The Magic Of Rock ‘N’ Roll Music (Jersey Devil Records JDR4)
RPI Field House, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, USA – 12 November, 1978
Disc 1: High School Confidential, 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
Disc 2: Jungleland, Rave On, Fire, Candy’s Room, Because The Night, Point Blank, Mona/She’s The One
Disc 3: Backstreets, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), Born To Run, Detroit Medley, Quarter To Three
To my knowledge, this show from Troy has only ever appeared once previously on disc, on the 3-Cd set Live In Troy (I Had A Dream Records), which was notably for the poor quality of its sound. The Killing Floor database (www.brucespringsteen.it) contends that, “the awful sound quality makes it virtually unlistenable to.” Lynn Elder, in the first volume of You Better Not Touch, is equally dismissive, arguing that, “the sound quality is abysmal…Noisy, hissy, too fast, unclear, distorted,” and awarding a paltry three out of ten for sound quality. Brucebase, however, while conceding that Live In Troy “runs fast,” states that it has, “good sound for the era.”
Brucebase also notes the existence of a JEMS torrent, the source for this new release, which it describes as, “a good upgrade…from a first generation reel.” The notes on the Jungleland site, by “mjk5510 in partnership with CB and JEMS,” note that this is the second in a series, “upgraded from low generation tapes & reels out of the CB Archives… this release should be considered a major material upgrade and take its place as one of the top quality audience captures of the tour…All vocals, backup vocals and instrumentation come through loud and clear,” and that, “CB received the 1st gen reel directly from the taper (BF).” Posters on Jungleland have shown themselves impressed, with comments such as: “it sounds great!!!” (standardquo); “Wow! This tape sounds great” (foreveryoung); “superb recording” (MARTIN1956) and “sound[s] great” (slipkid68).
Jersey Devil’s insert includes a note on the sound of this release, disassociating it from the old Live In Troy CD:
“‘Live In Troy’ is the title of an infamous bootleg released back in early 1990s by a label called IHAD. The bootleg was so bad (too fast, too noisy, too wrong) that it quickly became a parameter to measure how bad a record could sound. Well, this bootleg has nothing to do with that one; the source is completely new and has recently surfaced and shared on the net.”
Proceedings get off to an exciting start with Springsteen’s take on Jerry Lee Lewis’ High School Confidential which, as Michael Dubois, writes in his review of the show in student newspaper The Poly, immediately “had the crowd moving.” A hard-driving Badlands has Dubois praising Roy Bittan’s “sharp piano chords,” Clarence Clemons’ “solid sax solo” and Steve Van Zandt’s “fantastic harmonies,” and it is succeeded by a taut, angry Streets Of Fire. Then, as Dubois writes, “the perennial crowd pleaser, ‘Spirit In The Night’ gave the audience their first chance of the evening to join in on a sing-along.” After this wonderfully boisterous performance we get a distinct contrast with a fine performance of Darkness On The Edge Of Town. Then comes an excellent Independence Day. Springsteen introduces the song by stating that it was originally written for Darkness On The Edge Of Town, before saying that, “it should be on the next record.” Beautifully performed and emotionally affecting, with a fine sax solo from Clarence Clemons, the song is a definite highlight of this concert.
A stirring rendition of The Promised Land is succeed by another clear highlight of the show in the shape of Prove It All Night. Dubois argues that, “with Bruce’s searing lead guitar, it was the audience’s favorite song during the first half of the show.” The guitar solo at the start of the song grew in length and intensity as the tour progressed and it, together with Springsteen’s guitar work later in the song, is most impressive here.
Pianist Roy Bittan shines in a beautifully performed Racing In The Street, the show’s third clear highlight in my opinion, and it is his playing which forms the bridge to Thunder Road, here without the story which also links the two numbers in some other live renditions from the tour. The first set then concludes with a fine rendition of the epic Jungleland, with Clemons delivering what Dubois considers to be a “dynamite sax solo.”
The second set kicks off in joyous fashion with a high-spirited version of Buddy Holly’s Rave On. Referencing Roberts Gordon’s version of the next song, Fire, Dubois contends that the song, which featured, “one of Springsteen’s best vocal performances of the evening,” demonstrated that, “he is his own best interpreter”; similarly, after mentioning Patti Smith’s version of Because The Night, he argues that, “the intensity with which the song is performed leaves no doubt as to whom it belongs.” In between those two numbers we hear Candy’s Room with its blistering guitar work.
Next up is what I consider to be the fourth highlight of the show, an excellent performance of Point Blank, with a stunningly atmospheric intro and a lyrical intensity absent from the version that would eventually emerge on The River. An energetic She’s the One is effectively prefaced by Bo Diddley’s Mona. An impassioned Backstreets includes a spoken interlude, including the words, “I’d drive all night just to buy you some shoes and to taste your tender charms,” a line which, of course, grew into a whole new song. Then an ebullient Rosalita, complete with the band introductions, makes for a suitably exciting end to the main set.
The encore begins with 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), featuring Danny Federici on accordion. Springsteen introduces the song by recounting that, “I met some guys in the hotel, uh, in the hallway last night…and they asked for this song. They said they were from a hockey team or something…We haven’t done this in a little while so I hope I, if I don’t remember all the words, use your imagination.” After this restrained opening to the encore, the show comes to a tumultuous conclusion with exuberant renditions of Born To Run, the Detroit Medley and Quarter To Three.
Dubois sums up the show by writing that, “Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band once again proved as they do every night that they are the best live band in the world. It is rare that a band can provide such an uplift, but it is nice to be able to say once again you can believe in the magic of rock ‘n’ roll.”
Mjk5510 regards this as an “outstanding…show,” which may have been “overshadowed by the FM broadcasts” or overlooked because of its location, arguing that:
“There are many highlights in this show, not only do we get ‘High School Confidential’ opening the show and ‘Rave On’ opening the second set, Bruce absolutely attacks and destroys the intro and outro solos to ‘Prove It All Night.’ Add to that gorgeous versions of the yet to be released ‘Independence Day’ and ‘Point Blank’ and you have the making of a top notch Darkness show.”
Elder dissents from the view of this concert as an overlooked gem, contending that, “the show itself is nothing special on a tour of many special nights,” while still awarding it a very respectable eight out of ten for performance. Overall, while Elder is a trifle harsh, I would agree that that there were more “special nights” during the tour, and I would not rate this show in the same category as the classic (and excellent sounding) Passaic and Winterland shows, at least one of which should be on the shelves of even the most casual Springsteen collector.
The discs are housed in Jersey Devil’s usual tri-fold sleeve. Both this and the accompanying foldover insert contain numerous posed and onstage shots from the period. The insert also shows images of a backstage pass and a ticket for the show and Dubois’ review. The latter appears twice, once as a reproduction of the newspaper and again as this release’s insert notes. Finally, there is the single sheet insert common to all of the label’s releases.
The very good performance, the impressive sound and the attractive packaging make this a release that the committed Springsteen collector will want, and will gain much pleasure from.