Live In Passaic 1978 (no label)
Capitol Theater, Passaic, NJ, USA – 20 September, 1978
Disc 1: Good Rockin’ Tonight, Badlands, Spirit In The Night, Darkness On the Edge Of Town, Independence Day, The Promised Land, Prove It All Night, It’s My Life, Thunder Road, Jungleland, Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town, Fire, Candy’s Room, Because The Night, Point Blank, Kitty’s Back
Disc 2: Incident On 57th Street, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), Born To Run, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Detroit Medley, Twist And Shout
Springsteen’s three-night stand at the Capitol Theater in Passaic (19, 20 and 21 September, 1978) resulted in three tremendous performances, all fortunately available on CD in impressive sound quality as, repectively, Passaic Night (Crystal Cat), 2nd Night At The Capitol Theater (Godfather) and Last Night At The Capitol Theater (Godfather). I have reviewed all three titles and readers are directed to my review of 2nd Night At The Capitol Theater for details of the performance contained on this latest release.
In-house filming (in black-and-white) has also resulted in the first two nights circulating on DVD. I first acquired these as a pair of 2-DVD-R sets on the Hot Stuff Label entitled Piece De Resistance and Passaic 2nd Night. The two shows appeared on factory pressed discs on the Apocalypse Sound releases Piece The Resistance and 2nd Night At Capitol Theatre and together on a single disc on the Chihuahua label as Pieces Of Resistance. I seem to recall reading somewhere that the last night was also filmed and the footage given as a present to Springsteen, whose twenty-ninth birthday fell two days later.
The rather limited video and audio quality of previous releases has undergone a substantial upgrade with this release. The Brucebase website notes that: “The concert was professionally filmed on the Capitol Theatre’s in-house video system. The resulting film is technically lacking, but very well shot with excellent direction. The two-DVD ‘Live In Passaic – September 20th 1978’ from Brucevideos uses a recently unearthed video source, and is a substantial visual upgrade over the existing sources. This DVD uses the JEMS audio. All video sources are missing the start of ‘Jungleland’ and thirty seconds of ‘Incident On 57th Street’ due to tape changes.”
The Jungleland torrent site gives the source as “JEMS Archive/Brucevideos” and the notes, by “Butterking for JEMS” are extremely informative and well worth reproducing in full:
“The classic revisited. Along with the pro-shot recordings from the Capital Centre 1978 and 1980, the in-house, black-and-white video from the second night at the Capitol Theatre has been beloved by fans and collectors for more than 30 years and with good reason. Recorded one day after the famous Piece De Resistance radio broadcast, 9/20 in another special show with a looser vibe (the pressure of playing for his entire northeast fanbase on the live broadcast was lifted) and a few key setlist changes, among them ‘Incident on 57th Street.’
While the 9/20 video has circulated among fans almost since the day it was recorded, a number of factors have conspired to undermine its quality. First, there’s the inherent problem of analog video, which loses quality with each successive generation. The master tapes for the Capitol Theater were supposedly recorded on a 3/4-inch, U-matic tape format, good for its time, but mediocre compared to the formats that followed. Then there’s the camera problem.
The cameras at Capitol Theatre employed auto-exposure control, and, as the veteran video technician who handled this transfer explains, ‘With those cameras, if the light got low, the cameras would automatically increase gain. But the gain would be the overall output, including blacks and sync. That’s why it gets washed out. The black level is increasing. Cameras today don’t do that.’ If you saw the recent sample from this show posted by Wolfgang’s Vault, you saw the problem in spades. (And if you’re asking, who knows if WV’s promised future remastered version of the show will be an upgrade, but since it will only ever be available as a web stream it doesn’t really matter).
Couple the camera issue with inferior consumer video tape formats and bad analog transfer chains, and it is no wonder that the best circulating copy (generally considered to be the MilesHai version) is awash in gray, with significant loss of detail, especially from the camera at the foot of the stage. At times, Bruce’s face is completely blown out.
To the best of our knowledge, no circulating copy of the 9/20 video comes from a verified generation and this copy is no exception. However, there are two good reasons to believe this is the lowest-generation copy to be converted to DVD. First, the source is a production Beta tape acquired circa 1978-79. Second, an A-B comparison of the uncompressed transfer shows considerably more detail and contrast than previous versions. The result is a materially better picture. The auto-exposure effects can’t be fixed, but there is a very watchable result.
Pete took the uncompressed transfer, and utilized Adobe Premiere’s Auto Color filter to reduce the impact of the auto-exposure effects. The result is a substantial improvement, particularly to that camera at the foot of the stage. The video was gently compressed to fit onto two DVDs (one DVD-9/dual layer and one standard DVD).
But not before he painstakingly synced a brand new soundboard audio source to the video to improve both sound and picture. A couple of minor patches from the video soundtrack aside, the new audio is sourced from actual master reels recorded the night of the show. The Darkness tour may never have sounded this good before.
The new audio source does offer some previously missing bits – ‘Thunder Road’ is now complete, and while ‘Jungleland’ and ‘Incident’ are still cut on the video, the audio is complete and included here. Two patches to the audio were required, the start of ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out’ and the end of ‘Twist And Shout.’ Both utilize the original video audio.
This project has been one of our most ambitious to date, from tracking down the new video and audio sources, to baking the reels, to getting a very old Beta tape to track properly, to hours upon hours of work syncing the audio by Pete (thanks for partnering on this sir; we couldn’t have done it without you). We hope you enjoy and appreciate the upgrade.”
Posters on Jungleland have been mightily impressed. Slowburn comments that:
“It won’t get any better than this. A fantastic show. With spectacular sound…Sure it’s b/w…But there is something about the way this show is filmed that makes it so great. Great angles and nicely edited. Much better than those other 78 shows.
Sure blacks aren’t really black. But they are very darkgrey, not whitegrey like before. And Bruces [sic] face is only washed out a few times not half the time like before. And there’s a lot less problems around the edges than I remember…
And the sync between audio/video seems to be perfect…Fantastic work…
This is one of, or maybe THE one, best catalog release that has been unearthed/upgraded in many, many years.”
Another poster, gb1972gb, adds:
“the new, stunning audio, refresh of the new generation video, perfectly synched with flaws so minor they aren’t worth mentioning, make this set a real treasure. AMAZING WORK GUYS! Going from the old mono version, to this, where you have to EQ your sound system like your dealing with raw studio tape is truly extraordinary. Hearing the echoes, the hot licks, instruments that never emerged as clearly playing together — WOW.”
Other admiring comments include: “Wow, looks and sounds much better!” (JKBruce); “WOW! Very nice upgrade indeed!” (eruption1962); “This is truly amazing.” (paulgibson37); “a great upgrade” (pflavell); “This is of SUPERB QUALITY.” (Dannychico); “This is incredible…so much better than any other version out there.” (Brufan) and ” With the much-improved video and perfect sound, this set pretty much blows away anything else from the ’78 tour.” (markbrow). There is also a link with some comparison screenshots which clearly demonstrates the upgraded picture quality of this new version.
This release is contained in a clamshell box with a double sided sleeve insert with several onstage photos, together with a shot of the venue and Arlen Schumer’s promotional artwork – though my copy came in a black rather than see-through clamshell, effectively rendering the inner side invisible. At the end of the day, we still have the show in imperfect, technically deficient black-and-white, but this version is almost certain to be as good as it will get visually and the sound is also a considerable improvement over previous releases. Bearing in mind that this is also a tremendous show from Springsteen’s greatest tour, Live In Passaic 1978 constitutes an essential acquisition for Springsteen collectors.
If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)