During the Human Touch/Lucky Town solo tour in the early nineties, Bruce Springsteen performed two benefit concerts for local community food banks. The first was held at Brendan Byrne Arena with the other being at Madison Square Garden. I had a friend, Kerry, with a contact at Ticketmaster. Through her contact, we were able to get exceptional seats for the face value price. Section 104. The price was $30 and that included most of the money going to charity. I miss the old days of concerts.
The performance took place on a warm June night and Kerry and I got to the parking lot early to do some tailgating. Sit in the sun, eat some food, and play a little catch. We watched the other fans roll in, enjoyed the music blasting out of the cars, and anticipated what the night was going to bring. It would be my second time seeing Springsteen. After seeing him perform almost a year before, I was really looking forward to this performance.
We got inside, found our most incredible seats, and waited for the night to begin. Springsteen started with an acoustic set of songs before launching into the hard rocking heavy hitters. I Ain’t Got No Home (a cover of the Woody Guthrie folk song) kicked off the concert. It was sung with different singers taking a verse and Springsteen closing it out.
Springsteen segued to more acoustic numbers from there. A beautiful rendition (and quite possibly the best I’ve ever heard) of Seeds was performed that left me with my jaw hanging open. Even when I hear it now, 17 years later, I still think it’s a superior version.
An acoustic Adam Raised A Cain was next, and while it’s cool to hear a different interpretation of this song, the original hard rocking version would have been preferred. This Hard Land came next, closing out the acoustic four-pack of openers. At the time, This Hard Land was an unknown song except by the deepest of fans. It was a wonderful performance that I was fortunate enough to hear.
From there it was rock and roll the rest of the night. Better Days kicked it off and we never looked back. Springsteen was bringing it hard that evening. He talked little and performed a lot. Determined to give the fans their money’s worth, Springsteen was giving his all, pulling out the classics, and playing the new hits with a passion and power that made them shine.
Satan’s Jewel Crown was also performed. This is a sought out song by collectors of all things (rare) Springsteen. Personally, I don’t think it’s that great of a song, and since it’s not a Springsteen original, I don’t have much love for it. I believe this was the only time the song was ever performed. In the history of all things Springsteen, it’s amazing that I saw that song performed live. In the history of great Springsteen songs, Satan’s Jewel Crown doesn’t even check in on the radar screen.
Long after the intermission, but before the encore, Springsteen decided that it was time to bring out some surprise guests. I don’t quite recall the order the guests were introduced, but I’m pretty sure that Southside Johnny came out first, followed by the Miami Horns. Then it was time for the really big guns. Steven Van Zandt came out to guest on Glory Days which made the crowd go wild. It had been close to 10 years since Steven had left the band, and to see him on stage with Bruce for a special benefit concert made everyone happy.
The mighty Max Weinberg was next and the crowd went into a total frenzy. And while it was excellent to see Weinberg and Van Zandt on the stage, that was nothing compared to who was about to be introduced.
With a laugh and a smile, it was time to bring the Big Man out. As Clarence Clemmons was introduced, the arena exploded. The roar was deafening. The vibrations could be felt through my chest. I was a huge fan of Clarence and always thought that he made the band what it was, so to have him come out on the stage made me extremely excited. I was so happy that I leaped up and down in the aisle, which wasn’t the smartest idea. On the way down from one of my leaps, my foot caught the edge of the step, my ankle turned, and I went down like a brick. I had sprained my ankle in all of my excitement over seeing Clarence take the stage with Bruce. They ripped into Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out and I hopped on one foot and sang along. It was embarrassing, to say the least, but I would get to tell this story to Clarence himself, who would chuckle politely. That, of course, is a review for another day.
Performance-wise, this was one of the longest and most versatile Springsteen concerts I had ever attended. Deep cuts, current hits, and songs never before performed (and possibly never since either) were all trotted out that night. Does This Bus Stop…?, the aforementioned Seeds, Because The Night, Who’ll Stop The Rain, Settle For Love, Havin’ A Party, and Jersey Girl were all played on that early summer evening. The concert did not end until almost 12:30 AM with the final song being It’s Alright.
I had enjoyed Springsteen before I saw him in 1992. After the first time I saw him, I was hooked. After seeing him for that benefit concert, it cemented my fan status and that night I became a rabid fan. Springsteen was catapulted into my top 5 favorite artists, and he currently sits at number two behind Kiss (whom will never be removed from the top spot). Springsteen converted me that night from fan-boy, to die-hard. His performance was breathtaking and he proved, once again, why he is the king of live entertainers.
My sprained ankle turned out to be just a mild one. I kept it wrapped for three days and stayed off it as much as I could. I was fine after that, and Kerry and I had something to laugh about for many years to come.
I Ain’t Got No Home
Seeds (acoustic version)
Adam Raised A Cain (acoustic version)
This Hard Land (acoustic version)
57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)
Satan’s Jewel Crown
Leap of Faith
Roll of the Dice
Everybody Needs Somebody To Love
Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?
Because The Night
Who’ll Stop The Rain
Souls Of The Departed
The Star Spangled Banner
Born In The USA
Light Of Day
Settle For Love
It’s Been A Long Time
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Born To Run
My Beautiful Reward
Blowin’ Down The Road
Havin’ A Party