Tom England and Bruce Springsteen (photo credit: Riain Moolman

Working on the Highway With The Boss

When a nice stroke of luck opens a sliver of opportunity for you, successful people take advantage of the situation to make great things happen. Earlier this week, at a Bruce Springsteen concert in St. Louis, Tom England, a LaSalle University Senior took advantage of a bit of good fortune and parlayed the break into a moment that will last a lifetime.

Tom England and Bruce Springsteen (photo credit: Riain Moolman
Tom England and Bruce Springsteen (photo credit: Riain Moolman

10,000 fellow Springsteen fans were living vicariously through him for four memorable minutes, as he took the stage with a guitar slung over his shoulder squeezed between two iconic rock legends, Little Steven Van Zandt, and Bruce Springsteen, and nailed a rollicking version of “Working On The Highway.”

England is a likeable, friendly young man who is soaking up his 15 minutes, enjoying the avalanche of media attention he’s received, all of the positive feedback and the sudden fame, but more than anything else, he’s still basking in that glorious moment where he shared the stage with rock ‘n roll legends.

Even though he’s still a college student, he’s an avid Springsteen fan – this show at University of St. Louis’s cozy new Chaifetz Arena was the fifth of his life. The first was The Boss’s last show in St. Louis six years ago. That’s where the luck factors in; first St.Louis show in six years, while England happens to be home from Philly on Spring Break, and he literally wins the lottery and snags 4th row seats for a show in front of an electric, amped up crowd excited to have The Boss making a rare visit to their area.

But, (and this should be a lesson for everybody) he seized that opportunity and went above and beyond to increase his odds of success, and as a result, Springsteen pulled him onto the stage for an impromptu moment that will last a lifetime.

Cretin: So I heard about this from family friend Krystiana Schaffer from LaSalle? Do you act with her?
England: Yes, I’ve acted with her in LaSalle’s Masque theatre group for the past four years.
Cretin: That explains how comfortable you looked on stage with Bruce.
England: I’ve been performing for ten years, I feel so comfortable on stage.

The sign that sealed his fate (Tom England)
The sign that sealed his fate (Tom England)

Cretin: So, your sign was specifically written for “Working On The Highway,” but Springsteen does not play it often and in fact had only played it once previously on this tour.
England: Right, that was in Newark in January, and it depends on the type of show he is trying to play. He also played it on his last show in St. Louis. I remembered him playing it because it was one of my favorite songs of the concert. I asked my Dad afterwards, “What’s that fun highway song?” He told me, and I fell in love with it. I taught myself how to play it on guitar, and thought wouldn’t it be cool to play this with Bruce? And then I started studying how and when he played it live, especially in the last few years. It’s a high energy, get the crowd jumping kind of song.

Cretin: And, he played it immediately after “Wreck On the Highway” on this night, which is the total opposite vibe. (On this tour, Springsteen is playing The River in its entirety. “Wreck On the Highway” is the last song on the double album.)
England: It’s funny how only that one word changes in the song title, but they are completely different. I think it was cool to have that contrast, where you end with that solemn introspective song from The River and then you jump into a rock ‘n roll jam song.

(Two videos are embedded at the bottom of the post for your viewing pleasure.)

Cretin: It’s very Springsteenesque. So, if he hadn’t seen your sign, do you think he would have played that song right at that moment?
England: I don’t think so. I think he had a setlist, and it probably wasn’t on it. I think it was a spontaneous request and he just extended the concert by five minutes.

Cretin: It did seem like he played an extra song or two on your night.
England: Yeah, he also played “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” which felt like a little present from Bruce. We all felt that Bruce was feeling it, and feeding off of the energy from the crowd.

Cretin: So when you were standing there in the fourth row, you didn’t hold that sign up until right at that moment?
England: As soon as “Wreck On the Highway” ended, he brought up the lights and I held the sign in the air, and Stevie (Van Zandt) pointed at it. Bruce read it, then looked at me.

Bruce: What do you want to do”
Tom: I want to play it with you.
Bruce: What do you do?
Tom: I play guitar.
Bruce: Ok, then what key do we play it in?
Tom: You play it in C!
Bruce: I don’t know. Do we play it in C boys?
Steve: Yup, we play it  in C
Tom: That’s what I said, I said you played it in C

Bruce: Come on up

England: I climbed up on stage, he handed me a guitar and said “Are you ready?” and I told him, “I’ll come in with the band.” He played the first verse and I heard him say “C’mon Tom.” And I started jamming on the guitar, it was just surreal. I was walking on air.  He looked over with a little smile on his face and I knew we were going to blow the roof off of the place.

Bruce and Tom after the song (Riaan Moolman)
Bruce and Tom after the song (Riaan Moolman)

Cretin: You seemed like you were chatting with Bruce and Steve a little on stage?
England:  After the first verse, Steve leaned over and said “You’re doing it, you’re doing it!” I’m thinking this is so surreal, Steve Van Zandt is smiling at me right now.  At the end, I was thanking Bruce telling him how much this meant to me, and he told me I did great. He asked for the guitar back and I asked if I had to, and he said he needed it back, then walked over to the mic and said “Give it up for Tom!” and gave me a thumbs up and said, “He was good.”

Cretin: He seemed to love it and even brought you down on the runway at the end of the song.
England: I was singing backup vocals with Steve, and then he let me do the “woos” at the end with him.  Then he looked at me and said “Let’s break this down.”  Then he brought me down to the front of the stage to jam with the people in the pit.  Everyone in the room was feeling the same energy and everyone was having  fun, it’s the way music is supposed to be.  I felt like I was up there jamming with my friends and it was such a special feeling.  Bruce and Stevie and everyone in the band were unbelievably great to me.

Cretin: As you left the stage, Bruce said “Once he overcomes that shyness, he’s going to be dynomite.  Pretty cool, the memory of a lifetime.
England: I’m never going to forget it. I sort of blacked out afterwards, but I remember everything that happened on stage.

Cretin: So what happened to the sign?
England: He took it backstage and they were not able to find it. I like to think he kept it as my ticket.

Cretin: Since your performance, I’ve seen that you’ve received a ton of media exposure. TV, Radio, The Philadelphia Inquirer.  But this interview with RARAs Farm has to be the pinnacle, right?
England: (chuckling) This is great, now I know I made it.

Cretin: What have been the highlights?
England: I’ve been on the radio, I’ve done podcasts, I was on E-Street Radio (Sirius XM), local news affiliates, Philly news stations, CBS This Morning. It’s been unbelievable.

Cretin: Well you looked comfortable, looked happy and it went well.
England: I couldn’t have asked for it to have gone any better.

Working on the highway, all day long I don’t stop
Working on the highway, blasting through the bedrock
Working on the highway, working on the highway…

RARA’s Farm is a rock music blog keenly focus on sharing interesting rock music and info to the Rock And Roll Animals who visit our site. Make sure you Like / Follow Us below to keep in the loop on new music worth a listen.

Rock On!

Working on the Highway from Riaan Moolman on Vimeo.

RARA’s Farm is a rock music blog keenly focus on sharing killer new rock music to the Rock And Roll Animals who visit our site. Make sure you Like / Follow Us below to keep in the loop on new music worth a listen.

Rock On!


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