I was driving through my hometown
I was just kinda killin' time
When I seen a face staring out of a black velvet painting
From the window of the five and dime
I couldn't quite recall the name
But the pose looked familiar to me
So I asked the salesgirl "Who was that man
Between the Doberman and Bruce Lee?"
She said "Just a local hero"
"Local hero" she said with a smile
"Yeah a local hero he used to live here for a while"
Bruce Springsteen
“Local Hero” 1992

Well, I still got a lot of good friends right here in town
I can usually find me a free beer somewhere
With offers of free meals I am blessed
Should I go crazy, blow all my money and ruin my life, well, at least I'll
Never go hungry I guess
Here in Freehold
Bruce Springsteen
“In Freehold” 1996

Another First Friday, and yet another dip into the Bruce Springsteen concert vault. This new release as part of the Archive Series is a home run—more like a grand slam!

As part of The Ghost of Tom Joad tour Springsteen brought it all the way back home—literally. Not only returning to his hometown to perform for the first time in years, but to the gym at his former school, St. Rose of Lima in Freehold Borough. The show was a benefit for the parish’s Hispanic community center, and tickets were only made available to certified Borough residents. I tried valiantly to crack the code and get inside, but couldn’t and left it at that. For the record, I do know of some ‘out-of-towners’ who managed to slip in one way or the other.

The tour, like the album was an acoustic one, with guitar and harmonica as the instruments of choice. Patti Scialfa joins for a handful of songs. Soozie Tyrell’s beautiful violin augments on a half dozen songs, including the stunning show opener, “The River.” Over the years Bruce has dedicated that song to his sister Ginny and her husband Mickey. He wrote the song for them, remembering their unplanned pregnancy and how they dealt with the early part of their young, married lives. An Ultimate Freehold song, if you will.

Naturally a song for his Mom (who turns 93 today!) “The Wish,” and needless to say, an obligatory dose of Dad songs (“Adam Raised A Cain” & “Used Cars”) and even an ode to his Mrs (“Red Headed Woman”) in front of priests and nuns no less that comes complete with a salty, nearly salacious introduction.
There are shout-outs to some who helped foster his career, and mentions of some who were local dignitaries at the time.

Speaking of, Bruce shines some special love in the direction of Sr. Charles Marie from his grammar school days in the 50’s. He talks warmly about her as a prelude to “The Ghost of Tom Joad.” When I first heard a tape of the show, this blew my mind. Sister makes an early appearance in Bruce’s autobiography Born To Run as well--on page sixteen, no less. This blew my already blown mind too. Sr. Charles Marie was one of my 8th grade teachers in 1969 at St. Anthony in Trenton. She was indeed a gem. Small world for sure!

Given the festiveness of the occasion, the crowd gets an A++ for keeping the quiet during the softer songs, and raising the roof when it was time to do just that. The encores begin with the troika of “Growin’ Up,” “This Hard Land” and “My Hometown” and emphasize Bruce Springsteen’s talent as a master performer/set list builder. An artist with the unparalleled ability to rise to any occasion. This release was again mixed and mastered by Jon Altschiller.

The show concludes with “Freehold.” Written especially for the night, and Springsteen noted that it would be the song’s one and only performance (in actuality, it ended up being performed another 20 times—although not since 2003). It’s a from the heart love/hate/mostly love song, but in true Bruce Springsteen style, it takes some work to get there.

That Bruce’s book basically ends with him sitting in his car outside of the St. Rose of Lima church in Freehold reciting the Lord’s Prayer is very revealing. As is this release—the latest in the great series of Bruce Springsteen archive releases. The show (and all the other concert releases) is available here: http://live.brucespringsteen.net/live-music/0,19468/Bruce-Springsteen-mp3-flac-download-11-08-96-St-Rose-of-Lima-School-Freehold-NJ.html

Full set list for the show via Brucebase:

11/8/1996 St. Rose of Lima Gym, Freehold

THE RIVER (with Soozie Tyrell) / ADAM RAISED A CAIN / STRAIGHT TIME / HIGHWAY 29 / DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN / JOHNNY 99 / MANSION ON THE HILL (with Patti Scialfa and Soozie Tyrell) / THE WISH / RED HEADED WOMAN / TWO HEARTS (with Patti Scialfa and Soozie Tyrell) / WHEN YOU'RE ALONE (with Patti Scialfa and Soozie Tyrell) / OPEN ALL NIGHT / USED CARS / BORN IN THE U.S.A. / THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD / SINALOA COWBOYS / THE LINE / BALBOA PARK / ACROSS THE BORDER / GROWIN' UP / THIS HARD LAND / MY HOMETOWN (with Soozie Tyrell) / RACING IN THE STREET (with Soozie Tyrell) / THE PROMISED LAND / IN FREEHOLD