Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island nuclear power plant experienced a partial meltdown that resulted in the release of dangerous radioactive gases and iodine into the environment. Within a matter of days, a group of activists formed Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE). Led by such luminaries as Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, Bonnie Raitt, and John Hall, MUSE wasted little time in marshaling its collective energies on behalf of the environment and public safety. That September, MUSE organized a 200,000-person strong rally at the Battery Park City landfill, where they protested the ongoing deployment of nuclear energy.

And oh yeah, MUSE also managed to stage five star-studded concerts at Madison Square Garden that same month. Entitled No Nukes: The MUSE Concerts for a Non-Nuclear Future, the event featured the likes of Crosby, Stills, and Nash, James Taylor and Carly Simon, the Doobie Brothers, and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, among others. In so doing, the No Nukes musicians trained a spotlight on the ills of nuclear energy that remains unmatched into the present day.

Which brings us to the bravura release of "The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts," which collects, for the first time, Springsteen and the E Street Band's high-octane set in support of a non-nuclear future. By any measure, the group turned in a stunning performance. Over the years, Springsteen and the E Street Band have enjoyed a well-earned reputation as one of the finest live acts ever to take the stage. Perhaps it took a cause of the stature of No Nukes to nudge the band into an even rarer air space?

RELATED: With "Letter to You," Bruce Springsteen reminds us, brilliantly, that we're all on borrowed time

Whatever the impetus, "The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts" documents Springsteen and the E Street Band in top, road-chiseled form. The numbers from "Darkness on the Edge of Town" (1978) absolutely sizzle, particularly "The Promised Land," a song that depicts a young man in the throes of learning about the larger world that exists just beyond his ken. Indeed, the "No Nukes" version of the tune may mark its finest live rendition. And then there's the new music that fans would soon come to know as "The River," including the heartrending title track and "Sherry Darling."

"The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts" finds Springsteen in the act of honing the voice of social consciousness that will comprise his work across the following decades. With No Nukes, he took the reins on a new and inspiring journey that continues into the present day.

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By Kenneth Womack

Kenneth Womack is the author of a two-volume biography of the life and work of Beatles producer George Martin and the host of "Everything Fab Four," a podcast about the Beatles distributed by Salon. He is also the author of "Solid State: The Story of Abbey Road and the End of the Beatles," published in 2019 in celebration of the album’s 50th anniversary, "John Lennon, 1980: The Last Days in the Life" and the authorized biography "Living the Beatles Legend: The Untold Story of Mal Evans" (November 2023).  Womack is Professor of English and Popular Music at Monmouth University.

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Bruce Springsteen Concert Film Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts Review Three Mile Island