Every Thursday, we dig through the Paste Cloud archives to revisit some of our favorite old concert videos and audio. This week, we’ve got material from Bruce Springsteen, Etta James and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band: Live at the Capitol Theatre, 1978
If Elvis is the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll, Springsteen must be nothing short of a god. His divinity would also explain the religious experience that is this 1978 concert at Capitol Theatre in Passaic, N.J.
Over the course of his 10-song set, the Jersey boy enjoys a welcome homecoming from the audience, and Springsteen is seen more at home during this performance than he is anywhere else in the world. From the first few notes of the band’s searing opening song “Badlands,” Bruce and company are unrelenting as they play through hit after hit. Even the deeper album cuts performed by the band feel like chart-toppers thanks to their dynamic performance.
It is not even the second song into the set when Springsteen first finds himself submerged in the crowd of crazed New Jersey fans, arguably the most enthusiastic fan base in history. While finishing up “Spirit of the Night,” Bruce is honored to have been given a handmade cloth sign from a fan, which only bolsters his performance as the band dives right into “Darkness On the Edge of Town.” While the Boss gives himself a minute to cool off during the song’s more somber moments, his energy comes back in full force by the time the chorus comes around.
In the world of rock ‘n’ roll, there are musicians and then there are performers. It is respectable to see a band leave everything out on the stage during their performance, but it is so often at the cost of their music coming in second. But with Springsteen, the personality is as important as the music is. Only a group assembled by the likes of the Boss has the ability to keep up with such a kinetic performer, but the E Street Band plays right alongside the icon, even during their 10-minute rendition of “Jungleland” closing out the show. To put it bluntly, there is a clear reason why no one questions Springsteen’s title as “The Boss.”—Kurt Suchman
Etta James: Live at Newport Jazz Festival, 1991
Etta James was one of the most celebrated soul singers of all time. She was one of the acts signed to the legendary label Chess Records. In this exceptional performance from the Newport Jazz Festival on August 17, 1991, Etta James had just came out of a stint from rehab three years earlier, but she comes through in this performance firing on all cylinders. The first two tracks in this set are instrumentals performed by James’ backing band. It’s not until the third song, “Breakin’ Up Somebody’s Home,” that Etta James actually takes the stage.
Being a festival show, this set is on the shorter end. However there are a variety of highlights, most notably Etta James’ magnificent performance of “Something’s Got A Hold On Me.” Fans of EDM artists Pretty Lights and Avicii, who have both sampled the tune in their own productions, will recognize this classic song. James’ performance of “Your Good Thing” is another notable moment. By the time the closing number “You Can Leave Your Hat On” comes around, the audience clearly feels like they have gotten their money’s worth. Unfortunately, Etta James died in 2012 of leukemia. However, this performance is an excellent way to honor her memory, and show what a true talent she was in the realm of soul music.—Ben Rosner
Lynyrd Skynyrd: Live at the Winterland Ballroom, 1976
Ill-fated but triumphant, Lynyrd Skynyrd are the tragic heroes of rock ‘n’ roll. The group first assembled in Jacksonville, Florida in the ‘60s as My Backyard, later renaming themselves after the high school P.E. teacher who enforced a rule against boys with long hair. It was a goofy, self-referential measure of rebellion, seeing how everyone in the band boasts a full head of collar-grazing locks. Leonard Skinner eventually turned into Lynyrd Skynyrd, as they became monumental emblems of the Southern rock genre. This vintage footage shows their concert at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco on March 7, 1976 as part of the Nuthin’ Fancy Tour.
The set begins with “Cry For The Bad Man,” a song about the fallout over fiscal responsibilities between Ronnie Van Zant and the former manager of the band, Alan Walden. Even though the frontman lacks mobility in his live performance, Van Zant’s hearty, robust voice firmly holds its ground as he clutches at the mic stand. During “Gimme Back My Bullets,” the title track of the album they just released, Gary Rossington delivers a sleek guitar solo in a whirlwind of black strands and ornate tunic embellishments.
A micro-moment into “Sweet Home Alabama,” the audience is already cheering wildly and burgeoning with excitement. The song started off as a little riff that Rossington came up with while waiting for his bandmates to show up for rehearsal and turned into one of the most beloved Americana tunes in recent music history. The band thrives off of the sing-along communion that the crowd-pleaser brings, joyously tearing it up on the drums and keyboard as they perform.
The show wraps up with the power ballad “Free Bird,” which is the namesake of the biopic that former drummer, Artimus Pyle, is producing about Lynyrd Skynyrd this year. This concert took place about a year before the 1977 plane crash that brought the group’s golden age to an untimely end. Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, backup singer Cassie Gaines, road manager Dean Kilpatrick and many others lost their lives in the accident that ultimately led to an extended hiatus. Although still searing with heartbreak 10 years later, the surviving members and Van Zant’s brother brought about the revival of the mop-haired boys who got sent home from school by the now tangentially infamous gym teacher. Long live Leonard Skinner.—Mady Thuyein