The old ballpark opened its doors way back in 1912, but it wasn’t until last night that it finally got, as Bruce Springsteen called it, “a good old rock ‘n’ roll baptism.”
And because it was such a special occasion - the first true rock concert in Fenway Park history - Springsteen shook the place from center field with a “rock ‘n’ roll house party, a rock ‘n’ roll baptism, rock ‘n’ roll bar mitzvah, a rock ‘n’ roll exorcism.”
And the fans - chanting “Bruuuuuuce,” waving their arms, bowing to Springsteen, dancing in the aisles - nearly turned Fenway to rubble, going seemingly nuts when the E Street band played right next to the Green Monster.
“What a great night, an amazing night,” said Michael O’Neill of Sandwich. “The guy is incredible. They’ve got to do more shows. This whole thing, it’s just incredible.”
His buddy, Dave Tamborella of Weymouth, said there was only one problem: “Nobody could slide into second base.”
For Boss-ton, this was about as good as it gets. The spirit of the city was downright dynamic last night. The Red Sox crushed the Yankees for the second day in a row, putting them perilously close to first place. The Patriots open today. And Springsteen is playing another show tonight.
“I bet some of our predecessors are rolling around wondering what the heck is going on,” said Red Sox president Larry Lucchino, as Springsteen rolled with “Promised Land.”
“But if they could be here, if they could sense it, if they could feel it, I think they would like it a lot. It’s a spectacular night for this ballpark and this city.”
As Springsteen put it toward the end of the show: “There’s not many places where you can walk into an empty place and feel the soul of the city, but this is one.”
He blessed the streets around Fenway, too.
As his voice carried outside onto Yawkey way, Alice Zwicker, 53, of Beverly, yelled “Bruce!” with her arms waving in the air. Zwicker turned to two friends, Ann Theriault and Cheryl Rust, and asked, “Do you think he can hear me?” Rust yelled “OK, Bruce, welcome to Boston!”
Perhaps the best place to hear the Boss - except for 10 rows back, center stage - was right behind the Green Monster on Lansdowne Street, where thousands of people gathered as the show began. Other fans took to rooftops or Fenway-area apartments for parties.
At the Demeter at the Park condo complex on Brookline Avenue, parties were raging in several units with fans huddling around open windows and craning their necks to hear the Boss.
“It’s wild, dude, wild” said partygoer Dan Artle, 24, a customer service worker from Medway, as he munched on Domino’s pizza. “You can really hear him.”
At one point, Springsteen acknowledged their presence: “I know you can hear us. Say hello!”
Police reported few, if any, problems. And Springsteen was finished, as city officials asked, right around 11 p.m. He thanked officials for letting him play at Fenway.
Baseball was not forgotten inside the ballpark. When Springsteen teased the crowd about the Yankees rivalry - he called them the “evil citizens” to the South - the crowd started chanting, “Yankees suck, Yankees suck.”
His opening number? “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
There have been plenty of magical performances in the ballpark: Carlton Fisk’s home run - the pudgy catcher waving, waving, waving the ball into fair territory - in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Roger Clemens striking out 20 on a frigid day in 1986. Pedro Martinez striking out five of the first six batters - all likely to be elected to the Hall of Fame - in the 1999 All-Star Game.
And Ted Williams, who returned from World War II to hit two home runs and two singles in the 1946 All-Star Game, slammed a home run on his last at-bat at Fenway. The list goes on.
But live music has been heard rarely at Fenway: Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and War played the park in 1973, during the Newport Jazz Festival, and Smashmouth played one song during baseball’s All-Star festivities in 1999.
In row 20, center stage, Springsteen lived up to the historic calling of the night.
“It gets no better than this, Bruce at Fenway Park,” said Peggy Quilty of the Back Bay, who came with her husband and her two daughters, ages 14 and 21. “We love Bruce. He’s been amazing tonight.”
Her 21-year-old daughter, Laura, said: “Bruce is a total American classic. And here he is.”