Phil Beard- Lifelong Bruce Springsteen Fan.

My journey, from Liverpool UK to Freehold NJ, and all points in between.

“My first year in retirement, little did I know what was about to happen!”

My journey started in April 1976 at age 23, when I first heard and fell in love with the music of Bruce Springsteen and from that day forward has been the soundtrack to my life and as each year passes his music gains another layer and sinks that bit deeper into my soul.

The first one!

The first one!

I had to wait until 1981 for my first Bruce Springsteen “Live” concert experience which took place at Wembley Arena in London on the original River Tour and since that all-encompassing evening I have attended a further 62 nights of pure joy and raw emotion at shows all around the world, where I was lost in the stars for that brief moment in time. I know this is certainly not as many shows as the hard core fans and perhaps some would even class me as a lightweight in comparison, but it is probably many more than the average fan. I would personally have loved to have been able to go to more but unfortunately I was restricted by time and money, but I am truly thankful and treasure every single moment of the ones I have been fortunate enough to be a part of, which are all now a memory etched in my mind forever and revisited many times over due to the magic of bootlegging and now the gift of official downloads – the wonder of modern technology!

Forty years later and I am now age 63 and I and my lovely wife Eileen are still on this journey together, I am extremely fortunate to have had her along on this wonderful ride, her passion and commitment has always been absolutely infinite, no questions asked! (Thanks Ei).

We both retired in October last year after a full life of committing to the daily rigours of getting out to work each day, but little did we know beyond our wildest dreams what was about to unfold in our first year of retirement and that our well-earned retirement fund was about to be considerably plundered…!

Our excitement started last December with the announcement of the American River 2016 tour dates which meant it was now a question of which shows fitted in with our already committed plans, the only two shows that worked for us were Washington DC and Newark, ticket sale day arrived with all our devices ready and primed, we got straight in and were lucky enough to get a couple of GA tickets for the Washington DC show but got totally shut out for Newark. This was disappointing, but ever the optimists, we always say things happen for a reason and we’ve now reached a point in our lives where for any concert, we need to be either in the pit or great seats first block next to the stage and will do what needs to be done to achieve this! So desperate measures for Newark were required, we decided to pony up and go for the Steve Van Zandt Rock and Roll Forever Foundation donation package, which meant a meet and greet with Steve before the show and great seats next to the stage.

We were now ready for lift off with our tickets firmly in hand and looking forward to and excited to see and hear the River in full once again, having previously been to Madison Square Garden in 2009 for both the wonderful WIESS and River shows.

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Thankfully it all worked out very nicely for us, considering that a week before our shows the east coast of America had that mighty snow blizzard, sadly causing misery for many travelling fans due to the cancellation of the first MSG show.

In the pit at The Verizon Center, Washington DC, My Soul Sister! My Springsteen Buddy! My Lovely Wife, Ei

In the pit at The Verizon Center, Washington DC, My Soul Sister! My Springsteen Buddy! My Lovely Wife, Ei

washington_2016c300The Washington show gave us our first indoor pit experience in North America, on all our previous 16 US shows up to this point we had always had seats. On the afternoon of the show we got our wristband numbers 40 and 41 and lucky us, number 10 was drawn in the lottery, we were in! It was awesome being so close to all the action on stage and being able to actually see the expressions on Bruce’s and the Bands faces close up made it such an intimately cool experience and what a show, the River in full in 2016 really has taken on a life of its own, it’s like being taken on a journey from the opening chords of The Ties That Bind to the final refrain of Wreck on the Highway where Bruce says “Well, the subtext of the river was time, time slippin away and how that once you entered adult life, the clock starts ticking and you realise you have a limited amount of time to do your work and raise your family and try and do something good” – so true and a fantastic night with so much more to follow!

New Jersey, Brooooce!

New Jersey, Brooooce!

Off to the Prudential Center in Newark next for a totally different experience, we got to meet Steve Van Zandt before the show and had a conversation about his music soundtrack for Lillehammer and his choice of coupling A Salty Dog by Procol Harum for Bruce’s scene in the final episode, “perfect”, he said he was very proud of this and had been trying 5 f**#*# years to get them in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he was so passionate about this. We then mentioned to him that it was about time Bruce and the Band finally played a live show in Liverpool, he agreed and said he would look into it! Watch this space.

Great seats in Newark!

Great seats in Newark!

Showtime, Meet me in the City and we’re off, a great show in Bruce’s home state no less and the crowd around us in the seats were fantastic, especially during all the songs where quiet is a must! You could have heard a pin drop and because of this Point Blank, Fade Away, Drive All Night and Wreck on the Highway became very special moments to cherish from the show, sometimes not always the case! and it was nice that Bruce, prior to singing The River, dedicated to and told the story about his sister Virginia and brother-in-law Mickey Shave who were both in attendance tonight, a heartfelt moment and he also got to dance with his Mom during Dancing In The Dark once again, wonderful. At shows end we looked at each other, smiled and walked out on a cloud while listening to the wonderful voice of Alison Krauss singing Let’s go down to the River and Pray, with the air filled with the excitement of what we had all just experienced and personally of what was yet still to come!

This trip was a fantastic way to start the year and we were now all waiting for a possible announcement of a European River 2016 Tour.

Lo and behold it happened with 4 of the shows scheduled for the UK, we decided on only 2 shows out of the 4 because we now find it so physically demanding these days, age just creeps up on you very slowly and we have to conserve our energy to enable a total and complete show experience. So it was GA for Manchester and Wembley, with roll call planned for both, we had to get in the pit!

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A Rainy Manchester, Again!

A Rainy Manchester, Again!

Manchester was a tough day! We arrived at The Etihad at 7.30 am and were given numbers 178 and 179, so it will be a great spot in the pit. Roll calls at the usual intervals then lining up from 12 o’clock midday, sadly this is when the heavy rain started and was continuous pretty much until show’s end. There were transport issues for fans trying to get to the Etihad, causing many to miss the first few songs, meaning many empty seats at show time, however despite all this we were treated to a great set, with a fantastic trifecta start of Atlantic City, Murder Incorporated and Badlands. We got a pounding Darkness on the Edge of Town, into a five song River stretch, which included a fantastic I Wanna Marry You, The River and Point Blank and to open the encore my favourite of the night, a mesmerising Backstreets … Bruce once again took us to the edge of the universe and beyond! This was the toughest show, physically and mentally we have ever been to, by show’s end we had absolutely nothing left in the tank, so much so that we even found it difficult to talk about what had just happened in the last three hours, we had never felt like this coming out of a Bruce Springsteen show before, we had totally seized up and even found it difficult to just walk back to the hotel! It was a long day, but thankfully we had recovered by the next morning and soon forgot what we had put ourselves through the previous day and were then able to reflect on the sheer joy on what we had just experienced.

It was on to Wembley Stadium next, which we had planned as our final show of the tour … little did we know! We travelled down to Wembley the day before the show to once again join in roll call. We got numbers 229 and 230, so once again a great spot in the pit. We always enjoy meeting and talking with fellow fans during the whole roll call queuing process and Wembley was no exception. We met a fantastic couple called Jan and Graham Logan, who were in line next to us on show day and they told us they had also travelled the 230 miles south from Liverpool, it will turn out to be a happy coincidence for us all! We all had so much to say to each other and they were both as passionate and fanatical as ourselves, not just about the music of Bruce Springsteen but music and life in general, they also told us they had tickets for both Paris shows next month, I think the seed was planted! We exchanged emails and have since met up back in Liverpool on numerous occasions since.

Entering the hallowed Pit at Wembley!

Entering the hallowed Pit at Wembley!

Wembley ShowTime and first off we were treated to an unusual choice of a solo piano version of Does this Bus Stop at 82nd Street, Bruce needs to practice his whistling! Next up was an absolutely blistering Seeds with Bruce absolutely strangling the neck off his guitar during his guitar solo, we then all enjoyed the rarely played Be True which was followed by the always welcome double of Candy’s Room and She’s The One. It’s sign time again and Bruce pulls out one for I’ll work for your Love, he decides to go solo acoustic, but struggles finding the right key (much to the watching band’s amusement) … once found he absolutely nailed it. Further on into the set the mood changed when we got a very serious and heartfelt American Skin (41 Shots); it really did need a little quiet in here!

We were pleased to see Patti here tonight and we got a great version of Tougher than the Rest, then finishing the main set with a barnstorming Badlands, the encore opened with what is many a fans favourite, “Jungleland”, which is always a very special moment, then flying through the rest of the encore and finishing the show with a heartfelt solo acoustic Thunder Road. The end of another perfect day.

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The next day on our train journey back home to Liverpool, I had one of those moments where you start to lose all sensible and logical thought process – you’ve all had them! (Probably best described as about to enter Planet Springsteen!) I was deep in thought about what our new friends Jan and Graham had said to us and got me wondering if Paris # 2 really was a starter for us, we already had front row tickets for Elvis Costello at The Liverpool Philharmonic which coincided with Paris # 1, so after arriving home, the decision had been made and 2 hours later I had flights, hotel and 2 pit tickets all bought and paid for – Paris here we come! This will definitely be our new final show of the tour! We were most definitely back on Planet Springsteen!

We arrived in Paris on the evening after the first show and had arranged to meet Jan and Graham and their friend Simon for a drink and to get their thoughts on Paris # 1, we ended up closing the bar at 2 o’clock in the morning! A wonderful evening.

Merci Beaucoup Parreee! Merci Beaucoup Brooooooce

Merci Beaucoup Parreee! Merci Beaucoup Brooooooce

Paris # 2 ShowTime, we got a great spot near the front of the pit and there was great anticipation in the air for Bruce to finally play the River in full for the first time ever in Europe, he didn’t disappoint after what for me was the perfect opening double of The Iceman and Lucky Town, this was only the 4th time The Iceman had ever been performed live and Bruce’s guitar solo in Lucky Town was out of this world, then with a few words in French from Bruce we all knew it was the River start to finish in what for us was to be our 4th time and just as enjoyable as all the others. The Paris crowd were fantastic, so respectful and quiet when needed and then full power and enthusiasm at just the right times. A truly wonderful Parisienne night and after the show we closed the bar again with Jan, Graham and Simon at 2 o’clock in the morning!

As far as we were concerned this really was our last show of the tour … until we met Jan and Graham again for a coffee in Liverpool. They told us that it was Grahams 60th birthday on the 28th August which coincided with the Chicago show and guess what; they said “we got a deal through Expedia and managed to get two great seat tickets for the show”. We were so pleased for them. We were interested and started asking them about the deal they got and during our return journey home Eileen and I started talking about another possible trip (That Planet Springsteen moment yet again!) no we just can’t do another show or can we!

Coincidentally, the previous week I had received a couple of emails from the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation with information on pit tickets and great seats for the remaining American shows on the tour.

On arriving home Eileen and I continued to briefly discuss the possibility of doing yet another final show of the tour! It really was a no brainer, the retirement fund was about to take another unexpected hit, but we have been saying for years, you only live once and if you can, just do it!

I emailed the Foundation and secured a couple of pit tickets then found a great 4 nights hotel and flights deal on Expedia, Chicago here we come … who knew!

Hello Chicago………………!

Hello Chicago………………!

Chicago ShowTime, on this final American leg of the tour Bruce had been digging deep into his back catalogue of songs and providing the fans with some special surprises, he was starting the shows with New York City Serenade with the strings and playing songs from his first two albums, Greetings from Asbury Park and The Wild, The Innocent and throwing in for good measure Jack of All Trades also with the strings, which really added another dimension to this song.

For the Chicago show he kind of changed it round quite a bit from the planned set list by taking in quite a few signs and mixing it up, which for us was a good thing. On a personal note we got to hear the rarely played None But The Brave for the first time and were blown away by hearing New York City Serenade (with strings), Racing in the Street, Jack of All Trades (with Strings) and reflecting the current issues in the news the double of American Skin (41 shots) straight into Murder Incorporated and once again we got a fantastic version of Backstreets to open the encore with a fun Rosalita and surprisingly finishing the show with a heartfelt Bobby Jean, perhaps not a hard core fans favourite, but for us it was a question of, this was really our last show of the tour, Good Luck, Good Bye………….

And we closed yet another bar after the show with Jan and Graham at 4.00 am in the morning in Chicago.

Our Full Set 2016!

Our Full Set 2016!

And on to Jersey!

We usually take our late summer vacation to America around the last two weeks in September, which includes the date of our wedding anniversary 23rd Sept – just a happy coincidence, honest!

In August 2015 we had booked an 18 night trip to incorporate a 6 night visit to New York City, a visit to the Museum at Bethel in the Woods which is the original site of the Woodstock festival of 1969 and a 10 night trip around New Jersey, staying in Edgewater, Newton, Flemington, (we visited Danny Federici’s grave to pay our respects), Eatontown, Freehold, Asbury Park, Ocean Grove and East Rutherford and little did we know at the time what was going to happen on this trip!

In June 2016 it was announced that Bruce Springsteen had written his autobiography to be titled Born to Run and would be published and made available worldwide on 27th Sept 2016, amazingly we had already booked and planned to stay at the Freehold Radisson on that night! Would Bruce do a book signing, especially in his hometown, these were the questions. Was it meant to be, all our friends were convinced it would happen, we could only hope!

Anyway on Monday 12th September I awoke early and checked the iPad for any news and lo and behold, the night before a test page announcing a Bruce Springsteen book tour had been leaked on the internet and was about to take place in various venues around America and the first one was to be at the Freehold Barnes and Noble on the 27th Sept. Could this really be happening, with the five hour time difference between England and the American east coast I had time to keep checking all possible websites for any information and at 9.00 am eastern time the announcement became official, which meant it was 2.00 pm in England. I immediately tried to access the Barnes and Noble website for ticket information but was unable to find anything listed, so I phoned the Freehold Barnes and Noble at 9.15 am ET to be told the tickets were free and now available on the Eventbrite website, I immediately logged in and quickly got 2 tickets (at this time it was showing as 1700 tickets still available) amazingly we were in, we couldn’t quite believe it, it was obviously meant to be. We were on cloud 9 for weeks! We were finally going to meet Bruce in person, all year we had been saying, does it get any better than this and it just did!

And it’s all about to happen!

And it’s all about to happen!

Anyway the day finally arrived and we parked up at 10.00 am in the Freehold Raceway car park and walked over to Barnes and Noble, their car park was all set up for the event and so well organised. We took our place in the line, Bruce turned up at 10.30 which meant proceedings could start early. We were taken into the store where we were given a wristband and paid for our books, which we would receive after we had met Bruce, we then went back into the car park and lined up again to wait for our turn to enter the store, we were then taken into the store at about 11.00 am and wound our way around the aisles and finally getting to meet Bruce at about 12.00 midday. We stepped onto the podium, shook Bruce’s hand and told him we had travelled in from Liverpool, he acknowledged this and I then said to him “You’ve never played a live show in Liverpool, don’t you think it’s about time you did” and he responded with “Well, we’ll have to see what we can do about that”. The seed was sown! We got our photos and then it was on to the next in line. A brief moment in time perhaps, but a brief one we’ll never forget! Bruce certainly didn’t have to do this book tour, but I think it is fantastic the way he has made such an effort and given some of his most ardent fans that rare opportunity to spend this moment with him. I have never seen so many happy, smiling faces in one place before. It was a great day we met some great people, had great conversation and the Barnes and Noble staff were fantastic and later that afternoon we went to Jersey Freeze for a peanut butter single scoop!

Phil & Eileen Beard and Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run Book Launch

Phil & Eileen Beard and Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run Book Launch

Next we moved on to Asbury Park and I arranged for a visit to the Bruce Springsteen Collection at Monmouth University. I contacted Eileen Chapman, who is the current custodian of the collection and arranged a time for the visit. We wanted to see and read the original Bruce Springsteen Time and Newsweek cover issues from 1975, which we did and had a fantastic visit with Eileen who had many stories to tell and we had much conversation covering our hometown of Liverpool, The Beatles, The Cavern, The Stone Pony, Asbury Park and of course Bruce Springsteen, it was a good day.

At Last and do you love those special gloves! The Bruce Springsteen Collection, Monmouth University, Oct 2016.

At Last and do you love those special gloves! The Bruce Springsteen Collection, Monmouth University, Oct 2016.

On arriving back home in Liverpool we thought time to take a step back and reflect on what a fantastic trip we had just had and wonder where we were off to next? But it turned out we weren’t finished yet! On Monday 17th Oct Bruce appeared at Waterstones Piccadilly in London for another stop on his book tour, and then on Wednesday 19th October Bruce was interviewed on the BBC by Simon Mayo, who had asked fans to submit a question via the BBC website. I wrote in and asked “When are you going to play a show in Liverpool” and it turned out I was not the only one – it was the second most asked question. Bruce responded favourably and said he had also been asked this question by a couple of guys at the book signing in London the previous Monday, Bruce said “We’ll have to see”. This was now starting to gain momentum and I decided to contact the Liverpool Echo with my Freehold story to see if we could move this on any further, they phoned me back for an interview and the rest is history. (See link for the story)

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/whats-on/music-nightlife-news/springsteens-biggest-fan-leading-campaign-12065846

There may just be more of this story still to come … to be continued perhaps!
An amazing first year in retirement no less!
Does it get any better than this, I think it does!
And one last final thought, we should always remember … it all starts with the Music, without which we have nothing.

Phil Beard, Liverpool UK
November 2016

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Why Bruce Springsteen Has Been In My Soul, Mind and Heart Since 1978

Why Bruce Springsteen Has Been In My Soul, Mind and Heart Since 1978
and Why 2016 and The River Tour Has Bridged Many Gaps.

by Toby Davidson

October, 2016

My journey from Asbury to vanity

My journey from Asbury to Vanity

Let me begin this post by sharing three experiences that happened over the past 12 months starting with the most recent.

Seattle – Bruce and me – the hug! + Seattle – Toby’s Plus One

Seattle – Bruce and me – the hug! + Toby’s Plus One

#1: On Oct 1st 2016, in Seattle, WA at Elliott Bay Books, I had the incredible (dream-like) opportunity of meeting Mr. Springsteen (finally) one on one, face to face, soul to soul. This monumental event included a photo opt and a chance to say….THANK YOU.

Seattle - From 1978 to 206

From 1978 to 2016

I got the” hug of a lifetime”. I must say, that up until this point, sadly or not, this was the best day of my life. If you are reading this post I believe there is no need to waste valuable character space explaining how or why this came to life.

Toronto River Ticket + River Tour Poster 2016

Toronto River Ticket + River Tour Poster 2016

#2: On Sept 23rd Bruce’s 67th birthday, fans around the world celebrated with him and boy did we have a great time in My Hometown of Toronto, Canada at a Rockin’ Roll centric downtown establishment called The Cadillac Lounge, the closest thing to The Stone Pony north of the border. The owner, Sam Grosso, also a life-long Bruce super – fan was the only BruceBud I knew upon arrival. Within minutes, I had 10+ more dedicated “Bruce Community Friends”.

This special evening included an open mic jam dedicated to Bruce tunes followed by watching the much anticipated Late Nights Show with Stephen Colbert with Bruce being the sole guest, promoting his much anticipated autobiography. Other than the seasoned interviewer saying, “I didn’t know you were Catholic”, it was, like always, a heart-felt, authentic, charismatic interview peppered with engaging snippets of storytelling that his beloved fans wait on baited breath for.

Gillette – Boston

Gillette – Boston

Thirdly, the first time in my 38 years as a Springsteen super-fan, attending many concerts over the years, I consciously committed to taking the time, money and energy to attend as many shows as I possibly could on the most recent River Tour ending in Foxboro, MA on Sept 14, 2016.

I’m proud to say that I participated in a total of 12 shows (previous tour record was 5); 2 in Europe, 1 in Canada and the balance in the USA. Of the 12, I made it into the pit 5 times. Prior to this tour I had NEVER taken the time to do the pit line process. It’s now time to segue into how it all started and why, 38 years later, I made the three items above a priority in my rather hectic life throughout 2016.

San Siro Ticket

San Siro Ticket

San Siro Web Ad

San Siro Web Ad

San Siro E Street Lounge

San Siro E Street Lounge

I often think back to that specific spark that started the fire and since then has never stopped burning. In 1978, one evening while home visiting, my 18 year old, university attending elder sister walked into my bedroom and casually tossed me an album and said, “someone on campus saw this guy live, a ‘folk singer’ and I though you may like it”…. That was it. Lights off, only a narrow crack of light from the hallway streaming through my bedroom door, with precision, I dropped the needle on my portable bedside turn table, placed my bulky ear phones snuggly across my head and proceeded to expose my 16 year old anxiety ridden heart, soul & spirit to something that since that moment has made my little life so much bigger, better safer, happier & yes, calmer.

San Siro Tramps

San Siro Tramps

It was a visceral & spiritual connection. An unimaginable feeling of unconditional belongingness. It was 1978 but the album was not “Darkness” but rather the inaugural, uniquely complex sound & words of “Greetings”. It was love at first sound byte.

My First Listen

My First Listen

I listened to” Greetings” start to finish, both sides, over and over and over ,night after night until I organically and privately knew every word (and there are lots of them) to most songs (can’t say all, but most). I also recall staring at the iconic colorful, cartoony sea-side image laden album cover that had a ‘flap’ that I would toggle between memorized, reading the words in a dream-like way over and over and over night after night. So here I am, in 2016, fully immersed in a Bruce-centric year and now able to better understand…WHY.

River Tour Tix & Wristbands 2016

River Tour Tix & Wristbands 2016

Since that first note streamed through my consciousness in the late 70’s, finding a permanent spot, Bruce, his music and his mind has provided all of us lucky fans a “tool” or “mechanism” to turn to 24/7 when life becomes overwhelming, and when isolation seems to be the only solution. Bruce once said, “Isolation is a very dangerous place”.

She's the one

She’s the One

The 2016 River Tour gave The Boss loving global community a platform to beautifully and creatively convey how the past 30+ years unfolded for him and reflect on the journey. How he was able to reach into his own tool box to participate in life in a way that when he was 16 probably could never had imagined.

Auburn Hills Palace

Auburn Hills Palace

With his inherent generosity of character, unfathomable work-ethic, this tour gives those that really “get him” a communal place to ‘regroup’ and feel safe in a world ridden with darkness and know that life with all its ups and downs is sunny and that dancing in the dark is balanced with glory days.

Auburn Hills Spring Nuts

Auburn Hills Spring Nuts

Bruce, if you are listening, I am forever grateful and until my very last breath I am fully committed to being a part of this epic journey that I’m sure will be filled with many twists and shouts.

 Buffalo - River Tour Poster Photo ©Kirsch

Buffalo – River Tour Poster Photo ©Kirsch

You are a gift to all of us and yes, faith is rewarded. Joyfully, super-fan, Toby Davidson

Toby Davidson, serial entrepreneur, founder Cookin’s Greens Brand, and principal at Concept to Shelf Management Consulting Firm. Toby lives in Toronto, Canada. Besides attending as many Bruce Springsteen concerts as possible, she likes to travel, rescue dogs and dance. Her favourite Springsteen album is Greetings from Asbury Park.

Many thanks to Bruce Base for providing original memorabilia and photos illustrating Toby Davidson’s story. Bruce Base is the most valuable and comprehensive Bruce Springsteen archive resource on line.

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My 40 Year Journey with Bruce Springsteen

Bruce’s recent batch of Anything Goes shows that closed out the 2016 River Tour, which saw him play some of the most electrifying and the lengthiest (at age 66) performances of his career triggered a staggering amount of thoughts and memories about all of the Springsteen events I’ve attended in the last 39 years.
I’ve always kept a loose and rather flexible Top 20 Shows list in my head, but crafting such a list on paper is an entirely different exercise. For the record, I’ve seen Bruce 224 times since I walked into Boston’s Music Hall with an $8 ticket on March 25, 1977, so it was a daunting task to whittle that number to 20. It required considerable research and memory-jogging and setlist digging of shows that spanned several decades, but that was the fun of it too
The criteria for shows that made the Top 20 list? It’s a combination of setlist and inspiration and emotion and passion and crossing a threshold that I call the Invisible Line. You’re at a show and Bruce and the ESB are building momentum and, at some point, it just hits you that you’ve entered rare musical territory. The show has crossed the Invisible Line. You’re not just thinking about it and listening to it at that point, you’re also feeling it on a profound level.
Ok, so here are the 20 favorite shows where I only reluctantly left the building– shows that have stayed with me even as some of those buildings have since been demolished. I’ve included some anecdotes and deeply personal stories solely to illuminate or lend context to the reasons why these shows ended up in my top 20 list.

Mike Grenier
October 2016

1. The River Show, Nov. 8, 2009, Madison Square Garden.

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Until Bruce started doing full album shows a few weeks earlier, I never thought I’d see this double album played in its entirety. He didn’t do it in 1980-81 on the original tour, so I’d been chasing some of those songs for 29 years. It was a spectacular night all-around, exceeding my own lofty expectations.

1_handwritten-page-1-307x400Highlights: Bruce dramatically dropping to his knees for Fade Away, Bruce dancing with Patti during I Wanna Marry You, the breathtaking beauty of Drive All Night, and so much more. The post River segment of the show wasn’t bad either: Atlantic City, Sweet Soul Music, Can’t Help Falling in Love, and Higher and Higher, always a great way to end it. This show was conceived as a one-off and even though he toured The River in 2016 and I saw 10 of those shows, I still consider 11-8-09 a one-off. Clarence Clemons, already in declining health, played this one, and he summoned up the energy and strength and the skill to help make it the best show Eileen and I have ever seen.

E Street Lounge pass

E Street Lounge pass

A word about the MSG audience: from our vantage point, it was magnificent. Fans were respectful during the quiet songs and paid attention all the way through the 20 tunes. There was a sense that it WAS historic and they appreciated it.

2. MetLife 3, Aug. 30, 2016, East Rutherford, N.J.

GA ticket, Aug. 30, 2016, Bruce's first 4-hour U.S. show.

GA ticket, Aug. 30, 2016, Bruce’s first 4-hour U.S. show.

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I know, I know. How can a recent show played in such a monstrously ugly stadium climb into the No. 2 spot? Leaning heavily on material from the 1970s, this was the most consistently great setlist I’ve ever seen. The majesty of New York City Serenade, infrequently played over the decades until the last few shows of this tour, opened things up, and then we got Blinded, Bus Stop, Saint in the City, Kitty, Summertime Blues, Incident, Pretty Flamingo, Living Proof, Jungleland, Secret Garden (just the third time he ever played it), and MANY others.

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Absolutely loved probably 30 of the 34 songs and was surrounded by great people in the pit, which always enhances the experience. It was also my first 4 hour show (4:01 actually) and stood as the longest show he’d ever done in the U.S. That record stood for all of 8 days since he played 4:05 the following week in Philly. But the length of show was just a bonus. The quality was there from beginning to end, and I had to marvel, as we often do, at Bruce’s stamina on a hugely uncomfortable hot and humid summer night. Sometimes we crave even more music on his best nights – play one more! – and it’s just not fair. But we do it anyway.

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3. New Year’s Eve 1980-81, Nassau County Coliseum, Uniondale, N.Y. 

A little context here. We had a frightening accident en route to Long Island when the truck in front of us dropped his cargo of plywood and a huge piece bounced directly into the windshield of our 1975 VW bug. It’s no exaggeration to say we could’ve been impaled. The windshield literally shattered into thousands of pieces. It was a frigid day/night and the car was undriveable unless I put my head out the window. The trip should’ve ended at that moment, nobody was fixing shattered windshields on New Year’s Eve even on an emergency basis, but we were young and foolish and somehow made it to the venue.

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We NEEDED a great show after such a nerve-rattling incident and we got it on New Year’s Eve. The crowd was a little slow in coming around, but Bruce and the band were in a celebratory mood from the start. 38 songs on this marathon night, including the debut of the one-minute “epic” Held Up Without a Gun, along with In The Midnight Hour and Auld Lang Syne at midnight. This Land is Your Land was superb and the songs from The River album were particularly exciting, given the holiday factor. Once the crowd woke up, it was an all-out party.

Buttons, original River Tour, 1980-81.

Buttons, original River Tour, 1980-81.

Yes, we DID drive all the way home with heads out the window after the show. It was exhausting and scary, a surreal experience. But for many years this was the No. 1 show for Eileen and I.

4. Reunion Tour Finale, July 1, 2000, MSG, New York City.

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Ticket stub, July 1, 2000, MSG, NYC. End of the Reunion Tour.

Ticket stub, July 1, 2000, MSG, NYC. End of the Reunion Tour.

Lots of apprehension and anticipation for this show since there was no guarantee that Bruce would keep the band together. Very emotional show for that reason.

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My Love Will Not Let You Down got the crowd revved up, E Street Shuffle was magnificent and Lost in the Flood was played for the first time in 22 years. Show turned into a three and a half hour extravaganza that peaked at the end with Bruce doing The Promise (oh, man, I wish we’d heard this song more often over the years, solo or band version) on piano to lead the encores.

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But in all my years of seeing Bruce, the supreme moment was hearing him do Blood Brothers, which contained a new verse specifically for the occasion. Bruce brought the band center stage and they clasped hands as he launched into the new verse. Bruce’s voice cracked, he nearly lost it altogether. I’d seen him get emotional before, but NEVER like this.

Blood Brothers

Blood Brothers

To this day, it’s tough to watch the video, as beautiful as it is.

5. Fenway Park 2, Aug. 15, 2012 

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Fenway Mic View

Fenway Mic View

Like a good jazz musician, this was Bruce at his improvisational best. Definitely the most spontaneous Bruce show I’ve seen. Saw his handwritten setlist the next day and he skipped 18-19 songs from that list.

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So we got Bruce and Roy opening with the 1975 version of Thunder Road and then a series of summertime songs. Played an awesome five-pack of Knock on Wood, Bus Stop, Frankie, Thundercrack and the 1978 Prove it All Night. Had to rely on pit crowd to start Quarter to Three because the band was in a fog about it. Bruce loved playing Fenway in 2003 and that was very much the case in 2012.

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A funny and enlightening post show moment. Bruce had announced that he was playing Knock on Wood for the first time ever. Our friend Mike Fondo (deserves full credit for this one) said to friends, “Bruce played Knock on Wood in Memphis in ’76. How could he not remember that?” So there you go, Bruce. You should always consult your fans when you’re a bit vague on rarities.

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6. Darkness in Maine, Aug. 12, 1978, Augusta Maine Civic Center

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I have to chuckle at people who say that Bruce’s setlists are too rigid these days. If you were around for the Darkness tour in ’78, those setlists had little variation, but the shows were ferociously intense (Bruce used to say during this tour, “You’re AT the show and you’re IN the show,” and, believe me, we felt we were a part of those shows). This one, in a 6,000 seat venue in the middle of Maine, was a typical example. Bruce played every note like it was his last. After opening with Summertime Blues, Badlands and Spirit (he went way up into one of the side stage sections for that one), the crowd was so deafening and boisterous that when it finally quieted down, Bruce said in amazement, “Have you people just been released from jail?” That’s when Eileen, who’d seen him only a couple of times at that point, fell in love with Bruce and the band. And she’s accompanied me to most shows for the last 39 years.
A bit more context here: It used to take Bruce a long time to “come down” from those ’78 shows. So we waited him out, and in the process, we talked with all members of the ESB in a grassy area near the tour bus for a very long time on what was a hot, humid Saturday night. I mean, the guys in the band were just hanging around and we talked to them like they were neighbors at a block party. When I spotted Bruce I went inside and talked to him before he got a chance to meet other fans.

Bruce greets fans Augusta, Maine Darkness Tour. Grenier is on the right(w/hat)

Bruce greets fans Augusta, Maine Darkness Tour. Grenier is on the right(w/hat)

August 12, 1978 Augusta, Maine Photo Collage. Max Weinberg autograph at the bottom.

August 12, 1978 Augusta, Maine Photo Collage. Max Weinberg autograph at the bottom.

Unbeknownst to me, Lawrence Kirsch of Montreal got a picture of that impromptu chat with Bruce, but a friend of his lost the negative (fortunately, Kirsch, who has done a pair of wonderful books on Bruce, made it a point to find me at a show at University of Vermont on Nov. 4, 1978 and mailed me another picture) But obviously, this night in Maine had our spirits soaring for a long time (and Kirsch still calls it the best show he’s ever seen).

7. Doubletake Magazine benefit, Somerville Theater, Feb. 19, 2003

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Unique, to say the least. And by far the most intimate Bruce performance one could ever imagine. The Somerville Theater, built in 1914, has a seating capacity of 900, so anyone who has a ticket for this one has to feel very, very fortunate.
7_somerville-collage1-copyThe format is basically once in a lifetime. Bruce comes onstage with his songbook, gives you insight into his thinking and writing about his compositions and then performs the songs acoustically or on the piano. C’mon, is that heaven or what for hardcore fans? The setlist includes My Father’s House, Nebraska, Adam Raised A Cain, Souls of the Departed, Growing Up, a new one called The Wall, and he tells us about every single line in Does This Bus Stop on 82nd Street. If you closed your eyes, you can picture Bruce doing this kind of thing for friends in his living room in Colts Neck or some other cozy place where he’s completely at ease. It’s the rarest of opportunities and I can remember just hanging on every word and every story from Bruce, and the music was sublime.
After the music and conversation, Bruce did a Q and A with fans. That was a surprise, and Bruce fielded some pretty intelligent questions. That whole night, we saw a different side of Bruce, one we never thought we’d see. Years later, Armando, a friend from Argentina, and I were discussing the greatest Bruce shows we’d seen and he put his finger in my chest and said, “You saw the ultimate show,” referring to Somerville. Okay, so it’s not quite No. 1 on my list, but it’s a show I cherish and I know exactly what Armando was talking about because there’s never been anything else like it.

8. Music Hall, Boston, March 25, 1977.

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My first Bruce show. The treasured bootleg that came out of this was called Forced to Confess. Very appropriate, since I’m forced to confess that I didn’t like Bruce at all prior to this show. Eileen can recite chapter and verse on why I thought Bruce was all hype for years, and the only reason I was on the sidewalk looking for a ticket was that a couple of friends had urged me to go.

Photo by C.Breining

Photo by C.Breining

Short version of how I got into the sold out show at this relatively small venue: young African American man is hanging around the sidewalk and I ask if he has a ticket to sell. I buy it for 8 bucks and ask him why he isn’t going to the show. He says “too many white folks in there.” We both laugh.
I take my seat in the orchestra and I’m a complete skeptic, so I’m half hoping Bruce is a fraud to confirm my skepticism. I don’t know the songs, don’t know anything, but about 30 minutes in, I’m starting to like everything. He plays a ridiculously long version of a song I later find out was Incident (many veteran fans who have the bootleg feel it’s the best version he’s ever played), and I love the sound of Action in the Street, and he plays Jungleland and Backstreets, both of which sound powerfully bigger-than-life LARGE. Late in the show, he plays songs that I actually know: Little Latin Lupe Lu, You Can’t Sit Down and Higher and Higher. I’m completely blown away. I walk out on to Tremont Street after the show, get on a pay phone and call my friends in Wellesley who had urged me to go. I think I woke them up, but I didn’t care. Bruce had just exploded into my life and I needed to talk about it. I felt like a human Drone that night and could’ve flown home.

Photo by C.Breining

Photo by C.Breining

And for the next 14 months, until the beginning of the Darkness Tour, I talked incessantly to Eileen about Bruce and how I couldn’t WAIT to take her to a show.

9. Bruce and Joe Grushecky, Soldiers and Sailors Hall, Pittsburgh, Nov. 4, 2011.

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What is this show doing in my No. 9 slot? To me, this is the most overlooked gem in Bruce’s illustrious history. Technically a Gruschecky show, Bruce owned it for nearly 3.5 hours.
Free from the pressure of his own touring, Bruce was completely relaxed and you could sense early on that he just felt like playing. When he’s in that kind of mood, you know you’re going to get the extras – extra songs, extra emotion, extra stories, extra surprises. The three song acoustic opener — Your Own Worst Enemy, Incident, I’ll Work for Your Love — just gorgeous. After that it was a couple of exuberant hours of Bruce and Gruschecky rockers, with Bruce going all out like it was an ESB show, and a nice cover of Brown Eyed Girl. Bruce did not want to leave the stage after that, so he strapped on the acoustic again, talked about his songwriting a bit, and played No Surrender, Bus Stop, Surprise Surprise and Thunder Road. It felt, again, like one of those performances that Bruce might put on for friends. Just a shockingly great show in a perfectly small venue.

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10. Danny Federici’s Final Show, Boston Garden, Nov. 19, 2007 — The most poignant show I’ve gone to, completely gut wrenching.. Word leaked out to fans in the pit and elsewhere in the building before the show that this would be it for Danny; that he was too ill (melanoma) to keep touring. Sadly, he would pass away a few months later. The thing I remember the most is how brilliant Bruce was in orchestrating the show, gradually shifting the focus to Danny. We got to see him stretch out on Kitty’s Back and Sandy and, of all things, This Hard Land, which was a tour premiere that night. I have vivid memories of fans teary-eyed in my area of the pit; I was certainly one of them. When Danny was front and center and at least part of the crowd (the ones who learned about his illness) was chanting Danny, Danny, it was heartbreaking. And lip readers close to the stage said Danny reacted with, “I think they know.”

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It was a great show but a grim, bittersweet night. As longtime fans, we’d been jolted by the news about Danny and because of that we were in no hurry to go home that night. A bunch of us went to one of those pub restaurants on Canal Street across the street from the Garden and we sat around and talked about Danny’s mortality and how Bruce and the band and we, as longtime fans, would move on. 10_rsc1861lg375

It was November, 2007, and I think even at that point we took it for granted that the band would remain intact for many more years. But things had changed irrevocably that night.

11. The St. Louis Spectacular, Aug. 23, 2008 

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Bruce proves, for about the 1,000th time, that you don’t need to be in a hotbed city like Boston, New York or Philly to get a fabulous show. This one was one of the most wildly exuberant shows ever, starting with the first note of the opener “Then She Kissed Me.” Bruce went sign searching early and teased the crowd about stumping the band and challenging the band. We got an energizing four-pack of Rendezvous, For You, Mountain of Love and Backstreets and the centerpiece was a gorgeous Drive All Night (isn’t that song always gorgeous?). Girls in Their Summer Clothes felt so right on a warm August night and Bruce followed it up with Jungleland. An exciting cover of Little Queenie was played late in the show.
Bruce referenced Miss Sophie several times during the show and dedicated Twist and Shout to her. For those of you who’ve never heard of her, Miss Sophie was living in St. Louis in 1980 when her son and daughter went to a movie, spotted Bruce sitting by himself and invited him back to their house to meet their parents. Bruce accepted the invitation from these complete strangers and Miss Sophie cooked for Bruce and her kids.
So, 28 years later, Bruce was obviously still fond of Miss Sophie, who was sitting in the family and friends section of the arena on this night. I climbed over the hockey boards to meet Miss Sophie after the show and asked for her address, telling her I would send the bootleg of the show. I’ll never forget her response: “Are you going to charge me for this?” I DID send her the bootleg and never heard back from her, but I suspect she liked the recording. Don’t we all.

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12. End of The Rising, Shea Stadium, N.Y. Oct 4, 2003 — Here we go again with the rather unreasonable expectations we place on Bruce when he does a multiple-night stand at the same venue, thinking we deserve the “best” show just because we’re there for Shea Stadium 3 to end the Rising Tour. Shea 2 the previous night was exceptional with Roulette, Rendezvous, NYCS and the ultra-rare Janey Don’t You Lose Heart among the songs played, yet we wanted to bow out of this very important tour with something better, something even more memorable.
Bruce was up to the task, cramming 30 songs into 3 hours, 20 minutes. Code of Silence was a solid opener and the early five pack of Roulette/Night/I Wish I Were Blind/Empty Sky/You’re Missing was particularly inspired, and Tunnel of Love was a welcome addition to the setlist. Back In Your Arms, which to my ears always sounds like a soul-drenched song from the 1960s Stax-Volt era when performed live, was thrilling just before the encores.

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In what was a HUGE moment, Bob Dylan came out to do Highway 61 Revisited. To put in bluntly, the song itself belly flopped seemingly due to technical issues with Dylan’s mic, but the look on Bruce’s face was priceless as he accompanied one of his all-time heroes and influences. The show and tour wrapped up with the stunning Blood Brothers, reminiscent of 7/1/2000 version from the Reunion Tour, except this time it was Clarence who had tears running down his cheeks.

13. Hot Hartford Night, May 8, 2000, Hartford Civic Center.

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Savvy Bruce fans like to zero in on the second night of back-to-back shows in the same city because you’re likely to get several surprises. We got a little greedy here because Hartford 1 would’ve been viewed as exceptional as a stand-alone, but we expected Bruce to outdo himself, and he did. A sizzling Routlette was the opener, but the roof-shattering crowd reaction came a bit later when he started Darlington County and veered into the Rolling Stones’ Honky Tonk Woman (other than a European show a dozen years later, I’ve often wondered why he hasn’t repeated that snippet since it would guarantee instant hysteria). Bruce had the crowd in the palm of his hands after that, and the underplayed masterpiece, Racing In The Street was a big time highlight.
For whatever reason, Bruce always seems to put on excellent shows in Hartford. This one is my favorite by far.

14. Three Days After John Lennon’s Murder, Dec. 11, 1980, Providence Civic Center.

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On this savagely cold (on many levels) night, we really, really needed Bruce. Eileen and I arrived early hoping to talk to Bruce but hardly optimistic about our chances. We went to the back side entrance of the Civic Center and saw maybe 10-15 people hanging around, shivering like we were. Don’t remember how long we waited, but a couple of vans eventually pulled up to the garage. Bruce had his driver stop and he disembarked. Alone.
As Bruce began to walk our way, fans started whipping out picture discs, album covers and other collectibles from underneath their heavy winter jackets. I remember being startled by that. I suppose, rightfully, they were thinking this was their once-in-a-lifetime chance to collect Bruce’s signature, but my purpose was different, my mind in a different place. Bruce went down the line and obliged every autograph seeker, but when it was my turn, I just said, “I’m not looking for you to sign anything, but could you dedicate a song to Lennon tonight.” He said yes he would, and then we shook hands. And then, as fans huddled around him again, Bruce hitched up his collar on the long overcoat he was wearing and said, “Go on inside. I’ll warm you up tonight.”
Did he ever. Bruce had played an extremely emotional show two nights before (the band had urged him to cancel the Dec. 9 show) at the Philly Spectrum and it carried over to Providence. Bruce played Darkness in the No. 4 slot, then alluded to what happened three nights earlier in New York as he dedicated The Price You Pay to Lennon. Bruce went on to play Racing in the Streets and other favorites in his 33 song set and lightened the mood with Santa Claus is Coming to Town late in the show, but this night was about catharsis as far as I was concerned. I hardly think I was the only one who felt that way.

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Field GA ticket, Wrigley Field, Chicago, 9-7-2012, Grenier's 200th show.

Field GA ticket, Wrigley Field, Chicago, 9-7-2012, Grenier’s 200th show.

15. Wrigley Field, Chicago, Sept. 7, 2012. Show No. 200 for me, and still the only time I’ve ever brought a sign, courtesy of Eileen, who spent a lot of time on it. The sign request was an either/or thing for The Price You Pay or None But The Brave, both of which were rarities at that point. With the great Eddie Vedder in the house, the show started in auspicious fashion with ’78 Prove it All Night and My Love Will Not Let You Down. Tom Morello joined Bruce for a couple of songs and Vedder came out for an excellent version of Atlantic City. We were one back from the B stage on Roy’s side and when Bruce was super close to us for Darlington County, we held up the sign — briefly — and Bruce grabbed it so it wouldn’t block people’s view, looked at it and left it on the B stage. That was the end of the request, I figured, but after playing Shackled and Sunny Day, Bruce said, “I think this is a tour debut. This is for all the hardcore fans,” and None But The Brave followed. So, yes, of course it was a special moment, and Eileen and my friends were happy for me. It was all I could ask for.

16. European Euphoria, Munich, Germany, June 18, 1985

Jumbo Sized. This was our one journey to Europe to see Bruce and everything was Jumbo Sized on this leg of the Born in the USA tour: the stadiums, the crowds, the hype, Bruce’s muscles and even the shape of the tickets, oversized beauties with Bruce’s picture that were destined for the family scrapbook.

Ticket, Munich, Germany, June 18, 1985.

Ticket, Munich, Germany, June 18, 1985.

Since Eileen was a few months pregnant with our daughter Nicole, we had to play it smart at these stadium shows, which were generally wild affairs. We avoided the stadium floor and stood (no one sat) in the stands, where it was just wacky enough.
Olympic Stadium, where this show was held, had a seating capacity of 80,000 but it seemed more like 800,000 that night. The setlist was standard Born in the USA Tour crowd pleasers, but the crowd was electric and it was impossible not to get caught up in it. A vivid memory from late in the show: the merchandise booths on the field had sold out of everything, and people who had worked behind the counter spontaneously jumped on the merch tables and danced the night away. A remarkable sight.
I think we were predisposed to have an exceptional time that night based on what happened to us earlier in the day. We walked into the Munich Hilton in the afternoon to pick up our tickets and Nils was in the lobby. Nils was an avid basketball fan and a good friend of Boston Celtics great Kevin McHale. I was wearing a Celtics jacket and Nils recognized me as a newspaper guy he’d seen in the media room at the Boston Garden a few times. He invited us to sit in the lobby with him and started peppering me with questions about the Celtics-Lakers NBA Finals series that had just concluded. We talked for several minutes and after our session, Nils got up, pulled a large stack of tickets out of his pocket and offered to treat us that night. Had to turn him down, but as you can imagine, that chance meeting with Nils, and his kindness, left us in a great frame of mind for the show that night.

French poster for Born in the USA show, St. Etienne, France, June 25, 1985

French poster for Born in the USA show, St. Etienne, France, June 25, 1985

Paris record store, June, 1985.

Paris record store, June, 1985.

17. Fenway Park the 2003 Version, Night 2, Sept. 7, 2003.

The locals were well aware of the Red Sox ignominious history at this juncture — no World Series title in 85 years and the dubious distinction of being the last MLB team to integrate, so it was a coup when they were able to recruit Bruce for back-to-back nights at the ballpark. And while Night 1 was terrific and Bruce showed genuine excitement in playing there, Fenway 2 would prove to be more satisfying.
For the second night in a row, Bruce opened with Take Me Out to the Ballgame with Danny on organ and followed it up with Diddy Wah Diddy, a nod to a Boston band, Barry & The Remains, which had a minor hit with a cover version of the song in the mid-60s. Those were the appetizers for a main course that included Adam Raised A Cain, Something in the Night (high on my list from the Darkness album), For You, the obscure but well-loved Frankie, which set things up for the always majestic Jungleland.

Bruce’s longtime buddy Peter Wolf was aboard for the show ending Dirty Water.

Bruce with Peter Wolfe

Bruce with Peter Wolfe

Some other quick observations from the Fenway shows: there was an unmistakeable buzz in the streets both days with people getting there several hours before showtime to take it all in….the soundcheck was loud and clear outside the ballpark, creating excitement and a sense of anticipation….people who were shut out of tickets brought chairs or sat on the sidewalk and took in the entire show. The whole two nights felt like a carnival….prior to Fenway 1, Red Sox principal owner John Henry approached the pit, stopping just outside the rail. I recognized it as a chance to thank him for bringing Bruce in for two shows, so I went to the back of the pit to say hello. Henry said, “How do you get these (pit) tickets anyway?” I told him it was a bit complicated, but it struck me as funny that Henry, whose net worth is $1 billion, would ask a fan about getting close to the stage. I invited him to join us in the pit, but he politely declined, saying, “Think I’ll go back (to the suite).” Too bad. I think he would’ve enjoyed the show more in the pit.

Mike and Eileen Grenier - Green Monster, Fenway Park, Boston, Sept. 7, 2003

Mike and Eileen Grenier – Green Monster, Fenway Park, Boston, Sept. 7, 2003

18. The Asbury Park Blizzard Christmas Show, Night 3, Dec. 8, 2003

A chaotic, albeit memorable weekend on the Jersey shore due to a major snowstorm that blanketed the area, forcing people to cancel/alter plans and Bruce to rearrange the scheduled shows. We had friends who drove from Boston and points north in dicey conditions to get to the Saturday night show, only to turn around when the show was pushed to Monday night. It was just a horrendous inconvenience for many loyal fans.

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The lucky ones who were able to stick around for the Monday night finale were rewarded with a generous 3.5 hour show at tiny Convention Hall that was part Christmas, part rarities (So Young and in Love, None but the Brave, Thundercrack,Seaside Bar Song, The Wish) and part soul revue. With Bruce conducting the band and absolutely beaming, Sam Moore’s mini-set consisting of Hold On, I’m Coming, When Something is Wrong With My Baby, Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa (Sad Song)/I Thank You, and Soul Man had the feel of a night at the Apollo Theater. A lot of the Christmas Shows Bruce did in 2000, 2001 and 2003 were pure fun, but this one was musically striking and a treasured memory.

 

19. No Nukes Show, Sept. 22, 1979, MSG, New York City

This was a star studded affair and we saw Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, but it was overwhelmingly Bruce-centric crowd, and an impatient one at that as the show started to run way behind schedule.
An unforgettable sight: Petty, supposedly getting accustomed to playing large arena shows, frozen like a statue at the mic as the crowd kept screaming for Bruce during Petty’s 40 minute set. The story goes that when Petty finished up and went backstage, Raitt tried to reassure him that the crowd wasn’t booing him, they were Brooocing him. To which Petty replied, “What’s the difference?”
Bruce had barely played any shows in ’79 and Eileen and I could feel the floor shake when the ESB practically ran to their spots on stage. Bruce was simultaneously intense and snarling, so we witnessed the good and the bad that came out of that mood.


The bad part: Bruce spotted his former girlfriend, photographer Lynn Goldsmith, taking pictures when she shouldn’t have been, and ordered security to bring her to the stage. Bruce grabbed her forearm and said to the audience, “This is my ex-girlfriend.” He then took Goldsmith to the back of the stage and basically tossed her to security. A little later, after someone gave him a birthday cake to celebrate his 30th, Bruce tasted a little frosting and promptly threw the cake into the crowd.
The good part: Bruce and the band played a scorching set, burning through 11 songs in just under 90 minutes. It wasn’t just Bruce, the entire band was fired up, and that fueled the crowd some more. The most emotional song by far was the debut performance of The River, played a year before the album even came out. Bruce’s eyes blinked constantly as he tried to hold it together during the song, which was written for his sister Ginny and her husband, who were going through difficult times financially.
The No Nukes Show. It was a hard night and a confusing night and a great night rolled into one.

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20. Devils and Dust, the Penultimate Show, Trenton, N.J., Nov. 21, 2005.

Here’s something I really loved about this solo tour: Bruce not only played the D & D material, but by the end of the tour (this was the second to last night), he’d also played every song from his fabulous Nebraska album. There’s something to be said for that.
As is seemingly his habit towards the end of every tour, the setlists get more unpredictable and expansive. Bruce opened with the instrumental Rumble in honor of guitar great Link Wray, who had passed away a few weeks earlier. He also played the extremely obscure Song for Orphans for the first time in 32 years. We also got Santa Ana, from the same period and similarly obscure. Fade Away, Meeting Across The River, State Trooper, Nebraska, Drive All Night, Atlantic City…it was just an incredibly wide ranging setlist. I was drawn to the intimacy and the story telling that Bruce did on the Joad and Devil and Dust tours. Bruce was alternately funny and serious, edgy, irreverent and articulate, and ALWAYS interesting and compelling. It was magical on occasion. This was one of those occasions.

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The Hat! Grenier has worn the same hat to Bruce shows for nearly 40 years.

CODA
We pulled a lot of all nighters going to Bruce shows over the years, driving long distances back home to the Boston area at ungodly hours. Thanks to all my friends, ESPECIALLY Michele and Walter, who might have been tempted but who never left me stranded in Philadelphia or New Jersey or New York or Albany or (worse) Newark or Bridgeport. Sometimes the nights were so exhilarating, so momentous, so damn near perfect that I simply wanted to talk to everyone in the pit or the arena or the stadium. Didn’t want to leave the venue, period. But you guys waited for me. And waited. And waited. For that and many other things, I’m eternally grateful.

Mike Grenier, 67, was a staff sportswriter for the Salem Massachusetts News for 38 years and is now semi-retired. In addition to attending as many Springsteen concerts as possible, he is an eclectic music fan with an extensive CD/LP collection, and an avid reader of non-fiction books. He also dotes on his two-year-old grandson Brody.
Mike’s favorite Bruce album is Darkness on the Edge of Town. Mike and his wife Eileen, also a longtime Bruce fan, live in Lawrence, Mass. Mike Grenier: gren4@verizon.net

Special thanks to Rocco Coviello of Amesbury, Mass; long time Bruce Springsteen fan and photographer for his contribution of many of the outstanding photographs included in this story. You can see a full range of Rocco’s photographs here: Rocco’s Photo Tavern

And a big shout out to Bruce Base for providing many of the pieces of memorabilia and photos illustrating Mike Grenier’s story. Bruce Base is the most valuable and comprehensive Bruce Springsteen archive resource on line.

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HELP FIGHT CANCER- TERRY FOX RUN- MARATHON OF HOPE- PLEASE DONATE TODAY

“Even if I don’t finish, we need others to continue. It’s got to keep going” – Terry Fox, July 10, 1980

In support of the Marathon of Hope – The Terry Fox Run, September 18, 2016

MISSION
To maintain the vision and principles of Terry Fox while raising money for cancer research through the annual Terry Fox Run, National School Run Day, as well as via memoriam donations and planned gifts. In accordance with Terry’s wishes, all monies raised in his name are to be used strictly for cancer research.

Terry was not interested in fame and glory when he embarked on his Marathon of Hope in 1980. His sole purpose was to raise money to find a cure for cancer.

The Terry Fox Run is an all-inclusive and family-oriented event. While Terry himself was an athlete, he wanted his Run to be open to walkers, bikers and families. We acknowledge all participants as victors if they have given or raised funds for cancer research in Terry’s name.

You can help the fund raising efforts for the 2016 Marathon of Hope by donating here. All monies collected will be donated to the Terry Fox Foundation. Read about the Marathon of Hope and Terry Fox here: www.terryfox.org




TERRY FOX AND THE TERRY FOX FOUNDATION
Terry Fox was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and raised in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, a community near Vancouver on Canada’s west coast. An active teenager involved in many sports, Terry was only 18 years old when he was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma (bone cancer) and forced to have his right leg amputated 15 centimetres (six inches) above the knee in 1977.

While in hospital, Terry was so overcome by the suffering of other cancer patients, many of them young children, that he decided to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research.

He would call his journey the Marathon of Hope. It was a journey that Canadians never forgot.

After 18 months and running over 5,000 kilometres (3,107 miles) to prepare, Terry started his run in St. John’s, Newfoundland on April 12, 1980 with little fanfare. Although it was difficult to garner attention in the beginning, enthusiasm soon grew, and the money collected along his route began to mount. He ran close to 42 kilometres (26 miles) a day through Canada’s Atlantic provinces, Quebec and Ontario. However, on September 1st, after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres (3,339 miles), Terry was forced to stop running outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario because cancer had appeared in his lungs. An entire nation was stunned and saddened. Terry passed away on June 28, 1981 at the age 22.

The heroic Canadian was gone, but his legacy was just beginning.

To date, over $600 million has been raised worldwide for cancer research in Terry’s name through the annual Terry Fox Run, held across Canada and around the world.

About the Terry Fox Charity
Canadian foundation which raises money solely for cancer research in Terry’s name while at the same time is a leader among charitable organizations in maintaining low administrative and fundraising cost ratios. Currently, more than 85 cents of every dollar raised goes towards finding a cure for cancer. Please visit www.terryfox.org to learn more.

Terry Fox- Marathon of Hope

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Bruce Springsteen – Our Light in Darkness. Suzanne Morin, a teacher from Amesbury, Mass remembers the effects 911 had on her students.

MY relationship with Bruce Springsteen, the man, his band(s), and his music began thirty years ago. I had purchased the Born to Run album at the Haverhill Music Center and foolishly decided to loan my record to a boy I had a crush on. The album was a coveted item when I was a freshman in high school and the gesture was intended to impress him. My mother had warned me about lending things out to people, especially things of sentimental value. “A borrower nor a lender be,” she would say. Her prognostication that I would lose my first collection of Springsteen’s music was accurate and it was a long time before I was reunited with the album. It was recovered in a wedding trunk when I married that same boy in 1979.

My husband and I have traveled to over sixty shows to see Bruce. We have watched him explode into the world as a musician, performer, poet, activist and songwriter.

Integrating Bruce into the Curriculum

Integrating Bruce into the curriculum seems both natural and logical to me. He is an individual whose music profoundly shaped a generation of Americans, who now have children of their own. These children are my students. Implementing an educational curriculum and synthesizing what will be included, in a world of endless material, is not based on personal taste. There needs to be an evaluation of an artist’s musical accomplishments and their place in the goals of the music curriculum. The idea is to set the benchmarks and standards of what students need to know to acquire musical literacy and appreciation and then hope you have hit your mark. Bruce embodies so many of the ideals of what a comprehensive music program hopes to realize. He exemplifies what it means to use music as a tool to educate, liberate, heal, unify, and clarify.

In the months following 9/11, there were limited outside resources to provide children with the support and clarification they needed to come to grips with what was a confusing and horrifying time. I found myself in a situation where I was instructed by educational administrators to be very cautious when dealing with issues around this subject. We were encouraged to avoid conversations with the younger population whenever possible. Our school, like countless others, became cloaked in sadness, despair, helplessness, and paralysis. Because American Airlines Flight 11 originated in Boston, our community suffered significant personal losses. It was not only the images on television that these children were bombarded with, but the knowledge that some members of the community had lost members of their families.

Then came The Rising. It was the first significant musical contribution that answered the call to make sense of the events of September 11th. I knew as soon as I heard the first song that this body of music had the potential for initial healing and, far more important, it would tell the stories. It became invaluable in helping a fragile population sort out the unimaginable in language that was both poignant and sensitive. The Rising represented what each and every child needed–hope. They longed to be assured that the pervasive air of fear, grief, and profound sadness would in time pass and give way to a rising of unification, renewal of spirit, and light. Bruce gave us that. As a gifted lyricist, he has an uncanny talent for conjuring up powerful metaphors to frame events in history or to simply describe a contentious situation in words of the common man.

In 2005 came the next significant Springsteen curriculum contribution, the Seeger Sessions. The music of Pete and Ruth Seeger helped shape my own musical career and I in turn considered it my professional obligation to introduce this same folk music to my students. I was thrilled when I heard that Bruce would be involved in paying tribute to an individual I consider a national treasure.

When Bruce and his newly appointed band of musicians hit the airwaves at our school, the electricity was akin to that of  The Beatles at Heathrow. I am not exaggerating. There was not a single student who failed to be swept up in the excitement of the music and hungry to learn the lyrics. The term folk music, formerly uninteresting, old, and boring, became bold, hip, and most of all, really fun. The biggest draws to the Seeger Sessions album were the participatory nature of the songs, the great refrains, and most importantly, the stories. The kids loved hearing about the heroism of John Henry, the romance of Jesse James’s philanthropy, and the sentimentality of a mule named Sal on the Erie Canal. Everyone loves a great tale, and if there is any chance that there is a degree of truth to it, it becomes irresistible. Add to that Bruce’s incredible arrangements, profound musicianship, and a bit of American folklore, and you have something kids can get very excited about. And that’s what happened. In the halls, playgrounds, ball fields, and cafeterias, the stories of American characters filled the air. The topper was that when the kids went home to tell their parents about this great new music they had heard, the parents were able to chuckle and say, “Hey, I know that music. That’s my music and now it’s your music.” Isn’t that what it’s all about? The primary thing I learned as a music educator when I introduced my students to the Seeger Sessions was that I could never underestimate the power of music to bring people together.

Bruce’s Politics

I am generally not in favor of actors, musicians, and sports figures lecturing me on political issues unless I actually see them doing something to bring about significant change. It is only then that I take notice. Bruce doesn’t just talk about change, he works to bring it about. The message in his music bids one to take responsibility, take pride locally and globally, and most of all, know that we are stronger as a group than we are individually. He does this, not as an exception but as a rule, in his music, his personal life, and through countless work initiatives.

Bruce’s work ethic has inspired me to offer students the same encouragement to work a little harder, care a lot more, and look out for the other guy whenever possible. I am fortunate to hold a position where I am able to take that lesson and pass it on to a new generation of citizens who will very soon have the greatest impact on our future. Bruce’s devotion to chronicling political and social injustice, particularly of the working class, has both endeared him to the American public and provided political retractors with ammunition. He has stood undaunted, caring more about singing about what he believes in and conveying his message, that we are all responsible to take notice of what is going on in our own country, than about musical ratings.

An opportunity to utilize Bruce’s music presented itself during a theater production in which young students were learning about the plight of factory workers in the Northeast. Students were working on a play they had written about a very young labor activist named George McNeill. George was a fourteen-year-old boy who in 1862 organized the now famous Derby Strike at the Amesbury/Salisbury Woolen Mill, a factory in the town where the students lived. The young boy cast as George McNeill had been through a very difficult time recently, and I was very grateful to have him working on something that would take his mind off problems far too lofty for a nine-year-old. He requested a solo in the production, and the song he selected, after hearing several options, was “Factory” from Darkness on the Edge of Town. He felt that the song really captured the plight of the working man and presented a palatable image of the agonizing pain and hopelessness of the factory worker. He liked that Bruce talked about the ability of the factory to both give and take life. It hit him hard, as it did the rest of the audience. It ended up becoming the anthem of the play, and the kids were deeply moved by the riveting images evoked by the lyrics of the song.

As to how parents have responded to my exposing their children to Springsteen’s politics, I would say the response has been positive. I believe when a program is structured in an appropriate manner and children learn material within the context it was intended to be taught, the casualties of misunderstanding are minimized. Having presented learning objectives in that manner has afforded me the luxury and privilege of utilizing the musical genius of Bruce Springsteen with little opposition. I have been able to use Springsteen’s work to provide students with opportunities to think analytically and move outside their comfort zones. They are asked to stretch themselves with regards to their preconceived notions and look and listen with new eyes and ears.

Suzanne Morin
Amesbury, MA

This story was first published in the limited edition book For You, Original Stories and Photographs by Bruce Springsteen’s Legendary Fans, 2007

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