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Labor Day Brings a Message from The Boss

As the E Street Band throws a house party at the Bank, fans remember the shows that kept them coming back, year after year.

It turns out that there is a cure for the summertime blues: just let Bruce Springsteen host your end-of-summer house party.

“My people!” Springsteen greeted the thousands of fans congregated in Citizens Bank Park Sunday before launching into the old Eddie Cochran song that kicked off the evening’s epic, 33-song performance.

“We’re gonna raise a fuss, we’re gonna raise a holler!” he sang out as the near-capacity crowd danced along.

For three hours and 40 minutes, the Bank turned into the greatest Labor Day party not hosted on the Ben Franklin Parkway (sorry, Jay-Z).

From the opening chords of “Out in the Street” through the final notes of the show-ending cover of “Twist and Shout,” Bruce and the frenzied Philly crowd enjoyed a sweaty, joyous duet that will resound in their memories throughout the fall.

It was, as The Boss pointed out, his “Labor Day labor of love.”

The relationship between Springsteen and the City of Brotherly Love is a long and storied one. It began in the early 1970s, when Philly adopted the Jersey rocker as their own, thanks in large part to the airplay he was given by local deejays like Ed Sciaky and legendary performances (like the Prodigal Son at the Main Point).

Springsteen’s first major venue was the Spectrum in 1973, where he played 42 times between 1978 and 2009, proving that you can go home again—and rock that town night after night.

I took in Sunday's show—and will do the same again tonight—with my favorite concert companions: my husband Scott, my brother Mark and his wife Jaclyn. For those keeping count, this show marked my brother’s 117th Springsteen concert, beginning with the River tour in 1981.

My numbers are the same as his, more or less; I haven’t kept count. Neither have many long-time E Street followers. To them, the only number that seems to count is one—as in, “I always want one more.”

“Tonight’s show was incredible,” says Maria Macaluso of West Deptford, a mom of three who attended Sunday’s event with her husband Ray. She swooned when Springsteen played "Jersey Girl," a song she remembers from her very first E Street Band concert.

“Overall, I enjoy the outdoor venues, even though I’m far from the stage and I have been very close,” she said.

For Maria Macaluso, “close” includes the front row at Madison Square Garden in 2006, when she touched her rock idol on the leg. “I was six months pregnant, and Bruce asked me when I was due,” she recalls.

Her fondness for the outdoor venues is linked to her very first Springsteen show—Aug. 15, 1985. Maria Macaluso wasn’t a fan at the time, but was dating someone who was.

Her first love had left her behind to see the show with some friends; Maria and a friend heard there may be tickets available, and drove her fully loaded 1985 Pontiac Fiero to the Spectrum in hopes of “finding out what the thrill was.”

“I parked my car in front of the Vet and ran to the Spectrum steps. I found a security guard who laughed at me when I mentioned the on-sale tickets. There were none, but he offered to sneak us both in,” she remembers.

Their first Springsteen concert was a freebie—and there was no looking back.

“The next day, I went to the mall and bought every single Bruce Springsteen cassette,” she says. “The rest is history.”

In a moment of circularity, Ray Macaluso was not a fan when the two began dating.

“I told him to come into my world for a spell,” Maria Macaluso says. “He doesn’t go all the time, but he’s very respectable at around 40 (Springsteen) concerts.”

“He has an amazing respect for Bruce and his work ethic and his talent and his generosity, but he’s not rabid,” she says.

(As if to underscore her own fandom, Maria will be attending Monday night's performance with her sister.)

Carol Lewitt Axelrod shares Macaluso’s passion for "Jersey Girl," which may be the best Springsteen song not written by Springsteen. (It was written by Tom Waits.)

“I love when he covers 'Jersey Girl,'” Axelrod said; her other favorites to hear live include “Spirit in the Night,” “Sherry Darling” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out,” all of which graced Sunday’s set list.

Axelrod first saw Springsteen at the Brendan Byrne Arena (now the Izod Center in the Meadowlands) in August 1984 during the Born in the USA tour. “I love his music, but his storytelling is what hooked me,” Carol says. “Each show is amazing. You never know what he’s going to play.”

Describing herself as "a late-in-life fan," Linda Smith saw her first Springsteen concert at the Wells Fargo Center September 21, 1999.

“I initially went to see him because I thought it would be cool to see him before he retired,” she says.

“I keep on going back because he’s the hardest-working musician I’ve ever seen. He puts on an incredible show and you feel as if you got all your money’s worth. Plus every show is different! You never know what you’re going to hear.”

Many in the group will be making the return trip to Citizens Bank Park tonight, to catch one more marathon presentation of the “magic in the night” before summer’s gone and the party ends.

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