The Boss in Jersey: a concert pilgrimage

There’s something about seeing Bruce Springsteen in his home state, or perhaps Jersey just has a hero love affair.

There’s something about seeing Bruce Springsteen in his home state, or perhaps Jersey just has a hero love affair.

There I stood, with more than 50,000 people at my back and a few special ones in front of me. For seven hours I stood in the parking lot of Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., hoping to gain access to the “pit.”Steve-Ciccarelli

All we wanted was to be close enough to our state’s crown jewel, “the Boss” himself, Bruce Springsteen.
I, along with thousands of other fans who waited for a good spot or waited and tailgated and reminisced, did this almost as a rite of passage. The ritual of a Springsteen show is something passed down from generation to generation among New Jersey residents.

Growing up in the “swamps of Jersey,” as the Boss once sang, you’re introduced to Springsteen at a young age. Your parents saw Springsteen then, and they keep going back. It’s like the fountain of youth but only one night at a time.

While standing among thousands of Springsteen fans (90 percent sporting Springsteen shirts) on Oct. 3, I got to thinking: Is this just a New Jersey thing? I mean, it doesn’t seem like all of Pennsylvania converges at the Wachovia Center for a day-long celebration for a Hall & Oates show. Then again, “Thunder Road” sounds a lot better coming from a car stereo than “Private Eyes.”

When you think about how much New Jersey loves the Boss, it’s almost kind of ridiculous. There was a petition to make “Born to Run” the official song of New Jersey. That’s right, Garden State residents tried to make a song that is 100 percent about escaping the wraths of the shore the official song of the state. Now that’s love.

While thinking about the Boss, more famous New Jersey heroes came to mind. Jon Bon Jovi? Completely adored. Go into any dive bar within state limits and right after a Springsteen song, expect to hear “Livin’ on a Prayer.”

It’s not only musicians. Whenever director Kevin Smith comes back to town, there’s a giant line to meet him. Last time, the wait for someone at the back of the line clocked in at more than 15 hours.

I firmly believe New Jersey is the “Hero Worship” capital of the United States.

If every state had to obsess over something either coming from that state or featuring that state heavily, what would Pennsylvania choose? What if every time The Roots came back for a hometown show, thousands of Philadelphians waited outside listening to Game Theory and drinking Miller Lite? It sounds almost like the premise for a bad documentary.

The only thing that Philadelphia gets almost 100 percent behind is It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and with good reason. It’s something we can almost genuinely call ours. The show wouldn’t make nearly as much sense if it were based in Hoboken, N.J., or San Francisco. Philadelphia makes the show what it is, so we embrace it with open arms.

Is this the way Scranton feels about The Office? Any Scrantonians should let me know.

Thinking about this has made me think of the art that’s most attached with individual places. Most places have a signature person, show or band, but none are as obsessed as the Bruce faithfuls.

The odd thing is that while Kevin Smith and Jon Bon Jovi seem to only get adoring reactions in their home state, the Boss does sell out every place he plays, but there’s nothing like seeing him in New Jersey, especially at Giants Stadium. Whenever Springsteen plays there, the roar of the crowd is like a 3-hour version of a baseball team winning the World Series. That exact moment when all you wished and hoped for all year comes to a cinematic conclusion, when you hug your friends and family standing next to you and just say “look how far we’ve come.”

There’s no way to describe it. It can only be experienced.

The most recent Giants Stadium shows bore a little more weight; these would be the last concerts ever at the fabled landmark. To celebrate, Springsteen opened every night with a new song, appropriately titled “Wrecking Ball.”

Couple the demise of the stadium with the fact that this could very well be the last E Street Band tour, and lines like “And we know that come tomorrow, none of this will be here” and “All your youth and beauty, has been given to the dust” make all the more sense. This just might be his victory lap, and what a victory lap it’s been.

So there I stood, some of my best friends in tow, watching a rock legend.

“My dad did this same exact thing 30 something years ago,” I thought.

Art connects us to each other. Whether it’s Bruce Springsteen and beers in a parking lot or a bunch of kids outside the Barbary, these are — well, as the Boss put it — the “ties that bind.”

Steve Ciccarelli can be reached at


  1. His shows in Philadelphia come as a very close second to Jersey. The Boss has always had a appreciation and love for our city along with the spectrum which he also just played his last shows in after selling out over 50 times there…and he changed wrecking balls lyrics to a Philadelphia version. Undoubtedly Jersey in the Mecca for Bruce and his fans, Philadelphia is definitely a close second…

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