Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Before the announcement of the Darkness box set, many fans were anticipating a release of the Passaic or New York City shows from the '78 tour. So the Houston show was a relative unknown. From what I know, it has never circulated before. But it seemed like the logical choice to release this because it might have been the only '78 show filmed in its entirety.

Here's some important technical tidbits to note about this bootleg house cut: the video footage was the actually taken from the in-house video screen at that particular venue. In fact, the Summit at Houston was one of the first arenas in the States to have this system at that time. So don't expect something professional in terms of visuals. There's a good amount of total black time on numerous occasions throughout the video. But aside from that, it's really not that bad. Unlike the concert videos of today, this one's not marred by fast cutting and haphazard editing. The cameras are focused on Bruce most of the time (and on the band when appropriate), and we see his prowess as a frontman. The sound is not available in 5.1 surround for this DVD, only PCM stereo, considering that it was taken off the mono soundboard. It's not perfect, and it's occasionally unbalanced during some parts of the show. But overall, Bob Clearmountain did a fantastic job with the mixing. What's important is the sound is listenable and it's not a big hindrance to the enjoyment of the show.

This is the second best E Street Band show captured on DVD, the first being Hyde Park (which obviously holds a special place in my heart). Jimmy Fallon told Bruce on his show that he 'created' the live concert. This Houston show is proof of why the Darkness tour was regarded as one of the greatest Rock & Roll tours ever. The band just seemed to be in another stratosphere from everyone else. The setlist was impeccable, sequencing wise. All the songs were in their right place in the set. As for the performance itself, there was an intense ferocity that I've never seen before in any other live act. Even watching on sub-par video quality, it still gets to you. This is rawest music you'll ever hear; there's a very unrehearsed, 'rough round the edges' quality to it, but at the same time extremely tight. That undeniable E Street signature live sound that has been with them for the past 35 years.

Right from the opening riff of
Badlands, I've never been hit harder by the power of Rock & Roll, not like this. From the get-go, Bruce makes an effort to connect with the audience. He sings with great conviction, so much so you'll really want go out and "spit in the face of these badlands". And then, they plow into Streets Of Fire, a song full of rage and angst, and yet Bruce manages to make it so poetically beautiful. Its best versions come from this tour, no doubt. It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City features a scorching guitar duel between Bruce and Stevie, which blows the '75 Hammersmith version out of the water. Independence Day, originally written during the Darkness sessions, has always been one of Bruce's underrated songs. It's heartbreaking. The line "At night they walk that dark and dusty highway all alone" always gives me the chills. Prove It All Night, as usual, is always the highlight of the first set -- face-melting guitar solo, driven by Roy Bittan's exquisite piano playing at the start. If you haven't already known this, the band puts more effort into just one song than most bands put into their whole show. Usually Racing In The Street segues into Thunder Road during the '78 shows, but for this one, that instrumental part seemed to be missing. Still great nevertheless. Jungleland ends the first set, before intermission. Notice that the E Street Band dressed very stylishly during that tour; they all wore suits. But Clarence Clemons looked the most cool out of the lot. He's still a great sax player now, but back then he was in his most top form.

This early live version of
The Ties That Bind was still a quite a way from The River, but still great to have here. And let me tell you about The Fever, which makes a rare appearance. It's just fucking sublime. That exchange between Danny and Clarence is out of this world. Because The Night has an extended intro with Bruce doing a solo. Like I said before, not technical, but incredibly soulful. Just when you thought you seen it all, comes a spectacular four-song run to end the second set. Mona flows into a long She's The One, courtesy of Bo Diddley. And then one of the best Backstreets from the 70's era. There's no Sad Eyes interlude, but I've always preferred the song without it, as I think it kinda spoils its emotional core. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) closes out the set, and I've never seen the band having more fun onstage. Clarence was particularly on fire. And then Born To Run is played with lighting speed. By then, you might think Bruce and the band has given their all. But then Detroit Medley again displays their inhuman musical capabilities.

Almost three hours later, the show ends with the classic
Quarter To Three where Bruce just goes apeshit, like he's possessed or something. Prisoner of Rock & Roll indeed.

Video: 3/5
Sound: 3.5/5
Performance: 5/5