Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes performed two special shows at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park this past weekend. Friday night was billed as “Rare Jukes: All the Non-Hits, All The Time” and night two was the Music of Bruce Springsteen. Both nights were two and a half hours of well-rehearsed, impeccably created material.
When the house lights went down Saturday night, I had a lot of hopes for the evening. I was waiting for that moment when Steve walked back on stage again, I was waiting for the first notes of the first song, I was waiting for the crowd to settle in and the gaggle of teenage boys next to me to stop poking me with their elbows. I was not at all expecting to hear the first notes of the alternate “Racing” and was pretty sure that I was wrong and that I was going to feel pretty dumb once Bruce started singing — except that, yes, Bruce was starting the Saturday night penultimate show of the tour at a casino by playing the alternate version of “Racing In The Street” from The Promise. Which is an interesting choice to say the least, but interesting from the perspectives of tone and intent: it’s brighter, not as solemn as the album cut, but it’s obscure as all fuck to the casual fan and could run the risk of falling over flat and then it’s a flurry of gathering signs or “Hungry Heart” to try to win them back.
You might think that I am lying if I tell you that I have had actual fantasies about Bruce playing “Clampdown” prior to it happening (it involved a guest appearance by Mick Jones [who, I have it on good authority, was at Hyde Park for the London Calling show] and not Tom Morello, but a girl CAN’T BE TOO PICKY). That said, I would like to present the other 10 Clash (or Joe Strummer) songs Mr. Springsteen (or his proxy in these matters, Mr. Morello) should consider playing. I tried to pick things that I thought the E Street Band could successfully play and would fit with the current show.
Back in the day, I used to have my circuit of Greenwich Village, the route I would take as a teenager to visit the various record stores. Each of them had their strengths and weaknesses, some had the bootleg records in the main section, others you had to ask behind the counter specifically, which I guess was to protect them from getting busted. Some would let you listen first, others wouldn’t, and it was at one of the latter that I picked up a bootleg that had “The Iceman” on it. It wasn’t labeled, had no cover art, and I took a big chance with my 15-year-old babysitting money when the guy behind the counter told me that it was amazing and that “any real Springsteen fan” had to have it. “Iceman” was on there, along with “Rendezvous” and “Taxi Cab” and in those pre-internet years, it was like owning some kind of Holy Grail. At some point, between moves and roommates the record got lost (or borrowed) and I’d forgotten all about it until Tracks came out and suddenly those long-lost songs were there again. It was like running into old friends you’d lost touch with.
So, when Bruce came out last night and out of absolutely nowhere–it wasn’t even in soundcheck spoiler reports–starts playing “The Iceman”–I was absolutely immersed into that sense of deja vu, taken back to the imaginary Springsteen concerts I’d attend in my teenage mind. It was spectacular, and immense, and pretty much perfect. The stage was dark, tiny pin spotlights on Bruce and Roy, hazy light on the singers and Charlie. It took a lot of guts to come out and hit a Saturday night crowd with a song 90% of them wouldn’t even know, especially one that required as much attention and tension as that one. There were deep breaths. There were quiet fist bumps. There were a lot of “Holy @#$%!” But mostly, it was just reveling in the magnificent performance of that particular song.
Kevin Buell, Springsteen’s guitar tech, comes out dressed as a referee and holds up a basketball for a tip off between Bruce and Nils.(The latter wins despite being shorter, because although Bruce is undeniably in better shape, Nils is the better athlete.) But instead of “Badlands” or “We Take Care Of Our Own,” what do we hear instead?
“Jump.” By Van Halen.
Yeah, that just happened.
I very much enjoyed the chance to contribute to the Guardian’s ongoing “10 of the Best” series on the subject of Mr. Bruce Springsteen. I thought it would be interesting to talk about the songs that didn’t make the cut and why (and more on some that did).
The Guardian in the UK asked me to contribute to their ongoing series – deep cuts only AND they had to be available on UK Spotify. Trust me when I say that picking the songs was harder than writing the actual piece, and there were some restless nights (ahem) over what I had to cut out.
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“I drive a Cadillac in my dreams” isn’t that far out of the man’s oeuvre, now, is it? Or songs about poor kids breaking out of their small town existence?
This cover is blowing my mind. All week we’ve been debating Crowded House and Split Enz (and this could happen now that Neil Finn is going to tonight’s show) but we also walked around saying, “There’s no way he’d do a ‘Royals’ cover” and yet, here it is.