Upon its release in October, 1987, Bruce Springsteen's Tunnel of Love proved an unexpected follow-up to the phenomenally successful Born in the USA. Musically it was a departure - The E-Street Band, who had been prominent fixtures on all but one of the New Jersey singer-songwriter's albums previously, were present but only partly contributing to the material, most of which Springsteen performed himself using synthesisers and drum machines.
More significant was the lyrical subject matter of this new material. Where he had made his name articulating the struggles of everyday, blue collar Americans, with Tunnel of Love Springsteen switched his focus to examine the intimate struggles of relationships, and this was apparently autobiographical. In 1984, during the Born in the USA Tour, Springsteen had been introduced to actress Julianne Phillips.
A whirlwind romance followed, with the pair wedding in secret on May 13th the following year. Yet just as quickly as it had been ignited, the passion between the couple subsided, and it would later become clear that Tunnel of Love was in part a document of the breakdown of this relationship. The public was unaware of Springsteen's marital discord when he and the E-Street Band embarked on the Tunnel of Love Express Tour in February, 1988, and both critics and fans were instead focused on the new stage show, which was as unexpected as the album itself.
Backed by the 'Horns of Love', a five-piece ensemble, the bombast and raw energy of the past was replaced by a more muted and precise approach to performance, while the set-list proved static and surprising, Springsteen digging up rarely performed numbers and proving reluctant to simply run through established favourites. The private entanglements of the band leader would themselves come to light as part of the stage show, however, with backing singer Patti Scialfa, who had joined the E-Street Band three years previously, became an increasingly prominent part of the performances, her vocal partnerships with Springsteen brimming with sexual energy.
The show presented on Tunnel Vision, recorded in Stockholm and simulcast on radio stations across the US, captures this new formulation of the E-Street Band in what would be a live production unique to this tour, with Patti Scialfa coming to the fore on soaring versions of Tunnel of Love , Cover Me and Brilliant Disguise . It is a remarkable document of Bruce Springsteen in the process of re-evaluating both his life and his music, with his band fully committed to this new approach.