Passaic, New Jersey
September 19, 1978
Passaic Night (Crystal Cat CC 476-78)
Lineage: Silver CDs -> EAC -> WAV -> FLAC -> YOU
It’s highly likely that the ‘Live Bruce Springsteen Archive Series’ will release this. If I had any input to record company releases I would accord it the deluxe treatment, and include the discs inside a hardback book package telling the story of the Darkness On The Edge Of Town tour.
Any of the big five ’78 recordings (seven if you include the more recent Passaic JEMS releases) could have appeared here. Tracks from the Roxy appear on the official live ’75-’85 box set released in the eighties, so that one was ruled out. The Fox is a great show but doesn’t have the sufficient gravitas of the other ’78 recordings. The Agora has been released as part of the above-mentioned Live Bruce series, which leaves a straight shoot out between Winterland & Passaic. Years ago, before I had any interest or knowledge of bootlegs I remember reading Dave Marsh’s book Born To Run, His enthusiasm for live recordings and unreleased songs was infectious and a tape copy of Passaic became a prized possession. This just nudges ahead of Winterland as my favourite ’78 Darkness tour recording. An astute reader of the blog previously remarked how many legendary tours there were in the seventies, this is another example to add to your collection. Those coming to this recording from the official releases will note how prominent in the mix the guitars are.
I’ve included a near 4,300-word review of this bootleg release in the notes, see disc three of your download. It gives you a comprehensive history of this recording and it’s importance. Worth reading before you listen. I've used some edited comments for the tracklist. The more compact notes that accompany this Crystal Cat bootleg follow on from the tracklist notes:
The first of a three-night stand at the 3,200-seat Capitol Theatre, and one of five Darkness Tour concerts to be broadcast on FM radio
1-02. Badlands (5:00)
The show begins with an astonishingly furious rendition of the new album’s opener.
1-03. Streets Of Fire (4:47)
Slows the pace and is characterized by Springsteen’s impassioned vocal performance and what Guterman refers to as his “loud, nasty guitar.”
1-04. Spirit In The Night (6:50)
An exuberant performance follows with this track from Springsteen’s debut album. Danny Federici’s organ and Clarence Clemons saxophone create an atmosphere that is both frivolous and utterly sordid. In keeping with the gritty tone established by the Darkness songs, it concerns drunken sex in the dirt rather than romance.
1-05. Darkness On The Edge Of Town (4:14)
Is a passionate performance that perfectly conveys, as Christopher Sandford puts it in Springsteen: Point Blank, “a raw, harrowing awareness that we can never escape our fate.” The Chicago Tribune reviewer called, “the music almost frighteningly brutal,” particularly “the sheer feral snarl of the vocals.”
1-06. Independence Day (5:29)
A Darkness outtake that came close to making the album. Springsteen had narrowed the album down to thirteen songs. Independence Day, along with The Promise and Don’t Look Back, failed to make the cut. The version played here, is tremendously poignant and superior to the studio take on the follow up album ‘The River’
1-07. The Promised Land (5:23)
Follows with a vigorous rendition continuing the Darkness theme and regarded by Schumer, as a definitive live version.
1-08. Prove It All Night (9:30)
Is played, as Guterman writes, in “an elongated [version]…which built from a soft piano intro through a screaming guitar solo into an unruly version of the song as it appeared on the album, followed by another wicked guitar solo.” Roy Bittan, who regards the song as, “the most exciting song of the show,” is again impressive here, and this is a fine version.
1-09. Racing In The Street (8:09)
1-10. Thunder Road (5:28)
Roy Bittan is arguably the star of the rest of the first set. He contributes some beautiful playing to this exquisite and moving song on which, Springsteen sings the defining lyrics of the whole album. Bittan also plays, as Guterman says, “a crowning coda,” which Springsteen overlaid with a spoken introduction to Thunder Road. Schumer calls these the finest live versions of both Racing In The Street and Thunder Road, and the piano coda and the spoken introduction contribute immeasurably to the brilliance of these performances. Despite the optimistic ending, there is a streak of realism here which chimes with the Darkness songs. Springsteen and the band receive a tremendous and well-deserved ovation at the end of Thunder Road.
1-11. Meeting Across The River (3:17)
Is a beautifully measured performance, which effectively conveys the song’s melancholy mood.
1-12. Jungleland (9:39)
An excellent version of this epic Born To Run track follows, featuring a powerful sax solo from Clarence Clemons and a fine guitar solo from Steve Van Zandt. Again, despite the overtly romantic qualities of the song, it ends in grubby street violence as the Magic Rat is gunned down.
2-01. Kitty’s Back (12:49)
Opens the second set with, a superb, thirteen-minute version. The song comes across a a little harder-edged than earlier versions, in keeping with the heavier sound of the Darkness Tour, but Federici and Bittan keep the song swinging nicely and Clemons contributes effective rasping sax.
2-02. Fire (2:54)
Is splendidly sultry
2-03. Candy’s Room (3:03)
Follows performed at breakneck pace.
2-04. Because The Night (6:39)
Like Prove It All Night, begins with a scintillating interplay between Bittan’s piano and Springsteen’s guitar, and features a searing solo from Springsteen later in the song. Despite its qualities, the Winterland rendition is even more exciting.
2-05. Point Blank (6:36)
Is another true highlight of this set, and it is an even more intense performance than the Winterland version. The lyrics differed slightly at different concerts, and here, in keeping with Springsteen’s explanation before the song’s debut at the Roxy in July that (in part, at least) it concerned a couple he knew who had to work two jobs a day to avoid having their house repossessed, he sings the lines, “Day shift turns to night shift/And the night shift turns to day/ And all of your hopes and your promises/Somehow they just fade away.”
2-06. Not Fade Away (4:59)
2-07. She’s The One (6:32)
Not Fade Away rather than Mona, serves as the introduction to She’s The One but we still get the rhythmic drumming and animal calls at the start. It segues even more smoothly than Mona manages to do into She’s The One, which receives a hugely energetic performance.
2-08. Backstreets (11:32)
Follows, complete with the spoken “Sad Eyes” interlude, which includes the reference to driving all night to buy shoes, which of course later grew into a whole new song. Although this is a terrific performance of the song, the spoken interlude on the Winterland version is more structured and possessed of a more coherent narrative structure.
2-09. Rosalita (11:05)
Concludes the second set with a barnstorming version, complete with band introductions.
2-10. 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) (6:44)
Unfortunately, unlike Great Dane, Crystal Cat concludes the second disc with the first song of the encore, a warm, wistful rendition. Presumably this was done to create as much room as possible for bonus tracks on the third CD, but it would have been preferable to have a more natural disc break.
3-01. Born To Run (4:29)
After the gentle start to the encore, Springsteen and the band bring the house down with the uproarious mayhem of this thunderous version
3-02. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out (3:56)
Follows with an effervescent performance
3-03. Devil With The Blue Dress Medley (7:22)
Is a barnstorming medley
3-04. Raise Your Hand (4:25)
A spirited version ends the concert with some spoken interaction between Springsteen and the audience.
The bonus tracks have been excluded because the Passaic tracks were upgraded and circulated by the JEMS team..
This release features what many consider a peak of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band’s incredible 1978 Darkness On The Edge Of Town tour; a three show stand in an intimate theatre on home ground in New Jersey.
The first stage of the tour was coming to a close in September 1978 (though Bruce and the band would regroup to play for another two months at the end of the year) and the popularity that Bruce now enjoyed, especially in the north eastern strongholds where his music had first been appreciated en masse meant he generally was playing huge sports arenas like Madison Square Gardens and the Philadelphia Spectrum, but the real climax of the summer tour was planned to take place in consumer friendly theatre venues in both New York and New Jersey (Though there were a few more make up shows, mainly in the south east, that followed at the end of the month).
Three nights at the Palladium in Manhattan saw some major changes in the set lists prior to the shows in August and September, so that when Bruce and the band hit the stage at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, New Jersey on September 19, 1978, they were presenting not only the lucky people in the auditorium with a few surprises, but also a large amount of radio listeners, as the show was being broadcast live on the New York station WNEW, which is the excellent source recording for the main body of this release.
The performance throughout this show was exceptional, as Bruce and the E Street Band always managed to raise their game when it really mattered, and in addition to some powerful readings of most of the Darkness On The Edge Of Town material there were quite a few performances of note. Such as a full band arrangement of Independence Day (which had only reappeared in the set during the Palladium shows after it’s one solo performance at the Roxy in LA back in July; an atmospheric rendition of Meeting Across the River, making one of it’s very fleeting 1978 showings; Kitty’s Back opened the second set, another song that would make it’s only 1978 appearances at the Palladium/Capitol Theatre shows, while Point Blank was another then unreleased song reintroduced into the set list after it’s solitary airing earlier in the tour at the Roxy. The encores at these shows were also restructured from earlier in the summer; with Tenth Avenue Freeze Out and the ever-popular Devil With The Blue Dress medley both back in favour.
“To this day I have yet to hear any Darkness performance that can hold a candle to this Capitol Theatre show, song for song, note for note. It’s perfect. It’s Bruce’s de facto live album. At least five songs stand out as definitive live versions, not only from the Darkness tour, but from Bruce’s career: ‘Promised Land,’ ‘Prove It All Night,’the extended ‘Backstreets’ with the ‘Sad Eyes’ interlude, ‘Because The Night,’ and ‘She’s The One’ with the ‘Not Fade away’ prelude.”
Arlen Schumer (Art Director of the first Springsteen magazine, Thunder Road (1978-82))
“There is little chance the performance here will ever be topped,”
Lynn Elder (Author of the bootleg guide Bruce Springsteen: You Better Not Touch)
“This is one of the best shows Springsteen ever did in his life and stands as one of the monumental nights of his career.” “Dynamic…a classic three-hour show,”
Clinton Heylin (author of Bootleg: The Secret History of the Other Recording Industry, 1996)
“Probably one of the best all-time concert recordings. Great versions of ‘Because The Night’ and ‘Fire,’ and also includes what many consider to be the best examples of ‘Racing In The Street’ and ‘Thunder Road’ ever! – Essential.” Brucebase (website)
“In my opinion, this wonderful show contains the best live versions of Racing In The Street, Thunder Road and Point Blank, reason enough to own this set.”
Dave Marsh (author of Born To Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story, 1979)