The new high resolution download of Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band at The Capitol Theater 1978 is something of a revelation for fans of The Boss. It has been meticulously restored by Plangent Processes‘ innovative technology which has been used previously by Bruce as well as The Grateful Dead and many others.
Even if you taped this show off the air on a Nakamichi Dragon cassette recorder or a fancier-still reel to reel machine back in the day, you probably haven’t heard this music sound this good. And if you heard this show from one of the many variant versions of the Piece De Resistance bootleg, that added in a whole host of other problems to the recording… Even the CD versions of that have a sort of wonkiness to the sound. The versions on YouTube are all over the place sonics wise…
Well, on the most basic level, this new version is skipping over the compression placed on all broadcasts for radio transmission back in the day… It is eliminating tape hiss and other recording anomalies you may have incurred on your consumer grade or even pro grade tape machine while recording said compressed FM broadcast. If you, like me, didn’t have a great tape deck to begin with in 1978 and got your copy dubbed from your friend’s mid-range Akai or Harmon Kardon deck, well then you will be hearing this concert without that multi-generation loss and other distortion which inevitably inserted itself into your copy of the show.
But even more important, Plangent Processes technology is effectively eliminating problems that might have existed with the original tapes. You are effectively hearing a line recording of the show the way it happened (more on that in a moment) but its even better than that as Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band at The Capitol Theater 1978 was recorded on multi-track tape, so it has been properly mixed (by Jon Altschiller) for the first time since the 1978 live broadcast!
I asked Plangent Processes’ founder and inventor Jamie Howarth what we can expect to hear on this version of the show. He provided some helpful insights (provided unedited to ensure contextual and technical accuracy):
“The tapes were in immaculate condition but like all tapes from that era needed to be baked.
They were well recorded by Record Plant Remote. But ANY analog machine adds a subtle abstraction to the performance – doesn’t feel as real, because the timing and pitch shifts affect the steadiness of the performance, less tight, less “muscular” in this case. We’re usually hearing 2 layers of this (the multitrack and the stereo mixdown) but here those problems are gone… we’re hearing the mics, the actual playing – with zero deterioration in groove or intonation.
Another subtlety is the reduction in intermodulation distortion. The tape transports’ flutter is not just a gargle (which is a fairly low frequency flutter) but actually if the flutter is above 20Hz in oscillation rate (stop and picture that) it starts to manifest as the same sum and difference distortion that is classic IM, only worse… at many more frequencies and with many more multiples than would be found in a preamp or amp. If these levels of IM distortion were in a piece of electronics it would be roundly criticized. But because of the way flutter is thought-modeled and measured it’s not even recognized as distortion. We are often described as Windex for audio because the removal of those beats and ring modulations clears out the clouded texture omnipresent in tape recording generation loss. Here there is none of it. Typical well maintained multi-tracks generated well over 0.1% IM. Clearly audible in absentia post-processed.”
So, you may be wondering what I have heard on this new master of Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band at The Capitol Theater 1978? Well, the drums and bass are indeed immediately more focused, tighter and rounder. Bruce’s guitar leads are scorching without harshnesses. I’m not hearing certain distortions I remember from the many times I listened to this concert on my dubbed cassette (for the record: I didn’t bother to go looking for my old cassette to compare knowing the multi-generational version I had… heck…. I don’t know if I even have it anymore!).
Jump ahead toward the end of the show to spine tingling intro to Bruce’s cover of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” and you’ll hear to the sound of a band on fire resonating in the concert hall… Listen for the sound of the Capitol Theater reverberating Bruce and the E-Street Band’s palpable energy… Take in that amazing slap echo on Bruce’s voice. It is just haunting.
Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band at The Capitol Theater 1978 was very much a homecoming for The Boss and he rose to the occasion delivering a performance that many consider among his best. Riding on the joy of his then new hit album Darkness On The Edge Of Town, Bruce was not resting on his laurels with this show (has he ever? no way!). He broke out no less than four new songs for this broadcast. “Point Blank” and “Independence Day” appeared a couple years later on The River. Bruce delivered a soaring version of a song he co-wrote with Patti Smith — which she was having a hit with at that time — “Because The Night.” “Fire” would be a hit for The Pointer Sisters but Bruce’s concert version remained unreleased until the Live 1975-85 boxed set and a studio version didn’t come out until The Promise was released in the 00s.
Anyhow, I could go on but I think you get the idea that Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band at The Capitol Theater 1978 is probably a download you’ll want to get sooner rather than later.
You’ll not only hear an incredible concert again sounding better than ever before but if you’re like me it may stir buried memories… For me, listening to this restored recording of Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band at The Capitol Theater 1978 rekindles forgotten high school times, lost nights spent cruising suburban and city backstreets, replaying this concert in a friend’s beat up old car on cassette… drinking stale beer, chasing romance and contemplating when you’d be able to break away from that scene for a better future. For tramps like us, this concert was part of that life soundtrack… Lyrics to then-unreleased songs like “Independence Day” resonating in the Summer heat:
It’s Independence Day all boys must run away
So say goodbye it’s Independence Day
All men must make their way come Independence Day”
Answering the question of the headline above: I do consider Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band at The Capitol Theater 1978 essential listening.