The Late Movies: Springsteen's Last Stand


Philadelphia recently said goodbye to a beloved institution when the Wachovia Spectrum closed its doors forever on Halloween night. Before the 42-year-old arena's final event (a four-night stand by Pearl Jam), Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band set up shop at 3601 S Broad St. and bid farewell to the first arena they ever played (opening for Chicago in 1973) and one of the first ones they ever headlined (1976) with four shows spread over two weeks (the 13th, 14th, 19th and 20th). Here's the highlight reel.

Seaside Bar Song

The band kicked off their first night in town with "Seaside Bar Song," one of the best Springsteen songs to be left on the editing room floor (it was recorded in 1973 during the The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle sessions but left off the album).

When You Walk in the Room

The following week at Show #3, at my first show in the bunch, they opened with a cover of The Searchers' "When You Walk in the Room." Every other show I had seen on this tour started with the shotgun blast of Max Weinberg's "Badlands" drum fill, so I was a bit taken aback. Still a great song, though, and a hint at more wonderful covers to come.

I Wanna Marry You

During almost every Springsteen show, there's a point where Steven Van Zandt leads the band through an instrumental vamp while The Boss roams the stage collecting song request signs from the audience. One sign that Bruce pulled and showed to the audience on night #3 read, "Nellie, will you marry me?" With all eyes in the house on him, the guy who made the sign got down on one knee in the pit and presented Nellie with a ring. She said "yes," and Bruce was left wondering what do to because the other side of the sign read "Two Hearts," which the band had already played early in the show. "I Wanna Marry You" was the perfect song for the moment, and went off without a hitch, considering that the band hadn't played it together since 1981.

All Shook Up

I suppose the next best thing to seeing Elvis live is seeing an Elvis impersonator backed by the E Street Band. There was a guy in the pit decked out in late-era Elvis jumpsuit-and-cape glory, and Bruce was powerless to deny the King's request for a run through "All Shook Up." Bruce eventually pulls the guy up on stage and lets him take the mic, and Elvis basically steals the show from there.

Home Runs and Hungry Hearts

Allow me to jump back in time a little bit. While I wasn't able to go to all four of the final shows, I did get to see both dates at the Spectrum way back in in April, which were supposed to be the last Springsteen shows at the time. I'm happy to have squeezed a few more shows in at the arena, but April's concerts would have been worthy finales. Not only did Bruce dedicate "Thunder Road" to recently departed Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas and summon Harry's voice for a great intro...

...he also dove into the audience so his mom could join him in singing "Hungry Heart."

Now (jumping forward in time again) if you're familiar with 80s music videos and Springsteenian tradition, you know that in the Brian DePalma-directed video for "Dancing in the Dark," Springsteen pulls a young Courteney Cox onto the stage and dances with her, and he usually brings a young female fan onstage for a dance when the band plays the song on tour. Of course, at the last Spectrum show, everyone is wondering who's going to get the last dance in this holy house. Well guess what? That Mrs. Springsteen sure knows how to cut a rug.

Spirit in the Night

Towards the end of show #4, Bruce pulled out all the stops. Original E Street drummer Vini "Mad Dog" Lopez joined the band for "Spirit in the Night." The highlight of the song is arguably the smile on the kid whose hat got borrowed (and miraculously returned) by Bruce.

Higher and Higher

This was it. The highlight of the show. The highlight of all four shows (I didn't even need to see the first two). The highlight of the tour. The finest E Street moment, one could argue, since they reunited 10 years ago. Jackie Wilson's "Higher and Higher" (the very song that brought the Statue of Liberty to life in Ghostbusters II and helped save New York City). After a minute of tinkering, the band works out the main parts and runs with it for almost 10 minutes of key-changing, hand-clapping sing-along joy, and Philadelphia is a better place for it.

And then Spectrum said goodnight...

See Also: '60 Springsteen Facts for Bruce's 60th Birthday'