Bruce Celebrates His Birthday In the Swamps of Jersey

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
Wrecking Ball Tour
Metlife Stadium, NJ
September 22, 2012

On a very strange night in New Jersey, a sold out Stadium full of fans waited in the tunnels of Metlife Stadium for hours to celebrate Bruce Springsteen’s birthday.  The crowds began filing into the entrance between 6 pm and 7:30 pm.  However, anyone with GA Floor Access was told they were not allowed in due to the threat of an intense lightening storm.  Yes, rain was in the forecast, but the weather at that point was sunny with clear skies.  The lightening never came, but there were intervals of heavy rain, but the Stadium kept all of the fans waiting until after 10:00 p.m..  There were fights, upset fans and disappointment all around.  That was until the show started and Bruce simply stated “thanks for coming to my birthday party”.  Then all was forgotten …

The show started rather slowly, but we were just happy to see the Band and hear Bruce’s voice.  A few songs in, the Jersey concert staple “Badlands” was played and that got the crowd geared up.  However, Bruce slowed things down with a few more rather obscure songs.  It wasn’t until he played arguably the three best and most popular songs off of his newest album (“We Take Care of Our Own”, “Wrecking Ball” and the bombastic “Death To My Hometown”) were played that the show really kicked into drive. 

From there, Bruuuuuuce had the crowd in the palm of his hands.  He mentioned numerous times that it was his birthday.  In fact, the Band and crowd sang Happy Birthday not once, but twice to him.  During the encore, Bruce’s mother was brought out on stage and a gigantic birthday cake as well.  It was not the normal Springsteen show, but that is what made it memorable. 


At one point, Bruce brought out Gary US Bonds, a former drummer of the band who had also done some solo work.  They sang a few of his songs together and Bruce seemed quite jubilant over these collaborations.  Bruce also threw in some “weather” related songs due to the strange September weather that night: “Who’ll Stop the Rain” and “”Waitin’ on a Sunny Day”.  The set closed with a awesome ten minute rendition of “Jungleland” and everyone knew the best was yet to come with the encore. 

Thunder Road started the encore and Bruce let the crowd sing half the song (see video below).  What followed was a nine song encore which included some of the Band’s most iconic songs (“Born to Run”, “Dancing in the Dark”, “Glory Days” and Tenth Avenue Freeze Out”).  Bruce was full of smiles and he and Stevie Van Zandt took over the big screens riling up the crowd and joking around like two school boys.  It was great to see how close the two stars are after all these years. 

The show ended in true E Street Band fashion, with one last Happy Birthday to Bruce, followed by a bevy of fireworks and a cover of “Twist and Shout”.  The Band took one final bow together, thanked the crowd and disappeared into the tunnels of Metlife Stadium.  Despite the show starting three hours late, Bruce played his typical three hour and a half set.  Any normal band would have shortened the set and would not have played until 1:30 in the morning.  But it was Bruce Springsteen’s birthday party and there was nothing normal about this particular September night. 


  1. Out in the Street
  2. The Ties That Bind
  3. Cynthia
  4. Badlands
  5. Who’ll Stop the Rain?
  6. Cover Me
  7. Downbound Train
  8. We Take Care of Our Own
  9. Wrecking Ball
  10. Death to My Hometown
  11. My City of Ruins
  12. It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City
  13. Jole Blon (with Gary US Bonds)
  14. This Little Girl (with Gary US Bonds)
  15. Pay Me My Money Down
  16. Janey Don’t You Lose Heart
  17. Happy Birthday
  18. In the Midnight Hour
  19. Into the Fire
  20. Because the Night
  21. She’s the One
  22. Working on the Highway
  23. Shackled and Drawn
  24. Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
  25. Meeting Across the River
  26. Jungleland
  27. Thunder Road (Encore)
  28. Rocky Ground (Encore)
  29. Born To Run (Encore)
  30. Glory Days (Encore)
  31. Seven Night to Rock (Encore)
  32. Dancing in the Dark (Encore)
  33. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out  (Encore)
  34. Happy Birthday  (Encore)
  35. Twist and Shout  (Encore with Fireworks)



Toby Keith Proceeds to Party in Hartford, CT

Toby Keith
Live in Overdrive Tour
w/ Brantley Gilbert & Thomas Rhett
September 20, 2012
Comcast Theater – Hartford, CT

It may have been a cool Fall night in Hartford, Connecticut, but things were sure on fire inside the Comcast Theater.  As a matter of fact, they were exploding at times.  Country music’s Big Dog Daddy, Toby Keith, brought his high octane Live in Overdrive Tour to New England with support from Brantley Gilbert and newcomer Thomas Rhett.  As usual, Connecticut made this show yet another sell out for Toby and they were not disappointed one bit.

Up first was Thomas Rhett, who recently released an EP to Itunes.  His sound is very new age country and his live persona was very likeable.  He sang typical country tunes about drinking, love, and being from a small town.  However, the standout song in his set was his newest single “Beer With Jesus”.  It’s a very lyrics driven song about what he would say if he could spend time, and have a beer, with Jesus.  I expect it will do very well at country radio and he sang the song with passion and soul.

At one point, Rhett jumped into the crowd and ran all the way to the back section with a megaphone as he sang and rapped the lyrics “Front Porch Junkies”.  It seemed to win over the crowd and keep them enticed to his set.  Overall, I was very impressed with his set and look forward to seeing more from him. 

Up next was Brantley Gilbert.  He is an artist who has turned from songwriter to country music’s rising star in one short year.  He penned such tunes as Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem” and “My Kinda Party” before scoring his own deal.  Both songs went on to be megahits for Aldean, but Brantley has started collecting number 1 songs of his own (Country Must Be Country Wide, You Don’t Know Her Like I Do).  However, it is his live performances that take him to the next level. 

Most of Brantley’s songs are loud and have a bad boy swagger.  His performance matched that description and more.  He stomped around the stage throwing up rock signs and flexing his muscles.  He had the crowd pumping their fists right along with him.  His songs like “Take It Outside” and “Kick It In the Sticks” had the energy level inside the venue up to a 10. 

However, it was on “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do” that Brantley seemed to be most authentic.  It’s a song about a confident man trying to explain his love for a woman to someone who just can’t seem to understand.  Brantley’s live delivery made the song much more passionate and showcased the depth of his vocal talent.  The rest of his set was full of energy and he certainly had the crowd in the palm of his hand.  He sets out next week on his first headlining tour and I look forward to catching him again soon. 

The main event was yet to come and was preceded by the annual humorous Toby Keith/Ford F-150 video clip.  After the video, the shade over the stage fell and the first of many pyrotechnic exploded and out came Toby to the bombastic “American Ride”.  And in true Toby Keith form, the concert began with two American-themed songs (American Ride & Made In America) and ended with two American songs (American Soldier and Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue).

Toby’s setlists don’t change much from show to show as he likes to play his hits for the fans while adding in his newest singles.  While America was a main theme of his set, so was alcohol.  His last three singles are all centered around everyone’s favorite liquids and the crowd sang along to “Beers Ago”, “I Like Girls Who Drink Beer”, and the infectious “Red Solo Cup”.  Before singing the latter of the drinking anthems he proclaimed it is the song that “you cannot stop, you can only hope to contain it”. 

While those songs are all good and fun, it is some of his other material that makes me such a Toby fan.  “God Love Her”, “How Do You Like Me Now”, “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” and “Beer for My Horses” are classic country songs and among the genre’s best.  Toby let his band members have their shines as well, especially guitarist Rich Eckhardt who really showcased his immense talent at the front of the catwalk multiple times.

But in the end, Toby Keith concerts are defined by his encore, which I have often claimed is the best encore in music, period.  Some nights he brings out multiple soldiers, family members of military members, etc.  On this night, Toby brought out a single soldier to stand next to him while he sang his patriotic anthems.  The soldier had an American flag on his back and was visibly moved while Toby sang the meaningful lyrics.  Both “American Soldier” and “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” rang home a little more since we, as a Nation, just remember 9/11.  The soldier Toby brought up at the end was Marine Corps Sgt. Greg Caron. He lost his legs in Afghanistan last November when he stepped on a roadside bomb.

All in all, it was the typical Toby Keith show:  Opening acts who are major talents and got the crowd amped and ready, and a headlining show full of hits, action, explosions, and big production.  You know what you are going to get at Toby show and that is okay, because it is one of the best concerts, year in and year out, that music has to offer. 


Toby Keith

  1. American Ride
  2. Made in America
  3. Get Drunk & Be Somebody
  4. God Love Her
  5. I Like Girls That Drink Beer
  6. Beers Ago
  7. I Wanna Talk About Me
  8. Whiskey Girl
  9. Weed with Willie
  10. Who’s Your Daddy
  11. Get out of my Car
  12. Red Solo Cup
  13. As Good as I Once Was
  14. I Love This Bar
  15. Should’ve Been a Cowboy
  16. Beer For My Horses
  17. How Do You Like Me Now
  18. A Little Less Talk
  19. American Solider (ENCORE)
  20. Courtesy of the Red White and Blue (ENCORE)
Brantley Gilbert
  1. My Kinda Party
  2. Hell On Wheels
  3. Dirt Road Anthem
  4. You Don’t Know Her Like I Do
  5. My Kinda Crazy
  6. Courtney Must be Country Wide
  7. Take it Outside
  8. Kick it in the Sticks
Thomas Rhett
  1. All American White Boys
  2. Make me Wanna
  3. Beer With Jesus
  4. Front Porch Junkies
  5. Something To Do With My Hands


Beer With Jesus – Thomas Rhett
Country Must Be Country Wide – Brantley Gilbert
Beers Ago – Toby Keith
Red Solo Cup  – Toby Keith
Should’ve Been a Cowboy – Toby Keith

The Full Zac Brown Band Experience at Mohegan Sun

Zac Brown Band
September 1, 2012
Mohegan Sun Arena
Uncasville, Connecticut

On Saturday, September 1, 2012, I had the privilege of having the full Zac Brown Band experience: access to the Eat & Greet, a Pit Pass, and an up close and personal look into the most talented group of musicians country music has to offer.  It started off with an orange wristband and a brief wait in the lobby the Mohegan Sun Arena.  I’ve had several meet and greets with other artists in numerous different rooms within the Arena, but this Eat & Greet experience was deep into the halls of the Arena.  We walked into a large room where several of the Band’s trucks were and saw several tables set in the form of an inside picnic. 

Each of the Band members was at the entrance ready to greet each of the lucky fans with wristband.  After shaking hands with each of them, I spotted Chef Rusty Hamlin, the Band’s head road Chef.  I had tweeted him earlier in the day and he was happy (and extremely excited) to show me each of the dishes he had prepared for us.  He explained he got all of the ingredients at a local farm, Holmberg Orchards.  He then told us to head to the bar because there was an open bar with Jack Daniels and Landshark. 

Zac Brown then gave a short speech and handed the microphone to Chef Rusty who spoke about the various food options, which included ratatouille, sweet potatoes with pecans, coleslaw, beef, pork, cornbread fritters, and more.  It was truly incredible food with an insane amount of flavors and freshness.  On top of that, each of the members moved about the tables and spent time speaking with the fans.  The access to the band, the open bar, and the amazing food made the Eat & Greet a truly remarkable experience.

I spoke to Zac about the type of guitar strings he likes to play with.  I had noticed he uses nylon strings and wanted to know why.  He spent a good deal of time really explaining it to me.  He said he grew up playing classical music and learned on those strings.  And for the style he plays, with such intensity, it is easier on his finger tips.  I also asked Clay Cook if he was going to be singing any songs that night and he said that the Band does not make up the setlist until right before they go on stage because they “want to play songs they feel like playing on that particular night”.  That explains why their setlists are completely different each night (much unlike most of the country music world who basically play the same songs each night).

I then made my way down to the Pit area as the opening act, Levi Lowery, was finishing his set.  A giant white sheet/screen covered the stage as a countdown was on to the main event.  The sheet flew up and the band wasted no time as the opening guitar intro to the title cut of their new album “Uncaged” was up first.  The stage was an enormous set, with moving cranes and lights, three huge projection screens, and the band members stationed as a cohesive unit.  When the second song played was “Toes”, we knew that the setlist that night was going to be amazing. 

Throughout the set, it was very apparent that each member of the Band is a vital and unique part.  Of course, Zac is the leader.  But, each member is unbelievably talented in their own right.  Songs like “The Wind” and “Who Knows”, which the latter of which became a fourteen minute jam out, really showcase the diversity and skill.  Each member gets their own time in the spotlight playing their respective instruments. 

I was on the left side of center, right alongside the fiddler, Jimmy De Martini, who I have often referred to as the most talented musician in country music.  If anyone wants to argue with me, bring it.  He absolutely blew my mind as well as everyone standing around me.  When he would rip into a fiddle solo, whether it was on “Devil Went Down To Georgia”, “Free” or “Sic Em On A Chicken”, mouths dropped.  He is worth the price of admission in of itself. 

The Band did a three song acoustic set, where they sat down on crates and boxes in the front of catwalk and were joined by Levi Lowrey.  I was not a huge fan of this portion as I’d rather see the Band going all out in their natural element.  But there was also something very genuine about the set.  They gave a bit of insight into what it must be like when they are creating their songs.  Still, the excitement level of the crowd seemed to die down.  But when the opening fiddle notes of “Free” started when the Band returned to the stage, there was no downtime for the rest of the night. 

The Encore began with a ten minute jam out between the Fryar and De Los Reyes.  The bongos and drums were smashed with such intensity that I could feel the vibrations from the floor up into my body.  And with true class and patriotism, the Band finished the night off with “America, The Beatiful” as a pre-lude to their signature song, “Chicken Fried”.  While most of the night was a sing-a-long, the crowd was never louder during the final megahit. 

Zac thanked the crowd and each of the members took a bow.  They exited the stage and never have I ever been so full of satisfaction from a concert experience.  Between the backstage experience and the exhilirating performance, I saw a state of class, intimacy, talent, and perfection, that not many other music acts can match, nor care to put forth.  Zac’s attention to details and his care for his fans help Zac Brown Band stand apart at the forefront of musical entertainment. 


  1. Uncaged
  2. Toes
  3. Not Okay
  4. As She’s Walking Away
  5. No Hurry
  6. The Wind
  7. Can’t You See (Marshall Tucker Band Cover)
  8. Colder Weather
  9. Jump Right In
  10. Keep Me In Mind
  11. Wherever We Break Down (Acoustic Song with Levi Lowrey)
  12. One Day (Acoustic Song)
  13. Sweet Emotion (Acoustic Song – Aerosmith Cover)
  14. Free
  15. Into the Mystic (Van Morrison Cover)
  16. Who Knows
  17. Knee Deep
  18. Sic Em On A Chicken
  19. Sweet Annie
  20. Devil Went Down To Georgia (Charlie Daniels Band Cover)
  21. Drum Solo’s by Chris Fryar & Daniel De Los Reyes (ENCORE)
  22. Whiskey’s Gone (ENCORE)
  23. America The Beautiful (ENCORE)
  24. Chicken Fried (ENCORE)


Jump Right In
Devil Went Down To Georgia