Want to be the boss? Don’t ever lose heart

Want to be the boss? Don’t ever lose heart

While riding with my sister-in-law Jean to a class for cancer survivors, we were listening to E Street Radio and talking about how cool it is to hear one of your favorite songs on the radio, even if you can play that song at ease from your iPod and now your phone.

A “Be the Boss” segment came on and she said “you should do this!” I laughed and said one day I will!

Well, I applied about a year ago. Never heard anything. Then I re-applied in the fall of 2015 when the “River” tour was announced on the 35th anniversary of my first date with my husband. Mike and I had a good start: our first date was a Springsteen concert during the original “River” tour in 1980 in Buffalo, New York.

The hardest part was picking 5 songs and 5 stories. I have so many Bruce memories — it’s why I have this blog —  and it was hard to decide what would make the final cut. (Bruce has that problem with his albums too!)  After doing songs for my husband and kids, the easiest part was a tribute to Jean.

I wrote about Jeannie in this blog post, published a week after she died three years ago on a late-winter day in March.

Her daughter Amanda and I have been texting each other back and forth for years when a “Springsteen moment” came up. You know what those are: When you travel and spot a Springsteen license plate; when you wish E Street Radio would play a song and it magically is on air while you are riding in the car; when your mom’s Hospice caregiver is named Shirley E. Street.

Read more: Two Stones, A Rocker and A Wonderful Life

I miss Jean so much this time of year. I worked evening shifts and was home during the day while the others in her extensive support system were attending school or working. During my “Be the Boss” radio show, I played the live 2012 Albany version of “Janey Don’t You Lose Heart” for Jeannie. In my heart, Bruce played it for her that night too.

I waited too long for her to hear it with me in the car, but I’m sure she’s up there listening.

The folks at E Street sent me a digital copy and I put it to music and uploaded to YouTube with some video and a photos.


So what was in the letter in Bruce’s back pocket during my hometown Albany show?

So what was in the letter in Bruce’s back pocket during my hometown Albany show?


I woke up the day of the Springsteen Albany show in a strange funk.  I was down, down, down, even though I was going to see my favorite performer for the 22nd time. Late morning, after a workout didn’t clear my head, my daughter Sarah calls. She never calls during the day but happened to be working from her home in Boston waiting to go to a doctor’s appointment.

As she always does, my 23-year-old pal cheered me up. And she was right that I was in for a wonderful day. As the day progressed it got better and better and better. I went from a strange low to a crazy high, with an incredible twist, and ending — like all Bruce days on this River tour so far — in a “Shout.”

Soon after Sarah’s phone call, I tweeted “Happy Bruce Day” #RiverTour2016 #Albany and things got rolling. My phone was buzzing with re-tweets and text messages. Where are we meeting before the show? Do you have GAs? Well, after two terrific GA experiences in Albany in May 2014 and Pittsburgh in January, I didn’t buy GAs this time. My husband and I bought two blocks of 18 tickets for family and friends. We thought we needed a second mortgage at one point to float the tickets until I collected the payments.

The Pittsburgh show — where I was awarded a coveted spot in the pit to Bruce’s left — was so fresh in my mind I knew the show wouldn’t be the same from the seats. And I knew the audience in the seats would be annoying and sitting down. That was part of my morning pre-show funk, because in my hometown, of all places, I needed an upgrade!

I texted my older sister, who was going to the concert with her daughter and son-in-law. I told her jokingly in a text that if she gets in the pit (the trio secured a spot in the pit in Albany 2014 and we just missed the cut) she is not worthy to dance with Bruce and instead needs to bring an envelope with a note in it explaining that I’M BRUCE’S BIGGEST FAN.

Well, she didn’t get in the pit, but she got in the center of the catwalk. Meanwhile, I was able to get last-minute GAs and wound up in the pit, again to Bruce’s left.  I didn’t take too many photos this time, I just enjoyed the show, shot a few videos, and got this sweet picture of Jake:


So I wound up close to the stage and my niece texted me that my sister did write a letter and she was going to give Bruce the envelope. Sure you are.

Well, on his second trip on the catwalk during “I’m A Rocker” I could see her on the screen waving the letter. Bruce grabs it and does a terrific Carnac impression as well.


Here’s the video

He had it in his back pocket for a nine songs, there’s a YouTube video of him taking it out and leaving it by Max’s drums at the start of “Backstreets.”

So what was in the note? Well, as I stated in my “Be The Boss” segment taped this week and on E Street Radio SiriusXM next week, if I had known he was going to grab it I would have helped my sister write something a little more creative — or a least included an email address or phone number.

Here’s the note:


Ok, so it’s a pretty lame note, meant for him to be read quickly on stage. I had my ID ready in case he opened it and wanted to invite me backstage with the checkered shirt guy from Backstreets.com, Steven Strauss.

It was an emotional day, filled with a monumental rise from sadness to delight. From the review by the checkered shirt guy:

And this brings me back to Bruce’s dedication before “Be True” to “our special friends.” I couldn’t help but think he was talking to the diehards, whom he’s clearly playing the outtakes for, but he hasn’t fully figured out how to best fit them in yet. As such, he directed “Be True” to all of us — if we stick with him as he figures out the best way to vary up the post-River part of the show, he’ll be true to us by continuing to play more and more rarities.

Here is my video of “Be True” shot from the pit, Albany, 2016:

P.S. When I got into work the next day, my sister and her niece were featured on timesunion.com, where I work, promoting a fan photo gallery from the show the night before, and with the famous letter.


Go with the flow

For longtime fan of Bruce Springsteen, new tour a chance to enjoy Boss again


Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s “River” tour spanning 1980-81 didn’t make it this far up the Hudson. It’s one of the few album tours by the New Jersey rocker to miss the Albany area.

Thirty-five years later, Springsteen’s “River Tour 2016” was announced just before Christmas, and Albany made the first round of tour dates. The announcement came the same day a “River” box set was released, including 25 songs that were recorded for the album but didn’t make the cut. There’s also live video and audio of the 1980-81 tour, holy grail stuff for the die-hard fans who thrive on live performances.

I had the opportunity catch the tour’s opening night in Pittsburgh as a lucky winner of the general admission pit lottery. (Check out my photos below…that’s me by the stage!) He does the entire “River” album, start to finish.

Read my story in the Times Union here.

I saw “The River” tour in Buffalo as a college student in December 1980. I remember it like it was yesterday: It was my first date with my husband, so it’s pretty easy to remember the details.

Here’s some observations and comparisons of the current “River’’ tour:

You talkin’ to me?
 Of course you are

When Springsteen tells a story in a room full of 17,000 people, you feel as though he’s speaking directly to you. I’ve always felt that way, and as I grow older, the message gets more personal, more complete. His description of “The River” album itself and his message before “Independence Day” especially hit home. “Independence Day,” he said, “is the kind of song you write when you’re young, and you’re startled by your parents’ humanity. You’re shocked to realize that they have their own dreams and their own desires. Because all you can see is the adult compromise that they had to make. And when you’re young, you haven’t had to do that yet. The idea of it frightens you. It frightened me. And all I could see was the world that they seemed locked into, and all I could feel was the desire to escape that world.”

It’s no longer just the son’s perspective, it’s the parent’s perspective. He’s a parent, I’m a parent.

It’s been reported that Robert De Niro borrowed his ad-libbed “You talkin’ to me?” line in “Taxi Driver” from Bruce Springsteen. It’s that back-and-forth with the audience that makes the show complete. In the early days, he refused to record many of his shows with video, for fear it would interrupt the audience/performer interaction.

The quiet songs 
deserve your attention

There is a reason the album cover artwork of “The River” features images of a wedding. The struggles of adult relationships are a constant theme, and Springsteen admits he was struggling personally with commitments while writing the music and figuring out what he was going to do as a 30-year-old.

Even “Hungry Heart” is a sad song: “I took a wrong turn and I just kept going.” But “Hungry Heart” and the title track have been concert staples. It’s the lesser-known, quiet songs that make the album complete. “Point Blank” is a shot straight back to the ’80s, with an intro from the past off Roy Bittan’s piano. ‘‘Fade Away,” the second single off the original album, is one of Springsteen’s most telling songs of love gone bad and sets the stage for the rest of the album. “Stolen Car,” “The Price You Pay,” (the final line, “I’m going to tear it down and throw it away,” has Springsteen digging deep and wailing wonderfully) and “Drive All Night” are a trio of songs rarely played but adored by fans. The latter is a 10-minute ballad featuring Jake Clemons at his absolute best.

Finally, “Wreck on the Highway,” is a dramatic, haunting conclusion to a stage presentation of an album filled with voices of characters finding a reason to keep going: struggling to belong, struggling to end a relationship or struggling to keep a relationship going. As the “Wreck” slowly reached its conclusion, Springsteen explains: “One of the things I was writing about on ‘The River’ was time. … Time cwatches up to us all. You’ve got a limited amount of time to do your work, to take care of your family, to try to do something good.”

Grand finale alone 
is worth the price you pay

The quiet songs finishing up the album will no doubt make many in the crowd restless. And the 12 songs that follow “The River” in concert are Springsteen’s way of saying “I’m not done yet.” In Pittsburgh, several fans in the pit yelled “here we go!,” delighted to reach the point of the show where it’s a mystery what comes next. With tickets ranging from $55-$150, pound for pound, Bruce gives it his all. He performs for 3 hours and 15 minutes minimum. Without stopping or leaving the stage, at this point he launches into a collection of show-stopping concert favorites that will have you shaking your head thinking, “I’m exhausted, how does he — at age 66 — do this night after night after night?”

The band is stripped down to its core, with E Street Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees “Little Steven” Van Zandt on guitar, Nils Lofgren on guitar, Roy Bittan on piano, Garry Tallent on bass, Springsteen’s wife, Patti Scialfa, on guitar and vocals and Max Weinberg on drums.

Van Zandt, who helped produce “The River,” dives back into the lead supporting actor role on this tour. Lofgren’s guitar is showcased, and Scialfa has a nightly duet with Bruce on one of their best collaborations — in Pittsburgh it was “Brilliant Disguise.” Clemons steps into the spotlight on this tour to fill the “Big Man” Clarence Clemons’ big shoes on saxophone, and Charles Giordano fills in on organ and accordian for the late Danny Federici. Soozie Tyrell, violinist and vocalist, is the only musical addition to the band not present during the ’80s.

And by the time Bruce yells “Albany” and the crowd yells back “Bruce,” you’ll realize that diving into “The River” with the “heart-stopping, pants-dropping, hard-rocking, booty-shaking, love-making, earth-quaking, Viagra-taking, justifying, death-defying, legendary E … Street … Band” is amazingly refreshing, to say the least.

Joyce Bassett is an editor at the Times Union. Reach her at jbassett@timesunion.com or follow her on Twitter @JoyceB10Bassett


Don’t miss something special (on the floor) …

I’m heading to Pittsburgh this weekend to see the opening night of the #therivertour  . Driving from Albany to Pittsburgh starting this afternoon. I’ll be doing my hamstring stretches in the car because we are standing on the floor, hopefully gaining access to the pit.


Bruce Springsteen’s crew posted this on his Instagram yesterday. One woman said she hopes they are gel mats for our aching feet!


It’s hard to get a perspective on how big these are, but they look like the size of a single to me. It’s going to be an incredible night!

Breezing through the 162 comments on that post … one captured my attention. Here’s hoping @angelablystone gets in the pit! Right next to me and my husband, of course …


The River: Dec. 4, 1980-Dec. 4, 2015: 35th anniversary of a first date

My first date with my husband was Dec. 4, 1980, the day we went to see Bruce Springsteen in Buffalo as good friends. I kissed him during “Rosalita” and the rest is history. The song before “Rosalita” was “Drive All Night,” and he did just that, driving from Albany to pick me up at St. Bonaventure University in Olean, NY. and then going to Buffalo to pick up another friend, Anne Rizzo, and see the show.


We had a party to celebrate the anniversary on Friday night. The stars aligned and for our anniversary Bruce released a box set and tour plans, including a stop in Albany. Once again, I found myself tracing significant important moments in my life — almost magically — to Springsteen moments. Our house rocked all night. It was a mixture of old friends and new friends, live music and, what I remember the most, tons of bear hugs with all who were able to attend.  A special shout out of thanks to my entertainment organizers and terrific friends, Kim and Mike Cowieson, for bringing guitarist Tom Harding to perform an incredible selection of tunes. Also thanks to neighbor Jim Sinnott for an amazing renditions of “Born to Run” and “Sugar Mountain” with Tom. Mike and I danced during a fabulous “Drive All Night,” which should have been our first song at our wedding but wasn’t. Thanks to Kim, Mike and Tom for that song. Many of our guests wore ’80s garb and I sent up a Springsteen display of sorts featuring my memorabilia and t-shirts.

It was a wonderful night. Below here I am in an enhanced version of “Born to Run.”

For more photos, check out https://joyceb10.smugmug.com/Springsteen-party2015/


Bruce live in Troy, 37 years ago today

Thanks to the Capital Region entertainment website Nippertown for reminding me about this today:


Here is my ticket:

rpi ticket

In 2002, I wrote a history of Bruce Springsteen’s performances in the Capital Region published in the Times Union, where I’m an editor and page designer. Here is an excerpt about the Troy 1978 show and here is a link to the story

Nov. 12, 1978, RPI Houston Field House, Troy

Noteworthy: Springsteen tested out many songs that would eventually be released on “The River” in November 1980. “The rocker … threatened the very fiber of the crowd’s order,” our critic observed, “performing much of the night on a ramp within grabbing range and singing half of one song in the middle of a swarm of fans. At least half of the songs could have been showstoppers.”

Fans’ notes: “I remember two of my friends sleeping out all night to get tickets and getting their car towed. But they bought all the tickets they could buy: 20 of them in the eighth row. They were heroes in our dorm at Siena. I remember the concert lasted more than three hours.”

— Rick Mulvey, East Greenbush

Set list: Jerry Lee Lewis’ “High School Confidential,” “Badlands,” “Streets of Fire,” “Spirit in the Night,” “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” “Independence Day,” “Promised Land,” “Prove It All Night,” “Racing in the Street,” “Thunder Road,” “Jungleland,” Buddy Holly’s “Rave On,” “Fire,” “Candy’s Room,” “Because the Night,” “Point Blank,” Bo Diddley’s “Mona,” “Backstreets,” “Rosalita,” “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy),” “Born to Run,” “Detroit Medley/Quarter to Three.”

Bootleg: “Prove It All Night: Live in Troy New York.” Decent quality; super set list.

Note: The owner of the second part of this matching ticket, Rick Mulvey of East Greenbush, put in his will that I can have his ticket stub, since it matches perfectly with my stub, the wrong end of the ticket.


Springsteen’s got a soft spot for Albany

Click on the link below and read to the end for a possible Bruce Springsteen concert tour scoop.

The Times Union Center is celebrating its 25th anniversary. To help commemorate this event, I wrote a story for the Times Union newspaper and interviewed Springsteen’s tour manager George Travis and the Times Union Center’s general manager Bob Belber.

Read it here

Times Union Staff Photo by Michael P. Farrell--Bruce Springsteen fans wait for their number to be called to purchase tickets for his show at the then-Pepsi Arena in December 2002.
Times Union Staff Photo by Michael P. Farrell–Bruce Springsteen fans wait for their number to be called to purchase tickets for his show at the then-Pepsi Arena in December 2002.
Three years ago I celebrated Bruce Springsteen’s birthday weekend with him (and 82,000 others)

Three years ago I celebrated Bruce Springsteen’s birthday weekend with him (and 82,000 others)

That day I met Bruce at MetLife Stadium during the Wrecking Ball tour. And Clarence's cousin.
That day I met Bruce at MetLife Stadium during the Wrecking Ball tour. And Clarence’s cousin.

Here is the story I wrote for the Albany (N.Y.) Times Union about seeing Bruce at MetLife stadium.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, MetLife stadium, NJ (09/21/12)

By Joyce Bassett

Bruce Springsteen is celebrating his birthday this weekend with with three shows in New Jersey at MetLife Stadium. Friday’s set, the second of three shows, served up a “one for the ages” performance that will be tough to top during the grand finale Saturday, when the crowd-surfing ultimate rock performer turns 63 at midnight.

The betting line on Saturday’s performance at an 82,000-seat football stadium suggests he’ll top Friday’s show.

This week marked Springsteen’s first appearances at MetLife, which opened in 2010. He closed the former Giants stadium next door with five shows in 2009 during his “Working on a Dream” tour. He wrote a song for that special occasion, “Wrecking Ball,” that became the title track of his latest album.

His references to Jersey during Friday night’s show brought huge roars from the nearly sold-out arena, with general admission ticket holders filling up the floor. He dipped back into his early albums and certainly felt right at home, introducing those songs with storytelling, a trademark of his early ’70s and ’80s shows. He explained “Does this Bus Stop at 82nd Street?,” from his 1973 debut album, was written during a bus ride through uptown Manhattan. (It was also part of his demo for John Hammond of CBS Records which earned him a recording contract.)

The “Wrecking Ball” songs are still a core part of the tour’s stadium shows. The lyric’s reference to “the arena’s filled and Giants played their games” at the home field of the Super Bowl champs provided a comparison to early shows on the tour, including the band’s April visit to Albany.

Seeing Bruce early in a tour and at arenas is like going to watch the Giants during spring training in Albany: arena shows are more intimate, the sound is terrific and the atmosphere is subdued but often thrilling. At stadium shows, the sound isn’t as good, some seats are far, far away from the action — but the atmosphere is beyond-incredible.

In spring training, Giants players are starting a long journey on the road to reaching a Super Bowl. On tour, Springsteen builds on and perfects his setlist, building up to ultimate performances that showcase an entire tour, like Friday night in New Jersey.

And the big plays are bigger. At each Springsteen concert, you have your tour premieres and surprises. In Albany, an acoustic rarity “Janey Don’t You Lose Heart” was the talk of Twitter during and after the show. The “Born in the USA” songs “Darlington County” and “Downbound Train” also made their debuts in Albany.

Continue reading “Three years ago I celebrated Bruce Springsteen’s birthday weekend with him (and 82,000 others)”

One year ago today: Springsteen Albany “High Hopes” tour

Hometown Springsteen shows are special moments. The Times Union Center in Albany is the only venue to be included in every Springsteen tour since the E Street reunion — Reunion, Rising, Magic, Working on a Dream, Wrecking Ball and High Hopes — plus an appearance on the 2005 solo Devils & Dust tour. We have been fortunate.

Here’s a terrific review, with videos, of the show.

It was a night to remember, forever. Here’s a gallery of memories.

Concert shirt, check

Had a few beers at Stout on Broadway and headed over to the show. My sister, niece and her husband were in line for wristbands just ahead.

Team Bassett
Team Bassett
Sister Judy and family
Sister Judy and family


So my sister and family were 160s and I was 222. Here we are in line and before the show.

My sister and her family made it into the pit. We were about 20 people from the cut. I was devastated but knew we would get an awesome spot in the secondary floor section.

We secured a terrific spot with a nice lean on the ramp, center stage. My niece took these incredible photos of the Albany show from the pit area.

We were fortunate to hold Bruce’s legs during “10th Avenue.” During my first Springsteen show, in 1978, I also held Bruce’s leg during an encore. He looked down and remembered me from that Troy show, I’m certain. If anyone has a video of the Albany “10th Avenue” I’d love to see it! The ones on YouTube show Clarence on the screen and don’t show Amanda and I as we clutched his legs. My brother-in-law took a photo of Bruce’s behind.

View from the top
View from the top during 10th Avenue.

We got a copy of the setlist. Would have enjoyed “Dream Baby Dream” but “Thunder Road” took its place.

Albany setlist 2014 High Hopes tour
Albany setlist 2014 High Hopes tour

The next day our sign appeared in a concert photo display on Page 1 of the Schenectady Gazette newspaper.

Schenectady Gazette
Schenectady Gazette

A few weeks later this not-very-flattering photo of us appeared on http://brucespringsteen.net/

Jo Lopez also took photos of me clinging to Bruce’s boot, I hope to someday get one of his interns to find it in the archives. I will make a deal with the devil for that image.

By Jo Lopez
By Jo Lopez