Spirit of 76: Remembering when Bruce Springsteen brought Born to Run to The Spectrum
(UPDATE 10/2019: Though the original Soundboard recordings of these concerts have been removed from YouTube, individual songs remain, and we’ve shared those links below.)
It’s no accident that Bruce Springsteen frontloaded his his first arena shows in Philadelphia with three songs centered around a nocturnal theme.
On October 25th and October 27th, 1976, Springsteen played two concerts at The Spectrum, and both shows opened with “Night,” followed by the meet-at-midnight rare cut “Rendezvous,” and then “Spirit in the Night” from his debut LP Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ.
Obviously, the concerts took place during the night time, but there was more significance to it than that. On this soundboard recording of night two, you can hear The Boss sum it up in his delivery: “You work nine to five / and somehow you survive till the night.”
October 27th was a Wednesday. This wasn’t even a weekender crowd cheering for that lyric; it was people who had been at their respective grinds all day long, in offices or factories or schools or wherever they might be employed; people who had to go to work the next day but knew that they had earned this night out and were going to enjoy themselves. Springsteen himself was in the middle of a similar trajectory here. Trivia time: can you remember where Bruce played his first Philadelphia-area concert after the release of his breakout LP Born To Run? It wasn’t these shows at The Spectrum, that’s for sure. Think smaller. Much smaller. The album came out on August 25th, 1975, and Springsteen played the cozy Main Point in Bryn Mawr on September 4th. To be fair, it was an underplay at a venue he loved — he had done two nights at the Tower Theater the previous year, with other Main Point gigs in the mix — but the growth in the wake of Born To Run was exponential.
The Boss wrapped 1975 with three nights at the Tower Theater, including a New Years’ Eve gig, and for this, his next pass through Philadelphia, Springsteen was arena-size. (He and the E Street Band had been arena-ready for years.)
The above soundboard recording of the show on the 27th is a thing of beauty; the below audience recording of the show on the 25th drags a little by comparison, as audience bootlegs do, but both are nevertheless archival artifacts giving us a sense of how much Bruce and the band were an unstoppable force, even in their relative adolescence. Listen for stories about Bruce and Philly radio personality Ed Sciaky which may or may not be true, an early version of “Something In The Night” (there’s that theme again) from Darkness on the Edge of Town, a tearjerking take on “Incident on 57th Street” from The Wild, The Innocent, and The E Street Shuffle, and a killer performance by The Miami Horns on “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” and “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight).”