"It's good to be at the CBGBs of Asbury Park," exclaimed Glen Burtnick as he kicked off his first ever performance at the legendary Saint rock club. Performing solo because most of the members of his regular backing band (members of Spiraling) had a gig elsewhere that night, Glen ran through an hour-long set that featured highlights from throughout his career.
The show was billed as "Springsteen Appreciation Night" since the Bruce Springsteen Symposium was taking place at Monmouth University that week. Having a Springsteen crowd in the audience had to give Glen a few flashbacks of his days in Cats On A Smooth Surface when Mr. Springsteen would show up to jam with the band nearly every Sunday. It's not the best way to get people to know your music but it's unfortunately the Jersey musician curse.
After ripping through "Kiss Your Ass Goodbye" from his current record, Welcome to Hollywood, (and on a recent Styx record as well), Burtnick played "Peggy Sue" by Buddy Holly and then commented, "It's Springsteen Appreciation Night... I appreciate Bruce Springsteen... I think Bruce Springsteen would appreciate Buddy Holly." Glen then played a cover of Springsteen's "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)".
It was a bit unusual to see Burtnick in the quite confines of the Saint. Although, as Glen pointed out, his son Beau had played there often with the band Dibs, it was as if Glen was somewhat in a strange world. For years, he was a mainstay of the Stone Pony crowd - an audience that finds its way to the Saint, but still a larger alien audience to the club. After years of touring nationally as a solo artist and tours of duty with Styx, Glen now seems more comfortable in smaller settings like the two coffeehouses he played to during the summer.
The setlist was comprised of originals from throughout his career with the exception of "Talking In Code", his debut album. The show included a heavy dose of tunes from "Heroes & Zeroes" including "Abilene", "Here Comes Sally", "Follow You", "Palm Of My Hand" (released on the special later version of "Heroes & Zeroes" and "Replace My Face" and "Roses" - both popular live numbers from that album's tour.
Throughout the night, Glen told little stories about his wife and his kids. He mentioned how it was his daughter Sally's first day at high school before playing "Here Comes Sally". He told the story of how a few lines from "Window Of The World" actually were inspired from watching his son Beau play hockey. And he embarassed his wife a little with a story of how she left a gas station with the hose still attached to the car until discovering it several miles ahead.
Glen dove into his Slaves Of New Brunswick catalog with a rendition of "Exit Number 9", covered "Blackbird" by the Beatles, played a wonderful "Watching The World Go Bye" and scattered in a few other nuggets during the hour set. All in all, it once again showed what a wonderful songwriter Glen Burtnick is and has always been. It's a shame that he never got the recognition he truly deserved. If you ever get the chance to see him in an intimate setting you'll wonder why he isn't a star.
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.