by Robert Gillis
A little disclaimer: When it comes to Springsteen, I am not exactly unbiased — Not at all. I love the guy and tonight’s show was my 25th or 26th of my life — certainly not up there with fans like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who has seen the Boss 130 times, or even the nice folks I spoke with who have seen him over 70 times — but Bruce Springsteen has been my main musical choice for three decades and I am a hardcore Springsteen tramp. So if you’re looking for tight, compelling prose, an analytical and objective story, please see some of my other more serious pieces on this site — because the Springsteen shows/reviews are pure joy.
How good was the Fenway Park August 15, 2012 it? Superlatives aside, it has to rank as one of the most intense, balls to the wall, joyous, and likely BEST Springsteen shows I’ve seen. It was a religious experience. And EVERY review I’ve read says the same thing: This was one for the record books, a show Springsteen fans will list as one of their top three and anyone who attended will have bragging rights to say, “I was in Fenway on August 15!” It was THAT good.
Why? There was a lot to love — being at Fenway of course, a crowd of real fans, and a Springsteen who seemed determined to keep the mood upbeat and fun all night.
Springsteen shows often follows a show formula of: Anthem / party/ fast songs, then the pace slows down a bit, then more rock and party, slow it down, etc. Not tonight. Except for, “My City of Ruins,” and “Rocky Ground,” there was NO slowing down. The entire show was a non-stop house party. (Or a picnic, as Springsteen called it at least once.)
Song after song after song, with Springsteen bounding around like a teenager looking impossibly good and energetic at 62, for a crowd who didn’t care when it started raining, and putting on a show that again, ranks as a religious experience — especially from a performer who’s been known to make his shows out to be revivals!
Some memories in no order:
- Springsteen kept talking about how good the hot dogs smelled and someone finally brought him one; he ate it and gave the “pretty good” nod, and downed an entire beer as we chanted, “Chug, chug, chug!”
- Springsteen being very playful with the crowd, talking about how “unimpressed” he was with the cheap quality of the request signs, and then shaking his head whether to play one or not. Hilarious.
- I toasted Dad with a beer and remembered our first (and only) game in the 1970s. Dad would have loved to come to Fenway again. I would have loved to bring him.
- Fenway is pure magic, Red Sox win/lose stats be damned, Fenway is magic.
- Springsteen “gets” the ghost of Fenway and why the place is sacred ground.
- Loved the moment when a little kid did the drip the sponge water on Springsteen’s head, and the Boss carrying him back to his family.
- No Patti tonight, she’s “on tour” with Jess. Very little focus on Soozie, surprisingly.
- Fireworks after the show coming from the roof of the Green Monster!
- The couple ahead of us were VERY into the show, both guys were obviously major Springsteen fans.
- Talked to a woman who met Springsteen in 2003; she showed us the picture and said she was so happy he was nice; it would have shattered her dream otherwise! She’ll be at Gillette Saturday.
- I remember being so happy during this show.
- That’s the true enchantment of a Springsteen show — feeling young again, being taken away from all the problems for a raucous house party, and some freaking awesome Springsteen.
- No song felt old or overplayed tonight. Tonight, it was all fresh and new!
- VERY different show than what I heard and read for Tuesday (8/14) — wasn’t there for that one — every review I read, and everyone who was at Tuesday’s show, said this one was better.
- When Sue and I made our way back to the car we were chatting with a woman parked near us who’d seen Springsteen 62 times (12 on this tour alone) and said this show ranks as one of the best she’s ever seen.
- (EVERY review cited this as one Springsteen fans would be talking about forever and call a very favorite)
- And this is a show I will never forget!
“Take me out to the ballgame” was the intro song as we saw video of Springsteen arriving in a black car and taking the stage. He talked to the crowd before the show began, saying that as we get older we have more ghosts — not the scary kind, but those that live in our memory, this one played here, this man stood here (Danny and Clarence) and Fenway ghosts — the pole there (Johnny Pesky) and all those who played in this park.
I feel what he said exactly captured the spirit of Fenway. And I think he’s coming out of his grieving for Clarence, as tonight was more of an Irish wake than a memorial.
By opening with “Thunder Road,” (Just Springsteen and Roy on the keyboards) we knew we were in for a FAN show! Reminded me of the “LIVE” CD (1975-1985), and Springsteen said Fenway is like a big picnic.
There was indeed a definite “Summer Night Picnic” vibe with Hungry Heart / Sherry Darling / Summertime Blues / and Girls in Their Summer Clothes. Springsteen’s vocals are better on “Summer Clothes” than previously; as I recall he had trouble with this one live in Jersey a few years back.
“We Take Care of Our Own” has got to be one of the best Springsteen songs ever. It’s a true anthem. LOVE it.
“Two Hearts” — Always fun. He covered several from the River tonight.
“Wrecking Ball” — I love, love, the NY “Giants” reference in the song and the good-natured booing. Springsteen just smiles and says, “Sorry about that!” And Soozie’s violin really makes this song. Another new song I REALLY like.
“Death to My Hometown” — Powerful! Love the Irish music in the WB material.
“My City of Ruins” — Springsteen noted they were the first musical act to play Fenway Park (Yep, I was there in 2003!) and said he was honored to be back for the 100th anniversary. “What makes this place so beautiful is the ghosts that haunt it.” Springsteen introduces the band, and says he wants a hot dog and a beer!
I felt real emotion from the “Rise up / with these hands/ I pray Lord” lyrics here, and was touched with the, “Are we missing anybody” part when Springsteen asked for a light on the Johnny Pesky pole (the Sox player passed away this week) and the wreath around him number. Crowd went crazy. (Also noted after the show: On the “Teammates” statue outside the park are flowers, Johnny Pesky is one of the players in that statue).
Sign collection starts, Springsteen is disappointed by the “cheapness of some of the signs” Hilarious! “That’s a good one… That’s a hard one…”
“Knock on Wood” — Springsteen said he wasn’t sure they’d ever played this; it was very well done. I said to Sue that eight thousand Springsteen fans were researching that fact and sure enough we found he HAD played it once before, in 1976 in Memphis, the same night Springsteen jumped the fence at Graceland to try to meet Elvis Presley.
“Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?” — And I’m off to get a pretzel that was pretty stale.
“Thundercrack” – A good intro as Springsteen talked about opening for Anne Murray, Chicago, the Eagles, Sha Na Na, and how no one knew who they (the E Street Band) were so they needed a distinctive sounds, and this song was one of their first show stoppers. I believe I’ve read that when Anne Murray took the stage, the audience was screaming for Springsteen to come back?
“Frankie” — Sue likes the songs she knows so wasn’t familiar with this one; Frankie is not a song you hear often and I love it. Loved how talked about writing this song and seeing fireflies in his yard, and everyone opened their cell phone and filled the park with “fireflies.” A beautiful image but just not the same as thousands of lighters!
“Prove It All Night (’78 intro)” Springsteen Holy shit! The LONG 1978 intro was just amazing — never seen this version live. Scorching. We’re already thinking, this is a show for the record books.
“Darkness on the Edge of Town” — and I am LOVING it. AWESOME
“Working on the Highway” — Fun summer song! Like I’ve said, sort of a throwaway on BITUSA but so much fun live.
“Shackled and Drawn” — And the rain starts a little and then picks up but it’s OK. Great song about what’s going on in America now and I like the addition of Cindy at that end with Springsteen at the mike, “Singing this song, singing this song…” When the rain began it felt good, and even Springsteen mentioned it felt good and noted the nice breeze. Looking directly up into the rain, it was coming down like snow — it made the experience magical and surreal, seeing what looked like a snowstorm by the Fenway Park sign.
“Waiting’ on a Sunny Day” — I don’t care what some fans say, I LOVE this song and it’s the family fun song of the new Springsteen shows. LOTs of young kids and teens in the audience; Sue mentioned how happy it makes her that today’s kids are into Springsteen! And Springsteen notices the rain is picking up and says, “Whoa, we better start singing!”
“Backstreets (with Dream Baby Dream interlude)” — Backstreets is just another haunting Springsteen classic that I adore, and the “Dream Baby Dream” riff was perfect. Here’s one that isn’t heard enough! A BTR classic!
“Badlands” — There are nights I say, “Again???”But not tonight; he rocked it and I loved it; crowd seemed to agree.
“Land of Hope and Dreams” — just amazing. This song debuted live during the reunion tour of 99 (I believe) and the studio version on WB just doesn’t hold up to the song live. AWESOME.
“Who’ll Stop the Rain”(acoustic) — good choice for the weather! The rain actually added to the magic at this point.
“Rocky Ground” — Dedicated to the Greater Boston Food Bank. Michelle does a nice job on this one but it’s just not a favorite from WB for me. And I’m not a fan of the rap here. I know that Springsteen is reaching to different audiences but for me, it’s just not “Springsteen;” I’m sure many folks don’t agree with me and that’s okay.
“Born to Run” — YEAH! House lights up and everyone wild!
“Detroit Medley” — Have not heard this live in a while (maybe since the TOL tour?), so much fun and cemented the party vibe! I love the “Devil with the Blue Dress” part.
“Dancing in the Dark” — Was it almost thirty years since Springsteen pulled a (then unknown) Courtney Cox onto the stage in the video? Dancing in the Dark is a hit or miss at the shows, tonight, monster hit. Springsteen dancing with a beautiful babe (later find out she’s a cop!)
“Quarter to Three” — I know Springsteen used to play this one a lot decades ago; don’t know it at all. Shame on me!
“Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” — The Clarence tribute is so touching, the video montage is powerful. “Tenth” is the story of Scooter and the Big Man, the story of the band, and there could be no greater tribute than this song, the applause after “They made that uptown / and the Big Man joined the band” where Clarence was always introduced. RIP Big Man — we miss you! And I should note: Jake has more than proven his mettle as Clarence’s successor; he does his uncle proud and the crowds love him. The future is in good hands.
“American Land (with Ken Casey)” — “Boston!” Springsteen was shouting, “That rain feels good! You ain’t gonna let a little rain bother you, are you? I think we’ve got one more for you before we go home!” American Land might seem almost cliché but the Dropkick Murphy’s singer was so into the song and just added to the awesomeness! Springsteen and Murphy’s exaggerated Irish brogues added to the immigrant theme and joy of the song while not diluting its message. And I LOVE the song; a nice change from the expected, “Dirty Water” and much more within the “Wrecking Ball” and “Magic” themes.
And right after the show, from atop the green monster, fireworks (well, small ones!) Don’t know if that was a Springsteen idea or a Fenway anniversary thing, but nice!
As reviewed on Backstreets.com, “A monster of a show,” and as a hardcore Springsteen fan, I’m so happy I can say, “Fenway August 15? Oh, yeah, I was there!” Awesome! Thank you Bruce and the incredible E Street Band for one we will ALWAYS remember!