Action In The Streets 1977
By Erik Flannigan
Bruce Springsteen’s national breakthrough came in 1975 with the release of Born to Run. The album’s supporting tour commenced that July and continued in multiple phases through the spring of 1977 when, after playing some 170 shows, Bruce and the E Street Band finally returned to the studio to record Darkness On The Edge Of Town.
Springsteen’s performances in this transitional era represent some of the most fascinating and vital of his career, with evolving setlists that dug deep into his first three albums, embraced inspired cover songs and, by early 1976, began testing new material intended for Bruce’s next album.
The final stretch of the 21-month trek was an eight-week run in early 1977 that saw Bruce and the E Street Band again augmented by the Miami Horns, the four-piece horn section that first joined the tour in August 1976.
While Springsteen’s 1975 performances are captured brilliantly by the official Hammersmith Odeon DVD and live album along with the Philadelphia 12/31/75 download, the 1976-77 stretch of the Born to Run tour isn’t nearly as well documented. In fact, until now, no soundboard tape of the ‘77 tour has ever surfaced among collectors.
Which is what makes this pair of newly recovered and nearly complete soundboard recordings of the tour’s first two shows–Albany, NY, February 7 and Rochester, NY, February 8 –such a significant addition to Springsteen’s live performance history. They provide the first high-quality tapes from a compelling period when no multi-track recordings were made. And in the case of opening night in Albany, not even an audience tape has ever circulated before among fans.
Across the two nights we are treated to a trove of significant performances, beginning with Albany’s audacious opener, a true work-in-progress version of “Something In The Night” featuring remarkable alternate lyrics. Another unreleased song, the freshly penned “Rendezvous,” pops up early in both sets, along with the epic cover of The Animals’ “It’s My Life” and the Miami Horns/Clarence Clemons spotlight number, “Action In The Streets.”
Amazingly, this download marks the first ever official release of “Action In The Streets.” The Springsteen original was performed nearly every night of the ‘77 tour, but would never be played again with the E Street Band. There is also no known studio recording of the delightful soul rave-up, making its inclusion on these tapes all the sweeter in a version so embryonic, the chorus does not yet feature the song’s eventual title!
The two shows do vary slightly, with Albany getting a wonderful and spirited “Growin’ Up,” while Rochester pays tribute to Eddie Floyd with a cover of “Raise Your Hand.”
But for many, the indisputable highlight of the ‘77 tour was its stunning performances of “Backstreets,” which featured an expanded mid-song narrative of betrayal that teems with raw emotion and reaches its crescendo, as captured gloriously on both recordings, when Springsteen shouts repeatedly with mesmerizing conviction, “You lied!”
Albany also includes a striking solo-piano led version of “The Promise” (moved to the encore and joined in progress the next night in Rochester), perhaps the greatest Springsteen original penned in the era and yet another gem uncovered on these remarkable Front of House mix tapes recorded by Chas Gerber. While there are a few cuts due to tape flips, between the two shows we get a complete version of every song performed.