35 Years Ago: Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness ‘Firecracker Show’

Dave Lifton
December 31, 2013

Bruce Springsteen’s 1978 tour in support of ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ took him from clubs and theaters to arenas over the course of its seven months. But it came close to ending in disaster. On Dec. 31, 1978 — the second-to-last-night of the tour — Springsteen got hit in the face with a lit firecracker.

The show took place at the Richfield Coliseum outside of Cleveland, which has always been one of Springsteen’s best markets. The two-night stand was the third time on the ‘Darkness’ tour that he had played Cleveland, including a show at the Agora on August 9 which has entered Springsteen lore as one of his greatest ever. And at his first show at the Coliseum 21 days later, things went so well that, after the show, he, Steve Van Zandt and Clarence Clemons went back to the Agora to sit in on a few songs with their friend Southside Johnny

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But on this night, what was supposed to ring in 1979 on a good note turned ugly shortly after midnight. Following the traditional ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and a cover of Elvis Presley’s ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight,’ someone in the crowd threw a firecracker onstage. It glanced off Springsteen’s face and then exploded. Fortunately, he was only slightly cut, with a bandage under his right eye marking where he got hit. After Van Zandt, who was perhaps auditioning for his future role on ‘The Sopranos,’ had some choice words for the hurler, Springsteen took to the mic. The audio, combined from both soundboard and audience sources, is embedded below.

“Now, I asked everybody, as I’ve seen people hurt at shows with firecrackers before, you know,” he said. “I’m gonna ask you again because we’re gonna be here tomorrow night…and you guys have always been great in this town. I love coming here and we love playing here — that’s why we came on New Year’s Eve. And the only thing I ask is that people don’t do stuff to hurt other people and to hurt themselves and to hurt me and whoever else is up here, because we came here to play some rock n’ roll for you, and you guys paid your money so you…could listen without being afraid of getting hurt or blown up or whatever. So if anybody sees anybody throwing stuff…just tell somebody so we can get ‘em out. If you want to throw something, we’ll give you your money back and you can throw it outside and do whatever you want.”

Springsteen and the E Street Band continued with ironically, the next song on the setlist, ‘Point Blank.’

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