A Fan’s Thoughts on the Springsteen 1978 Darkness Tour

A friend and fellow Bruce fan reminded me to write something about the Darkness tour a few years ago when you were seeking input for your book, The Light in Darkness. I never got around to writing or contributing anything, but I’m pleased that its not too late. Here are my thoughts about the tour, and the impact it has had on my life.
Leon Mayeri

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I had the great fortune of working security for literally dozens of rock concerts in the Bay Area, beginning in the early seventies. I saw virtually every band of that era, including the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, the Kinks, David Bowie, the Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, the Who, and even the Beatles, (at the Cow Palace in 1965). The most powerful show I can remember prior to 1978 was probably The Who at Winterland in 1976. That show revealed awesome, magnificent qualities of rock and roll that I had not witnessed before.

Yet there was an amazing new source of inspiration found through the raw intensity of live music that I discovered on July 1, 1978, at the Berkeley Community Theater, an experience which has had a lasting impact on my life, my soul and spirit. The venue was, and remains, one of the great acoustical auditoriums in all of California, and I sat in the sound booth. (I believe the person sitting next to me was Jimmy Iovine) Bruce was exuberant, serious, funny, and very thoughtful to the needs of the crowd that night. He believed he was presenting something they had never seen before, and he was right. During the intermission, I told the sound technician that I had never, ever witnessed anything like what I had just heard. He looked at me and just grinned with joy. The show was punctuated with Bruce’s final words of the evening, at the end of Quarter to Three: “I’m just a prisoner of rock and roll, and you just got a life sentence.”

Later that summer, I was in New York and saw a rather memorable show at MSG that confirmed just how transformative Bruce’s music was. It was a larger venue than the Berkeley show, yet Bruce had the same profoundly intimate connection with the crowd, and he showed us that evening that he was the embodiment of all of the great sources of rock and roll that inspired him, including Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, and Eric Burdon. It was 8/23/78, and his mom came out on stage during the encores. Even though, at the time, I had already seen at least 60 rock shows, I began to truly understand the exceptional virtue of live rock music, its message, and its fleeting, yet transcendent qualities. I was so startled and captured by all of this, so I found my way to another Darkness tour show, just a few days later, in New Haven, Connecticut.

The impact of those 1978 shows continues to this very day. Over the years, I’ve followed virtually all of Bruce’s tours, and I’ve accumulated some exceptional boots of his 1978 performances. I can truly say that the 1978 tour was not only the greatest rock and roll tour in history, but it was perhaps the greatest series of live performances by any American artist, in any live entertainment medium, in our nation’s history. Those are big words. And, while every tour since 1978 has revealed – in many original and altered forms – the reverence and commitment to incredible sound, to sincerity and hope, and to making the crowd feel the music in that moment, I also feel the Wrecking Ball tour will find its way into the hallowed halls of greatest performances ever, by any musician.

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