Article 2005-10-04 Asbury Park, NJ

Boss' Benefit is Music to Ears of Disaster Victims

Bruce Springsteen knows his own life is a far cry from the struggles of the working-class protagonists of his songs, and he couldn't be more grateful.

In concert Tuesday night at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, Springsteen admitted that he gets paid for what he'd do for free.

When fans ask him, "How does it feel to be The Boss?" Springsteen said, he'll usually get all humble and throw some line about how it's gotten him this far and he can't complain.

But that's an understatement, an attempt not to lord it over all his hard-working fans. To brag, Springsteen said, would be bad manners.

However, in case you were wondering and wanted the honest truth, he confessed, "It's fabulous beyond your wildest dreams."

So there you have it.

Bruce in top hat and monocle, swilling champagne and lighting cigars with hundred-dollar bills. Aha! We knew that "Everyman" image was just a brilliant marketing ploy.

"Once," a giggly Springsteen told his well-behaved audience, "I wrote about it."

He then performed "Ain't Got You," in happy-go-lucky, rockabilly style, a song that raves about material wealth and pines for unattainable love. That song, about midway through his set, made Springsteen smile and relax. Earlier, he'd been all business.

The concert was a benefit for the Jersey Coast chapter of the American Red Cross. Representatives of the Red Cross were on hand, delighted that Springsteen had reached out to the organization in such an unexpected way. Ticket-holders were encouraged to make additional donations; anyone can do so through www.jerseycoast-redcross.org.

Some old, some new

The set list jumped here and there throughout Springsteen's extensive catalog, with "Living Proof," from 1992's "Lucky Town," preceding his latest, "Devils & Dust," for example.

Springsteen performed an exceptionally bright and jangly version of "All The Way Home" and a charming rendition of "Be True" on keyboards. He turned to the piano for "Atlantic City," and the chords undulated like ocean waves.

"Long Time Comin'," one of the best tracks on the "Devils & Dust" album and a fan favorite on this tour, keeps getting better and better, as Springsteen rattles off the lyrics in a casual style that belies their poignancy and wisdom.

Likewise, the solo versions of "Tougher Than The Rest" and "One Step Up" have a sense of maturity about them — these songs are aging like fine wines. Not so "Reno," the one about the prostitute, which still sounds kind of queasy and is too plain sad.

"Hope everybody had a good summer," Springsteen said cheerfully Tuesday night. His hair was slicked back, like the way he wore it in the mid-'90s on "The Ghost Of Tom Joad" tour, when he also played intimate theater shows.

Outside, the air was warm, salty and soft, and the waves stretched up the beach in gentle rolls. A percussion ensemble practiced on the boardwalk, and the sound reverberated past The Stone Pony. Bruce fans milled about, pleased with the night, astonished at their luck, eager to pay the man for what he'd do for free.

By Kelly-Jane Cotter via APP.com on October 05, 2005
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