Springsteen, Weinberg show delivers holiday cheer

Asbury Park Press, 2003-12-06, by: Chris Jordan
The antidote for a whopping early December blizzard?
A little gospel praisin' and a whole lot of rock 'n' roll. That's what fans were treated to in last night's Bruce Springsteen and the Max Weinberg 7 and Friends concert at Convention Hall in Asbury Park.

Asbury Park's own Danny DeVito introduced the Victorious Gospel Choir, which performed a short but righteous set of up-tempo gospel, including "I've Got a Feeling That Everything's Going to Be All Right."

The Boss accompanied the choir on tambourine and DeVito jumped and swayed to the music.

"Blow that storm away out there," Springsteen said.

The Max Weinberg 7 were spotlighted next, with guitarist Jimmy Vivino taking center stage. Vivino sang and played lead guitar on "Christmas Day." Springsteen helped out, contributing a piano solo and whipping it up on dueling guitars with Vivino to close the song.

"I don't know how you got here but I'm glad that you did," the Boss told the crowd after the song.

The floor was full, but a handful of empty seats sprinkled the hall. Fans were still coming in after 9 p.m.

The night marked a return of the holiday concerts by Springsteen and crew. There were two in 2000 and five in 2001, but as the E Street Band was on tour last winter, the concerts took a hiatus.

The mood was light and festive, befitting a holiday party. Two Christmas trees bookended the stage, a wreath hung over Mighty Max, and a menorah twinkled on the left side of the stage. The scene was lit brightly and warmly.

Springsteen wore blue jeans, a dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a vest, while members of the Max Weinberg 7 were a bit spiffier, with suits and dress shoes.

Before the show, the winds -- and snow and ice -- were whipping down the boardwalk, but that didn't discourage a hearty group of about 75 fans from gathering on a ticket drop line yesterday afternoon on the south side of Convention Hall.

There was no mistaking why Dani Strand, 51, of West Long Branch was there.

"The magic to live," the bundled up Strand intoned.

"It's a great way to get into Christmas," added Strand. "I'm just an addict, what can I say?"

However, getting into the Christmas spirit is not getting easier for Strand, who had to shield her face from the fierce boardwalk winds.

"I wish Bruce would realize that we're all getting a little old and we can't do this much longer," Strand said.

Things were warmer across the street from the ticket drop line at the recently opened Wonder Bar, where owner and long-time Jersey Shore musician Lance Larson was hosting a pre-concert party with music, spirits, and a white and blue Christmas tree.

The Wonder Bar is presenting area bands all weekend.

"More important than any show is Bruce getting instruments for the Asbury Park High School band," said Larson, referring to the commitment by Springsteen's camp to donate about 30 instruments and about $3,000 for the school's band.

The band was also allowed to set up a table at the concerts for donations, along with the Asbury Park Blue Bishops Junior Pee Wee football team, which is raising money to play in a national championship tournament in Florida next week.

"That's the spirit of giving," Larson said. "That's the spirit of the holidays."

Concerts are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. tonight and tomorrow. The shows are sold out, but some tickets were available before the show last night.

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2003-12-05 Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ