Signs and requests for the “’78 Intro” of “Prove It All Night” always struck me as strange, both for the possibility that Bruce would have no idea what the person wanted, and also for the temerity shown: it’s not enough to ask Bruce to play a specific song, you also want to tell him how to play it?
Obviously the versions of the song on the Darkness tour were inspired performances and one of many high water marks in Springsteen’s live career, but each tour is different for a reason. “Prove It” was played hundreds of times after 1978, and all (save 2 shows in 1980) omitted the “’78 Intro.” The fact that the introduction disappeared spoke to it being a unique product of the Darkness tour, and the way Bruce chose to present his songs at that time.
The pervasiveness of the requests (and/or Bruce’s sharp memory) was revealed on November 21, 2010 as part of a Sirius event for promotion of The Promise, when twenty fans were given the opportunity to ask Bruce a specific question related to Darkness on the Edge of Town. A few questions in, Bruce was directly asked why the introduction wasn’t played again and he responds:
“Alright, you’re one of the ’78 piano intro guys! This, there are clones of you throughout the – you know, in various places throughout the United States.
It was simply a – you know, it was simply a little opening, that at the time, I think we were – you know, you take the music out and you try to think, how can – how you’re gonna make it more dramatic and I said, ok, well, let’s, you know, let’s just start with the little, the opening chords, and Roy can play a little bit, and then I’ll get to play some lead, you know? So, and then eventually we — you know, you build, build and you crack into the tune.
It’s a, it was just a device, you know, something that worked nicely at the time. If you’d like to hear it again, that’ll probably never occur, my friend. But it was – it was good while it lasted.”
The answer (the shortest of all twenty from that night) certainly seemed quite definite and the issue was presumably closed. The answer was unusually specific for Bruce, who of course tends to speak of broad concepts and ideas in interviews rather than setlist minutiae. He clearly is aware of such matters but direct questions are rarely asked and rarely answered.
When giving an interview to Backstreets before the 2007 tour, Bruce allowed himself to be pinned down about “The Price You Pay,” acknowledging that “it’s become a thing just because I haven’t played it,” and further tipped his hand by mentioning in his answer “Crush On You,” which was the other album track that (at the time) had gone the longest without being played. Yet, by way of comparison, his answer to that question was still open-ended, and Bruce followed up two years later by bringing back “The Price You Pay” for a special occasion (his last show at the Spectrum).
Given his answer to the “’78 Prove It” question, it was that much more surprising to see the introduction get played again. Bruce acknowledged a requestor at the beginning of the performance but it would appear from how the band played that there was at least some pre-show discussion about the song, if not also a full-fledged rehearsal. My theory is that a fan had the chance to make an in-person appeal to Bruce and was rewarded handsomely.
One might think that if Bruce is open to playing “Prove It” in the “78 arrangement” the next logical step is the fabled “Sad Eyes” interlude of “Backstreets,” another live feature that was (mostly) exclusive to 1978. The belief here remains that the band could recreate the moment musically but Bruce would not be able to vocally and/or emotionally recreate that performance. The “Prove It” intro in Barcelona — which required no singing or improvisation of lyrics — was genuine, but I fear that if Bruce tries to do the “Sad Eyes” bit, he runs the risk of only achieving no better than a poor imitation of the ’78 performances.
There’s no doubting that Barcelona got a great moment, and given how strong the performance was — particularly as a “debut” — it would not be unwelcome in future shows. Yet a bigger priority is Bruce remaining open to revisiting more of the Darkness period and him finally digging into The Promise during the live show.