2004-12-02, Heinz Hall, Pittsburgh, PA

benefit
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Notes

Billed as Flood Aid '04. Bruce joins warm-up band Exit 105 on "All Along the Watchtower" and Joe Grushecky's band for the main set. "If IShould Fall Behind", "Land of Hope and Dreams" and "For You" is Bruce solo.

Eyewitness accounts

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1883
The Panther wrote: What a wonderful nite. Bruce looked great; very rested and relaxed. This show was very rock and roll oriented. Obviously, the Houserockers are not as polished as the E Street Band, but there was much emphasis on guitar play, and Bruce rocked quite a bit. The highlight of the show for me was Everythin's Gonna Work Out Fine followed by a rocking Murder Inc. Two hours of non-stop rock and roll. Great fun.

Pete wrote: I knew this would be probably my only chance to see him up close and personal. And man, did I get up close.

Flood Aid was all about hope, overcoming adversity and setting things right. So it?s no wonder Bruce was eager to step up and do his part?because that?s what he does. So he joined Joey G for a night of remarkable music and solidarity.

From the beginning, he made it clear that this night was not about him. It was about the people he came to help and the talent that made this union possible. He opened the night with a short and simple impromptu emcee address. ?There?s a lot of young talent on stage here tonight? he remarked above a chorus of awe-inspired cheers. ?No Bruuucing tonight or I?ll have to get medieval on your ass?. And with that he introduced Johnny Grushecky, Joe?s son to the crowd. An introduction by The Boss ? can a career begin any better for a 16 year old?

Pittsburgh is a place of people used to giving. On Thursday they came to give support to flood victims. They came to give support for local music. They came to see Springsteen. There was no doubt. Joe Grushecky may be The Burgh?s favorite rock and roll son, but Bruce is their adopted brother. He was there in the 80?s when the mills went down and needed inspiration and support (and cash). He was there in the 90?s for the Rainbow kitchen and its army or volunteers and the thousands of homeless that relied on it to get back on their feet. Bruce was there again on Thursday and spared nothing. He gave of his heart and gave from his pocket (Springsteen paid for all the t-shirts and donated all the profits to the Salvation Army for the flood relief).

A 2,700 seater with near-perfect acoustics, Heinz Hall was made for Bruce. Exit 105 made an unpublicized appearance and provided the audience with the vehicle for Bruce?s first treat of the night. Befittingly, Bruce would join his Jersey brethren for an incredible cover of ?All Along the Watchtower?. I?ve never heard it played with so much power. He squeezed every note out of it. A tease of things to come.

The evening was half way over before Springsteen would again grace the night. Joey G and the House Rockers were next and I knew if I ever wanted to fulfill my hopes of seeing Bruce up close, this would probably be my only chance. I left my back row seat and nonchalantly worked my way up to the low wall that separated the special seating in the orchestra pit and the front row seats. The somewhat reserved crowd of mostly middle-aged concert goers didn?t mind. There were no security personnel to kick me back. I though I might have a chance. The lights dimmed. The organized commotion begin. The crowd?s respectful demeanor turned into anxious delight. All eyes were on the darkened stage when I made my move down the pit's steps and walked across floor in front of the stage. I settled just to the right of the last folding chair directly in front of the stage. I acted like I was supposed to be there ? after all, I was. Bruce entered stage right and I thought this would be about the
time I would get the tap on my shoulder and wake up?.or at least have to go back to my seat. It didn?t come. Instead a resounding ?If I Should Fall Behind? filled the venue air. The shock waves of emotion rippled back through the crowd as the lone poet reminded us of how we are all in this together. The flood victims. The Country. Life itself. Whatever your interpretation, it was profound. The last chord strummed and the roar picked up again. Not the typical sonic boom of applause we?re accustomed to in the arenas or stadiums, but in a way, it seemed to embody a more appreciative tone. ?Land of Hope and Dreams?, a song normally reserved as a sign off for the E Street Band, made its way into the front end of his performance. Again, another acoustic solo. I was still mesmerized watching him make the make music I so much adore when he broke into ?For You? "For All the Old Fans?. It was a not-so-subtle statement that he was here to help. Ironically, the audience motioned by the ir united chorus that they largely ?came For You? Bruce.

Joey G and the band joined Bruce on stage for the remainder of the show. A jam perfectly rationed with Joe and Bruce songs including ?Code of Silence? and ?Never be Enough Time? both co-written by these long-time friends. As far as Bruce fare, the other choice selections included ?From Small Things?, ?Johnny 99?, ?Atlantic City? (my favorite full band of the evening), a rare appearance of ?Factory?, ?Murder Incorporated?, ?This Hard Land? and ?Lucky Town?. Finally, the evening kicker, the seasonal classic ?Santa Claus is Coming to Town? with the entire cast of performers joining Bruce on stage.
I was hoping to get a hand slap from Bruce as he made his way off stage. But I was reminded that this wasn?t about him. Maybe at a different show at different place for a different reason, I would have gotten one. Instead he looked down and smiled as if to say ?I know you enjoyed it, let?s remember why we?re here and leave it at that?. There?s no way I could be disappointed after a night like that. So we respected his humble wishes and waved instead.

On the backstreets behind Heinz Hall as the other performers dashed into their awaiting limos, I saw Joe and Bruce pull up to the red light in an SUV. Joe was chauffeuring. Bruce gave the thumbs up from the passenger side to the guy and girl who managed to spot him. They held up their Born to Run vinyls and Sharpies. They didn?t get the autographs, but I think they were content with the thumps up. They smiled and just left it at that.

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(1988 or 1988-07 or 1988-07-25)




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