When I heard that Bruce Springsteen was going to be participating in a gala for the United States Equestrian Team Foundation in Wellington, Fla., Jan. 17, I figured — like a lot of other people, I’m sure — that there was no way he was going to make it back to New Jersey for the main Light of Day concert at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, Jan. 18. Who would pass up a January weekend in Florida to rush back to the snow and sleet and cold of New Jersey?
Well, I was wrong.
Springsteen, for the 12th time in Light of Day’s 20 years, made an unbilled appearance at the show, joining Joe Grushecky & the Houserockers for 11 songs, as well as Willie Nile for one and Jesse Malin for two. (see list and videos below)
Springsteen’s support has been immeasurably important for Light of Day, which has raised about $6 million, over its two decades, for the fight against Parkinson’s Diseases and related disorders. So the organization’s 20th anniversary celebration really wouldn’t have been complete without him. (Another full slate of shows is scheduled for today; click here for the complete list.)
Though his appearance was brief, by his own standards, it was also quite satisfying, with an absolutely riveting version of “Darkness on the Edge of Town” as well as a dark, moody “Atlantic City” and some light moments, too, with Springsteen — introduced by Grushecky as “the real governor of New Jersey” — using a comic, spoken delivery on parts of “Pink Cadillac” and “Savin’ Up.” Springsteen also played a supporting role on the Grushecky songs “Talking to the King,” “Pumping Iron” and “Never Be Enough Time.”
After the requisite set-closing version of the hard-charging garage-rocker “Light of Day,” which gave the festival its name, Springsteen talked about his longtime friendship with the festival’s founder, Bob Benjamin, who suffers from Parkinson’s himself. He then encored with a low-key, contemplative “Thunder Road” before leading all the evening’s performers and others on the now-crowded stage in “Happy Birthday to You,” for Benjamin, who joined them in his wheelchair.
Of the songs Springsteen played on earlier in the evening, the highlight was Nile’s anthem “One Guitar,” to which he contributed an electrifying solo.
The concert — the main event of the 10-day festival, which began with a concert at the Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair, Jan. 10 — was a marathon, starting around 6:30 p.m. and ending at 12:15 a.m.
In addition to Nile and Malin, Joe D’Urso & Stone Caravan, the James Maddock Band, The Weeklings, Dramarama and Boccigalupe & the Badboys performed approximately 20-minute band sets, in between which the following artists performed acoustic sets of 10 minutes or less: Ben Arnold, Jill Hennessy, Williams Honor, Danielia Cotton, Lisa Bouchelle, Adam Ezra, Brian Dunne, Miss Emily and Matt Jaffe. The electric/acoustic format meant that there was no down time, as the acoustic acts played as the stage was set up for the next band. Original E Street Band drummer Vini (Mad Dog) Lopez made a guest appearance in the evening’s last acoustic number, at the end of Arnold’s set, when D’Urso came out and sang his uplifting “Hold On” — written for Benjamin — with Arnold and Lopez supporting him on backing vocals.
For more on all things Light of Day, visit lightofday.org.
Bruce Springsteen performed on the following songs at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, Jan. 18:
WITH JESSE MALIN:
“Meet Me at the End of the World”
WITH WILLIE NILE:
WITH JOE GRUSHECKY & THE HOUSEROCKERS:
“Talking to the King”
“The Promised Land”
“Never Be Enough Time”
“Darkness on the Edge of Town”
“Pink Cadillac” (with Danny Clinch)
“Light of Day” (with Ensemble)
“Thunder Road” (with Ensemble)
“Happy Birthday to You” (sung to Bob Benjamin, with Ensemble)
Thanks to Rose A. Montana for posting the following videos:
“DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN” and “PINK CADILLAC”
“LIGHT OF DAY” and “THUNDER ROAD”
“NEVER BE ENOUGH TIME”
“HOLD ON” (JOE D’URSO, VINI LOPEZ AND BEN ARNOLD)
We need your help!
CONTRIBUTE TO NJARTS.NET
Since launching in September 2014, NJArts.net, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of any amount to NJArts.net via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to NJArts.net to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.