In the summer of 1987, Bruce Springsteen was keeping a very low profile. The ridiculous success of Born in the U.S.A. was two years behind him, and the singer knew that topping it would be impossible – so he didn’t even try. Instead, he plugged away on his confessional, stripped-down Tunnel of Love and played surprise bar gigs around his native New Jersey.
On July 29th, the lucky few checking out reggae act Jah Love at the Key Largo club in Belmar, New Jersey saw Bruce come out for reggae-fied renditions of “Born in the U.S.A.” and “My Hometown.” The next night, Springsteen followed Jah to the Green Parrot in Neptune, New Jersey. No video has surfaced from the show, but somehow or another a soundboard of the set leaked out to fans. For years, stuff like this was only heard by hardcores in the tape-trading community, but YouTube has opened it up for everyone: Above, check out the Neptune reggae rendition of “Born in the U.S.A.”
Springsteen clearly got the itch to perform that week, because the very next night he joined Marshall Crenshaw for a few songs at the Stone Pony. A week after that, he gathered the E Street Band for a marathon set at the Stone Pony, and later in the month he’d pop up onstage with the Fairlanes, Little Steven, Levon Helm’s All-Stars, Cats on a Smooth Surface, the Cherubs and once again, Jah Love. Basically, if you saw a club show anywhere near Asbury Park in August of 1987, there was a decent chance Bruce Springsteen would make an appearance. He still makes the occasional one these days, but the creation of camera phones, YouTube and Twitter seems to have made him a little reluctant to do them on any sort of regular basis.