Bruce Springsteen paid homage to the late Joey Ramone in Asbury Park on Sunday night. New Jersey's favorite son took the stage at the Paramount Theatre for the 14th Annual Light of Day benefit with a cover of the punk icon’s song, “Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio?”
Springsteen was joined by New York rocker Jesse Malin inside Asbury Park's Convention Hall where they performed for a sold-out crowd, many of whom shelled out $250 a piece to support the fight against Parkinson's Disease. Malin chose the song, which appeared on The Ramones 1980 album End of the Century, because he felt the message captured the spirit and the message of benefit.
“Joey Ramone was a fighter, and he fought to stay alive,” Malin told The Hollywood Reporter after the show. “He believed in the power of music.” Malin added that he pitched the idea to Springsteen that day, and the two only rehearsed the song two hours prior to hitting the stage.
Springsteen, who had originally written his hit "Hungry Heart” with Ramone in mind to sing it, strapped on a guitar and joined Malin for the duet that evening. It was the first time the 64-year old rocker had ever played song.
The Freehold, NJ native also played along with fellow musicians Willie Nile, Joe D'Urso and The Alarm's Mike Peters on the song, “One Guitar,” before closing out the show with Pittsburgh’s Joe Gruschecky and the Houserockers for an enjoyable set that included the live premiere of “Frankie Fell in Love,” off his just-released album, High Hopes.
Springsteen was especially playful when introducing the track, encouraging the audience to participate in a shout-along of the song’s lyrics, “One and one make what?” The audience returned the answer, “Three!” The musician, fresh from his appearance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, was in great spirits, playing with joyful abandon and taking the time to thank all of the musicians that participated in the week-long event.
Other songs in the set included, “Adam Raised a Cain,” “Never Be Enough Time,” “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” “Hearts of Stone” (a song written for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes), “Pumping Iron,” “Atlantic City,” “Talking to the King,” “Save My Love” and “I’m Not Sleeping.”
Fans worshipping at the altar of Springsteen the guitar God, were not disappointed thanks to an especially urgent and fierce “Because the Night.” The Boss also worked every ounce of the stage as he whipped out his harmonica for “The Promised Land.” Original Juke Eddie Manion (and a member of the extended E Street Band) stepped up with especially strong moments on the saxophone, particularly on songs like “The Promised Land” that featured solos of the late Clarence Clemons.
Springsteen was the big “surprise” on a bill that capped off a week long festival of events for the foundation. Saturday’s main event included an intimate set by Johnny Rzeznik of The Goo Goo Dolls, who performed stripped down versions of "Iris," Slide," "Name," and "Black Balloon." Rzeznik weaved personal stories into his set, telling the crowd that his song, “Broadway” was his own “attempt at a Springsteen song.”
Other highlights of the evening included Alarm frontman Peters, who entertained with solo selections his band's hits, “68 Guns,” and “Strength," while Neptune, New Jersey native Nicole Atkins previewed her forthcoming release, Slow Phaser. Original E Street Band drummer Vini "Mad Dog" Lopez played tambourine for a tune with Joe D'Urso and Stone Caravan, while Garland Jeffries set the mood with a cover of "No Woman, No Cry" by Bob Marley. Bon Jovi keyboardist Dave Bryan sat in with the cast for a full-blown rendition of “Light of Day,” which segued into a reverential “Happy Birthday” nod to the event's founder Bob Benjamin.
The Light of Day benefits began in 1998 as a 40th birthday party for Benjamin, who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. On Saturday, Springsteen lead the audience and the cast in a moving acoustic version of “Thunder Road” for his longtime friend, who said he was “at a loss for words”
Afterwards, Springsteen held court at The Wonder Bar in Asbury Park until 4 a.m., enjoying cake with Benjamin, Malin, Joe Gruschecky, Bryan and Light of Day executive board members. “This was a great night for rock and roll,” said Gruschecky as he walked into the Asbury night. “It was a great night for the Jersey Shore.”
Watch videos from Saturday’s show below: