Hard to believe it's been 39 years since Bruce played the first of two nights at Winterland. I wrote about it back in 2002:
The first show, December 15, 1978, is widely bootlegged and is considered by fans to be one of the handful of greatest Bruce concerts of all time ... the Brucelegs website calls it "Probably the most famous show Bruce will ever do." The show was broadcast on local radio. I stood on the floor with the teeming masses; Robin sat with my brother David, his then-wife Bonnie, and perhaps other folks, in seats just off the floor. There was no aisle to walk up this time, so for "Spirit in the Night," Bruce just laid down on top of the fans, who passed him around, being thoughtful enough to roll him back towards the stage and the mic just in time for him to get the next verse. (OK, in 2002, the audience roll is a cliche, but in 1978, not a lot of artists were doing it.) He played "Prove It All Night" for more than ten minutes. He played "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." He played "The Fever," which at the time was known as a Southside Johnny song; he played "Fire," which was a Robert Gordon song before it was a Pointer Sisters song. He played "Because the Night," which at the time was a Patti Smith song. He played "Point Blank," which at that time wasn't KNOWN as a song. And among the encores were the Mitch Ryder Detroit Medley AND "Raise Your Hand" AND "Quarter to Three." It was a magnificent show, and since we were in different places in Winterland, it was the only Bruce show where Robin and I didn't sit together.
Some things have changed since 1978/2002. I've been to a few Bruce shows that Robin didn't attend. And while bootlegs were a big deal back in the day, and the first night at Winterland was highly regarded partly because the radio broadcast made for easy bootlegging, the most acclaimed shows from that period were all broadcast (there was a Cleveland show, and a Passaic show that are great and remembered).
Nowadays, every concert is almost instantly available ... I've been to shows where excerpts have hit YouTube before I get home. Bruce himself now has a site, http://live.brucespringsteen.net/, where you can buy properly mixed versions of various concerts. So, except for those of us who were there, Winterland '78 isn't a total standout ... the 1978 tour is often considered his greatest, but that's a lot of shows. (The second night of Winterland was great, too, but it wasn't on the radio.)
Here are a few samples of Bruce in 1978.