Grushecky, Springsteen rock brilliantly
Superficially, it was a couple of old friends getting together to play some music. A Pittsburgh guy and his band hosting a Jersey guy.
Unequivocally, it was a night those in attendance will be talking about for the rest of their lives. Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers with Bruce Springsteen, the first of two nights at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland.
An evening of joyous, ecstatic rock ‘n’ roll.
It started with Springsteen shuffling on stage, saying, “I’m going to open for Joe tonight,” and playing acoustic versions of “A Good Man is Hard to Find (Pittsburgh),” “For You” and “This Hard Land,” stripped bare, emotionally raw, just a hint of what was to come.
Enter the Houserockers. While Grushecky often refers to his mates as a bar band, they transcend that label. What bar band in the world has material the likes of “American Babylon,” “East Carson Street” or “What Did You Do in the War?” — songs that stood up well in counterpoint to Springsteen’s “Adam Raised a Cain” and a majestic version of “Atlantic City”?
OK, Springsteen’s songs seemed to resonate just a bit more with the audience. But the brilliant juxtaposition of Grushecky’s “Homestead” with Springsteen’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town” illustrates why these two musicians are hewn from the same cloth: They both are keen observers of, and advocates for, the forgotten America hidden in plain sight.
The show reached a frenzy with a stretch of songs beginning with “Talking to the King” and “Murder Incorporated,” took a short detour via “Fire,” then launched again with “Code of Silence” and “Down the Road Apiece.”
The encore began with Grushecky’s “Pumping Iron,” which led to Springsteen’s “Promised Land” and a ragged, joyful take on “Twist and Shout.” Then came a brilliant surprise: Springsteen alone again on stage with a sweet rendering of “Thunder Road,” sung in tandem with the audience, a rare gift on the rarest of near-perfect nights.
Bruce Springsteen joins Joe Grushecky for a Nov. 4 show at Soldiers and Sailors.