Steel Mill (Bruce Springsteen) – Live at The Matrix, San Francisco – January 13, 1970 – Band soundboard –
Something historic, a little unusual and an adventure in listening. Steel Mill, one of the earliest bands featuring Bruce Springsteen, in concert at The Matrix in San Francisco on January 13, 1970.
As legend has it, Steel Mill was opening for Boz Scaggs for this Matrixx gig. But as history would have it, Scaggs was ill and cancelled at the last minute – leaving The Matrix to give sole spotlight to Steel Mill. As luck would have it, San Francisco Examiner critic Philip Elwood showed to review the Scaggs portion of the show, but ended up reviewing (and favorably) the Steel Mill set instead. Judging by the sound of the audience, it was pretty sparsely attended – and the sound is creaky in spots, particularly during The War Is Over (the opening track), where the guitar goes from normal to distorted and the vocals are all over the place. It straightens out by the second song, but War Is Over is almost fifteen minutes long, so it can put a strain on your enjoyment at times – but it works out. The irony is the smattering of applause at the end – certainly nobody in the audience had a clue what was going to happen over the next few years. How Steel Mill would dissolve and Springsteen would become a household name. But that’s one of the great things about Rock n’ Roll – obscure one day – immortal the next. Just the luck of the draw, I suppose.
Steel Mill never released any official albums or singles – although recordings, like this one have been circulating among Springsteen collectors for years. The closest they came to a label deal during this period was an offer from Bill Graham to join his newly formed Fillmore Records, but nothing came of it, so this period is documented by clandestine recordings made by the Sound crew and by members of the audience – fans of the future.
Enjoy the history, beware the caveats and apologies in advance for the iffy sound.