BRUCE AT LOD: A DOZEN YEARS ROCKING THE HOUSE
Looking back at Bruce Springsteen's 12 Light of Day Appearances
March 2, 2022 - By Stan Goldstein


Bruce Springsteen's 12th and most recent performance for Light of Day, with longtime regulars Willie Nile and Joe Grushecky, January 18, 2020 - photograph by A.M. Saddler

TICKET ALERT: On Wednesday, March 2, a limited number of additional LOD Winterfest 2022 tickets have been released for the 3/12 Main Event at the Count Basie Theatre, available while they last via Ticketmaster.

Just two months before the COVID-19 pandemic would wreak havoc and shut down our stages, it took many by surprise on January 18, 2020 when Bruce Springsteen showed up as a special guest at Light of Day, even though it was for the 12th time. For quite a few years Springsteen's appearance at the annual concert was more the rule than the exception by far, but this Saturday evening show at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park was the first time he had played the benefit since 2015.

The night before, Bruce was in Wellington, Florida, where he performed two songs — "Mustang Sally" and "In the Midnight Hour" — with Patti Scialfa at the United States Equestrian Team Foundation's "Take Me to Tokyo" gala. Though it seemed far-fetched, especially as a minor snow storm was approaching, many wondered if Springsteen might make his way back up to New Jersey to be part of Light of Day 2020.

That question was answered about 5pm when Bruce showed up to soundcheck with Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers. Word quickly spread around Asbury Park, and through social media, that The Boss would be in the house.


He's often guested with other artists on the bill, but every time Springsteen has shown up for Light of Day, it's been to rock the house with headliner Joe Grushecky - photograph by A.M. Saddler, January 18, 2020

Bruce joined Jesse Malin for two songs that night, Willie Nile for one, and he played a full set with Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers. It remains his longest public performance backed by a band in five years, since his show with the E Street Band on February 25, 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand. (There was the April 2019 filming of the Western Stars songs in his barn as well as the November 19, 2019 Boston College benefit show at the Stone Pony, but those were in front of private, invite-only audiences.)

Light of Day was founded in 1998 by music manager Bob Benjamin with the help of concert promoter Tony Pallagrosi. It began as a birthday party in November 1998 at the Downtown Cafe in Red Bank, New Jersey, to celebrate Benjamin's 40th birthday. Benjamin had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and in lieu of gifts he asked that donations be made to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation. The first official Light of Day concert took place November 3, 2000 at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, and it soon turned into an annual "Bob's Birthday Bash" concert (AKA the Main Event, as LOD quickly grew into a multi-day affair).


How it all began: Springsteen at the finale of the inaugural Light of Day benefit concert, November 3, 2000, celebrating Bob Benjamin's birthday with others including Patti Scialfa, Joe Grushecky, and another LOD stalwart, Joe D'Urso - photograph by John CavanaughAnna

To date, Springsteen has appeared at 12 of 20 Light of Days. While he's never been an announced Light of Day performer, and the show is always a hot ticket in any case, each year there's always the speculation: "Is Bruce going to be there?"

After a virtual-only event in 2021, and this year's having to be postponed due to Omicron, Light of Day Winterfest 2022 returns live and in-person this month. Bob's Birthday Bash is set for March 12, held for the first time at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank. As ever, no one knows for sure what the night will bring, but we can take a look at what's already in the books, with a year-by-year roundup of Springsteen's Light of Day history.



LOD 1: November 3, 2000 at the Stone Pony - photograph by Anna Selden

November 3, 2000
THE STONE PONY, ASBURY PARK, NJ

The bar is set quite high at the inaugural Light of Day, as Bruce plays for almost two hours with Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers. "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome back to the Stone Pony, New Jersey´s favorite son… Mr. Murder Incorporated here himself… Bruce Springsteen!" said Grushecky as he introduced Bruce at 1:30am. He plays a powerful 13-song set with the Houserockers, later joined by Patti Scialfa, before a packed house that even includes a couple of uniformed Asbury Park police officers enjoying the show from the side of the stage. As the show is winding down, with most of the evening's musicians on stage for the encore of "Twist and Shout," things started to get ragged. Bruce, realizing this, took charge and counted everyone back in to get things back on track. The show ends around 3:15am. It's one of Bruce's first public appearances since the end of the Reunion tour on July 1 and his first time playing the Stone Pony in more than five years.

Setlist:
With Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers: Never Be Enough Time, Homestead, Pumping Iron, Murder Incorporated, Talking to the King, Down the Road Apiece, Diddy Wah Diddy, Everything's Going to Work Out Right, Keep a Knockin', Ramrod, Light of Day, Twist and Shout, I Don't Want to Go Home


November 3, 2001, Bob Benjamin (second from left) looks on as Grushecky and Springsteen do it again one year later - photo by John Cavanaugh

November 3, 2001
TRADEWINDS, SEA BRIGHT, NJ

The second Light of Day takes place at a different venue and a bigger room, the Tradewinds nightclub on the ocean in Sea Bright, New Jersey. A shorter set by Bruce, this time six songs, as he's backed by Joe Grushecky and the No Spring Chickens, a collective of Pittsburgh-based musicians that performed occasionally with Grushecky. Max Weinberg is also among the performers, along with La Bamba & The Hubcaps. Earlier in the evening a lot of fans were focused on the Yankees playing in Game 6 of the World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. (The Yankees, up 3-2 in the series, lost the game, 15-2.)

Setlist:
With Joe Grushecky and the No Spring Chickens: Talking to the King, Fire, Ramrod, Light of Day, Twist and Shout, Lucille


Having a party and dancing to the music with Gary U.S. Bonds at LOD 3 - photograph by John Cavanaugh

November 2, 2002
TRADEWINDS, SEA BRIGHT, NJ

As Springsteen would be resuming the American leg of the Rising tour (after seven shows in Europe) the very next night in Dallas, many wondered whether he would make his third straight Light of Day appearance. A hint came earlier in the week with the announcement that Joe Grushecky's set would be moved to earlier in the evening's lineup. Bruce does indeed show up, joining Grushecky and the Houserockers onstage at 10:40pm and playing for nearly an hour, including the only LOD performance of "Boom Boom." He even sticks around and comes back after midnight to join Gary U.S. Bonds for three songs. A month later, the Tradewinds would close and be torn down soon after. Luxury homes are now on the site.

Setlist:
With Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers: Never Be Enough Time, Homestead, 96 Tears (featuring Garland Jeffreys), Wild in the Streets (featuring Garland Jeffreys), Fire, Pumping Iron, Boom Boom, Light of Day, The Twist
With Gary U.S. Bonds: Jole Blon, Quarter to Three, Having a Party


LOD 2003, The Year Michael J. Fox Came. L-R: Light of Day founder, Light of Day lead actor, Light of Day songwriter - photograph by John Cavanaugh

November 1, 2003
THE STONE PONY, ASBURY PARK, NJ

Considered by many to be one of the best Light of Day shows, the 2003 Birthday Bash is most remembered for a guest appearance by Michael J. Fox (like concert organizer Bob Benjamin, Fox suffers from Parkinson's). In making his first public performance since the end of the Rising tour on October 4, Springsteen continues his Light of Day appearance streak at four for four as the music returns to a packed Stone Pony.

Earlier in the night, Springsteen stood by the soundboard, UNC cap pulled low, to check out sets from Willie Nile and Soozie Tyrell. After watching most of Garland Jeffreys's set, Bruce hits the stage, taking a guitar lead toward the end of Jeffreys's "Hail Hail Rock 'N' Roll" before going into "96 Tears." At 1am, after Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers played a few songs, Joe brought Springsteen back for an hour-and-a-half performance that is still cherished by many today. On "Light of Day," Michael J. Fox, star of the movie that brought the title song, shares a mic with Springsteen.

Setlist:
With Garland Jeffreys: Hail Hail Rock 'N' Roll, 96 Tears
With Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers: Never Be Enough Time, Homestead, From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come), Code of Silence, Fire, Talking to the King, Johnny 99, Murder Incorporated, Pumping Iron, Light of Day (featuring Michael J. Fox), Dirty Water, Twist and Shout


LOD 5, November 6, 2004 - photograph by Ruth Barohn

November 6, 2004
THE STONE PONY, ASBURY PARK, NJ

Hot on the heels of October's Vote for Change Tour, Bruce makes his fifth straight Light of Day appearance, joining Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers for 13 songs. It's a bit of a subdued Springsteen, as the 2004 Presidential election was just five days earlier —when John Kerry, whom Bruce also campaigned for, lost to George W. Bush. Taking the stage about 1am, Bruce played until the end of the night at 2:30am. Making their LOD debuts along with "Idiot's Delight" were "Atlantic City" and a powerful "This Hard Land."

Setlist:
With Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers: Idiot's Delight, From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come), Homestead, Johnny 99, Code of Silence, Atlantic City, Murder Incorporated, Talking to the King, Never Be Enough Time, Mustang Sally, This Hard Land, Light of Day, Great Balls of Fire, Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On / Shout


Springsteen guests with Marah, December 2, 2006 - photograph by Ruth Barohn

December 2, 2006
STARLAND BALLROOM, SAYREVILLE, NJ

After missing Light of Day for the first time in 2005 (it was the middle of the Devils & Dust tour), Springsteen, wearing a newsboy cap, denim and black work boots, is back on stage for LOD 7 at a new venue, the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, New Jersey. He joins Marah for two songs before returning with Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers for a nine-song set. It had been hinted in advance that Bruce would be part of the shows, as an item on the Backstreets news page on December 1 read: "Springsteen associates Terry Magovern and Kevin Buell are currently at the venue, checking out the stage."

Light of Day 2006 is a three-day affair, and three generations of Springsteens are in attendance. On Friday, December 1, a "Writers in the Raw" event features Bruce's cousin Frank Bruno of the Sessions Band as one of the performers, and Adele Springsteen and her sisters are there to see him perform. Bruce is there on Saturday and on Sunday, and Evan Springsteen is part of the crowd taking in the show headlined by Streetlight Manifesto.

Setlist:
With Marah: Raise Your Hand, Reservation Girl
With Joe Grushecky and The Houserockers: Never Be Enough Time, A Good Life, Darkness on the Edge of Town, Talking to the King, Johnny 99, Code of Silence, Atlantic City, Happy Birthday to You, Santa Claus is Comin' to Town

January 16, 2010
PARAMOUNT THEATRE, ASBURY PARK, NJ

After a three-year absence (there was no Light of Day show in 2007, and Bruce did not play in 2008 or 2009) Springsteen returns for a special night at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, New Jersey. The Paramount, on the Asbury Park boardwalk, will be the Main Event's new home for the next decade, as the ever-growing festival also settles into January rather than November on the annual timetable. Bruce joins Willie Nile for "Heaven Help the Lonely," Jesse Malin for "Broken Radio," and of course Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers, returning midway through their closing slot for a powerful performance, the highlight of which was "Pink Cadillac."

Setlist:
With Willie Nile: Heaven Help the Lonely
With Jesse Malin: Broken Radio
With Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers: Atlantic City, Code of Silence, Johnny 99, Never Be Enough Time, Darkness on the Edge of Town, Talking to the King, Pink Cadillac, Murder Incorporated (with Vincent "Big Pussy" Pastore), Another Thin Line, Happy Birthday to You, Light of Day, Twist and Shout

January 15, 2011
PARAMOUNT THEATRE, ASBURY PARK, NJ

One of the top nights of Springsteen at Light of Day. Numerous highlights include the rare performance of "One Way Street" from the 2010 album The Promise. To this day, the song has only been performed three times live and only once at an E Street Band show. Bruce not only sits in for his traditional set with Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers, he also guests during three earlier sets, with Jesse Malin, Willie Nile, and Alejandro Escovedo. Before joining Grushecky, Bruce performs solo acoustic versions of a rare "Your Own Worst Enemy" (only played nine times live) and "This Hard Land." All together he plays on 19 songs including "Save My Love" and the LOD premieres of "Adam Raised a Cain," "The Promised Land," and the finale of "Thunder Road," which featured a sing-along with all the evening's performers — and the audience. A magical night.

Setlist:
With Jesse Malin and the St. Mark's Social: Broken Radio
With Willie Nile: Heaven Help the Lonely
With Alejandro Escovedo: Always a Friend
Solo acoustic: Your Own Worst Enemy, This Hard Land
With Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers: Another Thin Line, Atlantic City, Never Be Enough Time, Adam Raised a Cain, One Way Street, I'm Not Sleeping, Save My Love, Talking to the King, Pink Cadillac (featuring Danny Clinch), Darkness on the Edge of Town, The Promised Land, Light of Day, Twist and Shout, Thunder Road

January 14, 2012
PARAMOUNT THEATRE, ASBURY PARK, NJ

When Springsteen is out in the streets of Asbury Park filming a video for the not-yet-released "We Take Care of Our Own" on Friday, it's pretty much a lock that he'll be playing Saturday's Light of Day. Some of the European fans in town are used as extras in the video. After filming, Bruce has Willie Nile (also an extra) join him in his SUV; Springsteen parks along Lake Avenue in Asbury Park to play Nile the entire Wrecking Ball album (not out until March 6). Bruce then drops Willie off at the front door of the Stone Pony for Friday night's show.

On Saturday, it's another strong LOD outing for Bruce. He joins Garland Jeffreys and Nile for the second year running and plays another acoustic song on his own, this time a passionate "Incident on 57th Street." Soon after, he joins Grushecky and the Houserockers for a 15-song set highlighted by a fun "Save My Love" and, making its Light of Day debut, "Waiting on a Sunny Day," Bruce leading the sing-along from atop the drum riser. Max Weinberg takes over the drumming for "The Promised Land" and the evening's remaining songs before the show concludes with an audience sing-along to "Thunder Road" in a tribute to Bob Benjamin.

Setlist:
With Garland Jeffreys: Wild in the Streets
With Willie Nile: One Guitar
Solo acoustic: Incident on 57th Street
With Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers: Darkness on the Edge of Town, Never Be Enough Time, Adam Raised a Cain, Save My Love, Talking to the King, Atlantic City, Johnny 99, I'm Not Sleeping, Because the Night, Waitin' on a Sunny Day, Pumping Iron, Light of Day, The Promised Land, Happy Birthday to You, Twist and Shout, Thunder Road

January 18, 2014
PARAMOUNT THEATRE, ASBURY PARK, NJ

After a Bruce-less event in 2013, Springsteen is back at Light of Day with new material, playing "Frankie Fell in Love," off the High Hopes album that had just been released four days earlier. The live premiere came during Springsteen's set with Grushecky, which, as is tradition, mixed Houserockers material such as "Talking to the King" and "I'm Not Sleeping" with Springsteen classics like "Darkness on the Edge of Town" and "The Promised Land.

Another highlight of this hour-and-a-half closing set is Bruce's third- ever live performance of "Hearts of Stone." Earlier in the show, Springsteen kicked off his night with Jesse Malin, performing The Ramones' "Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio?," followed by another guest spot with Willie Nile for "One Guitar."

Setlist:
With Jesse Malin: Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio
With Willie Nile: One Guitar
With Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers featuring Ed Manion: Adam Raised a Cain, Never Be Enough Time, Darkness on the Edge of Town, Hearts of Stone, Pumping Iron, Atlantic City, Talking to the King, Frankie Fell in Love, Save My Love, I'm Not Sleeping, Because the Night, The Promised Land, Light of Day, Happy Birthday to You, Thunder Road

January 17, 2015
PARAMOUNT THEATRE, ASBURY PARK, NJ

Another Light of Day that is remembered as one of the best, as two Jersey Shore legends — Springsteen and Southside Johnny — join in on four songs backed by La Bamba's Big Band: "The Letter," "This Little Girl," "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher," and "I Don't Want to Go Home." In all, Bruce performs 22 songs this evening, including an acoustic "Janey Don't You Lose Heart" on his own, and  the rare "Savin' Up" and "Racing in the Street ('78)" with Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers. After the now-traditional acoustic "Thunder Road" sing-along, Bruce took a moment to talk about the history of Light of Day and the inspiration that Bob Benjamin has been to him all these years. "Let's do one more," he shouted, before leading a sing-along of "The Promised Land" that concluded the marathon show.

Setlist:
With Willie Nile: One Guitar
With La Bamba's Big Band and Friends, featurig Southside Johnny: The Letter, This Little Girl, (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher, I Don't Want to Go Home
Solo acoustic: Janey, Don't You Lose Heart
With Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers featuring Ed Manion: Adam Raised a Cain, Savin' Up, From Small Things (Big things One Day Come), Never Be Enough Time, Racing in the Street ('78), Pumping Iron, Darkness on the Edge of Town, I Still Look Good (For Sixty), Frankie Fell in Love, Hearts of Stone, Save My Love, Talking to the King, Because the Night, Light of Day, Thunder Road, The Promised Land

January 18, 2020
PARAMOUNT THEATRE, ASBURY PARK, NJ

Bruce is back for the 20th anniversary edition of Light of Day after missing four straight years (he began his 2016 River tour in Pittsburgh on the same night as the LOD main event that year, was preparing to head to Australia for E Street Band shows in 2017, was on Broadway in 2018, and did not play in 2019). Unbilled as always, and sporting a schoolboy cap, Bruce surprises many unsuspecting showgoers by joining Jesse Malin's early set for two songs, "Broken Radio" and "Meet Me at the End of the World." He's soon back with Willie Nile for "One Guitar," and he rejoins his Light of Day compadre Joe Grushecky for 10 songs including fun versions of "Pink Cadillac" and "Savin' Up."

Setlist:
With Jesse Malin: Broken Radio, Meet Me at the End of the World
With Willie Nile: One Guitar
With Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers: Talking to the King, The Promised Land, Pumping Iron, Atlantic City, Never Be Enough Time, Darkness on the Edge of Town, Pink Cadillac, Savin' Up, Light of Day, Thunder Road, Happy Birthday to You


The 2021 Light of Day took place virtually. As 2022's Main Event, postponed from January, heads to the Hackensack Meridian Health Theatre (better knowns as the Count Basie Theatre) in Red Bank on March 12, the question on many minds, as is the case just about every year, remains "Will Bruce be there?" If he is, it's another great night of music. If he isn't, it's still another great night of music — where old friends gather like a class reunion, and new friends are made. Most importantly, it's a tribute to Bob Benjamin and the Light of Day Foundation for all their hard work in raising millions of dollars for Parkinson's research.

Winterfest 2022 events begin this Friday, March 4; visit lightofday.org for schedule and details.

Stan Goldstein reporting, with special thanks to Brucebase


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