Movies: Bruce Springsteen – The Promise: Darkness On The Edge of Town at the Paramount Theatre (2010)

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Springsteen fans have been waiting years for the 30th anniversary release of Darkness On The Edge Of Town. Waiting, and waiting, and…

And then the anniversary passed, with rumours and speculation fueled by smokes signals emanating from Camp Springsteen about how the set was “nearly complete.” Of course, since these smoke signals never quite spelled out what was to be in this anniversary set, there was a lot of grumbling from the fan base. No full show? It’s a waste of time! This song won’t be on there? That other one has been left out?! Tragedy! To be truthful, the grumbling came from that segment of fans who seem to like to grumble about things. They’re never happy unless they’re invited over to Bruce’s house to have a direct hand in decisions for the next release, preferably with Patty out of the room.

That’s right. They’re never happy.

Me, I rely on Bruce’s instincts, which seem to have led him to a pretty good place. When The Promise was officially announced, most of the grumblers were silenced. Springsteen had opened the vaults: a remastered Darkness On The Edge Of Town, two CDs of music that didn’t make the final cut (for all sorts of reasons), a reproduction of Springsteen’s Darkness-era notebook, and 3 DVD’s covering a documentary on the making of Darkness, a re-recording of Darkness filmed by Bruce and the E Street Band at Asbury Park’s Paramount Theatre, and a complete bootleg show from Houston, 1978.

The Promise will be released tomorrow and Something Else! will be devoting many pages to its various charms, beginning with the Paramount Theatre Darkness On The Edge Of Town performance.

I have to admit that when I first heard that Bruce and the band had filmed a Darkness performance without an audience, I wondered what the motivation was. As is usually the case, Bruce had a plan. The original goals of the song selections for the album were “power, directness, and austerity.” By filming the band circa 2009 in such a stark environment, that intent was not only re-affirmed, but brought through to the present. The songs have lost none of their power, and neither has the E Street Band. Here are my thoughts as I watched the Paramount performance.

Lights out tonight
Trouble in the heartland…

Amazing. Written all of those years ago, and played a so many times in concert, I’m struck by Bruce’s explosive intensity. With neck veins popping and spit flying, he’s leaning into the song. Everybody is. Bruce yells “C’mon Steve” just before they begin singing in unison, “Poor man wanna be rich…” Clarence plays that iconic saxophone solo and then starts to testify with several “Yeah”‘s of his own as Bruce sings “I believe in the love…that you gave me.” The camera cuts to Roy at the piano. A close shot shows those hands pounding out that rhythm, hands that are no longer young. They first played on this song all those years ago.

In the summer that I was baptized

Ferocious. Adam Raised A Cain was the opening song at the show that me and my wife attended in Boston during the reunion tour. It was blistering on that night and also on this evening in Asbury Park.

I’m riding down Kingsley, figuring I’ll get a drink

For some reason, I’ve always been moved by that single arpeggio that Bruce plays directly after “Chasing something in the night.” I’m again struck by the intensity of the performance. It hasn’t let up one bit, and I suspect it won’t.

In Candy’s room there are pictures of her heroes on the wall

I do believe that Max Weinberg is going to break his drum kit before this song is over.

I got a sixty-nine Chevy with a 396
Fuelie heads and a Hurst on the floor

I know that Danny is gone, but his spirit will live on. When Charles Giordano plays those organ lines after the start of the second chorus, I can feel him in the room. The rising intensity of extended choruses at the song’s end give it a gospel feel.

On a rattlesnake speedway in the Utah desert

As many times as The Promised Land has been played, it seems that the E Streeters never tire of it. The guitars and piano crash away as introduction to Clarence’s solo, and the big man himself is so move afterward that he’s belting out a big “Yeah!” as Bruce re-enters with the harmonica.

Early in the morning factory whistle blows

In “The Making Of” documentary, Bruce speaks of honoring many things, including the lives of blue color workers. He also talked about how he had been listening to country music at the time, making a strong connection with Hank Williams. Factory paid tribute to what Bruce’s father dealt with in that environment, doing what he had to do, and sacrificing his hearing because of it.

When the night’s quiet and you don’t care anymore

Another electrifying performance, with Bruce playing the solos like his life depended on it. Streets On Fire indeed!

I’ve been working real hard, trying to get my hands clean

That sense of desperation that induces so much tension on Darkness is never more apparent than during the last verse of Prove It All Night. We’ve been treated to Clarence’s uplifting saxophone solo, an absolutely brutal guitar solo, and then we must then deal with They made their choices and they’ll never know/What it means to steal, to cheat, to lie/What it’s like to live and die

They’re still racing out at the Trestles

Bruce and the band enter the title track directly from Prove It. The song, and this performance, seem to distill all of the anger, and all of the fear that thread their way through the entire record. During the last verse, we’re hit with Tonight I’ll be on that hill ’cause I can’t stop…and the music has never seemed to matter more than at that moment.

After the first viewing of this performance, I fired off a quick email to a couple of my Bruce-loving friends. I said that “it feels like my life from late teens til now has been conjugated before my eyes.”

I’ll stand by that statement.

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to, and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at
Mark Saleski
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