Bruce Springsteen may have been on the covers of both “Time” and “Newsweek”, but he was positively unknown. This was half a decade before MTV, long before Reagan legitimized greed and money became more important than music. The only way to hear the music was to buy it, or to wait for your favorite radio station to play it. And the stations only played the hits, “Born To Run” was ubiquitous, but “Jungleland” was not. That was for fans. Who purchased the long player and went to the show.
And the show was a religious experience unknown to the mainstream. It wasn’t like you flipped the channels and stumbled upon the E Street Band by mistake. You had to go out of your way to buy a ticket. And the show was not about visual pyrotechnics, nothing was on tape, hard drives were not even known yet. No, all the fireworks emanated from the instruments, the performance itself.
Bruce had to prove it all night. Every night. Because that was how you made it.
In the wake of the untimely death of Clarence Clemons I’ve been inundated with links to articles and photographs and videos. But this one stopped me in my tracks, this one was positively stunning.
Sure, the Big Man was featured. He wailed. But Bruce and the rest of the band! Just watch this clip. They’re so hot, you’ll be closed even if you never got the Boss previously.
That’s the power of live performance.
Never mind how well-oiled they are. It’s the joy. Like they’d rather be nowhere other than here, on stage. That they want to earn the right to keep on doing this, forever and ever.
Despite the success of “Born To Run”, this was three years later. The band was almost starting all over again. Momentum had been lost. And “Darkness At The Edge Of Town” didn’t yield a hit single.
But you release an album and you go on the road, your hard core fans show up, they drag their friends and you fan the flames of the fire.
When Springsteen plays now, he’s carrying the weight of his career, of your expectations. Despite making albums for most of the seventies, on some level Springsteen is still new here. He’s still climbing the ladder. He’s still got a way to go.
And he’s gonna earn it.
He’s gonna play all night and wear you out. Showing that he’s more into it than you.
And you’re gonna walk out the door almost speechless.
But the next morning you’re gonna have a smile on your face, you’re gonna tell everybody you know, I WENT TO THE SHOW!
This whole damn gig is on YouTube. It goes on for hours.
The songs are not old chestnuts, they’re still in their prime.
But my favorite is “Candy’s Room”.
“Darkness” is my favorite album. Well, tied with “The Wild, the Innocent”, since that’s when I was converted, when I realized this was not some run of the mill act.
And I love “Racing In The Street”.
And when Bruce exclaims in “Streets Of Fire”, you feel his pain.
And the closer, the title track, is positively spooky, you want to spin the album again just to prevent being creeped out.
And that’s when you hear the raucous “Badlands”.
But “Adam Raised A Cain” and “Something In The Night” don’t prepare you for what comes next.
The agitation of Max’s sticks lead to an intimate scene, a boy confessing in his bedroom, within a halo of pixie dust.
Then you’re off on an unexpected roller coaster. You get all the confidence of a boy turning into a man. One who believes in himself, one who can get what he wants, what he deserves.
That first kiss puts you on the tilt-a-whirl. You want more but it seems almost unrealistic.
All the excitement of love, the hope that it’ll continue, the concept of finding someone on your level or above, who you’re gonna win, is in this song.
And I’ve never found a live take with both the intimacy and the excitement of the studio version until now.
Once upon a time there was no greater profession than rock star. Someone who wrote his own rules and played by them. Someone whose only goal was to reach deep inside himself in the hope that you’d connect. The money came last. You threw cash at him or her like you place bills in the collection plate, it was a religious experience, you wanted to be saved.
Clarence Clemons may be gone, but if you watch these videos, you’ll be saved. I promise.
Bruce Springsteen – Capitol Theatre Passaic NJ 1978:
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