Second Night At The Capitol Theater (Godfatherecords G.R. 729/730/731)
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
Disc 2: Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town, Fire, Candy’s Room, Because The Night, Point Blank, Kitty’s Back, Incident On 57th Street, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
Disc 3: Born To Run, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Detroit Medley, Twist And Shout
Bonus Tracks: Capitol Theater, Passaic, NJ, USA – 20 September, 1978 (soundcheck): Wedding Bells, The Ties That Bind, Good Rockin’ Tonight, Piano Instrumental, Thunder Road, I’m Alive, Go Away (Come Close), Whole Lotta Love, Don’t Be Cruel, I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You), Guess Thing Happen That Way, Guess Things Happen That Way, Hey, Porter/I Walk The Line, (I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle, Piano Instrumental, Go Away (Come Close), High School Confidential, Go Away (Come Close)
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played three concerts on consecutive nights at the 3,000-seater Capitol Theater in Passaic in September 1978. The first night, available on Crystal Cat’s Passaic Night, is justly famous as one of Springsteen’s greatest live performances and the final show can be obtained on Godfather’s Singin’ Our Birthday Songs. Godfather now restores to the catalogue the second night’s performance. The show has had very little exposure on vinyl or silver disc. I know of no LP release of the complete show, and of only one previous release on CD, 2nd Night At The Capitol Theater (Winged Wheel). Three of the soundcheck songs (Wedding Bells, The Ties That Bind and Good Rockin’ Tonight) appeared on Capitol Soundcheck, one of series of Great Dane CDs which accompanied issues of the Italian fanzine Follow That Dream. According to the Brucebase website, both releases, “used the line video as source.” Indeed, I suspect that the show may well be more familiar to collectors in audio-visual form. The show has been released twice on DVD, on its own as 2nd Night At Capitol Theatre (Apocalypse Sound) and in company with the previous night’s concert as Pieces Of Resistance (Chihuahua Records).
The show begins with a suitably rollicking version of Good Rocking Tonight, Roy Brown’s 1947 jump blues song more well-known (in the variant spelling Good Rockin’ Tonight, which Godfather uses) as Elvis Presley’s second single for the Sun label in 1954. This is followed by what Paul Dwyer, writing in The Aquinas, student newspaper of the University of Scranton, rightly refers to as, “a rousing version” of Badlands. A simultaneously sleazy and vivacious Spirit In The Night is succeeded by a powerful and poignant Darkness On the Edge Of Town, which in turn gives way to a moving Independence Day
A stirring rendition of The Promised Land contains, in Dwyer’s words, “a brilliant harmonica solo.” Prove It All Night, as customary on the Darkness Tour, begins with a lengthy piano and guitar introduction, and additionally features some further guitar fireworks later in the song. Brucebase times the intro at four minutes and forty-six seconds, with the guitar solo clocking in at two minutes and fifty-seven seconds.
Springsteen’s rendition of The Animals’ It’s My Life, played, according to Brucebase, as a response to a request from the audience, is atmospheric performance of huge intensity, even without the spoken introduction heard in some other live versions. A splendid rendition of the full-band version of Thunder Road ensues. It does get off to a false start, however, as Springsteen plays the harmonica opening of the song, whereas pianist Roy Bittan begins Racing In The Street. According to Brucebase, Bittan was playing the correct song, but Springsteen had decided to skip it (perhaps due to the impromptu rendition of It’s My Life) and to go straight into Thunder Road – a shame, as Racing In The Street would have been a great addition to the show. Thunder Road is followed by another song from Born To Run, the epic Jungleland. “The intensity never dropped once,” contends Dwyer, “and it hit a peak during ‘Jungleland,'” which closes the opening set. Curiously, disc one concludes with three minutes of (presumably) the theatre’s manager making various announcements to the audience, including instructions on where smoking is permitted and the identities of upcoming acts.
The second set begins on disc two and, according to Dwyer, it “turned what had started out as a great concert into an incredible one.” Springsteen had promised the audience a surprise at the end of the first set and it arrives immediately in the shape of the tour premiere of Santa Claus Is Coing To Town (in September!), last played in December 1975. First recorded by banjoist Harry Reser and his band, with Tom Stacks on vocals in October 1934, the song has been covered by a plethora of artists from Tommy Dorsey And His Orchestra and Burl Ives to the cast of Glee and Green Day! After this unseasonal frivolity we hear Fire, which features the usual mid-song pause, which is relatively brief here. A searing Candy’s Room is followed by what Dwyer calls, “a gut-wrenching rendition” of Because the Night.
Point Blank, as I have argued elsewhere, is far superior in its Darkness Tour incarnation than on The River, and the performance here is graced with a most atmospheric intro. Kitty’s Back is the usual long, loose jam, somewhat “rockier” on the Darkness Tour than in previous years, and features piano, organ, saxophone and guitar solos. Springsteen stays with The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle for Incident On 57th Street, which, as on the album, segues into Rosalita (Come Out Tonight). The latter song is, of course, the set closer, and it contains the band introductions.
The encore begins with an exhilarating Born To Run, followed by an effervescent, joyous Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out and a boisterous Devil With The Blue Dress Medley. To complete the concert, in Dwyer’s words, “Springsteen and the band cascaded into a dynamic revelation of ‘Twist and Shout.'”
“Those who were lucky enough to get tickets for this second night,” maintains Godfather’s booklet notes, “were treated to one of Springsteen’s best shows ever…Furthermore, the show is only 3 days before Bruce’s birthday and throughout the whole show, Springsteen is showered with gifts from his fans. So the show has a looser vibe than the night before (probably he doesn’t feel anymore the pressure of the live broadcast) and a few key set list changes.” However, despite the overall more relaxed feel, individual songs come across with searing intensity, making for a satisfying contrast.
The bonus tracks consist of what Brucebase calls a, “super-fascinating soundcheck,” which Godfather dates to 20 September, the date of the show presented here. However, the dating of the soundcheck (or soundchecks) has been a matter for some debate. Great Dane’s Capitol Soundcheck dates its three songs (Wedding Bells, The Ties That Bind and Good Rockin’ Tonight) to 19 September. The Sparkle Disc DVD-R Thunder On The Darkness contains these three songs plus Point Blank and Kitty’s Back and dates then all to the 19th. The Apocalypse Sound and Chihuahua DVDs noted above both include The Ties That Bind and both date it to the 19th. The Lebanese Tribute To Bruce Springsteen website gives details of an untitled torrented version credited to B.L. production. Barry, the person responsible for this states: “I got this from my tape collection, the date on my tape is September 21, but I’m not sure. I think, that the first three tracks are from September 19, but the other tracks are from September 20 or 21.” Lebanese Tribute also lists another untitled and uncredited torrent with all the tracks included dated from the 20th, though this torrent does not include the three songs on Great Dane’s Capitol Soundcheck. Finally, the site gives details of the Great Dane release but gives the date of the three tracks as the 20th rather than the 19th.
Including the soundcheck under its entry for 20 September, Brucebase states: “These recordings all likely derive from this one soundcheck. Previously Brucebase has placed this soundcheck session under September 19th, with the reasoning that there would be no need to do a soundcheck before the second night of the stand since Bruce carried his own sound crew on the road. However, it seems unlikely that Springsteen would carry out a soundcheck with such experimental content prior to an important radio broadcast. In addition, the soundcheck has historically been considered to have taken place on this date. The first three songs, plus bits of ‘Point Blank’ and ‘Kitty’s Back,’ circulate on DVD from an excellent in-line source.” The penultimate sentence here is puzzling, due to the fact that, as far as I am aware, the soundcheck has “historically” been considered to have taken place on the 19th – including, as the second sentence makes clear, by Brucebase itself. The Killing Floor database (www.brucespringsteen.it), which largely reproduces info from Brucebase, differs in this regard placing the three songs released by Great Dane under the 19th and everything else under both the 20th and the 21st.
The first song is a suitably country-inflected rendition of Hank Williams’ 1949 hit, Wedding Bells, which Brucebase calls, “stark and moving.” The song is also known to have been included in the soundcheck before the show at the Post Dome, C.W. Post College, Greenvale, NY on 12 December 1975. (This, incidentally, is the concert at which the officially released performance of Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town was recorded.) “‘The Ties That Bind’ may well be the band’s first performance, as Bruce carefully reviews chord changes before they try it out,” writes Brucebase, “The raw, edgy arrangement is very different from the Searchers-styled rendition Springsteen would debut in concert in November, being more like Jeff Beck-era Yardbirds, a la ‘You’re A Better Man Than I.'” We hear an instrumental rendition first, and when Springsteen sings during the next run-through it becomes clear that the lyrics are also largely different, so that it is effectively a distinct composition from the one familiar from its inclusion on The River. After this there is an incomplete and rather laid-back version of Good Rockin’ Tonight.
As mentioned above Brucebase states that these songs “circulate on DVD from an excellent in-line source,” and I would imagine that this is ultimately the source of the three songs we hear here and on Capitol Soundcheck. Brucebase also states that the soundcheck was, “taped from outside the venue,” and this is clearly the case from here onwards, as the sound quality is inferior and we begin to hear voices surrounding the taper, who clearly turns his or her machine off and then back on between some of the songs.
The first additional music we hear is a short and slow piano instrumental and, after some piano scales and bass guitar strumming, this is succeeded by a two-minute instrumental take on the full-band version of Thunder Road. Next comes a rendition of I’m Alive, a UK number one for The Hollies in 1965. A short snippet of Go Away (Come Close), which is listed by Brucebase simply as “guitar instrumental,” leads into a minute of the guitar riff from Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love. A rendition of Elvis Presley’s 1956 single Don’t Be Cruel lasts for around twenty seconds. Indeed, Springsteen only sings the line “Don’t be cruel to a heart that’s true” very slowly, with drum backing.
Country music makes a return with another Hank Williams song, I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You). The song may be familiar to some from Linda Ronstadt’s version from her album Heart Like A Wheel. (Lebanese Tribute and Killing Floor both incorrectly assume that the song performed was the Andy Gibb and Olivia Newton-John duet I Can’t Help It and both reproduce the lyrics of that song.) This is followed two brief takes of Johnny Cash’s Guess Thing Happen That Way, the second rather fragmented. Springsteen sings, or rather speaks, the briefest snippet of Cash’s 1955 single Hey, Porter before launching instead into Cash’s 1956 single I Walk The Line, which lasts for less than a minute. Then it is back to Hank Williams with a half-minute’s worth of the 1951 hit (I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle.
Finally, a brief piano instrumental, which is hardly worth the name, precedes two helpings of Go Away (Come Close). The first, encompassing several takes, lasts for the best part of eight minutes and the second is just over a minute long. Brucebase argues that “‘Go Away (Come Close)’ is a moody, minor key ballad, either newly written or from the Darkness album sessions. Another one that got away.” I would agree with that assessment; what we hear, which is unfortunately merely an instrumental version, suggests that it could have been worked up into a very impressive song. In between is sandwiched half a minute of Jerry Lee Lewis’ High School Confidential, the song which opened the next nights’ show.
Brucebase has this to say regarding the sources for this show: “Complete show available on pro-shot video, soundboard audio sourced from the video feed and a 2011 transfer of a two-track recording recorded by the Record Plant’s mobile unit…Early 2012 saw new audio and video sources of this show emerge; JEMS’ ‘Douceur de Vivre’ (translates as ‘the sweetness of life’) is possibly one of the best quality recordings of Springsteen in existence (both official and unofficial) and is a must for any collector. This tape does not have the cuts to ‘Jungleland’ and ‘Incident On 57th Street,’ but does lack the start of ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out’ and the end of ‘Twist And Shout.'” Godfather has used the JEMS torrent for the main show. Notes on the Jungleland website refer to this as a “significant upgrade,” and giving the following details: “What we get is a live-as-it-happened recording of incredible clarity: If you ever wanted to learn the individual parts each band member is playing, this is the tape for you. Which isn’t to say that it is a multi-track, mixdown recording; this 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.” Jungleland also notes a “small patch…from video soundtrack” for the two songs stated by Brucebase to be incomplete, so nothing is missing here. The first three soundcheck songs are taken from a copy of Great Dane’s Capitol Soundcheck, with the remainder coming from another torrented source, where they also appeared as a bonus to the complete show.
This release comes in Godfather’s trademark tri-fold card sleeve, the striking front cover of which reproduces Arlen Schumer’s promotional artwork for the Passaic shows. The sleeve also features numerous appropriate onstage photographs and the track listing. A foldover insert contains three further onstage shots and the usual notes by “Joe Roberts,” which clearly make uncredited use the Jungleland site and of Dwyer’s review. Finally there is a mini-poster, again reproducing Schumer’s artwork, with the band personnel listed on the reverse.
This excellent sounding and beautifully packaged new release makes a splendid companion to Crystal Cat’s indispensable Passaic Night, which should be a cornerstone of any serious Springsteen collection. As stated above Godfather also issued, some while ago, the concert from the 21st with the title Singin’ Our Birthday Songs, which is also well worth seeking out in order to complete a wonderful trilogy of shows from Springsteen’s greatest tour.