Guess who has COVID? Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa. Is it a big shock? No, since Bruce just finished the first leg of a hugely successful tour that included him dancing in the dark through thousands of fans in dozens of arenas.
Bruce, joked Jon Stewart last night at the first annual American Music Honors at Monmouth University’s 700 seat Pollak Theater, looked healthier on video than the comic (who has nothing wrong with him).
Well heeled guests at The Honors — given for Bruce’s Musical Archives at the school — were a little disappointed by Bruce and Patti’s absences but understood “these things happen.” They were still in for a night of treats as Little Steven van Zandt, R&B legends Sam Moore and Darlene Love, and Steve Earle put on an off the hook show backed by Little Steven’s Disciples of Soul. Local dynamo turned legend Southside Johnny chimed in as well.
In the audience: Garden State Governor Phil Murphy (who declared next September 23rd Bruce Springsteen day in New Jersey), Bruce’s manager Jon Landau, Warner Bros movie exec Toby Emmerich, Sony Music exec Julie Swidler, ex-Sirius XM brains Steve Leeds and Tracey Jordan, and rocker Michael des Barres.
The evening began with a sumptuous buffet feast in the school’s gorgeously ornate Great Hall. Then guests were shuttled through the fog-laden campus to the Pollak, causing Stewart to proclaim on stage, “Now we’ve made it!”
The awards inductions included Springsteen — via video — honoring Love and van Zandt; Southside Johnny live on stage praising Moore, of “Soul Man” fame, and E Streeter Gary Tallent toasting Earle. All of the honorees performed with the Disciples of Soul, with Moore, 87, seated on a stool in front of the band, wowing the crowd with searing versions of “I Thank You” and big final group version of “Soul Man.” Love reminded the room of her Phil Spector days with a rousing wall of sound “River Deep Mountain High.” All of this had the room up on its collective feet and cheering and singing along.
The big finale: Southside Johnny and Little Steven leading the crowd in the Asbury Park local anthem, “I Don’t Want to Go Home,” still a soaring declaration of soulful, boozy fun with a Stax inspired horn section that never fails.
PS No pictures or videos during the show– we all had to put our phones in those confounded pouches. But here’s Sam Moore in rehearsal, sounding even better than he did sixty years ago!