Bruce Springsteen has made local news since last summer, surprising fans with several appearances at area clubs, including Sea Bright’s Donovan’s Reef and the Tradewinds, the Clearwater Festival and Asbury’s Stone Pony.
He now is making national news with recent reports that a new album with his E Street Band is in the works.
There has been speculation concerning rumors Bruce was recording in Atlanta with band members flying in to join him. Rumors, that is, until E Street guitarist Nils Lofgren confirmed these reports on
an ESPN radio show. It is yet to be known whether or not these sessions will culminate in a new album. Brendan O’Brien, who has worked with Pearl Jam, Bob Dylan, Stone Temple Pilots and many others, is
producing these sessions.
If O’Brien’s body of work is a forecast of what this studio time will produce, it is clear the Boss is heading in the direction of a raw, non-commercial sound. It’s always hard to predict what type of
material Springsteen will release, but O’Brien is known as a “strip it to the bare essentials” music producer.
Springsteen’s itch for playing became apparent last August, when he appeared at Asbury’s Clearwater Festival. He came to town in support of the Clearwater Foundation and Asbury Park, where his musical
chops were honed and developed. The event was sponsored by the Monmouth County Friends of Clearwater; a group whose press release states is “dedicated to environmental education, advocacy and action.”
The smile on his face made it clear he was back home: on stage in the place where he started. He really connected with the spirit of the event, singing his most uplifting songs, including “Land of Hopes
and Dreams” and “My City of Ruins.” The latter deals with the unavoidable cynicism felt in Asbury due to its current dilapidated state and the hope for its possible revival. It would become the first song
played on the September 21st "America: A Tribute to Heroes” telethon, which was aired around the country to collect money for the September 11 Fund.
At one point, the Boss called up any performers in attendance to join him. One of those was Brian Ostering, the bassist for the local band, The Wag, which was scheduled to play during Springsteen’s performance.
After Springsteen left the stage, their keyboardist, Alicia Van Sant, gave him a CD and asked if he would stay for their set.
After perusing the festival and making friends with some of his fans, the Boss sat and bopped his head to The Wag’s performance. Afterwards, he went back stage to meet the band. “He gave us some advice
that went like this,” said Ostering. “‘Be persistent, keep plugging away. It took me ten years to get a recording contract. Your stuff is good, so keep playing it out.’”
Springsteen scratched his itch to perform later that night, appearing at The Stone Pony. There he joined Nils Lofgren on the outdoor stage for the early show and John Eddie indoors for the nightcap.
Weeks later, he appeared at Donovan’s Reef to jam on stage with his wife, Patti Scialfa, and local band Brian Kirk and the Jirks.
On October 2nd, Springsteen made yet another local appearance, this time at the Tradewinds. He was there to play at the Second Annual Light of Day Concert, which celebrated the birthday of local booking
agent Bob Benjamin and raised money for the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (www.pdf.org).
Despite the pounding the New York Yankees took from the Diamondbacks in Game Six of baseball's World Series that same evening, it was one not to forget. Many newcomers and veterans of the Jersey Shore
area appeared, including La Bamba and the Hubcaps, Boccigalupe and the Badboys, Highway 9, Joe D‘Urso and Stone Caravan, the Danny White Band, Joe Bonanno and the Godsons of Soul, and headliner Joe Grushecky
and No Spring Chickens.
“While it was all under the rock and roll umbrella, there are still enough differences in everyone's sets to please all the fans who attend,” said D‘Urso of the evening’s line-up.
Eventually, Springsteen summoned every performer he could find back on stage for one last jam. The jam’s set list consisted of Grushecky’s “Talkin’ to the King”, then “Fire”, “Ramrod”, “Light of Day”,
“Land of 1,000 Dances”, “Shake it up Baby” and “Lucille.”
Tony Amato, keyboardist of Boccigalupe and the Bad Boys, played with Springsteen since his early days and noticed the chemistry he feels every time the two reunite on stage. “After all these years of
growing up and playing with him, you don’t even have to look at each other because you have that chemistry,” he said. “There’s certain things that you pick up over the years that sort of cue you as to what’s
Bonanno seemed very impressed with the event’s growth since last year. “It’s huge,” he said of the event which packed the large club. “Every year it gets bigger and bigger. I’m sure if it was a bigger
place, we could get more people.” When asked if the event will be larger next year, D’Urso responded, “I think it will be, as Bob will think of good ways to continue to grow the event and raise more money
so we can speed up finding the cure for Parkinson's.”
Benjamin, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s four years ago, said the event raised about $40,000. “It felt great,” he said. “It’s the kind of music I love, the kind of music I work with. It was great
to be together with old friends on your birthday.” Benjamin does not experience the shakes or tremors that some with the disease do, but it still causes him stiffness. All that aside, he still continues
on with his life, working 50 hours a week. “It just slows you down a little bit,” he said. He hopes rock and roll can raise awareness for younger people, like Michael J. Fox has done with his public acknowledgement
of having the disease.
White noticed the importance these benefits assumed after September 11 and took this into consideration when planning his set list. “I think everybody wants to support their fellow Americans any way
they can,” he said.
Highway 9 guitarist Gordon Brown summed up the tragedy’s relation to the event saying, “I think all benefits are set up to help causes and people that are in need at all times. The benefits that may
weigh more heavily to the general public at this particular time are the ones that are, of course, dealing with the families of the victims from the World Trade Center tragedy. Obviously because how desperate
and how urgent that situation is. Here in Monmouth County we had the most people lost in the disaster. One-hundred-and-sixty-one lives were lost that day from our area alone. Everyone around here knows
someone, or knows of someone, who is going through a lot of pain. Those victims were our friends, our neighbors, our families. As Jon Bon Jovi said one night from the Count Basie stage, ‘I've never been
more proud to say I'm from New Jersey than right now.’"