When They Said “All-Star”, They Meant It

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December 14, 2006

On Tuesday night, “The Bobby Bandiera All-Star Holiday Concert” lived up to its billing, as Bobby wrangled a whole host of New Jersey greats for a full night of holiday cheer. The show was a benefit for the PALS Support Group, a charity started by Terry Magovern in memory of Joan Dancy. After a few words from Dave Marsh about the good cause, it was right into nearly four hours of music: Tim McLoone and his Holiday Express kicked things off, followed by sets from the balcony-storming Mark Pender and LaBamba, Bandiera’s smokin’ Rock and Soul Revue, Southside Johnny, and Gary U.S. Bonds. The night’s penultimate artist was Bon Jovi, who turned in a charming set of yuletide R&B, like “Please Come Home for Christmas,” “Blue Christmas,” and “Run Run Rudolph.” Dave Gaetano tells us, “It was a fantastic evening of music. The night kept building and building. Everyone knows the vibe that is present when Bruce is going to be making an appearance, and that electricity was in the air from the pre-show reception right on through the last notes of the evening.”

Yes, then there was Bruce, closing the show with a 35-minute set. Backed by Bandiera’s Rock and Soul Revue, plus a big swath of Jukes making for an immense horn section, Springsteen brought the heat.

Flynn McLean writes: “Bruce was on fire from the minute he sauntered on stage last night, casually picked up an electric guitar, and launched right into the opening chords of ‘Darlington County.’ In a setting where he could have played it cool, he took it up a notch and had the entire theatre eating out of his hand. While many fans were just happy to see him strap on an electric guitar, Bruce showed that he could still make it talk — the intensity of his playing, especially on ‘Spirit in the Night,’ not usually a guitar-driven song, blew everyone away. Bruce let the audience take over a couple of lines during ‘Spirit,’ much to its delight. The horns added a lot to ‘Darlington’ and ‘Seaside Bar Song,’ and, of course, ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-out,’ which included Jon Bon Jovi. A fun ‘Waitin’ on a Sunny Day,’ which Bruce dedicated to Terry, could have been better than in 2003.

“The finale of Santa Claus brought the surreal images of Bruce sharing the stage with the Grinch (not Southside Johnny, but a person in an actual Grinch suit) and a couple of Sesame Street characters. [It was a ‘Flaming Lips-like scene,’ says Gaetano.] Jon asked Bruce if he had been good this year, and Bruce responded by playing some hot licks on the guitar while Santa Claus bore witness. It was just a great night, even if the show lagged a bit at points over the course of the night before Bruce took the stage.  And wWhile we certainly enjoyed the artistry of Devils & Dust and the enthusiasm of the Seeger Sessions, last night reminded us of what Bruce does best: rock the house.”