Movies: Bruce Springsteen – The Promise: Houston '78 Bootleg (2010)

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by Mark Saleski

The Darkness on the Edge of Town tour has taken on a sort of mythic quality, mostly because there has been scant video evidence. This “bootleg” tape unearthed by Camp Springsteen confirms what fans lucky enough to have seen one of the shows have known all along: this was the E Street Band at a fever pitch. As Max related in the Making Of documentary, they had a take no prisoners attitude. What a relief it must have been to get out on the road after those endless Darkness recording session.

While the video quality of this Houston ’78 concert isn’t up to the standards today’s pro-shot events, the intensity and pure exuberance of the performance more than makes up for it. From the crackling energy of the opening “Badlands” to the rave-up craziness of “Quarter To Three,” Springsteen was a man on fire. Not long into the set (during “Spirit In The Night”), Bruce and Clarence wade out into the crowd, making it known that there were no boundaries on the way to rock nirvana, at least not on that night.

Oh wait…maybe now I should tell my own Darkness tour story? The story about the marathon performance at the Augusta Civic Center in Augusta, Maine? The story about how Bruce and Clarence not only went out into the audience but in fact disappeared for a moment, only to reappear up in the cheap seats? I’m sorry, I have no more details, mostly because I couldn’t go that night. My brother-in-law was visiting from out of state and wasn’t feeling up to the drive. Apparently, having a vasectomy and then hopping on a plane the next day can have a few, uhm…adverse effects. Dont’ worry, I’m not bitter or anything.

It was kind of cool to see so many post-Darkness songs showing up in the set: “Point Blank,” “Independence Day,” “Fire,” and “The Ties That Bind.” The latter sounded especially great with Bruce on the electric 12-string and Clarence roaring away on the baritone sax.

Yes, all of those rumors about this tour were true. Bruce and the E Street Band were a well-oiled (and well-rehearsed) machine. I’ve always been amazed at how Springsteen is able to maintain such a freakish level of energy. The set close and series of encores is instructive. The main set ends with “She’s The One” (totally incendiary) into “Backstreets,” “Rosalita,” and “Born To Run.” The encores are nothing but a pure distillation of rock and soul: “Detroit Medley” into “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out,” followed by the rockin’ two-fer of “You Can’t Sit Down” and “Quarter To Three.” Totally brilliant (and exhausting!) stuff.

This document of a full show from that era makes The Promise a more complete package. Though we all know that it happened, it’s nice to see that the band survived the challenges of the recording ordeal and walked out on that stage ready to bring it. And that they did.

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