Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, CA, USA- 29 September, 1976
Disc 1: Night, Rendezvous, Spirit In The Night, It’s My Life, Thunder Road, She’s The One, Something In The Night, Backstreets, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Jungleland
Disc 2: Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), Raise Your Hand, The Promise, Born to Run
Bonus track: Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, CA, USA- 30 September, 1976: Growin’ Up
The show we hear on the second release from Jersey Devil Records, released simultaneously with the first, is noted by Brucebase as being the second show of the Lawsuit Tour (though when one tour ended and another began in this period on Springsteen’s career depends on which source you consult). Mjk5510 notes on the Jungleland site that, “the show still has the energy of the Born To Run tour but is yet to have the intense broody and sullen feel of the ’77 shows due to the lawsuit dragging on into the new year.”
The show opens with Night, the first of what Jim McCullaugh, reviewing the show for Billboard, calls “tour-de-force versions” of songs from Springsteen’s then-latest album, Born To Run. It is the first of seven songs from the album to appear during the show, with only Meeting Across The River being absent. This is followed by Rendezvous, which McCullaugh characterizes as, “an uptempo kicker approaching ‘Born To Run’s’ high energy level.”
An animated, good natured Spirit In The Night is greeted with cheers and squeals from the audience who clap along vigorously during the song’s latter stages. This is followed by a searing rendition of The Animals’ It’s My Life. As here, Springsteen’s performance’s of this number were often, though not invariably prefaced by an account of how, in Springsteen’s youth, his father would wait in the kitchen, for him to come home, lights dimmed, with a six-pack of beer and his cigarettes. These encounters would invariably lead to heated arguments which would end thus:
“Pretty soon we’d be screaming at each other. My mother’d be running in from the front room, trying, trying to keep us from fighting each other, pulling him off me, and I’d always end up, always end up running out the back door, screaming at him, screaming, telling him, crying and telling him that it was my life and I could do what I wanted to do.”
As elsewhere, the spoken introduction greatly enhances this number’s emotional impact, though the performance of the song itself falls a little short of the powerful rendition heard on the recently-reviewed Definitive Soul Crusaders.
A short piano intro from Roy Bittan begins a lively Thunder Road and this is followed by a vibrant She’s The One, with prominent harmonica. The later song is prefaced by a rather odd story concerning scientists who excavate an ancient tomb where they hear “this beat.” The tale continues:
“They found out that the origin of this beat went back way back into the beginning of the universe when the sun collided with a ’63 Impala and the Earth rolled out of the trunk. And they found that when they played this beat girls threw off their clothes and jumped into the aisles, grown men fell to their knees and cried, the good girls’d go bad and the bad girls got worse.”
Something In The Night is one of two songs (the other being The Promise) referred to by McCullaugh as, “laid back gems…highlighted by sensitive arrangements and tender keyboards from Roy Bittan.” As with other performances from this time, the tune is subtly different from, and the lyrics significantly different from, the official version and, also as at other shows from this period, the song features a trumpet part played by Steve Paraczky. Next up is Backstreets, which I found a little less intense than some other performances, and which contains only a very brief spoken interlude. Paraczky reappears, this time with the other members of the faux-Miami Horns for a spirited Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out which has the audience clapping along from the beginning and this is succeeded by a splendid rendition of the epic Jungleland.
Then comes an appropriately riotous Rosalita, which has the audience immediately clapping along enthusiastically. In addition to the oft-played snippet of the Theme From Shaft, used to represent Clarence Clemons during the band introductions, pianist Roy Bittan also adds an excerpt from the prelude from J. S. Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C Major (BWV 846), the first of the forty-eight preludes and fugues which make up The Well-tempered Clavier. Bittan is introduced first and the Bach excerpt lasts for around a minute before stopping abruptly – long enough to disrupt the flow of the song in a way the band introductions themselves do not.
The nostalgia-tinged 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) is introduced as being, “from Asbury Park with love,” and, in common with many mid-1970s performances contains the lines referring to the angels riding their Harleys. After this, the horns return to make a splendid contribution to a raucous performance of Eddie Floyd’s Raise Your Hand
The penultimate song of the show is Springsteen’s second performance of the poignant The Promise, which had premiered at the Monmouth Arts Center, Red Bank, NJ on 3 August, before a frantic Born to Run, surely a contender for the most exciting live performance of the song, brings proceedings to a close.
McCullaugh was mightily impressed by the show, writing that it was:
“[A] near mind-bending performance…before a wildly ecstatic, soldout house…What transpired was almost like a lesson in the pure, earthy basics of rock ‘n’ roll done by some of the finest musicians this side of Asbury Park…What characterized this tremendous dose of rock ‘n’ roll also was a high degree of spontaneity laced into the raucous pace.
Media overkill aside and with all due respect to the Stones, this might be the best band on the road today.”
His view affected by the hype that had surrounded Springsteen, Steven Hawkins began his review for the Daily Trojan by calling himself “an established nonbeliever” and stating that he was, “dubious of [Springsteen’s] ability and sceptical of his potential.” However, he concluded that:
“The concert was a totally exhilarating event. I went there as an interested party and left a believer.
Springsteen showed us he really is ‘the power and passion of rock and roll’ as Robert Hilburn, Los Angeles Times pop critic put it. His energy level was unbelievable…When the concert ended I left…with my spirit singing. With one exception (Elton John at Dodger Stadium), I had never been so affected – so convinced – by a performance.”
Hilburn himself writes that this was:
“one of the most tenacious rock ‘n’ roll performance seen here in years…There is a passion, energy and conviction in Springsteen’s manner and music – as compelling and forceful in its key moments as such classic bands as the Rolling Stones and the Who at their best…Wednesday’s show was an unrelenting torrent of pure rock ‘n’ roll energy…[with]…so much raw-edged power…Springsteen is also blessed with a strong, six-piece band that is able to follow him where his musical instincts lead.”
The source for this release is a recent torrent (Volume Twelve of the ‘DS Archives’), of which mjk5510 writes:
“The low gen tapes (likely 2nd) in Dan’s archives were simply a pleasure to master, the taper did an excellent job capturing the complete proceedings with no cuts and no unnecessary audience participation. There is a touch of hiss on the quieter songs due to the normal bias tapes but the trade off to cut the hiss is not worth the flattening out the frequencies, no noise reduction is ever applied.
We believe you will find this a strong material upgrade to the existing versions.”
As to “existing versions,” Brucebase mentions only a CD-R entitled Santa Monica 76 First Night, as does the Killing Floor database, but I have no further knowledge of this version. The sound here is a little lacking in depth and dynamics but is very clear and generally good to very good for the period, with the last three songs sounding punchier and more dynamic, though some listeners may find the hiss during the quieter moments distracting.
The solitary, but most welcome, bonus track from the next night’s show, Growin’ Up, is historically significant due to the fact that, as Brucebase notes, it “features a story in the break for the first time (a short one, about Springsteen’s signing with Columbia Records).” The site also notes the existence of, “a low generation tape transfer on ‘DS Archives Volume Thirteen,'” and this is the source for the bonus track. The sound here, though entirely listenable, is less refined than that of the main show.
As with Jersey Devil’s inaugural release, the CDs are housed in a tri-fold card sleeve featuring numerous on and off stage photographs from the era, the same single sheet insert and a four-page foldover insert. As well as further photos, the latter reproduces Hilburn’s review of the show, which is headed, “Springsteen’s Youthful Passion.”
Numerous Springsteen shows from 1976 and 1977 have appeared in recently, all serving to enhance his reputation for exciting live performances. I have also noticed that several reviews of these show, echoing McCullaugh’s and Hilburn’s words quoted above, stress the E Street Band’s contribution to the high quality of the performances in addition to Springsteen’s own. As the first CD release of a very enjoyable show, Hitting The Coast is warmly recommended to Springsteen collectors.