OLD TOWNE BOY Bruce Springsteen felt right at home performing at Fenway Park.
"I'm driving thru the Fenway area on the way home and getting a good look at the Bruce crowd," a friend texted me late last Tuesday afternoon. "Looks like rush hour at Old Country Buffet." His surveying skills weren't far off — my cursory stops into Copperfield's and the Cask 'n Flagon revealed an alarming number of leathery folks, both in the flesh and questionable clothing choices on their way to see the opening night of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's second North American leg of the Wrecking Ball Tour at Fenway Park. It was a different story inside, however, as the audience ran the range from children being taken to an inaugural Springsteen show by their parents to the seasoned elderly, and the vibe, augmented by the surroundings of the historic site, had its own special feeling. There was also an undeniable buzz, since Bruce and the band were returning from a European tour with epic sets, including one that stretched past the four-hour mark.
The Boston faithful wouldn't be as lucky, getting "just" more than three hours, 29 songs and unmatched energy from the 62-year-old Springsteen. Clad in his go-to uniform of cowboy boots, black jeans, and black vest over a dark dress shirt, with the sleeves rolled past his elbows and a loose-fitting thin tie, the Boss was in top form, sprinting across the stage with abandon, wide grin and plenty of audience interactions.
He noted the venue's 100th anniversary and had a single spotlight shone on the Pesky Pole in right field before "My City of Ruins" in tribute to its namesake, Sox great Johnny Pesky, who died at the age of 92 the day before. During "Darlington County" he bounded into the audience, did a little dance to a gorgeous on-duty Boston police officer, following it up by begging, "Arrest me . . . please!" Unique and genuine moments like that keep the Springsteen faithful so dedicated and coming back for more. Almost cult-like, these moments are something that past Fenway concerts by Neil Diamond, Paul McCartney, and Aerosmith had lacked, and members of the jubilant crowd were more than happy to explain the difference.
"A lot of acts say they want to make every single night and every single show special, but Bruce is one of the few that delivers," said singer/songwriter Phil Ayoub of Rhode Island. "And that's probably the root of my dedication." Ayoub was seeing Springsteen for the 48th time Tuesday and planned to hit number 49 the next night, the second of a two-night Fenway stand which then migrated to Foxboro's Gillette Stadium for a third regional date. Ayoub ranked this night's show in the top third of gigs he's seen, and when asked which songs he was tired of hearing that worked well for the obligatory piss break, he winced. "I actually can't think of one time where I've gone to the bathroom during a Bruce show!" he said. "I'm not kidding. I don't drink at Bruce shows because I have this fear of him starting a great song I've never heard before while I'm standing at a urinal!"