Hiding on the Backstreets: Remembering Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band In Houston

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Daniel Kramer
The Boss at Toyota Center, April 2009
This past weekend's show in Buffalo, N.Y., was the last date on a nearly two-year (and two-album-supporting) trek by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, which found them criss-crossing the country and the globe several times to rapt audiences, with a stop at the Super Bowl and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concerts. But fans and Internet chat rooms alike have been ablaze pondering the musical question: Is this the last hurrah?

Springsteen recently turned 60, and even he can't keep up his superhuman energy levels for much longer. Keyboardist Danny Federici has passed away... guitarist Nils Lofgren has had hip replacement surgery... and 67-year-old sax man Clarence Clemons isn't in the best of health these days. Plus, Steven Van Zandt needs to memorize lines for that Sopranos movie! (Well, we can dream on that last one.)

But if indeed this is the last full tour, no one is saying anything at this point. When super Springsteen site Backstreets.com interviewed the man himself way back in 2007 (at the start of the tour), he said, "I envision the band carrying on for many, many, many more years. There ain't gonna be any farewell tour. That's the only thing I know for sure."

In Buffalo - also according to Backstreets - he told the crowd, "The E Street Band has come thousands of miles tonight to be here one last time... for a little while... to fulfill our solemn vow to rock the house!" But whatever happens in Boss Land, Houston audiences have gotten their share of memorable shows in more than 35 years of shows here. Some memories after the jump...

3/9 & 3/11/74 - Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J/ The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle tours, Liberty Hall

Bruce apparently really enjoyed his first Houston shows at this storied venue, so much that he namechecks it in "This Hard Land" ("Hey, Frank, won't you pack your bags/ And meet me tonight down at Liberty Hall") as well as mention it during most later stops.

"After the these shows, you could not find a copy of [his records] in all of Harris County. The buzz from the live shows, plus the local airplay, which was non-stop for every track on the album (boy, those days are gone forever), elevated him to god status in Houston overnight. You couldn't escape that live tape of him on the piano, with a drummer, and bass, I think, playing 'The Fever.' And you didn't want to escape it. Such passion."

- Mel Sharkskin, formerly of Public News

9/13/75, Born to Run tour, Music Hall

From the recollections of "Esmerelda K" in the book For You, who was 13 at the time and went with her brother to the show, enjoying a number of beers beforehand:

"I remember the lights going off and it scared me. Then I was startled when everybody jumped to their feet and started screaming (I thought it might be a fire or something). My brother pulled me up by the arm as the band hit the stage.

"I probably don't have to explain the rest - standing suddenly when very drunk... the blood rushing to your head...the subsequent loss of consciousness. Apparently, I hit my head on the seat in front of me on the way to the floor and I was out cold. The next thing I remember is my brother urgently whispering, 'Wake up, shithead,' so I could walk into the house without my parents being unnecessarily disturbed."

Summer 1978/ 12/8/78, Darkness on the Edge of Town tour, Sam Houston Coliseum/the Summit

"I remember backstage after the Darkness tour show, I was going out the rear door (his backstage was never anything but business, so I was told, but I had to see since I had the pass, and my seats to the show were about as bad as they could be in the Coliseum. So there were all these fans at the rear loadout door and there was Bruce signing all this kid's bootleg albums, looking them over and saying, "Wow, you got some I never even saw!"

- Mel Sharkskin
Tomorrow: Into the '80s with The River and Born In the U.S.A. tours and beyond...


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