I stood outside of Lee’s Palace on a rainy Toronto night in September 2009 chatting with a stranger waiting in line for the same show I was, discussing Bruce Springsteen. I’d mentioned to him I’d seen him and the E Street Band before and then he started talking about the shows he’d seen and how he collected bootlegs. He mentioned that the “Live at Winterland” show from December 15, 1978 was one of the best. Given how these conversations usually go when you steer into bootleg territory, I kind of though little of it until he contacted me with a link to the set a few days later.
The truth is, it’s fantastic. Particularly this version of “Prove it All Night”, with over an eleven-minute running time that annihilates the studio version found on “Darkness on the Edge of Town”. That’s for so many reasons – the cinematic piano, the otherworldliness of Clarence Clemons’s saxophone bookended by THOSE savage guitar solos and Bruce’s fervid vocal. Unbelievable.
This performance – this band – that tour – is a snapshot of a group running white hot after spending years on the road together with the power to transform a great song into something absolutely transcendent. Yes, it’s long, but you won’t want it to end.