Springsteen Grand Slam

Bruce's North American ballpark tour breaks records

October 16, 2003
Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt perform at Fenway Park in Boston.
Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt perform at Fenway Park in Boston.
Jessica Rinaldi/Getty Images

What this park needs is a rock & roll baptism, a rock & roll bar mitzvah . . . a rock & roll exorcism," yelled Bruce Springsteen, doing his best to eliminate the Curse of the Bambino at the home of the Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park. Springsteen and the E Street Band stopped here for two nights — playing the only rock shows ever held at the ninety–one–year–old ballpark. "The stadium is so low that the surrounding areas could hear the show like they were listening to the radio," says Boston–born E Street guitarist Steven Van Zandt. "If there were 35,000 people inside, there were 35,000 outside. There was an element of hysteria that was rather fun. We've never heard a reaction like that in the United States."

On its way to becoming one of the all-time highest-grossing tours — an estimated $120 million in forty–six dates – Springsteen's tour will hit other baseball landmarks, in Detroit and Milwaukee, before a three-night stand at New York's Shea Stadium, October 1st, 3rd and 4th.

Springsteen tailored his show for the Boston faithful. Performing a three–hour set of more than twenty–five songs each night, the band opened with "Diddy Wah Diddy," by Beantown's own Barry and the Remains, and closed the shows with "Dirty Water," with hometown hero Peter Wolf sitting in. "That's a Standells song about Boston and the Charles River," says Wolf. "We were playing this funky down–home garage rock & roll song to this great Boston landmark, and it was a thrill. Those were very charmed evenings — almost like a cultural phenomenon."

As the band tried to exit the stadium on Lansdowne Street, behind the Green Monster in left field, fans lined the road to give thanks. "There were miles and miles of people on both sides of the street with a level of enthusiasm that was incredible," says Van Zandt. "People were literally banging on the windows trying to get in. I felt like I was Beyoncé for a day."

This story is from the October 16th, 2003 issue of Rolling Stone.

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