Darkness Tour

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Darkness Tour
Bruce1978PosterD.jpg
Tour by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Associated album Darkness on the Edge of Town
Start date May 23, 1978
End date January 1, 1979
Legs 1
Shows 115
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concert chronology
Born to Run tours
(1974-1977)
Darkness Tour
(1978)
The River Tour
(1980-1981)

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's Darkness Tour was a concert tour of North America that ran from May 1978 through the rest of the year, in conjunction with the release of Springsteen's album Darkness on the Edge of Town. (Like most Springsteen tours it had no official name, but this is the most commonly used; it is also sometimes referred to as the Darkness on the Edge of Town Tour or most simply the 1978 Tour.)

The tour has since become viewed as perhaps Springsteen's best in a storied career of concert performances. Biographer Dave Marsh wrote in 1987, "The screaming intensity of those '78 shows are part of rock and roll legend in the same way as Dylan's 1966 shows with the Band, the Rolling Stones' tours of 1969 and 1972, and the Who's Tommy tour of 1969: benchmarks of an era."

Itinerary[edit]

The tour ran in one continuous motion, starting May 23, 1978 at Shea's Buffalo in Buffalo, New York and playing halls, theatres, and occasional arenas across the United States and back several times, with a couple of forays into Canada. The first eight shows were played before the Darkness album was released on June 2. Big cities, secondary cities, college towns were all visited. A few shows were cancelled due to sickness but were made up later in the run. The tour wrapped up, after 115 shows, on New Year's Day 1979 in Cleveland, Ohio's Richfield Coliseum.

After a brief, unpleasant 1975 touring experience in Europe after the release of Born to Run, and with the weaker commercial appeal of Darkness compared to its predecessor, Springsteen did not venture overseas on this tour.

The show[edit]

The 1978 shows were longer than in previous Springsteen tours, typically around 25 songs, but they were not yet the true marathon concerts that would occupy the River and Born in the U.S.A. Tours. Nor was the set list variety that great among Springsteen songs, as his career was not yet long enough to offer the old rarities surprises of the later Reunion, Rising, or Magic Tours.

Rather, the word that almost every account of the 1978 shows uses, is intense. "Badlands" often opened, with the verses were taken at a much faster pace than in the studio, with drumming more active, and with Springsteen fairly spitting out the lyrics nearly ahead of the band's ability to keep up. "Born to Run" near the end of the show was also done at breakneck speed. In contrast, slower numbers such as "Streets of Fire" were taken even more slowly, with ghostly organ lines set off against Springsteen's growling-to-screaming vocals.

Many new Springsteen songs appeared. Some were songs that were or soon would be big hits for others, such as "Fire" and "Because the Night". Two new slow numbers that were immediately accessible and especially effective were aching family saga "Independence Day" and the nightmare "Point Blank", both of which would later appear on the 1980 The River album, as would several other songs first heard sporadically in 1978.

Especially notable were some of the treatments of his most famous songs. "Prove It All Night", the failed first single from Darkness, was reshaped into an eleven-minute epic with a long, howling guitar-over-piano introduction and a frenetic organ-and-guitar-over-drums outro; this rendition would become a fan favorite still referred back to decades later. "Racing in the Street"'s piano outro was surprise-segued into the piano intro to "Thunder Road". On Born to Run, "Backstreets" was already a six-and-a-half minute epic tale of betrayal and loss that critic Greil Marcus had likened to The Iliad; now it was extended to eleven to thirteen minutes by way of a long, mostly soft piano-based interpolation variously known as "Baby I remember you", "Little girl don't cry" or "Sad eyes"; on some recordings the audience can be heard squealing as the emotional drama plays out, before the tempo rises, suddenly stops, and the "Hiding on the ba-ack-streets" coda kicks back in full force. This interlude would later be used as the basis for part of "Drive All Night" on The River, but for many fans, in this extended 1978 "Backstreets" Springsteen had found the height of his performance artistry.

Throughout, the E Street Band had a powerful but almost sparse sound, with each instrument's role clearly delineated (as members were added in the 1990s and 2000s the band's sound would become bigger but lose this clarity). In particular, Roy Bittan's piano was the musical keystone of many of the numbers.

Of course not everything in the show was moody. The third number played was nearly always the seriocomic, crowd-involving "Spirit in the Night", and towards the end of the shows things lightened up considerably with set closer "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" and encores including Springsteen's classic R&B "Detroit Medley" frolic and James Brown-styled antics during Gary U.S. Bonds' party dance anthem "Quarter to Three". Springsteen's on-stage raps and stories became a little more honest than before, with his trademark "goddamn guitar" story about the bitter conflicts with his father leavened by a hint of embrace (especially when a family member was present).

The tour also saw Springsteen headlining full-sized arenas for the first time (including New York's Madison Square Garden), a move that he agonized over lest the increase in scale undermine his control over the audience. The shows still translated in the larger venues, and Springsteen would play in arenas or sometimes even stadiums for decades to come.

Songs performed[edit]

Critical and commercial reception[edit]

According to the unofficial fan website Brucebase, most of the shows on the tour were sell-outs or near sell-outs; only a handful had substantial numbers of empty seats, including one in Kalamazoo, Michigan where Springsteen offered to compensate the promoter for any financial loss. According to Lynn Goldsmith, tour photographer and Springsteen's girlfriend at the time, there were more than a few half-full venues, but Springsteen's performance level never varied no matter how many were there to watch.

Los Angeles Times critic Robert Hilburn wrote, "I realized the faith I was beginning to put in Springsteen the December day in 1978 that I drove 400 miles to Tucson, Arizona, to see him in concert [for personal reasons, not as a professional assignment]. The show was part of a short western swing near the end of the Darkness tour that skipped Los Angeles.... [a] swell of emotion came to me during Bruce's concert in Tucson ... seeing Springsteen push himself so hard on stage and listening to the eloquence of his songs made me forget about doubts and think about my own dreams again."

Lynn Goldsmith later said that the 1978 Tour was far from the stereotypical rock tour, and compared it to The Rolling Stones' 1978 American Tour which she had also covered: "With Bruce, it was no drugs, no drinking, [long] sound checks and [long] shows. With the Stones, it was no sound check, lots of parties and running off-stage as quickly as possible to catch the private plane.... During that tour, Bruce didn't have any money, period. Instead of hanging out at discos after shows, he'd just as likely pass the time by playing pinball or watching the landscape roll by from the back of the bus."

Broadcasts and recordings[edit]

Live radio broadcasts help spread the reputation of the 1978 Tour.

One of the reasons the 1978 Tour is so well-remembered, and often viewed as the peak of Springsteen and the E Street Band in concert, is that several complete shows were broadcast live on progressive rock and album-oriented rock radio stations. These included the July 7 show at West Hollywood's The Roxy, broadcast on KMET, the August 9 show at Cleveland's Agora Ballroom, broadcast on WMMS, the September 19 show at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, New Jersey, broadcast on WNEW-FM, the September 30 show from the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, broadcast on about 20 Southeastern stations, and the December 15 show from the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, broadcast on KSAN-FM. These broadcasts were mixed by Jimmy Iovine and of high audio quality, and were listened to at the time by a larger audience than attended the concerts. Over the years the stations would surreptitiously play the broadcasts again, and many high-quality bootlegs were made and circulated of these shows.

A syndicated radio interview with New York disc jockey Dave Herman also included live excerpts from a July 1 Berkeley Community Theatre show, including the long "Prove It All Night"; these clips would also be heard on other radio promotional vehicles such as the King Biscuit Flower Hour.

In addition, in the early 1980s a long music video for "Rosalita" was released to MTV, from the July 8 show on this tour (filmed in its entirety) at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Arizona, that included band introductions and numerous adoring women rushing the stage. It captured the energetic and playful side of Springsteen and the E Street Band in concert, and was the first such introduction many casual fans had. This was included in the 1989 video Video Anthology / 1978-88.

The 1986 Live/1975-85 box set contained nine selections from the 1978 Tour, but fans were generally dissatisfied with them, as the "Backstreets" interlude was edited out, other raps and stories were edited or spliced together from different shows, and the long "Prove It All Night" was missing altogether. Additionally, a few of the tracks from the 1978 contained overdubs recorded at the Hit Factory during 1986.

In 2006, Springsteen manager Jon Landau indicated that a full-length filmed concert DVD from the Darkness Tour might be in the offing, following a similar release for a 1975 Born to Run tour show. Fans speculated heavily about such a possibility. It finally materialized in November 2010 with the release of The Promise: The Making of "Darkness On the Edge of Town", an elaborate box set that included a DVD containing a house recording of the full December 8, 1978, show from Houston's The Summit arena.

Personnel[edit]

Tour dates[edit]

Date City Country Venue
May 23, 1978 Buffalo United States Shea's Performing Arts Center
May 24, 1978 Albany Palace Theatre
May 26, 1978 Philadelphia The Spectrum
May 27, 1978
May 29, 1978 Boston Boston Music Hall
May 30, 1978
May 31, 1978
June 2, 1978 Annapolis Halsey Field House
June 3, 1978 Uniondale Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum
June 5, 1978 Toledo Toledo Sports Arena
June 6, 1978 Indianapolis Indiana Convention Center
June 8, 1978 Madison Dane County Memorial Coliseum
June 9, 1978 Milwaukee MECCA Arena
June 10, 1978 Bloomington Metropolitan Sports Center
June 13, 1978 Iowa City Hancher Auditorium
June 14, 1978 Omaha Civic Auditorium Music Hall
June 16, 1978 Kansas City Memorial Hall
June 17, 1978 St. Louis Kiel Auditorium
June 20, 1978 Morrison Red Rocks Amphitheatre
June 23, 1978 Portland Paramount Theatre
June 24, 1978
June 25, 1978 Seattle Paramount Theatre
June 26, 1978 Vancouver Canada Queen Elizabeth Theatre
June 29, 1978 San Jose United States San Jose Center for the Performing Arts
June 30, 1978 Berkeley Berkeley Community Theatre
July 1, 1978
July 5, 1978 Inglewood The Forum
July 7, 1978 West Hollywood Roxy Theatre
July 8, 1978 Phoenix Veterans Memorial Coliseum
July 9, 1978 San Diego San Diego Sports Arena
July 12, 1978 Dallas Dallas Convention Center Theater
July 14, 1978 San Antonio Memorial Auditorium
July 15, 1978 Houston Sam Houston Coliseum
July 16, 1978 New Orleans Municipal Auditorium
July 18, 1978 Jackson Jackson Municipal Auditorium
July 19, 1978 Memphis Dixon-Myers Hall
July 21, 1978 Nashville Nashville Municipal Auditorium
July 28, 1978 Miami Jai Alai Fronton
July 29, 1978 St. Petersburg Bayfront Center Arena
July 31, 1978 Columbia Township Auditorium
August 1, 1978 Charleston Gaillard Municipal Auditorium
August 2, 1978 Charlotte Charlotte Coliseum
August 4, 1978 Charleston Charleston Civic Center
August 5, 1978 Louisville Louisville Gardens
August 7, 1978 Kalamazoo Wings Stadium
August 9, 1978 Cleveland The Agora
August 10, 1978 Rochester Rochester Community War Memorial
August 12, 1978 Augusta Augusta Civic Center
August 14, 1978 Hampton Hampton Coliseum
August 15, 1978 Landover Capital Centre
August 18, 1978 Philadelphia The Spectrum
August 19, 1978
August 21, 1978 New York City Madison Square Garden
August 22, 1978
August 23, 1978
August 25, 1978 New Haven New Haven Veterans Memorial Coliseum
August 26, 1978 Providence Providence Civic Center
August 28, 1978 Pittsburgh Stanley Theatre
August 29, 1978
August 30, 1978 Richfield Township Coliseum at Richfield
September 1, 1978 Detroit Masonic Temple Theatre
September 3, 1978 Saginaw Saginaw Civic Center
September 5, 1978 Columbus Veterans Memorial Auditorium
September 6, 1978 Chicago Uptown Theatre
September 9, 1978 Notre Dame Athletic & Convocation Center
September 10, 1978 Cincinnati Riverfront Coliseum
September 12, 1978 Syracuse Syracuse Memorial Auditorium
September 13, 1978 Springfield Springfield Civic Center
September 15, 1978 New York City The Palladium
September 16, 1978
September 17, 1978
September 19, 1978 Passaic Capitol Theatre
September 20, 1978
September 21, 1978
September 25, 1978 Boston Boston Garden
September 29, 1978 Birmingham Boutwell Memorial Auditorium
September 30, 1978 Atlanta Fox Theatre
October 1, 1978
October 17, 1978 West Hollywood The Troubadour
November 1, 1978 Princeton Jadwin Gymnasium
November 2, 1978 Landover Capital Centre
November 4, 1978 Burlington Patrick Gym
November 5, 1978 Durham UNH Field House
November 7, 1978 Ithaca Barton Hall
November 8, 1978 Montreal Canada Montreal Forum
November 10, 1978 St. Bonaventure United States Reilly Center
November 12, 1978 Troy RPI Field House
November 14, 1978 Utica, New York Utica Memorial Auditorium
November 16, 1978 Toronto Canada Maple Leaf Gardens
November 17, 1978 East Lansing United States Munn Ice Arena
November 18, 1978 Oxford Millett Hall
November 20, 1978 Champaign Assembly Hall
November 21, 1978 Evanston McGaw Hall
November 25, 1978 St. Louis Kiel Opera House
November 27, 1978 Milwaukee MECCA Arena
November 28, 1978 Madison Dane County Memorial Coliseum
November 29, 1978 Saint Paul St. Paul Civic Center Arena
December 1, 1978 Norman Lloyd Noble Center
December 3, 1978 Carbondale SIU Arena
December 5, 1978 Baton Rouge LSU Assembly Center
December 7, 1978 Austin Special Events Center
December 8, 1978 Houston The Summit
December 9, 1978 Dallas Dallas Convention Center Arena
December 13, 1978 Tucson Tucson Community Center Arena
December 15, 1978 San Francisco Winterland Ballroom
December 16, 1978
December 19, 1978 Portland Paramount Theatre
December 20, 1978 Seattle Seattle Center Arena
December 27, 1978 Pittsburgh Stanley Theatre
December 28, 1978
December 30, 1978 Detroit Cobo Arena
December 31, 1978 Richfield Township Coliseum at Richfield
January 1, 1979
Cancellations and rescheduled shows
July 12, 1978 Dallas, Texas Dallas Convention Center Arena Moved to the Dallas Convention Center Theater
July 22, 1978 Birmingham, Alabama Boutwell Memorial Auditorium Rescheduled to September 29, 1978
July 23, 1978 Atlanta, Georgia Fox Theatre Rescheduled to September 30, 1978
July 25, 1978 Jacksonville, Florida Civic Auditorium Cancelled
July 26, 1978 Lakeland, Florida Lakeland Civic Center Cancelled
August 8, 1978 Toronto, Canada Ryerson Theatre Cancelled
December 11, 1978 Boulder, Colorado Macky Auditorium Cancelled
December 18, 1978 Portland, Oregon Paramount Theatre Rescheuled to December 19, 1978

Sources[edit]