Bruce comes home
ASBURY PARK An eerie silence fell over the Paramount Theatre's capacity patronage twice on Saturday evening at the main event of the 12th Annual Light of Day Festival, the latter when Bob Benjamin, a man afflicted with Parkinson's disease whose brainchild is this grandiose musical showcase turned four-night festival and fundraiser to fight this dreadful ailment, addressed the 1600+ onlookers in attendance, while the first hush struck when the curtain lifted at Joe Grushecky and the House Rockers scheduled set time revealing Asbury's favorite axe-toting ambassador Bruce Springsteen, his purple plaid caked in blue and white houselights, who proceeded to serenade the awe struck assemblage with a solo acoustic rendition of "Incident On 57th Street." This was merely the start of something unforgettable.
"When you're in Asbury Park watching Bruce play and past two a.m. you know you're having a good night," said Manalapan resident Sammy Steinlight.
A jubilant Springsteen ran through a set composed of classic E Street Band material, such as "Darkness On The Edge Of Town," "Atlantic City" and "The Promised Land," to name a handful, as well as a series of Grushecky's best, including "Never Be Enough Time" and "Talk To The King," while picking through fret-melting guitar solos on "Adam Raised A Cain" and "Because The Night."
The Boss was loose throughout this event, evidence coming during the "Nebraska" favorite "Johnny 99" when Springsteen slithered across the stage, eventually making his way to Joe Pelesky's keyboards where Bruce proceeded to tickle the ivories with his big toe, and again with his butt, before hopping upon the drum raiser and trust falling into Joffo Simmons' kit, earning a big kiss on the cheek from the stick wielder.
However, biggest thrills had yet to come as Springsteen, ever the showman, joined his adoring pupils in their seats, where he sang duet with a stuffed animal during "Waiting On A Sunny Day," only to top it all by calling out Mighty Max Weinberg from the darkened wings of the Paramount to sit upon the throne for the festival's title-song, "Light Of Day," where the band was joined by the aforementioned Benjamin, as well as Willie Nile, Joe D'Urso and John Eddie.
"The Promised Land" brought all the night's performers including Vincent "Big Pussy" Pastore, as well as Southside Johnny and his new acoustic project The Poor Fools (Jeff Kazee, John Conte, Tommy Byrnes, Soozie Tyrell), Garland Jeffreys, the Grammy-nominated Lind Chorney and more.
Bruce and Benjamin shared vocal duties on "Twist and Shout" while the Boss brought us home with a subdued, acoustic guitar-led version of "Thunder Road" that was sung in a captivating "2000-part harmony" as described by Brick, NJ-native Tim McNab.
"This is the real Jersey Shore," exclaimed McNab. "This is what it's all about. The music, the camaraderie, coming together for a cause."
"Bruce could be anywhere in the world right now," continued McNab. "He could perform like this, with this type of energy, at Madison Square Garden tonight, sell out the place and $500 thousand, but instead he's here. On a freezing night in January he's in Asbury Park, playing for us and for the member of my family who suffers from Parkinsons. I'm amazed by this outpouring of support for this cause."