The Boss calls a special meeting for Jersey riders
Bruce Springsteen proved his rock n’ roll legend stature all night as the headline act of the Harley-Davidson 105th Anniversary celebration in Milwaukee.
His epic three and a half hour, 31-song show with his E Street Band on a perfect night on Milwaukee’s lakefront will likely long be remembered as one of his best ever by the mix of Harley riders and Springsteen fans who attended. This was the ninth time I had seen Bruce since 1980 and it was easily one of most memorable, if not one of his best performances.
Since the show was touted as the end of the band’s latest tour, it was expected to be a good one, but Bruce and his band mates took it to inspiring levels.
It was especially nice to see E-Street sax man Clarence Clemons more involved in the show. Health issues had kept the Big Man’s appearances to a minimum at the last show in Milwaukee in March, but he joined the band a bit more often this time around. That was also encouraging since the band had lost longtime keyboard and accordion player Danny Federici to cancer in April.
Springsteen’s standing in his home state of New Jersey as much of a favorite son and as regular a guy as a worldwide entertainment icon can be. His status as a real Harley rider was cemented with a montage of big screen riding photos during the never more appropriate “Thunder Road.”
Bruce also wisely kept his crowd banter focused more on the music and motorcycles than politics. While most Harley riders should appreciate that freedom of expression, Bruce has hundreds of other shows and opportunities to express his views and this would not likely have been the best place for it.
“We really felt it was a great ride here and we were bringing part of our home to this party,” said Jeff Vilagos of Saddlebrook, N.J. and director of the Bergen County H.O.G. chapter. “It puts Jersey on the stage in a big way.”
Vilagos rode with a group of 23 bikes and 36 people who left Bergen County Harley-Davidson in Rochelle Park, N.J. on Tuesday. “We’ve done rides to the Stone Pony and we’re all big fans,” Vilagos said. The Stone Pony is the Asbury Park bar where Springsteen and other Jersey rockers got their start.
While everyone in the Jersey group had seen the Boss before, the Harley show would be the first Bruce show for John Furman of Lodi, N.J. “It’s the trip of a lifetime and seeing the band is the icing on the cake,” Furman said.
John Schworn of Toms Rivers, N.J. was going to see Springsteen for the fourth time at the Milwaukee show. “It’s a chance to come out and support a Jersey boy,” Schworn said. “We’re gonna watch him rock.”
Living close to the Jersey shore near the Stone Pony, Rich Van Wolde of Barnegat, N.J., was enjoying the trip to Milwaukee and was pumped up to see the Boss. “To come to Milwaukee for this is indescribable,” Van Wolde said. “I got to ride in the Parade and seeing all the people welcome us brought tears to my eyes. You have great people in Milwaukee and it’s just great to be here.”
Having started my Ride Home seven days ago with a ride through Jersey cranking up some old and new Bruce tunes on my Road Glide, it was fitting to end the event with a live show that will be talked about for years to come from Milwaukee to Jersey and beyond.