Twenty artists paid tribute to the music of Bruce Springsteen at New York’s Carnegie Hall last night (April 5), but it was the man himself who stole the show with a surprise performance. The lineup for the third in a continuing series of fundraisers for Music For Youth featured Odetta, Steve Earle, Ronnie Spector and Patti Smith, who sang the Springsteen-penned number that earned her a top 20 Billboard Hot 100 hit, “Because the Night.”
Prior to the Boss’ appearance, the evening comprised several memorable performances, including stark acoustic readings of “Born in the U.S.A.” and “Dancing in the Dark” by Joseph Arthur and Pete Yorn, respectively; a passionate “Streets of Fire” by Elysian Fields; and an infectiously charged “Atlantic City” by the Hold Steady.
When Springsteen, acoustic guitar and harmonica in hand, arrived on stage just after the anticipated last act had exited, the crowd leapt to its feet, remaining there for nearly 30 minutes. Springsteen opened with some thoughts on the evening up to that point, noting how it was both “lovely and harrowing” to see his songs performed, and making special mention of Odetta, who he said “just did the greatest version of ’57 Channels’ I ever heard.”
He then launched into an inspired version of “The Promised Land,” his gruff voice sounding closer than ever to Bob Dylan’s.
From there it was into fan-favorite “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight).” But Springsteen interrupted it barely halfway through to joke that the song “was too damn long.” A humorous nutshell-summary of his career followed, culminating with, “And then people came to New York City from miles around — well, from the tri-state area, at least — to hear his songs,” drawing jubilant applause.
After closing the abridged “Rosalita,” Springsteen called all the performers back to the stage for a group sing-along, this time for the complete, seven-minute “Rosalita.” The Boss instructed they “trash the hell out of the thing,” but it proved a rousing finish.
Charles Feldman, Music For Youth’s chairman, said the benefit raised “well over” $100,000 for MFY. Meanwhile, the event’s producer, Michael Dorf, revealed that the next MFY benefit is slated for Oct. 10, though the honoree is still to be named.