Nice joint,” proclaimed Steve Earle as he walked onto the Carnegie Hall stage to kick-off an extraordinary tribute to the music of Bruce Springsteen. Over the next two hours, a diverse roster of twenty artists performed songs from the Springsteen canon, the best of which included the artists description of Springsteen’s influence or a reflection on the song about to be performed.
Among the highlights from the individual performances:
With the Hold Steady’s guitars still reverberating through the hall, a lone guitarist stepped to the stage and declared, “The good news is that I’m still alive!” Springsteen thanked the artists for their performances and “a lovely and harrowing evening” before treating the crowd to wonderful acoustic versions of “Promised Land” and “Rosalita.” The latter was abbreviated with the comment, “it’s been a long night and this is a long song — I wrote a lot of lyrics back then!” although it featured an entertaining monologue in which Springsteen reflected on his life and accomplishments.
To end the show on a perfect note, Springsteen invited the earlier performers to join his for a second version of “Rosalita” backed by house band Eleysian Fields. Continuing the theme of the evening, Springsteen called on Craig Finn (Hold Steady), Badly Drawn Boy and Jesse Malin to take the verses.
There is simply no way to properly convey the exhilaration in the room – most notably that of Finn and Badly Drawn Boy. With Springsteen looking on approvingly, Badly Drawn Boy raised his arms into the air as he exclaimed, “I ain’t here for business, I’m only here for fun!” while a few minutes later Craig Finn later nearly jumped out of his skin while singing the memorable line “This is last chance to get his daughter in a fine romance; Rosie the record company just gave me a big advance.” It was a performance that will undoubtedly be as memorable for the performers as it was for the audience, and a fitting tribute to the man of the evening.
Photo: The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn belting out “Rosalita” while Springsteen looks on approvingly. That’s Josh Ritter to the left of Springsteen and Badly Drawn Boy to the right of Finn. Sharp eyes can pick out Steve Earle in the back on the left wearing glasses.
THE SET LIST
Nebraska – Steve Earle
Streets of Philadelphia – The Bacon Brothers
Streets of Fire – Elysian Fields
The River – Josh Ritter
Because the Night – Patti Smith
The Rising – Marah
My City of Ruins – Holmes Brothers with the Young People’s Chorus of New York City
Brilliant Disguise – Robin Holcomb
Jersey Girl – Jersey Guys with Bobby Valli
Spirit in the Night – North Mississippi All-Stars
New York City Serenade – Uri Caine
Cover Me – Juliana Hatfield
One Step Up – Low Stars
Thunder Road – Badly Drawn Boy
Born in the U.S.A. – Joseph Arthur
Dancing in the Dark – Pete Yorn
Hungry Heart – Jesse Malin with Ronnie Spector
I’m Goin’ Down – M. Ward
57 Channels – Odetta
Atlantic City – The Hold Steady
The Promised Land – Bruce
Rosalita – Bruce
Rosalita – Bruce with all performers
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.