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Bruce Springsteen – Passaic Night (Crystal Cat Records CC 476-78)

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Rating: 3.6/5 (20 votes cast)

 

Passaic Night (Crystal Cat Records CC 476-78)

Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ, USA – 19 September 1978

Disc 1: Intro, Badlands, Streets Of Fire, Spirit In The Night, Darkness On The Edge of Town, Independence Day, The Promised Land, Prove It All Night, Racing In The Street, Thunder Road, Meeting Across The River, Jungleland

Disc 2: Kitty’s Back, Fire, Candy’s Room, Because The Night, Point Blank, Not Fade Away, She’s The One, Backstreets, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)

Disc 3: Born To Run, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Devil With The Blue Dress/Good Golly Miss Molly/C.C. Rider/Jenny Take A Ride, Raise Your Hand

Bonus tracks: Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ, USA – 20 September, 1978: Good Rockin’ Tonight, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town; Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ, USA – 21 September, 1978: High School Confidential, Sweet Little Sixteen, The Fever, Incident On 57th Street; Richfield Coliseum, Cleveland, OH, USA – 1 January, 1979: For You, It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City

As I related in my review of Crystal Cat’s Winterland Night, the 3-LP version of the San Francisco show of 15 December 1978, entitled Live In The Promised Land, was the first bootleg I ever bought.  Returning to the same market stall a few weeks later, I came across another three disc set entitled Piece De Resistance, containing  the Passic concert played on 19 September.  As an impecunious student, I was reluctant to pay the rather stiff asking price for a show played a mere three months before Winterland and with a broadly similar setlist. 

My reluctance was overcome by the fact that Piece De Resistance was a rather handsome boxed set.  The box was matt black and affixed to the front (as I thought) was  a black-and-white image of Springsteen on stage, together with the title and track listing and, in common with the Winterland set, the label name of Piste Disques.  (Removing the shrink wrapping later revealed that the front cover sheet was not stuck to the box and was presumably designed to be placed inside, leaving the box entirely plain.)

As far as I am aware the full concert only appeared on the numerous variants of Piece De Resistance.  The original pressing was a numbered limited edition of two thousand and, as with the Winterland set, the records bore Slipped Disc labels.  Other editions had various labels (e.g. Blockhead, numbered 1-6, plain white), and there were also different versions of the insert, including one with a white border and another with a different photograph of Springsteen.  The Killing Floor Database points out that these “further repressings have lower quality insert and sound quality.”  Chris Hunt, in Springsteen: Blinded By The Light, agrees on the latter point, stating that ”several re-pressings have appeared with slight sound deterioration.”

The appearance of Piece De Resistance and its companion triple album Live In the Promised Land  led to a high-profile legal action, with Springsteen and CBS filing a civil suit against  Vicki Vinyl (Andrea Waters), the bootlegger identified as responsible for both sets, and her associate, Jim Washburn, together with stores which had sold copies of the records.  The suit additionally accused Waters of producing Fire, “E” Ticket and Cheap Trick’s California Man 1978

Having lost the suit, the two defendants (principally Waters) were ordered to pay a huge sum in fines, court costs and damages, though as they both filed for bankruptcy Springsteen and CBS received nothing.  Moreover, although Waters herself ceased production, Washburn pointed out in OC Weekly that, “despite the headlines about the $2.1 million ruing, the glut of other bootleggers’ Bruce boots was just beginning.” (Incidentally, Waters had made an earlier significant contribution to Springsteen bootlegging by informing Lou Cohan of the processes necessary to make a bootleg record, and he subsequently produced The Jersey Devil, the first Springsteen bootleg.)

Although the complete show only appeared on represses or copies of Waters’ original set, there was also a plethora of single and double albums, many of which gave false dates and venues.  Cincinatti 78 (Great Live Concerts) comprised two LPs containing the following songs:  Badlands, Streets Of Fire, Independence Day, The Promised Land, Racing In The Street, Thunder Road, Meeting Across The River, Because The Night, Kitty’s Back, Not Fade Away, She’s the One, Backstreets and Rosalita (Come Out Tonight).  Aside from the appearance of Because The Night before Kitty’s Back, the songs appear in the correct order. 

The same songs in identical sequence also appeared on Lip-Synch In Cincinatti.  A third set, 1980 Boston (Zebra Records), further confused matters by bearing the date 30 August 1978 on its sleeve - an evening when Springsteen was performing in Cleveland.  This set begins with a block of songs, in the correct running order, from Racing In The Street to Kitty’s Back.  Then it backtracks to the songs from Badlands to Prove It All Night, also in the right order, before finishing with Raise Your Hand, Born To Run and Because The Night.

Yes’m Boss, the labels of which bore the appallation Trade Mark Of Quality and the Smokin’ Pig logo, simply reproduced disc one of Piece De Resistance, containing the songs from Badlands to Thunder Road. Storybook Beginning, by contrast, was merely a repress or repackaging of disc two, from Meeting Across The River to Point Blank.  Another single disc release, Thunder Rogue (Impossible Recordworks) contained Point Blank, Spirit In The Night, Independence Day, Prove It All Night, Candy’s Room, Fire, Born To Run, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out and Jungleland in performances claimed to be from Cleveland on 9 August 1978. 

The show’s first CD incarnation, also titled Piece De Resistance,  appeared on Rinaldo Tagliabue’s Italian “protection-gap” label, Great Dane, in 1990.  Lynn Elder, author of the bootleg guide Bruce Springsteen: You Better Not Touch, refers to this set in glowing terms, stating: “As of the middle of 1991, this set ranks as the single best Springsteen CD available.”  It is therefore surprising that, before the appearancee of the title reviewed here, there was only one other silver release, Southside Bruce & The E Street Jukes (Seagull Records).  The title derives from the fact that Southside Johnny And The Asbury Jukes feature on the bonus tracks.  Crystal Cat’s Passaic Night followed in 1999.

Unsurprisingly, songs from this show also turn up on numerous bootleg compliation LPs and CDs, and one short extract was released officially.  The  June 1980 edition of the Austrian magazine Rennbahn Express featured a seven inch, 33-rpm flexidisc which contained snippets of four tracks from The River (the magazine’s album of the month) and also spoken excerpts from three shows, including Springsteen’s band introductions from the Passaic performance of Rosalita.  (Full details, together with images of the disc and the cover of the magazine, can be found on the Lost In the Flood website.)  The show was also filmed, in  grainy black-and-white, by members of the Capitol Theatre’s staff and the footage has emerged on several DVD and DVD-R releases.  (The Apocalypse Sound version, Piece The Resistance, will be reviewed shortly.)

In addition to the songs from the concert itself, a further Great Dane CD features three songs from the soundcheck: Wedding Bells, The Ties That Bind and Good Rockin’ Tonight.  Unimaginatively titled Capitol Soundcheck, it is one of a series of discs, usually featuring three or four tracks, that came with the Italian Springsteeen fanzine Follow That Dream.

Many commentators have argued that the 1978 tour was the best of Springsteen’s career.  The booklet that accompanies Passaic Night reproduces a brief essay by Arlen Schumer, who was commissioned to illustrate the Capitol Theatre marquee in preparation for the show.  Schumer, a noted hisorian of comic book art as well as an artist himself, contends that, “Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band have never been better, on a pure musical level than on the 1978 tour…for maximium rock ‘n’ roll the Darkness tour can’t be beat.”  Tarheel, posting on the Stone Pony London message board, states of the tour that, “everyone knows it’s Bruce at his finest.”  Other plaudits have already been quoted in my review of Driving That Dusty Road, Godfather’s release of an earlier show from the tour.  What makes this show particularly noteworthy is the number of critics and fans who rate it as the beat show of this exceptional tour.

“To this day,” writes Schumer, “I have yet to hear any Darkness performance that can hold a candle to this Capitol Theatre show, song for song, note for note.  It’s perfect.  It’s Bruce’s de facto live album.”  “There is little chance the performance here will ever be topped,” argues Elder, “this is one of the best shows Springsteen ever did in his life and stands as one of the monumental nights of his career.”  “Dynamic…a classic three-hour show,” is the opinion of Clinton Heylin in Bootleg! The Rise & Fall Of The Secret Recording Industry

The Killing Floor Database refers to, “this exceptional night.  This show is commonly reputed to be one of the best of Springsteen’s career.”  The Brucebase website calls it, ”probably one of the best all-time concert recordings.”  Graveyardboots, posting on the Stone Pony London website, says, “the Passaic broadcast is my all-time favorite show.”  Posters on the Jungleland website collectively comment: “probably the best BS ESB show ever…GREAT GREAT show…a true stunner.  Awesome performances…Springsteen at his best…Best.  Bootleg.  Ever.”

One Jungleland poster, Bilbo, calls Passaic Night an “absolutely essential Bruce boot with some tracks being arguably ‘best ever’ performances.  One of the best bootlegs ever, regardless of band.”  In comments on the earlier Great Dane version, Elder gives some specific examples: ”In particular, disc two, with ‘Fire,’ ‘Because the Night,’ and ‘Backstreets,’ (complete with the ‘Sad Eyes’ story), is heart stopping.  Highlights on disc one include the best version of ‘Racing In The Street’ captured on tape and the best full band ‘Thunder Road’ ever performed.” 

Schumer argues that, “at least five songs stand out as definitive live versions, not only from thr Darkness tour, but from Bruce’s career: ‘Promised Land,’ ‘Prove It All Night,’the extended ‘Backstreets’ with the ‘Sad Eyes’ interlude, ‘Because The Night,’ and ‘She’s The One’ with the ‘Not Fade away’ prelude.”  Similarly, Brucebase states: “Great versions of ‘Because The Night’ and ‘Fire,’ and also includes what many consider to be the best examples of ‘Racing In The Street’ and ‘Thunder Road’ ever! – Essential.”

The show was the first of a three-night stand at the 3,200-seat Capitol Theatre, and one of five Darkness Tour concerts to be broadcast on FM radio (see my review of Driving That Dusty Road for details).  Jimmy Guterman, in his Runaway American Dream: Listening To Bruce Springsteen, states that,  ”the heart of the show was the new Darkness material; most nights the band would play seven or eight of those songs.”  In particular, numbers from the new album, here as elsewhere, dominated the first set, with six (or, arguably, seven) Darkness songs included among the eleven played. 

After a brief introduction, followed by enormous cheers,  Springsteen and the band take the stage and tear into an astonishingly furious rendition of the new LP’s opener, Badlands.  The music is stirring, indeed thrilling, but the lyrics immediately establish the sentiments of the new album, with its emphasis on the necessary refusal to give up in the face of life’s vicissitudes, insuperable though they may be.  The lyrics set the tone for the first set and the sheer energy of the performance sets the tone for the entire show.

The pace slows, but the intensity certainly does not, as Badlands immediately gives way to Streets Of Fire, which is characterized by Springsteen’s impassioned vocal performance and what Guterman refers to as his “loud, nasty guitar.”  An exuberant performance of Spirit In The Night, from Springsteen’s debut album follows, with Danny Federici’s organ and Clarence Clemons; saxophone creating an atmosphere that is both frivolous and utterly sordid.  In keeping with the gritty tone established by the Darkness songs, it concerns drunken sex in the dirt rather than romance.  Before the slow section the song halts momentarily as Springsteen addresses the audience for the first time, saying, “how’s everybody been out here?  Long time no see.”  At the end of the song he again speaks briefly, saying, “you’ve tired me out already,” a statement that can be believed after such an energetic start to the show.

The next song is Darkness On The Edge Of Town, a passionate performance which perfectly conveys, as Christopher Sandford puts it in Springsteen: Point Blank, “a raw, harrowing awareness that we can never escape our fate.” Along with Streets Of Fire, this  version also encapsulates the Chicago Tribune album reviewer’s statement that, “the music is almost frighteningly brutal,” particularly “the sheer feral snarl of the vocals.”  The following number, Independence Day is a Darkness outtake which came close to making the album.  Indeed, Springsteen introduces it by stating, “it was gonna originally be on the Darkness album and I guess it’ll be on the next one.”  Dave Marsh, in Born To Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story, narrates how Springsteen had narrowed the album down to thirteen songs, which he constantly rearranged.  Eventually, Independence Day, along with The Promise and Don’t Look Back, failed to make the cut, though, of course, it did later emerge on The River.  Springsteen explained to Paul Nelson of Rolling Stone why the song was omitted despite its obvious quality: “I  wrote three songs that had to do with [fathers], and one didn’t get on.  And that might have been the best one, but it just didn’t fit…it was a ballad, and we had too many slow songs.”  The version played here, with fine contribution from Roy Bittan on piano and Clarence Clemons on saxophone, is tremendously poignant from its startling initial role reversal (“Papa go to bed now, it’s getting late”) to its heartbreaking conclusion (I know the things you wanted that you could not say/I swear I never meant to take those things away”), and it is superior to the album version.  A vigorous rendition of The Promised Land follows, continuing the Darkness theme.  Despite the stultifying effects of dead-end employment and wasted potential (“But your eyes go blind and your blood runs cold/Sometimes I feel so weak I just want to explode”), the song’s protagonist nonetheless defiantly proclaims that, “Mister, I ain’t a boy, no, I’m a man/And I believe in a promised land.”

As was the norm on the Darkness Tour, Prove It All Night is played, as Guterman writes, in “an elongated [version]…which built from a soft piano intro through a screaming guitar solo into an unruly version of the song as it appeared on the album, followed by another wicked guitar solo.”  Bittan, who regards the song as, “the most exciting song of the show,” is again impressive here, and this is a fine version.  However, I find the Winterland version even better.  The initial guitar solo became both more structured and more intense as the tour progressed, and the Winterland performance is superb.  The piano/guitar intro also grew in length.  The updated Brucebase website considers the intro significant enough to have a page devoted to its length and it times the Passaic rendition at four minutes and eight seconds, as opposed to Winterland’s six minutes and eleven seconds.  Bittan is arguably the star of the rest of the first set.  First, he contributes some beautiful playing to an exquisite and moving Racing In The Street, the song on which, as I have previously stated, Springsteen sings the defining lyrics of the whole album (“Some guys they just give up living/And start dying little by little, piece by piece/Some guys come home from work and wash up/And go racin’ in the street”).  Here, as elsewhere on the tour, Bittan also plays, as Guterman says, “a crowning coda,” which Springsteen sometimes overlaid with a spoken introduction to Thunder Road.  It was omitted at the Winterland show but it is included here in the best version I have heard, and which seems to sum up what the song is all about:

“There was this…there was this Robert Mitchum movie and it was about these moonshine runners down south…and I never saw the movie, I only saw the poster in the lobby at the theatre, and I took the title and I wrote this song but I didn’t….I didn´t think that there was ever a place that was like…that was like what I wrote in this song, you know, didn’t know if there was or not…and uh…we were out in the desert…over the summertime…driving, driving to Nevada and we came upon this, this house on the side of the road this Indian  built…had a big picture of Geronimo out front with ‘Landlord,’ said ‘Landlord’ over the top, had a big sign, said ‘This is the land of peace, love, justice and no mercy’…and it pointed down this little road, said ‘Thunder Road.’”

I would agree with Schumer that these are the finest live versions of both Racing In The street and Thunder Road, and the piano coda and the spoken introduction contribute immeasurably to the brilliance of these performances.  Despite the optimistic ending, there is a streak of realism here which chimes with the Darkness songs (the protagonist is “no hero” and his prospective partner “ain’t a beauty”),

Springsteen and the band receive a tremendous and well-deserved ovation at the end of Thunder Road and the momentum of the performance is then interrupted as a slightly premature birthday gift is passed up to the stage.  “Ooh!  Socks and underwear,” Springsteen says in a mischievous voice, upon opening the package.  Moments later he is heard to say, “It fits too.  How’d you know my head was so big?”  For many years, until the acquisition of a DVD of the show revealed to me that the present was in fact a cap, I took Springsteen at his word, thereby assuming that he had put the underwear on his head! 

Next up is a beautifully measured performance of Meeting Across The River, which effectively conveys the song’s  melancholy mood.   As Guterman rightly says, “we as listeners can hear that the small-change hoods in ‘Meeting Across The River’ are doomed.”  As on Born To Run, the song is followed by the epic Jungleland, in an excellent version featuring a powerful sax solo from Clarence Clemons and a fine guitar solo from Steve Van Zandt.  Again, despite the overtly romantic qualities of the song, it ends in grubby street violence as the Magic Rat is gunned down. 

Overall, the first set is immensely powerful and effectively conveys the central idea of Darkness, summed up thus by Springsteen in an interview with Tony Parsons of New Musical Express: “You been beat, you been hurt.  But there’s still hope, there’s always hope.  They throw dirt on you all your life, and some people get buried so deep in the dirt that they’ll never get out.  The album’s about people who will never admit that they’re buried that deep.”  In addition to this, the first set is simply great music.  Parsons’ comment on a Darkness Tour show he attended in New York could just as easily apply to this show: ”This ain’t just the best gig I’ve ever seen in my life.  It’s much more than that.   It’s like watching your entire life flashing by, and instead of dying, you’re dancing!”

I suspect that there was not a great deal of dancing during the first set, but it would be most surprising if  people were not up on their feet during the second set’s opener, a superb, thirteen-minute Kitty’s Back.  The song comes across a a little harder-edged than earlier versions, in keeping with the heavier sound of the Darkness Tour, but Federici and Bittan keep the song swinging nicely and Clemons contributes effective rasping sax.  Then come a splendidly sultry Fire and a breakneck Candy’s Room.  Next we have a splendid Because The Night, which, like Prove It All Night, begins with a scintillating interplay between Bittan’s piano and Springsteen’s guitar, and features a searing solo from Springsteen later in the song.  Despite its qualities, I prefer the even more exciting Winterland rendition. 

Point Blank is another true highlight of this set, and it is an even more intense performance than the Winterland version.  The lyrics differed slightly at different concerts, and here, in keeping with Springsteen’s explanation before the song’s debut at the Roxy in July that (in part, at least) it concerned a couple he knew who had to work two jobs a day to avoid having their house repossessed, he sings the lines, “Day shift turns to night shift/And the night shift turns to day/ And all of your hopes and your promises/Somehow they just fade away.”  At Winterland he sang, “Day turns to night time/And the night turns to day,” which is less specific and consequently less effective.    

Not Fade Away, rather than Mona, serves as the introduction to She’s The One but we still get the rhythmic drumming and animal calls at the start.  It segues even more smoothly than Mona manages to do into She’s The One, which recives a hugely energetic performance.  Backstreets follows, complete with the spoken ”Sad Eyes” interlude, whic includes the reference to driving all night to buy shoes, which of course later grew into a whole new song.  Although this is a terrific performance of the song, the spoken interlude on the Winterland version is more structured and possessed of a more coherent narrative structure.  In my review of Winterland Night, I referred to it as, “the most impassioned and poignant version of the spoken “Sad Eyes” interlude,” and this contributes to the Winterland version taking the accolade of best ever live performance.   

The second set then concludes with a barnstorming version of Rosalita, complete with band introductions.  Unfortunately, unlike Great Dane, Crystal Cat concludes the second disc with the first song of the encore, a warm, wistful rendition of 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy).  Presumably this was done to create as much room as possible for bonus tracks on the third CD, but I would have preferred a more natural disc break.  After this gentle start to the encore, Springsteen and the band bring the house down with the uproarious mayhem of a thunderous Born To Run, an effervescent Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out and a barnstorming Devil With The Blue Dress Medley, before the concert ends with a spirited Raise Your Hand, which features some spoken interaction betweeen Springsteen and the audience.  We also hear some brief DJ comments before Tenth Avenue freeze-Out and Raise Your Hand.

Disc three is rounded out with nine well-chosen bonus tracks, seven from the other two nights off the Passaic stand and two from the Darkness Tour’s final show in Cleveland.  As I stated above the first set at the initial Passaic show effectively conveyed the spirit of the Darkness (as Marsh says of Springsteen’s intention, “he meant Darkness to be ‘relentless,’ [but] not grim”). 

At some shows Springsteen made what I consider to be the mistake of opening with an old rock ‘n’ roll number such as Oh Boy, Rave On or Summertime Blues, which compromised the integrity of the first set.  Indeed, the first bonus track is Good Rockin’ Tonight, Roy Brown’s 1947 jump blues song most famously covered by Elvis Presley, which opened the next night’s show. 

Another of the show openers included here, Jerry Lee Lewis’ High School Confidential, comes from the show played on the 21st.  At that show Springsteen also diluted the relentlessness of the first set by performing the Chuck Berry number Sweet Little Sixteen (also included here) between Darkness On The Edge Of Town and Independence Day. 

Whereas these songs were out of place in the first set, they work just fine as bonus tracks, especially the tumultuous rendition of High School Confidential.  Sweet Little Sixteen, played, as Springsteen says, as a birthday present to himself, is also terrific, though Good Rockin’ Tonight is a little pedestrian. 

It between these songs we also get the curious juxtaposition of It’s My Life and Santa Claus Is Coming To Town from 20 September.  The former was played between Prove It All Night and Thunder Road, with Racing In The Street omitted (seeming spontaneously as Bittan began playing the song).  This version leaves out the oft-performed spoken intro in which Springsteen spoke of youthful conflict with his father.  Although I feel that this intro enhanced the song by giving it a personal context, the performance here is impassioned enough to render it unnecessary.  Santa Claus Is Coming to Town is suitably jolly, though the Winterland version is superior.

In addition to the two songs mentioned above, there are two further songs from the show of 21st September.  The Fever is suitably smoky, but once again the Winterland performance is better.  Incident On 57th Street, however, is gorgeous and well worth inclusion here.  The songs from the 21st also clearly convey the loose, celebratory aspect of the show, the closest one to Springsteen’s birthday.  This was the show during which the band and crew presented him with a huge “cake,” out of which stepped a scantily-clad young woman.  Finally, we get two songs from the final Darkness Tour show in Cleveland on 1 January, 1979, fine versions of For You, in its full-band incarnation, and It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City, plus an unheralded interview snippet.

Fortunately for Springsteen collectors, the sound for this show matches the quality of the performance.  Writing of the Great Dane version, Elder enthuses: “The sound is from a superb soundboard tape of this famous broadcast…it carries the crown for best available sound yet for Springsteen.”  Elder contends that the Seagull version (awarded 8/10 as opposed to the Great Dane’s 9/10 for sound) “seem[s] to have been copied from Great Dane’s Piece De Resistance, in slightly poorer quality.”  The Killing Floor Database is less flattering, stating: “Good and medium (in some parts) sound…all the material can be found in much better quality.” (I suspect that the word “medium” may refer to bonus tracks, though this is unclear.)  The Seagull issue, however, does have its adherents, with two posters on the Stone Pony London website claiming that it has better sound than Passaic Night.  I have not heard the Seagull CDs, but I can certainly confirm that Passaic Night is an improvement on Piece De Resistance, having full, clear stereo sound with remarkable depth and clarity. 

One poster on the Jungleland website contends that, “the sound on Passaic Night is only slightly better” than that on Piece De Resistance, though other commentators are more complimentary.  Fred Mills, bootleg reviewer of Backstreets magazine, argues that Passaic Night possesses, “much improved sound quality over all previous releases,” and another Jungleland poster refers to its “spectacular sound.”  The bonus tracks  are all from soundboard sources, and the other Passaic songs are eminently listenable, though, overall, the sound does not match that of the show from the 19th.  The sound of the Cleveland songs is somewhat inferior.

The packaging includes a front cover shot of Springsteen from the actual show superimposed on a rather unattractive multi-coloured design.  The rear insert has a colour picture of Springsteen on stage with the track listing.  Both inserts are double-sided and the inner sides reproduce the multi-coloured design with band personnel on the front insert and a photo of Springsteen holding his guitar aloft (also utilized by Great Dane as its front cover shot) on the rear insert. 

The eight-page booklet features a posed band photograph on the cover, and various on stage shots from the era including two of Springsteen with the woman who emerged from the cake during the show of 21 September.  It also depicts Schumer’s marquee design and the front cover of the programme for the shows, which also featured Schumer’s artwork.  In addition to Schumer’s essay, the booklet also features Crystal Cat’s own booklet notes and, once again, the track listing.  The label sides of the discs are printed in full colour with the clock design which Crystal Cat used regularly at this time.  I dare say this seemed quite impressive at the time of release, but its quality has been surpassed by the superb packaging of more recent Crystal Cat issues.

The writer of the programme notes for the Passaic shows wrote, with overwhelming enthusisam, that, “Bruce Springsteen is perhaps the most dynamic rock’n'roller ever.  His live performances are magnificent affairs, so fabulously awe-inspiring that he can hardly be compared to any current day performer.”  The performance contained in this set is brilliant enough to make even this hyperbolic contention seem a convincing claim. 

In his book Born To Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story, published in 1979, Dave Marsh writes that, “if Bruce Springsteen’s story has a central issue, it’s whether dawning maturity is compatible with the rock-and-roll spirit.”  The Passaic performance, together with other Darkness Tour shows, is significant in proving that such potentially elusive compatibility is entirely possible.  In my opinion, this wonderful show contains the best live versions of Racing In The Street, Thunder Road and Point Blank, reason enough to own this set. 

The Winterland show, however, contains the best live versions of Prove It All Night, Backstreets, Because The Night and also belongs in every serious Springsteen collection.  Despite acquiring several other Darkness Tour shows on CD, I still regard these two as the pinnacle of Springsteen’s career as a live performer, though I am aware that the Roxy show of 7th July also has numerous admirers.  It is hard to imagine that there are Springsteen collectors who don’t already have this splendid release, but any who don’t should consider its acquisition a priority.

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Bruce Springsteen - Passaic Night (Crystal Cat Records CC 476-78), 3.6 out of 5 based on 20 ratings

4 Comments

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  1. Avatar of sionxxii
    sionxxii says
    May 6, 2013, 6:42 am

    I ordered 3 of these out of the Pied Piper record catlog back in 79 for my Bruce pals, I ordered “The Death Of Rock And Roll”, a Todd boot on BLUSHWAX!!!

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  2. Avatar of Cliff
    Cliff says
    January 11, 2011, 4:32 am

    Thanks for the additional info, oldman24. I am afraid I do not know of the existence, or otherwise, of such a tape.

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  3. Avatar of spinalcrackerbox
    January 4, 2011, 6:07 am

    Thank you for providing the answer – as obvious as it was – after 30 years why when I ordered “California Man 1978″ by Cheap Trick, one of the LPs was actually this Springsteen recording. I just wasn’t ready for Springsteen at 18… The replaced that for me though. Never underestimate the value of quality control, especially when you are a bootleg label dealing with unmarked discs.

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  4. Avatar of oldman24
    oldman24 says
    December 24, 2010, 3:57 am

    According to Jan Rodenrijs, author of WANTED-The BS Bootleg Guide, writing about the GDR release: “there are changes in volume, especially notable during Because The Night”.
    Both Seagull and CC do not have this problem. About the Seagull release he writes: “Not Fade Away-She’s the One has some speed problems, the sound is slightly more clear compared to the GDR release.”
    Since Seagull and GDR are out-of-print, Passaic Night is the one to get. Probably CC has some copies left. Do not know if the pre-broadcast tape still exists, that one should be definitive. Maybe Cliff knows?

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