THIRTY YEARS AGO – THE WMMS 10TH ANNIVERSARY CONCERT WITH BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND – LIVE AT THE CLEVELAND AGORA!
Has it really been that long?
It was one of the greatest nights in the history of rock and roll in Cleveland.
We drew postcards from listeners to give away almost 1,200 tickets. We knew this was a major event for us, our listeners, and the other stations simulcasting the concert in an ad hoc network set up with stations in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis, Columbus, and Cincinnati.
The air was literally electric – muggy and rainy outside, with summer lightning crackling, and fans jamming the Agora entrance almost two hours before showtime. Because it was a general admission show, some had slept on the sidewalk the night before in hopes of landing a front row spot for the show.
They whistled, they clapped, and chanted in the background as Denny Sanders signed on the broadcast to welcome the radio listeners. Kid Leo did the on-stage introduction, “I have the duty and the pleasure of welcoming, ladies and gentlemen, the main event. Round for round, pound for pound, there ain’t no finer band around – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band!”
The show went on for twenty-one songs in two sets, and an encore ending in “Raise Your Hand.” “I’d like to thank Cleveland for supporting us,” Springsteen said. “When we came here, we got some respect.” The broadcast ended past midnight, after more than four hours. Leo read the credits but fully expected Springsteen would do one more encore. Springsteen, nearly spent, returned one more time for a surprise encore of “Twist and Shout” for the Agora crowd. It wasn’t carried live, though we broadcast it later.
The broadcast was flawless, which might explain why Columbia Records never released it as an album. The radio audience was estimated at three million, and the show was one of Springsteen’s most-recorded, most-bootlegged, and most downloaded.
Bruce Springsteen was our most played artist for many years and that WMMS 10th Anniversary Agora show one of the most requested and most repeated of all WMMS concerts in our archives.
E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg once called it the best show the E Street Band ever did. One of the best complements I got came a few years later from Bob Seger, backstage at an Eagles concert at the Coliseum. He said, “Man, I heard the concert you guys put on with Springsteen. That was the greatest rock and roll show I ever heard.” He told me he was one of the listeners who ran to his tape machine to record his own copy. Seger met Springsteen for the first time six days earlier when he played Pine Knob in suburban Detroit.
Springsteen returned to the Agora just three weeks later to play a three-hour show at the Coliseum. After it ended, he and the E Street Band made an unannounced midnight run to the Agora – taking the stage to perform with fellow New Jersey band Southside Johnny and the Ashbury Jukes. For video highlights from that show, click here.
Michael Norman’s Cleveland.com WMMS feature includes the Springsteen show intro. Click here.
For more on the legendary WMMS 10th Anniversary Bruce Springsteen concert, turn to Chapter 15 in The Buzzard.