Ev2's re-master of this broadcast has been out for a while but in between Magic shows I decided to revisit it today. The '78 FM broadcasts are funny things. They are instrumental in the legendary status this period in Springsteen's career got. Many of these shows have been circulating as bootlegs since '78 and because of their sound quality they were able to compete with the official releases. Even though Springsteen jokingly jells "Bootleggers roll your tapes" at the start of the second half of this Roxy show, bootlegging was perceived as a problem in the Springsteen camp according to Dave Marsh. In the days before the net Bootleg sales could potentially hurt official sales. Potentially, because most bootlegs were issued in limited quantities only on low quality vinyl for a criminal amounts of money. More seriously, the potentially diffused copy right issues. If Springsteen was to turn a blind eye to these practices it could possibly be taken as consent or worse, approval. For an artist who takes great pains in getting the official releases out just as he envisioned him, these gray releases must have been a thorn in his eye. So at the time suits were actually filed, claiming sums up to 1.75 million dollars. These suits weren't taken all the way but they were allegedly effective enough to let the problem get out of hand.
With Springsteen not releasing live albums himself, bootlegs did however play an important part in getting the message out to people that his shows were something to behold. The FM recordings could very well be a large part of what made Springsteen go super nova in the next decade. Bootlegs were an excellent support to the mouth to mouth promotion Springsteen got from his fans, it helps when you can back your boasting up by cranking the stereo up to eleven, blasting out "Prove It All Night". With "Darkness On The Edge Off Town" and Springsteen still playing relatively small venues, he still had a aura of exclusiveness you could hip your friends to, albeit not nearly the exclusiveness he had three years before. The '78 tour is a break point in his career. It is the last time Springsteen would play for what Marsh calls the cult. From the River tour on the audiences would grow exponentially until they reached their zenith during the mid eighties. This growth in demand would ultimately cause fans from the earliest hour to look back on the '78 tour with some nostalgia and lack of superb bootlegs from the tours that followed would make new fans feel like they missed out of the best part.
As this Roxy recording testifies, the nostalgia is not entirely without merit. Springsteen had used the years he was caught up in his legal difficulties with Mike Appel to hone his skills. The band sounded tighter than they ever had and played long exhausting shows for both the band and the audience. The twenty minute break was nowhere near a luxury for all involved. What gives the Roxy an extra edge is the fact that its a small club, making it a more intimate recording. The Roxy held 500 patrons. The tickets for the show had gone, much to Springsteen's dismay, to mostly industry figures, leaving only 250 seats for the fans according to the liner notes Ev2 provides. That small intimate feeling which is captured here on tape, adds to the feeling of the band bringing the house down, busting out. The presence of the industry figures does nothing to damper the spirits, this is a hard rocking show. Amongst fans it is rightfully seen as a contender for best show ever. Yet I can't help but wonder if the cards would've been dealt a little different if key shows from the two following tours would have been available as FM broadcasts as well. Springsteen continued to evolve as an artists and some of his material had yet to find their penultimate performance. "Badlands" and "Born To Run" for example come out somewhat sloppy, raw energy over tightness. "Point Blank" from this period has always sounded a bit overwrought to me, I prefer the performances of recent years.
It goes without saying though that songs like "Prove It All Night", "Adam Raised A Cain", "Backstreet" or Growin'Up" arguably found their definitive performances during this tour. The solos, the naked anger, the interludes, the stories, that's Magic Springsteen will never recapture again. Nor will he play those R&R covers with quite the same enthusiasm and passion as he did during this tour. The show would eventually be the basis for a large portion of the live boxed set that hit the market in '86. In their "wisdom" Springsteen and Landau decided to edit many of those performances. Though the boxed set gave a nice overview of Springsteen's career as a live performer, the release is still cause for frustration amongst fans up until this day. 30 years down the road and we still need to turn to the bootleggers for a true sense of what a Springsteen shows truly is all about. We can only hope wisdom comes with the years and Springsteen will set the record straight with this years 30th anniversary of the "Darkness On The Edge Of Town" album. Till that time comes, this Roxy show is an absolute essential.
Download the full show here
Read Dave Marsh's original review for the July 7th show and interview with Springsteen, "Bruce Springsteen Raises Cain" from Rolling Stone, published in August 1978.
Sound: 5 out of 5
Show: 5+ out of 5
Artwork: 5 out of 5