Bruce Springsteen – Last Night At The Capitol Theater (Godfatherecords G.R. 748/749/750)

Last Night At The Capitol Theater (Godfatherecords G.R. 748/749/750)

Capitol Theater, Passaic, NJ, USA – 21 September, 1978

Disc 1: Intro, High School Confidential, Badlands, Spirit In The Night, Darkness On the Edge Of Town, Sweet Little Sixteen, Independence Day, The Promised Land, Prove It All Night, Racing In The Street, Thunder Road

Disc 2: Meeting Across The River, Jungleland, Set Outro, Set Intro, Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town, Fire, Candy’s Room, Because The Night, Point Blank, Kitty’s Back, The Fever

Disc 3: Incident On 57th Street, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), Born To Run, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Quarter To Three

Bonus tracks: Community Auditorium, Berkeley, CA, USA -1 July, 1978:  Night, For You, The Promise

Godfather recently issued the second show of Springsteen’s three-night stand in Passaic under the title 2nd Night At The Capitol Theater (already reviewed) and now comes the label’s upgraded version of the third concert, played just two days before Springsteen’s twenty-ninth birthday. To my knowledge the show never appeared on vinyl. Archive Productions released the full show on CD using the title The Bosses Birthday Party, which the Killing Floor Night At The Capitol Theater (already reviewed) and now comes the label’s upgraded version of the third concertdatabase refers to as, “one of the first non Great Dane full show release[s].”  As well as omitting the apostrophe from the title, this release features incorrect song titles such as Beware The Night and Kitty Baby.  In 2004 Godfather released the show as Singin’ Our Birthday Songs.  Both titles utilized an incomplete tape on which Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out is cut and  the final song Quarter To Three is omitted entirely. 

The show gets off to an terrific start with an enthusiastic rendition of Jeery Lee Lewis’ 1958 hit High School Confidential, which immediately estabishes a celebratory tone.  The energy of the opening number spills over into a stirring performance of Badlands.  Then comes an earthy, fun Spirit In The Night, with atmospheric sax from Clarence Clemons.  As so often at this time the song grinds to complete stop just before the point at which the song’s protagonist makes love in the dirt with Crazy Janey, and Springsteen, clearly in a happy mood, says a few words to the audience.  There follows a lengthy break, during which the audience sings Happy Birthday and, not for the only time during the show, a present is passed up to the stage.  Rather incongruously, given the mood just engendered by the birthday celebrations, the next number is an excellent performance of the sombre Darkness On the Edge Of Town.  Perhaps even more incongruously, Darkness and a moving version of the equally serious Independence Day are split by an effervescent performance of a second song from 1958, Chuck Berry’s Sweet Little Sixteen, which Springsteen introduces as, “a birthday song to myself.”  Again a gift is passed up to the stage and just before the song begins pianist Roy Bittan and drummer Max Weinberg play a snippet of The Stripper, perhaps as a reaction to Springsteen removing  an article of clothing after saying, “it’s too hot, it’s hot up here.” (Just before this a female member of the audience shouts, “take it off!”)

A suitably rousing performance of The Promised Land gives way to a superb Prove It All Night with its then-customary guitar and piano embellishments.   Brucebase reveals the intro to be of moderate length, timing the instrumental intro at 4:58 with the guitar solo lasting 2:58.  The guitar solo is more controlled and less frenzied than some other versions, though none the less effective for that.  Unfortunately, Springsteen spoils the performance of the next song, Racing In The Street (which was so often a highlight of the Darkness Tour shows) by forgetting the lyrics.  This is a great shame, as otherwise this would have been a great version.  There is no intervening story before Thunder Road (though Bittan provides a brief instrumental bridge), Springsteen simply asking, “ready to ride Thunder Road?”  This song ends the first disc, the final two songs from the first set appearing on disc two.  As with the first Passaic show two days before, Meeting Across The River makes for an appropriate prelude to an excellent performance of the epic Jungleland, which closes the first set.  Meeting Across The River would have fitted on the first disc, though wisely Godfather decided not to separate it from Jungleland. 

As with 2nd Night At The Capitol Theater, we hear (presumably) the theatre’s manager making various announcements to the audience, including instructions on where smoking is permitted (“regardless of what it is you wish to smoke”) and the identities of upcoming acts, which include Little Feat, Phoebe Snow, Frank Zappa and Peter Gabriel.  His opening words after the band’s departure, however, are, “they are fucking amazing, aren’t they?”  He then adds, “it shows you can live in New Jersey and grow up and be all right, I guess, eh?”   The second set then begins with a jolly Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town.  “It’s a little early in the season for this next one,” says Springsteen, rather unnecessarily, before the song, which had received its tour premiere the previous night.  This is followed by a sultry Fire, with the usual shirt mid-song break, after which the second set really takes off.  “The seven song stretch after ‘Fire,'” according to Brucebase, constitutes a “particular highlight” of this show.  Pete, posting on the message board of the Stone Pony London website offers some agreement, contending that, “the second set is unbeatable.”  The first of these seven songs is a blistering Candy’s Room.  A stunning Because The Night featuring a beautifully atmospheric instrumental intro gives way to a poignant  Point Blank which, though it runs it pretty close, does not quite match the intensity of the performance from two nights before.

The mood then lightens with the final performance of Kitty’s Back from the Darkness Tour, played in the manner of a long, loose jam with plenty of soloing, taking the song to fifteen-and-a-half hugely enjoyable minutes.  Springsteen then asks the audience whether it wants to hear The Fever or Incident On 57th Street and it proves to be such a close call that he decides to perform both, starting with a smoky rendition of The Fever.  As on The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle, a splendid rendition of Incident On 57th Street leads directly into an exuberant Rosalita (Come Out Tonight).  Brucebase states that this is, “a rare transition,”  whereas notes concerning the JEMS torrent Coup de Grace (the source for this release) on the Jungleland website more specifically points out that this is “one of seven known performances of ‘Incident on 57th Street’ straight into ‘Rosalita.'”  Rosalita, of course, contains the band introductions and after Clarence Clemons is introduced the band plays a snippet of the Village People number Macho Man.  The knock-on effect of Meeting Across The River and Jungleland being on the second disc is that Incident On 57th Street and Rosalita begin disc three.

The encores consist of an utterly thrilling Born To Run, an ebullient Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out and a raucous, crowd-pleasing rendition of Gary US Bonds’ Quarter To Three, lasting for twelve minutes.  The third disc is filled out with three bonus tracks from a show earlier in the tour played at the Community Auditorium in Berkeley, CA, on 1 July.  Brucebase notes the existence of  an “incomplete soundboard tape” for this show, consisting of fourteen songs,  adding that, “‘Paradise By The ‘C’ and ‘Prove It All Night’ were used as promo cuts for radio play from this board tape.”  Here, however, we get Night, a full-band For You and a heart rending performance of the solo piano version of The Promise in sound which is decidedly inferior to that of the main show (which is dicussed in detail below).  The Promise, in particular, is marred by prominent hiss.  The bonus tracks are different from those on Godfather’s older release, which featured five songs from the concert at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, GA on 30 September, one of the five Darkness Tour shows broadcast on FM radio.  Godfather has since issued this whole show as Everybody’s Rockin’ Tonight, which I reviewed, while a more recent Masterpiece release, The Definitive Atlanta, which utilizes a pre-FM source, was reviewed by gsparaco.

The sound quality of this release is excellent and a clear improvement over previous releases (Lynn Elder, in Bruce Springsteen:You Better Not Touch, awards the Archive Productions version a modest seven out of ten for sound quality).  Like the recent 2nd Night At The Capitol Theater this release, as stated above, derives from a JEMS torrent.  Brucebase comments: “Soundboard tape. As with the first two nights, the concert was recorded by the Record Plant’s mobile unit, both on multi-track and live-to-two track…Early in 2012 an upgraded version of the soundboard was released, sourced from the master live-to-two track soundboard reels. The quality is similar to the previous night, if perhaps not with the same level of clarity.” 

Notes on the Jungleland website state that:

“JEMS is pleased to release another significant Darkness tour upgrade…Like Douceur de Vivre [the torrent utilized by Godfather for 2nd  Night At The Capitol Theater] , what makes Coup de Grace so special is that it was professionally recorded on reel to reel by a mobile recording truck outside the theatre. The result is another live-as-it-happened recording of incredible clarity. Again, that isn’t to say it is a multi-track, mixdown; Coup is a raw, mixed-on-the-fly, wide stereo recording done on 1/2 track at 15 inches per second. Compared to the cassette sources circulating of other raw board tapes from this tour, the quality here should be a revelation.

There was one missing piece on the new reels, oddly right at the start where somebody must have forgotten to push record and missed the beginning of “High School Confidential.” We’ve patched that in from the extant cassette board source.  Your guest mastering engineer this time around is our respected colleague and friend Hoserama, who you should know from his incredible work (often described as better than official releases) on matrix recordings from recent tours. He made these tapes sound as good as they possibly could.”

Springsteen’s imminent birthday, as the Jungleland notes put it, “was celebrated with a giant cake featuring an unusual filling,” and the front cover of Godfather’s tri-fold sleeve shows the same shot as on Singin’ Our Birthday Songs, with a young woman emerging from the “cake” and Springsteen looking decidedly perplexed.  Here, however, it is in colour, whereas with the older release it was in blue-tinted monochrome.  The rear, which displays the  track listing, shows Springsteen with the woman in his arms and the Arlen Schumer artwork which promoted the Passaic stand.  Elsewhere there are other onstage shots, a posed photo of Springsteen in suit and tie, the band personnel and the customary “Joe Roberts” notes, more extensive than those accompanying the older release.  There is one small error, the incorrect spelling “Capital” appearing on the spine.

This is a wonderful show which, as the notes on Junglelend say, “continues the looser vibe of the previous night.”  On the Stone Pony London message board LB comments that, “this has long been my favorite of the 3 Passaic shows in terms of performance.”  Pete, whose response to the second set is quoted above, calls it “one of my favourite shows.”  Scoper, who was lucky enough to be in attendance, rates it as, “one of my very favorite shows.”  The  Killing Floor database writes that this is, “surely one of the finest…witnesses of the Darkness tour. Great quality (soundboard), great show.”  We now have all three Passaic concerts, the first on Crystal Cat’s Passaic Night, the second on Godfather’s 2nd Night At The Capitol Theater and now this release.  The significant fact about Last Night At The Capitol Theater is that its appearance finally makes all three shows available complete and in excellent sound – Springsteen aficionados need not hesitate to acquire this superb release.

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