Not only that, but some of them come to see two nights running. Good thing, then, that there were some nice changes from one night to the next: a lengthier show, better sound, and more surprises in the song selection, most notably a second mini acoustic set from Springsteen to bookend the night. Playing with the Houserockers finds Springsteen typically more carefree, enjoying the bar-band looseness that comes with having not having to deliver a message or serve a greater narrative. And while The Grushecky/Springsteen Experience is fairly well locked in at this point, the setlist shake-ups on night two showed you can never tell exactly what to expect.
Two out of Springsteen's three opening numbers were switched up, starting with "You Own Worst Enemy," into the highlight of the night, Bruce's first ever solo "Inicdent on 57th Street" on acoustic guitar. It came by request from his host, and it was sublime. As Bruce said at song's end, "Good call, Joe Grushecky... good call."
Additions in the main set were a very strong "Darkness on the Edge of Town," "Radio Nowhere," "A Good Life," and "Adam Raised a Cain," the last of these with particularly smoking guitar from Springsteen. That right into another incredible Boss solo to start off the set-closing "Light of Day."
The encore is where things really mixed up, opening with "Hungry Heart" — that one was pretty rough, but they had plenty of time to make up for it, adding "Brown Eyed Girl," a fun "Pink Cadillac," and "Twist and Shout" after "Down the Road Apiece," which had been the band's final song the night before. And really stretching it out, Bruce added four more acoustic songs once the band was done: "No Surrender" by request from the balcony; "Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street"; "Surprise, Surprise," Bruce saying it's the first time he's played this one alone (he also noted that it's the only one out of many songs that have come to him in dreams that turned out to be any good by the cold light of day); and finally "Thunder Road" once again, this time bringing Grushecky out to share the vocal. The crowd did their part too, closing out what will likely stand as Springsteen's longest performance of 2011 — three hours and twenty minutes from the time he took the stage to the end — as buzz of a 2012 tour continues to build.
with Joe Grushecky & the Houserockers
Having seen Bruce play with Grushecky three times previously, I pretty much knew what to expect: Bruce taking lead on most songs, plenty of guitar work and good fun, a bunch of hits, mostly Bruce's, with occasional Grushecky favorites thrown in and perhaps a surprise or two. That, of course, was precisely what the show delivered.
The good news in the show was Bruce's form. His voice was clear and strong, and he shared it happily. I had to remind myself a couple of times that he has passed his 62nd birthday. His guitar work was even better. He took extended solos over and over again. And over again. And then some more. Not just on his own songs, but also on Grushecky numbers such as "Never Be Enough Time" and "Pumping Iron." As for Bruce's songs, when he really decided to rock it, the roof blew off. "Light of Day" was perhaps the biggest highlight, in which Bruce singlehandedly filled the room with his sound.
Bad news? For me, it was that the show offered nothing at all new, besides confirming that Bruce is still in performing shape. A first-time-ever acoustic performance of "I'll Work For Your Love" was the closest we came to a surprise in the setlist. That, and a seeming ad lib by Houserockers drummer Joffo Simmons during the band intros portion of "Down the Road Apiece," in which he launched in to The Safaris' "Wipe Out," with Bruce and then the band quickly joining in.
Two other problems were that itwas very hot in the hall, and that — except for during the acoustic numbers — the sound was pushed way too high, with nothing to deaden it. The effect was of distorted sound literally bouncing off the 110-year old walls back at the audience on the floor. Here's hoping they dial it down a notch or three tomorrow night.
solo acoustic ("opening for Joe")
with Joe Grushecky & the Houserockers
October 22, 2011 / Stone Pony/ Asbury Park, NJ
The set was, as usual, a mix of originals and covers: "634-5789" is the now-traditional opener, and the Soul Cruisers' "Screamin'" Steve Barlotta added tenor sax to "Seven Nights to Rock," among others. Springsteen's own material was plucked straight from the uptempo bin: bar band classics from the Born in the U.S.A. album, a stunning "Pink Cadillac" with a stripped-down first verse, and '70s classics "Spirit in the Night" and "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out."
While Springsteen has got his template figured out at this point and most know what to expect, you never know what he might shake up. This time, the curveball was Red Bank Rocker J.T. Bowen taking the soul singer guest spot usually reserved for Southside Johnny, bringing Rescue songs to the set ("Savin' Up," "A Woman's Got the Power") and bringing the house down with "Soul Man."
"I was particularly struck by 'Tenth Avenue,'" a showgoer tells Backstreets. "There was a huge crowd reaction to 'the change was made uptown.' And it could have been just me hearing what I wanted to hear, but I heard a consoling Bruce, and it was about Clarence and the future of the band and the music and everything."
Weinberg spoke to Tom Cunningham the following morning, calling that particular performance "quite emotional": "The third verse, where Bruce sings 'the change was made uptown and the Big Man joined the band,' we stopped and the whole audience [sang the sax break]. It was chilling. I actually got chills when that happened."
But of course, Springsteen steered the mood to pure partydom by the end of the more than two-and-a-half-hour show. Imagine hanging out at the Pony while Bruce, Max, Roy and a whole stageful of Jersey pros close a private concert with a run of "Rosalita," "Havin' a Party," an audibled "Twist and Shout," and finally, Bruce alone for an acoustic "Thunder Road." As one attendee said afterward: "Holy mother of pearl, what a show."
October 1, 2011 / Beacon Theatre / New York, NY
Springsteen was the final guest of the night to take the stage, three hours into the four-hour show — at which point the birthday boy left it to him. Bruce was the only guest artist who got stage to himself. He did three songs, all Sting-penned: "I Hung My Head" on the Telecaster; a you-could-hear-a-pin-drop version of "Fields of Gold," solo acoustic; then his duet with Sting on the Outlandos d'Amour classic "Can’t Stand Losing You." Jaw-dropping.
The energy level in the room dialed way up when Bruce took the stage, and of course he brought up the legend of Sting having sex for days on end: "Happy birthday, buddy. I've known Sting for 23 years; we met in 1988 on the Amnesty tour and established a long friendship. It's very unusual, when I read about him, I never recognize him as the guy I know. I pick up a magazine and read that Sting can make love for 29 hours. I wonder why he never mentioned that to me? After four hours, I think you're supposed to seek medical attention. Most last for 28 hours, 55 minutes less... Stay hard, brother!" The crowd was howling.
Bruce and the whole entourage came out for "Every Breath You Take," making the song swing. Billy Joel and Lady Gaga were trading choruses on a shared mic, having a great time. Finally Bruce was there, too, for a closing serenade of "Happy Birthday" that found Sting's wife Trudie leading a Gaelic bagpipe troupe as they marched from the lobby down the aisles, a lengthy celebratory number. Sting said it was the best birthday he ever had. A great night for the rest of us, too, and good to see Bruce back on stage doing his thing.
Former Stone Pony DJ Lee Mrowicki led off the night by reminding the crowd that it was an evening not of mourning, but of celebrationboth of Clarence’s life and of his music. Then, after a brief set by Nick Clemons and band, the aptly named Sensational Soul Cruisers took the stage and promptly had the sweltering crowd singing and dancing along to their classic soul. The band, which features longtime Asbury Juke Joey Stann on baritone sax, opened the night with the instrumental "Paradise by the C"; a staple of Springsteen’s live shows in the late 70s, it was the perfect way to begin a night dedicated to the Big Man.
The band’s four vocalists then took the stage and led the audience through a tightly choreographed set of '60s and '70s R&B that included familiar tracks by such notables as The Delfonics, The Temptations and Barry White. After a short break, the band returned to the stage to perform Rescue, the debut album issued by Clarence with his band the Red Bank Rockers in 1983. Of course, this could not be done without vocalist J.T. Bowen leading the charge. "Asbury Park, are you ready?" he shouted. "No, are you ready? All right, then!"
"Every town has a sound," he continued. "Tonight we're going to hear the Asbury Park sound." And with that, Bowen and band commenced with their performance of Rescue. The songs were not played in sequence nor was the full album performed, but this did not detract from the energetic set; long-unheard tracks like "Jump Start My Heart," "Money to the Rescue," and "Resurrection Shuffle" still sounded as fresh and timeless as they ever did.
"A Woman's Got the Power,” the forgotten gem by Philadelphia band The A's, was followed by the Jackson Browne/Clemons duet "You're a Friend of Mine" and an energetic rendition of Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness"; although these last two are not on the Rescue album, they seemed the perfect way to ratchet up the energy a bit.
This was hardly necessary, as everyone in the room seemed to know what was coming next; on cue, Bruce could be seen making his way through the sweaty crowd toward the stage, clad in long-sleeve plaid shirt, dark jeans, and work boots, and smiling broadly. "I wore the wrong shirt," he cracked as he strapped on a guitar and assumed a position just in front of the horn section at stage left.
But no one had anticipated the surprise that came next, as the familiar horn riff of "Action in the Streets" rang out, driving the already pumped-up audience into a frenzy. Although frequently performed by Gary U.S. Bonds, the song has not been performed live by its author since 1977. Bruce actually seemed at bit surprised at how well it came off; he couldn't stop smiling as he led the band through the chorus and exhorted the audience to join in.
"Now this next song, when we were in the studio, I was trying to make it more white, and Bruce wanted it more black," laughed Bowen. And with that came "Savin' Up," a track written by Springsteen for the Rescue album and previously performed by him only once, at a 1987 jam with local blues band The Fairlanes. Trading soulful vocals with Bowen at center stage in classic Sam & Dave style, Bruce was truly in his element.
Next came a rousing set of R&B staples from Bruce and Bowen, ably assisted by the stellar Soul Cruisers vocalists. Standouts included raucous back-to-back versions of "Sweet Soul Music" and "Shake," and the Dovells' "You Can't Sit Down." A slowish version of "Raise Your Hand" harkened back to the original Eddie Floyd version.
At the end of the set, a short conference ensued, after which Bruce turned to the horn section and mouthed an opening line. The ensemble then launched into a loose, chaotic version of Wilson Pickett’s "634-5789." Assuming bandleader stance, Bruce called, "I need a snare shot, and then everyone go into the key of E." They didn't quite get there, nor did they get to the next key change, but no one seemed to care, and the song devolved into an extended instrumental jam with Springsteen in full Steve Cropper mode, trading licks with tenor sax player Screamin' Steve on his borrowed Fender guitar.
And with that, the Cruisers thanked the audience and said good night, Bruce waving to the crowd before turning to walk offstage. Drenched in sweat and exhausted, no one in the audience wanted to leave. But as the P.A. came on and the lights went up, it was certain that there was no better way to remember Clarence Clemons than this.
The round table discussion, which also included Addeo, Bobby Thomas (The Vibranaires) and Southside Johnny Lyon, was hosted by author Daniel Wolff (4th of July, Asbury Park: A History of the Promised Land), who led the panel through a discussion of Asbury’s West Side music scene and the racial and economic issues that shaped the city’s cultural and political history.
Wolff began the proceedings with a brief lesson on Asbury’s somewhat checkered past, and after introducing each panel member, he led the guests through a series of questions about their memories of the city’s music scene both before and after the 1970 riots, and how their lives and careers had intersected with each other. "Asbury Park was always a place for the misfits," Bruce remarked towards the end of the hour-plus conversation.
A few hours later, ticket holders for the Wonder Bar event, who were greeted by the surprising sight of Bruce sitting at the bar nursing a cocktail, enjoyed three sets of R&B, doo-wop and rock’n’roll classics performed by a stellar cast of Asbury musicians past and present. The concert, billed as “Nicky Addeo and Friends Celebrate the Music of Asbury Park's West Side," featured a hastily assembled house band (led by Addeo) that included Ed Manion of the Jukes on saxophone, guitar legend (and ex-Red Bank Rocker) Billy Ryan, and former E Streeter Vini Lopez on drums.
Ed Manion guided the band through a couple of instrumental vamps to start the night off, and then Bruce, dressed in jeans, white t-shirt and black leather jacket, walked on and briefly set the scene for the night: “Before there was an E Street Band or an Asbury Jukes, there was the music of the West Side... Tonight we’re here to celebrate that history.” Then, borrowing a guitar from Ryan, Bruce staked out a position stage left and the rotating lineup of vocalists which included Nicky Addeo and another local resident named Southside Johnny performed the doo-wop classics “Gloria” and “Crying in the Chapel.” Addeo then called Bruce forward to trade verses on Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me.”
Perhaps energized by the afternoon’s lively, memory-filled discussion, it seemed that Southside Johnny was truly in his element last night arranging vocals, leading the band, cracking wise, playfully demonstrating his dance moves. Even standing just offstage singing along with the performers, it seemed he could barely contain himself.
After a second set led by Southside and Nicky, Bruce reappeared to close out the night, contributing guitar and backing vocals on a slow, bluesy version of Chuck Willis’ “C.C. Rider” and laying down some doo-wop on Don and Juan’s 1962 hit “What’s Your Name” [video below, see more on YouTube from rotolo3].
Before starting "What's Your Name," Bruce noted, "We were talking this afternoon. In the early '60s there were two kinds of bands, guys who sang, the vocal groups, and there were the instrumental groups. That was it, they didn't meet. After 1964 and the Beatles, people sang and played. In the meantime, those things crossed over so I would end up opening for Nicky or The Broadways.
"It was an amazing mix of things. But if you were a beat group in those days, you had to know some doo-wop. If you didn't know doo-wop, when it came time for the slow dancing on the floor, you were dead! You had to be able to play the grinding music. So the Castiles did."
Bruce then stepped back and let Lopez take lead vocals on “Johnny B. Goode” before, as they say, exiting stage left, thus concluding a loose, fun-evening filled with laughter and impromptu pleasures, just the kind of thing denizens of the Shore scene have enjoyed time and again over the years.
March 14, 2011 / The Waldorf Astoria / New York, NY
Reprising their pairing at the Rock Hall's 25th Anniversary Concerts, Bruce and Darlene did three songs togethe, joined on "He's a Rebel" by her inductor Bette Midler. Also on stage with Paul Shaffer's house band, frequent Boss backup singer Curtis King.
Over nearly three hours, parents and teachers got Bruce cuts that ranged from "Growin' Up" to "My Lucky Day," with a couple of new ones in the mix this year thanks to The Promise: "Gotta Get That Feeling" and "Save My Love." Mid-way through the show, Bruce brought out his mother Adele to share a dance on "Dancing in the Dark."
On the cover front, staples like "634-5789" and "In the Midnight Hour" returned to the set, and a couple new ones popped up as well: Jay and the Americans' "Come a Little Bit Closer," with an assist from Southside, and "Got My Mojo Working," which also added Danny Clinch on harp. No "Boy From NYC" or the like, as Bruce told the crowd that Patti was in Florida. Bruce sent one out to her after "Twist and Shout" and "Detroit Medley," as he offered up one more solo acoustic, LOD11-style, to wrap the party with a sing-along "Thunder Road."
One attendee tells us: "Amazing show. Two hours and 50 minutes, non-stop, the best off-tour performance in years. With Max on drums, the energy was unlike most previous benefits. A few surprise guests in addition to Max: Danny Clinch on mouth organ and Ron Aniello [Patti's producer] on guitar for a few numbers. Plus more Southside than usual, and the Bobby Bandiera band in excellent form. Along with Bruce's mom dancing on stage, Max's wife Becky and Bobby's wife Tracy were dancing in the audience. 300 couples at $1000 per couple must have made a lot of people very happy."
Sporting a black and white plaid flannel shirt, jeans and work boots, Bruce brought something different to each artist's set; to Jesse's, it was the duet "Broken Radio" that had originally appeared on Malin's Glitter in the Gutter CD. To Willie's set, he contributed backing vocals and guitar, for which he received a kiss on the cheek from the diminutive singer/songwriter. For Alejandro's acoustic set, Bruce contributed vocals and took a verse on "Always a Friend."
None of these performances was particularly surprising, given that each had been done in prior events over the last couple years. What was a surprise was Bruce's contribution to the Houserockers' set, which he led off by performing solo acoustic versions of "Your Own Worst Enemy" and "This Hard Land" before treating the packed house to an electric set featuring two "outtakes" released on the The Promise as well as several Darkness on the Edge of Town classics.
Interspersing Houserockers material with his own, Bruce turned in a typically energetic performance with Grushecky's band. They traded vocals on "Another Thin Line" (co-written by Bruce and Joe) and "Never Be Enough Time," the latter featuring a strong solo by Grushecky and an extended guitar duel at the end. Sandwiched between those was the always powerful "Atlantic City," a clear audience favorite, followed by the instantly recognizable "Adam Raised a Cain," into which Bruce injected fiery guitar leads.
But the real stunner was a soulful, understated rendition of "One Way Street." This long-lost number finally became the set piece it always had the potential to be, and the audience seemed all but transfixed by this unexpected gem. The only thing missing here seemed to be the vocal interplay with Bruce's longtime friend and cohort Little Steven found on the recorded version, but few seemed to mind.
Next up was "I'm Not Sleeping," a Light of Day debut for the Houserockers, and another opportunity for Bruce and Joe to trade vocals and guitar work. But Bruce wasn't done with the surprises; there was palpable anticipation from the audience as the opening keyboard riff to "Save My Love" rang out, and the pop masterpiece did not disappoint. Bruce has done several live performances of this song to date, the standout probably being his collaboration with The Roots on Jimmy Fallon's late night show. But last night's version was the clear highlight of the set, and it's obvious he gets a kick out of playing it live; with any luck it'll be a standard part of his set from now on.
Grushecky’s "Talking to the King" was next, and then photographer/musician Danny Clinch was invited onstage to contribute bluesy harmonica work to the ever-popular "Pink Cadillac" (Clinch was part of the artist lineup for the second year with his Tangiers Blues Band). This was followed by the Darkness double shot of the title track and "The Promised Land," the latter becoming the usual audience sing-along.
After a rousing performance of "Light of Day" assisted by Willie Nile and Dawne Allyne on vocals, the stage was packed for the concluding jam on "Twist and Shout." Event founder Bob Benjamin spoke a few words about what the night meant to him, and standing at center stage next to Bruce, he was clearly delighted with evening's proceedings. The Isley Brothers classic, interspersed with snippets of "La Bamba" and "Land of 1000 Dances," was the all-hands-on-deck grand finale, but Bruce offered up one more as a benediction: a singalong version of "Thunder Road," complete with full audience participation, rounded out the night. As Bruce clambered up onto the center stage monitor to conduct the assembled masses, the clock pushing 1:30 a.m., it was clear that Light of Day 2011 had indeed "gone to 11."
The Carousel House building, adjacent to the legendary Asbury Park casino and former home of the famous carousel, has been recently renovated, to host small theatrical performances during warmer months. The overall size of the building was comparable to the stage itself from the last E Street Band tour.
The first thing that struck those walking into the venue (aside from the blessed heat) was that there was no stage; a carpet in the center of the floor served as the performing area and took up most of the room. There were the usual risers for Max, Roy, and Charlie, and plus one more for a five-piece horn section. But the front line of Bruce, Steve, and Clarence were going to be at the fans' level, something that has only happened at a handful of bar shows. Fans stood around the band. A stage manager initially placed people, then Jon Landau and Thom Zimny made further rearrangements to where people were standing and what they were wearing; to be camera-friendly, the crew provided sweatshirts to at least two people.
Without much fanfare, the band walked out at 4:30, and it was the same E Street Band as from the "Paramount Theatre, Asbury Park, 2009" Darkness performance from the box set (no Nils, Patti, or Soozie). Songwriter David Lindley, a longtime violinist in Jackson Browne’s band, joined the band for the first song. Bruce wore a black t-shirt over a grey long sleeve shirt with dark blue jeans. But the most important accessory was the one slung over his shoulder: "The Guitar," apparently borrowed from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, appeared for the shoot.
The Bruce that took the stage at the start of the evening was not the "Showman Bruce" who wanted to make sure every ass was out of its seat, or the "Troubadour Bruce" from the solo shows with something to say. This was "Bandleader Bruce," determined to make sure everything was perfect for the cameras; to this Bruce, presumably unaccustomed to an audience sitting in on a lengthy video shoot, the audience didn't seem to distract him from the task at hand.
The first song was "Racing in the Street ('78)" from The Promise album, complete with a guitar/violin duel with David Lindley during the coda. To many ears, the band pretty much nailed it on the first take, but Bruce called for a second; every song would be done at least twice in this way as the evening went along. And what the fans thought was good on the first take was invariably even better for the second. After each take, Bruce would provide feedback and direction to the band, giving us a glimpse of what band rehearsal must be like.
All songs (except for one holiday song at the end) were from The Promise, and the arrangements were comparable to the album versions though as usual, hearing them injected with the energy of a live performance was thrilling. "Gotta Get That Feeling," the second song, really got up on its feet in the concert setting. The horns Clark Gayton, Curt Ramm, Eddie Manion, Stan Harrison, and Barry Danielian made their entrance on this one, and on the first take, they joined in for Clarence’s solo; on the second, after some notes, they came in on the second verse, as on the album. Clarence hit his solo spot on, and the horns complemented him perfectly.
Next up was "Outside Looking In," for which Bruce traded the Esquire for a sunburst acoustic guitar. Clarence missed his solo during the first take, prompting to Bruce say between takes, "Sometimes we're so impressed with the E Street Band that we forget we’re in the E Street Band." Bruce also noted that Steve missed a chord. For the second take, however, all the parts were accounted for.
"One Way Street" followed and, again, to many, they sounded good the first time, but number two was even better. In between, Bruce and Steve worked on their vocal harmonies, which paid off the second time around. This was the first song where they did an additional but partial take, just from the sax solo to the end of the song.
Bruce seemed to call an audible with "Come On (Let's Go Tonight)," so there were a couple of minutes of downtime while the crew prepared. Bruce used the time to speak to the crowd. He said this next song was an early version of "Factory," and that it was written about Elvis Presley's death, which coincided with the punk explosion; he jokingly said the song could be called, "The Ghost of Songwriting Future." With David Lindley, they worked on an extended ending for another partial third take.
There was a noticeable shift in Bruce for "Save My Love." Whether it was the joy in the song or the confidence he had from having performed it three times in concert already, "Showman Bruce" emerged, as he jumped on the drum riser at the end of the first take. Before the second, he told the fans behind Max to come out on the "stage" once he jumped on the riser. And at that moment, the video shoot became a show, with Bruce allowing himself to feed off the crowd.
The fans voluntarily and respectfully moved back to their spots behind Max as soon as the song ended, and "The Brokenhearted" again shifted the mood. Bruce performed it in a soulful manner very similar to "Back in Your Arms," "Fade Away," and "Dark End of the Street" from the 2009 tour, with mournful vocals pleading to a lost lover. Bruce repeated "Say it right now, darlin'" over and over during the fade out of the song to great effect. Between the first and second takes, Steve gave the horns specific direction, and both Bruce and Steve gave further directions after the second take. Bruce also had a specific idea for lighting, wanting a backlight during the fade out of the song, and they worked through the ending several more times until he got what he wanted.
"The Brokenhearted" was a highlight of the evening, and its absence from the webcast alone makes us cross our fingers for some kind of extended DVD release in the future.
A break followed, during which they re-arranged some of the fans, moving those from the front to the back and vice versa. Interestingly enough, most of the band didn’t leave the stage area and they talked amongst themselves, giving the proceedings an informal vibe usually found only at Jersey house parties.
The first song after the break was "Ain't Good Enough For You," and "Showman Bruce" returned with a vengeance, first requesting that fans come as close to the stage as possible, enabling him to sing directly to the fans in front of him. Loose now, he returned to his pitching roots, physically illustrating the "here comes the pitch" lyric. He also asked fans to join the band on stage when they got to the "da da da" part, by which time Bruce was on the piano, again giving it more of house party feel than one of a video shoot.
Up next was a song Bruce had only performed with the E Street Band one time ever, and that one time was more than 32 years ago: "The Promise." David Lindley came out again, but no horns. The performance featured an intro similar to the build-up to "Point Blank" from the 1980-'81 tour or a darker version of the "Spirit in the Night" prelude in recent years before Max and Roy began the song together. While the solo piano performance of this song has been a highlight of every show in which Bruce plays it, the full band arrangement adds power to the song without losing any of the loneliness. Hopefully, this one will make more than an occasional appearance on the next E Street tour.
If "The Promise" was the "Backstreets" for this night, then "Talk to Me" was the "Rosalita," with the house party atmosphere returning. "Talk to Me" has been a semi-regular at holiday shows and the school benefits over the course of the last decade although with Southside Johnny sharing the vocals for most of those performances so it shouldn't be a surprise that Bruce looked quite comfortable singing this one, even in its proper E Street Band debut. The horns were in full force, just as one would expect, and the song featured a breakdown before revving back up at the end. Bruce was obviously having fun, again inviting the audience on to the stage while he and Steve stood on the drum riser exchanging "yeahs" just as they often do on "Prove It All Night."
And since this was December, they had to do one Christmas song, so the encore" was a rock-style "Blue Christmas," complete with horns, as opposed to the bluegrass style of the 2000 holiday shows. Bruce had the fans in front come as close as possible, then invited fans behind Max to come on to the stage as well. He surrounded himself with fans as he stood on a small riser by his mic stand, and each member of the band, including the horns, took a solo. Santa hats had been passed out to the fans prior to the song, and Bruce took one towards the end of the second take and jauntily placed it on his head before playfully throwing it at a camera an impromptu move that wound up being a perfect ending to the webcast.
Including the break, the show was over three hours in length. As one would expect, the band spent a considerable amount of time rehearsing prior to the show that afternoon, and there were two songs rehearsed but not performed during the shoot: "Candy’s Boy" and "Wrong Side of the Street."
Overall, it was a loose and spirited afternoon getting only looser and more spirited as evening fell, despite the many hours the musicians had put in since rehearsal began. It's not often that fans get a chance to see Springsteen in work mode, getting the elements just right. That's the end result, of course. And to see that for a batch of songs that have never been performed in public? For the fans assembled in the Carousel Building, and countless more watching on the web, it will be a lighter shade of blue this Christmas. - Flynn McLean
Worldwide Streaming Information (until 1/1/11):
With no other guests on this program, the performance capped pretty much a full hour of Bruce, plenty of music and plenty of talk, for his only late night TV appearance to promote The Promise. Other noteworthy bits included Jimmy's "Pros & Cons" of the box set, Steve joining Bruce on the couch during the interview portion, and a rare comedy-sketch turn from Springsteen, who, dressed up as his '70s self, joined Jimmy Fallon as Neil Young for a hilarious cover of Willow Smith's "Whip Your Hair."
Trading his acoustic for electric, Springsteen joined the Houserockers to take fierce leads on songs like "Another Thin Line" and "Never Be Enough Time." While the basic blueprint for the body of the show was the same as night one, already heavy on songs Bruce and Joe co-wrote as well as Bruce's own, several additional Springsteen songs stretched things out. "Johnny 99" turned up early, with "Pink Cadillac" later replacing "Fire," and the doubleshot of "Light of Day" and "Glory Days" wrapping up the main set. Bruce had particular fun with "Pink Cadillac," changing the words as he sang to his old friend: "Joe, Joe, Joe... You may think I came all the way to Pittsburgh / Just for the likes of you... Come on over here and man-hug me." But the stand-out Springsteen song of the night was a callback from night one: "We've got a love song coming up, so I'm gonna wear my rose," he laughed, briefly tucking a flower behind his ear before "Save My Love," which the Houserockers absolutely nailed.
The Elvis Presley hit "Burning Love" opened the encore, and for "Twist and Shout," Grushecky's family came on stage to shake it up, too (Joe's son Johnny's band, I Drive, opened the show). As on night one, Bruce offered up a solo acoustic "Thunder Road" to wrap it all up, saying "Joe told me to send you home with this one." He also took a moment to sing Grushecky's praises, saluting, as he put it, "the simple excellence of what Joe and his band do" and the elated hometown crowd was clearly in agreement. Happy anniversary, American Babylon!
Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers
Grushecky and the Houserockers with Springsteen
Springsteen solo acoustic
Jawdroppers included a world premiere (an out-of-left-field, expertly played “Save My Love” from the upcoming The Promise), and a spotlight on Darkness, with rousing, inspired versions of “Adam Raised a Cain,” “The Promised Land” and “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” A solo-acoustic Bruce portion was something to savor as its own entity, what with a second-time-ever performance of “A Good Man is Hard to Find (Pittsburgh),” in addition to “For You,” “This Hard Land” and a finale of “Thunder Road” that had the rambunctious crowd humming the guitar/sax coda over Bruce’s acoustic. And seeing that we are at Soldiers and Sailors, how about some Army as in Guitar Army. At times there were five guitarists on stage, wailing away along with Bruce and Joe’s stinging leads, particularly on “Another Thin Line” and American Babylon's “Never Be Enough Time.” Just spectacular stuff in Pittsburgh, with more variety than most were anticipating and rising above any preconceived notions. What will Night Two bring?
Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers
Grushecky and the Houserockers with Springsteen
Springsteen solo acoustic
After a short intro from Jon Stewart and some praise from Springsteen for Tony Bennett (going on stage after him, said Bruce, was "like following all of Mount Rushmore"), they launched into the Seeger Sessions arrangement of "Open All Night," featuring the full Big Band, with Max on drums, and surprise guest Roy Bittan on piano. After telling the requisite dirty joke, this being a New York Comedy Festival Event, Springteen and the band teamed up again for "Kitty's Back," a song that Max has been part of his Big Band's repertoire, but a first here with Bruce. Roy stood out as well, tearing it up on some fleet-fingered solos.
Finally, Bruce introduced Patti Scialfa for an acoustic duet of "If I Should Fall Behind." A live auction followed, Brian Williams serving as auctioneer as a bidding war ensued, and Bruce's guitar (Max threw in his tie, as well) went for a whopping $140,000. Bruce hand-delivered the guitar, and the money raised from the auction, and the evening as a whole went to benefit the good work of the Bob Woodruff Foundation. - additional reporting by Brian Lattman
September 11 / The Stone Pony / Asbury Park, NJ
These shows, once legendary for otherwise-unheard covers, have featured more of Bruce's own songs in recent years, although a horn-laden 634-5789 was a highlight, along with Bruce and Southside Johnny trading vocals on "In the Midnight Hour." Performances were loose but spirited, fitting for the event's setting.
From Bruce's own songbook, selections included his standard bar-band fare, but also two songs from his most recent album, a fun opening in "Working on the Highway," and several surprise highlights from his early albums, including "Growin' Up," "Rosalita," and a poignant take on "Sandy."
"Bruce Springsteen joined us at the Stone Pony! He came out for 'Always a Friend,' 'Faith,' and a first ever for The Boss, 'Beast of Burden,' turning in two scorching solos! What a night...what a way to cap off this great tour! A perfect send off for our return to Austin!"
Alejandro and his band the Sensitive Boys played from 10:30 to midnight at the Asbury Park club on Friday, offering up a good deal of material from his two most recent albums Street Songs of Love and Real Animal, before Springsteen came out for the sweat-soaked three-song encore.
And that ain't the half of it. After Sting introduced Springsteen as a surprise guest toward the end of the night, Bruce performed a radically reworked "Dancing in the Dark" followed by believe it! Bryan Adams' "Cuts Like a Knife." Of the latter, the New York Daily News' Jim Farber writes that Springsteen "turned it from a toy-rock bauble into a Solomon Burke-like slice of soul." "Don't Stop Believin'" came next as the night's grand finale how could anyone follow that?
David Porter reports for the Associated Press: "The two men, joined at times by Harding, performed their works separately and together. Pinsky's poem 'Shirt' segued into Springsteen's 'The River,' and Springsteen read Pinsky's 'Samurai Song' as a prelude to his own 'Darkness on the Edge of Town,' played on 12-string guitar. Springsteen also performed 'Promised Land,' 'Nebraska' and 'Born to Run,' and he joked that 'you have to be careful if you're a songwriter reading poetry, because the temptation to steal is ever present.'" Springsteen also remarked, "What I've been trying to write about for 40 years, Robert gets into a single poem."
Harding writes on his blog: "As ever, Bruce bowled me over with his enthusiasm and determination to do the best show possible, even leading an E Street Band-like 'prayer huddle' before we went onstage. ('Can I get an Amen?') And once we were on, it was plain sailing for a very exciting, very funny, never awkward and occasionally moving two hours. (Tears came to my eyes during 'The River,' more or less the first Springsteen song I ever heard, when it suddenly hit me that one of my very greatest heroes was sitting a foot to my right singing the shit out of my favourite song. It was, in particular, the unearthly falsetto moan at the end, just after we'd been talking about Pavarotti...."
Setlist: Glory Days (with Danny DeVito)
April 24 / Tribeca Grill, / New York, NY
The Boss himself, decked out in cargo pants and apparently in town to look at colleges, emerged from stage left, to a chorus of "Bruce!" from the crowd, for their Grammy-nominated Don Gibson duet. They performed it beautifully, and the crowd responded with a standing ovation; while the audience roared, Cash thanked him for being a "gentleman" and showing up on such short notice.
The rest of her show was top-notch as well, with stand-out guitar work from husband Leventhal, more songs from The List, and backing from Mark O'Connor's trio on two songs from Black Cadillac. Cash expressed hopes that her own "Seven Year Ache" might make her daughter's own list one day. But for the dumbstruck Springsteen fans in the crowd and there were clearly quite a few that mid-show moment was the almost-surreal highlight. I mean, this sort of thing may happen every other Tuesday in New Jersey, but south of the Mason Dixon line?
January 23 / The Stone Pony / Asbury Park, NJ
The Saturday night show ran 2:43, chock full of the usual classic covers and uptempo originals. The now-traditional "634-5789" opener kicked things off, with the more recently uncovered "Higher and Higher" worked in toward the end. Brian Williams and his wife Jane joined in to sing on the Jackie Wilson tune, after watching the show from sidestage as the Springsteens' guests for the evening.
The Hope For Haiti Now performances can be purchased digitally on iTunes or on Amazon.com, $7.99 for a full "album" of the night's music, or 99 cents for individual tunes. All proceeds, of course, further benefit the cause. Also on iTunes: Eddie Vedder's live "My City of Ruins" from the Kennedy Center Honors, benefitting Artists for Peace and Justice Haiti Relief.
According to MTV: "As donations continue to pour in from around the world, "Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief" announced on Saturday (January 23) that it has raised more than $58 million to date a new record for donations made by the general public through a disaster-relief telethon. The preliminary figure includes donations made via phone, online and mobile, and does does not include donations by corporations and large private donors, or iTunes sales figures, all of which are still being calculated."
Donations are still being accepted and will be for the next six months at www.hopeforhaitinow.org.
Rumors had been swirling since the previous evening’s entertainment at the Stone Pony, but just about everyone was surprised when Bruce Springsteen walked onstage late in Willie Nile's set to contribute vocals on "Heaven Help the Lonely." Dressed in his by now standard garb dark jeans, black shirt and sporting a brand new tan and a broad smile, Bruce was halfway into the song before most of the audience even noticed he was there. Which was, of course, the plan all along.
But that wasn't it. Springsteen aficionados and fans of Jesse Malin alike have been waiting for a live performance of their duet on the Malin tune "Broken Radio” since its release several years back, and last night they finally got it. Jesse, who has been laying low most of last year working on a new record, was partway into his usual energetic set (his hot new band features his old friend and bandmate Danny Sage on guitar) when he called his friend Bruce out to join him. They got in a solid, well-received performance of Jesse's heartfelt ballad before Springsteen once again disappeared backstage.
Light of Day newcomer and Pennsylvania native Ed Kowalczyk subsequently turned in a strong acoustic set comprised mostly of material made famous by his band Live; the stage was then set for a return engagement from Everyone’s Favorite Freehold Native, and he didn't disappoint. Bruce returned midway through Joe Grushecky’s closing slot for a powerful performance of the classic Bruce/Houserockers set, the highlight of which had to be the long-lost gem "Pink Cadillac."
The night ended with a now obligatory turn on "Light of Day" followed by an all-star jam on the Isley Brothers classic "Twist and Shout." The stage was packed with artists from all three days of Light of Day performances, and as the house lights came up, everyone local artists, organizers, first-time participants and veterans seemed to be in agreement that on its tenth anniversary, Light of Day was stronger than ever.
*with Danny Clinch and Willie Nile
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