Bootleg City: Bruce Springsteen & the Max Weinberg 7 in Asbury Park, Christmas ’03

Six years ago I was fed up with the state of affairs in Bootleg City, but determined to do something about it.

A small group of Bootleg City school board members — David Byrne, Bob Marley, and myself — were tired of being constantly undermined by Mayor Cass, who we felt had a personal agenda. Additionally, a young whippersnapper named Matthew Boles had recently joined the board, and he quickly aligned himself with the mayor in a not-so-subtle move to advance his political career, without any concern for who he might be stepping on as he made his way up the government ladder. (You might be shocked to hear this about Boles, but over the past six years I’ve come to learn that this is merely everyday behavior for him. It seems that you can never truly trust someone who’s a fan of the Little River Band.)

On a quiet December afternoon, Byrne gave me a call to let me know that he had tickets to see a special Bruce Springsteen holiday concert in neighboring Asbury Park. (I say “neighboring,” but in reality it’s about a five-hour drive from Bootleg City.) He and I had things to discuss, especially our mutual growing concerns about the way our fair city was falling apart in the dictatorlike hands of Mayor Cass. I suggested to Byrne that he should grab some of his royalty checks from Stop Making Sense for gas money and invite Marley along for the trip, and soon we were on our way to Asbury Park, NJ!

Bruce Springsteen

Arriving at Convention Hall, we were amused to see Mayor Cass waiting outside in the bitter cold, parked in front of the box office. It seems “the Boss” hadn’t taken care of the tickets he’d allegedly promised to leave the mayor at will-call.

“Hey, Cass, it’s going to be a great show — we’ll see you inside. Oh, wait — I guess we won’t be seeing you inside,” I chuckled as we walked by our elected leader, who was visibly frustrated, possibly because he appeared to be on a first date. Needless to say, there was no second date.

So, how about that 2003 holiday show with Springsteen? Well, it was pretty amazing — the third and final night of three holiday shows from Bruce that year and the longest of the three, running three and a half hours! He called it “our Saturday Night Special, even though it’s Monday night,” and wow, what a show it was.

Many of Bruce’s buddies stopped by to join in the holiday fun: Little Steven, Nils Lofgren, Southside Johnny, and Sam Moore of Sam & Dave, to name a few. The Boss and his guests were backed for the whole shebang by the Max Weinberg 7, which means horns, horns, and more horns! I recall being a little bit pissed off at Marley since he told me Bruce Hornsby would be a special guest, but the entire night passed with no alternate Bruces. Actually, maybe Byrne said that — it was pretty loud and there was a lot going on, so I don’t remember — but the bottom line is that once again Marley was dead wrong. When will I learn?

Since we’re in the holiday spirit here at Bootleg City, I figured I’d offer you a recording of the night’s events so you can hear for yourself exactly how awesome it was. Unfortunately, this means that Mayor Cass will finally get to hear it as well, but hey, it is Christmastime, after all. Enjoy the show, old chap.

DISC ONE
Hold Out Hold Out {featuring the Victorious Gospel Choir}
I’ve Got a Feeling (Everything’s Gonna Be Alright) {featuring the Victorious Gospel Choir}
Christmas Day {featuring Jimmy Vivino}
So Young and In Love
None But the Brave {featuring the Alliance Singers}
Queen of the Underworld {featuring Jesse Malin}
Wendy {featuring Jesse Malin}
R.O.C.K. {featuring Garland Jeffreys}
96 Tears {featuring Garland Jeffreys}
Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight) {featuring Little Steven}

DISC TWO
This Time It’s for Real {featuring Southside Johnny and Little Steven}
Talk to Me {featuring Southside Johnny and Little Steven}
It’s Been a Long Time {featuring Southside Johnny and Little Steven}
Seaside Bar Song
Thundercrack
The Wish
Hold On, I’m Comin’ {featuring Sam Moore and the Alliance Singers}
When Something Is Wrong With My Baby {featuring Sam Moore}
Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)/I Thank You {featuring Sam Moore}
Soul Man {featuring Sam Moore}

DISC THREE
Shine Silently {featuring Nils Lofgren}
Because the Night {featuring Nils Lofgren}
Kitty’s Back
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Merry Christmas, Baby {featuring Sam Moore}
I Don’t Want to Go Home {featuring Southside Johnny and Little Steven}
My City of Ruins {featuring Sam Moore}
(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

Matt Wardlaw
Matt Wardlaw is a music lifer with nearly 20 years of experience in the industry. Of course you all have shoes older than that, but that's okay, Matt realizes that he's still a rookie. His byline has appeared in the Riverfront Times (St. Louis), Cleveland Scene, Blogcritics, Music's Bottom Line and Ultimate Classic Rock, among others. In addition to writing for Popdose, Matt also has his own music blog called Addicted to Vinyl where he writes about a variety of subjects including but not limited to vinyl. In his spare time, Matt enjoys long walks in the park, Cherone-era Van Halen and driving long distances to Night Ranger concerts.