Getting ready for the “Darkness” box: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Houston 1978

Bruce Springsteen in 1978 (Photo by Mark Wyville)

When the big box set for The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story comes out next week, the six-disc set will include a bonus DVD with an entire live show from Houston in 1978.   I’m not quite sure I want to buy this set, because I was at that show … and I don’t know if I have the stamina to relive it all over again.

December 1978 came to Texas with a cold and bitter wind, and I was in Austin covering a girls’ volleyball tournament for the Port Arthur News.  The final games were Thursday afternoon at the University of Texas, and we were hearing rumblings about a big concert across campus: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.  I had seen Springsteen once before, at the Armadillo World HQ about four years earlier; another media guy from my area had never experienced a Springsteen show before and he really wanted to go.

Not my ticket, I found this on the internet

Our tournament rolled on into the early evening, and we knew attending any concert was out of the question as we dutifully interviewed sweaty high school girls and filed our stories.  Later we walked down Guadalupe toward Conan’s Pizza in a bitterly cold wind; it felt like someone was hurling steak knives into our asses, their points digging even deeper because we knew we were walking away from a Springsteen show.

By this time everybody had heard about Springsteen’s marathon shows, about 25 songs stretching into three hours or so.  Upon seeing Springsteen in 1974 at Houston’s Liberty Hall, my friend Cindy said “this guy has to be on speed” and talk of these marathon shows seemed to confirm that notion. Well, no use dwelling on it … time for pizza and beer.   But every time somebody opened that goddamn front door the freezing wind blew in some ecstatic couple raving about the killer rock show they’d just seen.

So the next day, Friday, we’re driving back to the Armpit of Texas through Houston.  Listening to rock station KLOL, we heard the announcement that a handful of tickets was about to go on sale at the Summit box office for Springsteen’s sold-out show that night.   In the days before online ticket ordering and cell phones there were just a few ways to get a primo concert ticket.  One was to camp out for hours – or maybe days – at the venue box office until they went on sale.   The other was to drive like a freakin’ lunatic down Houston’s Loop 610, dodging other cars like A.J. Foyt on a DUI.

Long story short: $10 apiece (eight bucks and some change, plus a bogus “service charge” even then), and we were in!  Crummy seats to the right of the stage, but at least we had tickets.  Cruising down the ramp with our prizes in hand, we heard a squeal of tires on the other end … another Boss fan about to get his wings!

The Summit - Now it's a freakin' church!

Show time!  Springsteen and band hit the stage roaring into “Badlands.”  Just a couple of tunes into the show he introduced “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City,” dedicating it to the Liberty Hall crowd.  A little later, Springsteen caught his breath by asking, “What’s the deal with the lousy weather?   It’s like New Jersey down here!”

Ah, what else do I remember?  They did “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town,” with the big intro (“It was a cold December night … me and Steve walking on the boardwalk …”  They also did “Because The Night,” which was a Patti Smith single (I had the “topless” picture sleeve) and “Fire,” which I knew from the Robert Gordon-Link Wray version (the Pointer Sisters hit came a little later, I believe).

He also did “The Fever,” which was huge in Houston because they played the hell out of it on KLOL.  And that long-ass guitar intro to “Prove It All Night” was pretty good.

The concert hit its homestretch with “Rosalita,” much longer because that’s where he introduced the band members, and “Born To Run.”  For the encore Springsteen and the E Streeters came out and did their version of Mitch Ryder’s “Devil In A Blue Dress” medley which pretty much whipped the crowd.  Nobody wanted to leave, and they were doing old Sixties covers when the lights went on again.  Springsteen refused to leave, taunting the crowd with “I thought you guys in Texas are so tough!”

When they finally managed to get the guy off stage for good, we walked out toward the parking garage.  The icy wind blew through, and I shivered harder than I had all week.  Only then did I realize: I was soaked in sweat!

Editor’s Note: The complete December 8, 1978 show will be included as a special DVD in the box set coming out next Tuesday. The Summit was one of the first venues in the country to employ an in-house closed circuit TV system during rock concerts; this show is the video seen by the audience, at least those who weren’t flailing around in rock and roll ecstasy.

“Because the Night”  Houston, Dec. 8, 1978 – (Don’t worry, the lights do come up!)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Video courtesy of Spinner.com

Bruce Springsteen.net

6 Responses to “Getting ready for the “Darkness” box: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Houston 1978”

  1. Marile Cloete Says:

    What wonderful memories!

  2. Nice job! I saw the same show, and many other Springsteen concerts in Houston. An incredible performer at his peak.

  3. Great vid, see and read more behind the scenes details from the Darknesss era here http://www.thelightinDarkness.com

    ps the photo above is not by Frank Stefanko, but by photographer Mark Wyville.

  4. Thanks James, we’ve corrected the photo attribution. That’s the way it came from Shore Fire Media.

  5. I was there with my girl friend (now my wife of 30 years) who had introduced me to his music a few years before. She is a Jersey girl from Freehold and had gone to the same parochial school as Bruce, though she was ten years younger and did not know him there. Unbelievable concert – I crowed about Bruce and his marathons for years after.
    I’m going to have to buy the set – just to see if you can go back – but mostly to relive that true rock and roll nuclear blast.

  6. Thanks for noting, and making the correction on my photo of Bruce.
    Shore Fire pulled it from their site.
    I also found Sirius E Street Radio used my shot Darkness booklet in their header and logo.
    I had to track down Sony/Sirius for that one too!

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