Houston Concert Centerpiece of Springsteen Retrospective

Posted by Dan Keeney

It has taken me more than four months to dig deep into my favorite gift from last Christmas, “The Promise: The Darkness On The Edge Of Town Story.” One of the many fantastic discoveries in the treasure trove is a DVD of a 1978 concert in Houston by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. I was not there, of course — I was living in Connecticut in the winter of 1978, and wouldn’t become a Texan for another 22 years. But I did see Bruce a couple years later after moving to Loveland, Colorado, first at McNichols Arena and then the following summer at Red Rocks.

My favorite Bruce Springsteen story is from that Red Rocks show when Bruce was on tour supporting The River. How cool is the age we are living in when you can type “Springsteen Red Rocks 1981” into Google and you can find out the show was on August 16, 1981 and even get the set list from the show?

It was festival seating, so my buddy, Chris Buck and I went early in the morning to get great seats — right in the middle about 15 rows back. So we are bored stiff come mid-afternoon. It would have been a good idea to bring something to do, but we brought nothing. And then it starts to rain.

You gotta be kidding me!

But, just as I was beginning to come to grips with what a disaster this afternoon was going to be, out onto the stage comes the ENTIRE band completely unannounced. They just come walking out for a sound check.

First song — Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain.”

If we had smartphones and knew how to text in 1981, we would be texting everyone we knew. It was fantastic. Screw the sound check, they sounded great. Chris shot a photo that he gave me for Christmas that year (seeing a continuous theme of Bruce for Christmas? LOL) and I still have it somewhere.

So as I was starting to watch this Houston house cut bootleg DVD I was just incredibly jealous that those at the Houston show had the surprise of having their show captured on video for all time. How great is that? Here’s what the Houston Chronicle wrote a few months ago:

The key carrot for many locals will be the inclusion of Thrill Hill Vault Houston ‘ 78 Bootleg: House Cut, a concert recording from The Summit on Dec. 8, 1978.

Let’s get one very faint quibble out of the way first. Today’s standards for filming a concert differ greatly from those in 1978, so the multicamera film lacks some of the visual pop we’ve come to expect. There are moments when the lights go down that the screen goes completely black. Quibble concluded, as it really doesn’t matter because this concert was volcanic.

Obviously nothing could compare to being there, but those in attendance are likely to be goosed seeing Springsteen and the E Street Band slashing through these 26 songs again (it seems some between-song footage has been excised as the DVD’s three hours runs much shorter than the four-plus-hour estimates fans have recalled). There’s little point in singling out songs because the performance was relentlessly frenzied (though Streets of Fire is fittingly incendiary). Was the show better than others from the tour? Who knows, but it’s an awesome marriage of brawn and brain in a single rock concert.

Dale Adamson’s Chronicle review is reprinted inside the spiral notebook that houses the set. Proof that faster isn’t necessarily better in this line of work, the poor guy had to split nine songs early to file his story. So he caught a great Because the Night and missed Backstreets, Rosalita, Tenth Avenue Freeze Out and Born to Run, among others. (Imagine trying to summarize a baseball game after six innings.)

Okay, enough with the whining about the production quality. Everyone now is more accustomed to watching videos shot on cell phones, so I think they’ll be able to get over the crappy lighting.

Anyway, one of the pearls that Dale Adamson pointed out in his original 1978 review of the show was Because the Night. Check it…


The documentary that accompanies the box set tells a great story about this song. During the recording of Darkness on the Edge of Town, engineer/producer Jimmy Iovine (now of American Idol fame) was splitting time between Bruce and the Patti Smith Group, which was working on Easter in the studio next door. When Bruce decided it didn’t fit on his album, Iovine gave Smith a tape of the song. She recast it, and it was included on Easter, becoming the first single release from that album. I’m not sure what came first, Patti Smith’s release of the song or the Houston show.

Looking forward to seeing Bruce when he tours again. In the meantime, I have lots more to dig into in this box set.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, May 7th, 2011 at 3:21 pm and is filed under Random. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

6 Responses to “Houston Concert Centerpiece of Springsteen Retrospective”

  1. Improper Bostonian Says:

    Really? It took you four months to get these gems? I had already watched “Badlands” before the UPS guy made it back to his truck.

    Most shows on the Darkness tour averaged three hours plus a thirty minute intermission between sets. Though legend has some of these shows going four hours or more, they did not. There were five, live regional FM radio broadcasts on this tour and each complete show fit nicely on two ninety minute cassette tapes back in the day. Three hours of music. This Houston show is complete.

  2. robe Says:

    just picked up Springsteen’s ‘The Promise’ box set companion book, amazing original photos and stories frm the Darkness tour. Limited Edition http://www.thelightinDarkness.com

  3. Dan Keeney Says:

    Improper: My guess is you are right. The “4-hour show” has been a part of the Springsteen legend for as long as I’ve been a fan, but none of the shows I’ve seen exceeded the 3.5 hours or so as you mention. What struck me is how Bruce and the band grew and developed in the three years from the Hammersmith Odeon 1975 show (part of the Born to Run 30th anniversary box set).

  4. Improper Bostonian Says:

    Dan Keeney: I agree with you completely. The E Street Band really took it to another level on the Darkness tour. I was fortunate enough to see two shows in 1978…both in college gymnasiums in early November with crowds of around 2,500. The University of New Hampshire and the next night at The University of Vermont. Unbelievable!

    Another note on the Houston show. “Jungleland” closes the first set and “The Ties That Bind” opens the second. One will notice Bruce’s wardrobe change. You probably already knew that.

  5. Paula Glaser Says:

    just found this post after googling August 16 Springsteen Red Rocks Show. I am from Loveland also, and was at that show as well. Saw him at Pepsi Center in Denver last night, was reminiscing about all the shows I have seen in the last 32 years, the Red Rocks show was my second one and at 19 was wishing I had been clued in years earlier.

  6. Dan Keeney Says:

    Paula: I’ve been wondering how they would handle the absence of Clarence from his spot at stage right during this current tour.

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