SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- While the real “Boss,” has not played any live shows this year, fans of his music will be able to enjoy the next base thing, as the B Street Band will preform live on Sunday, Sept. 20, at the Union County Vocational Technical Schools (1776 Raritan Road, Scotch Plains). Ray Andersen and Friends will open the show, which is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.
The B Street Band, formerly known as “Backstreets,” claims to be the first band in the world to do a unique tribute to a live performer, beginning in 1980 with their first show in Asbury Park. There are now an estimated 140,000 tribute bands following their lead and performing all over the world. Nearly 6,000 performances later, they describe themselves as the “hardest working tribute band” on the circuit with 175+ shows per year throughout the country.
Fanwood resident Glenn Stuart is the front man for the band, will has been performing its tribute to Bruce Springsteen since 1980. Normally, the group does 200+ shows per year along the Jersey Shore and beyond at bars, outdoor festivals, summer concert series, and private parties. COVID-19 changed all of that, and the number of shows dwindled to about six in the past six months.
The timing of the pandemic was ironically fortunate for the singer. Shortly after B Street played its last pre-COVID gig on March 13, Stuart was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer. If the band had its full schedule in place, it is likely that the front man would not have been able to perform. He considers it something of a stroke of luck that he was diagnosed and started treatment this year.
"I'm feeling okay. I have good days and bad days. Last week, was the first week when I had both chemo and radiation," said Stuart in a phone interview with TAPintoSPF. "Some days I feel fine, but on others, I'm wiped out."
"It's really weird . In a bizarre way, it worked out. I doubt we would have been a normal year because I got sick," Stuart says. "My life has come down to a week at a time."
Fortunately, the treatments seem to be working for Stuart. He had a second scan with positive results. The spot on his lung is much smaller, and a tumor in my lymph node area has gone away. He describes the cancer treatments as being like a job."
"I get up 5 days a week and go to the hospital. Things have been progressing positively," he said. "I'm probably the only guy in New Jersey to go on chemo and gain weight. I feel good, and I'm trying to be positive. Everyone has been incredibly supportive. It's humbling."
The 60-year-old Stuart was smoker for 45 years. He had a family history of cancer and has made screenings part of his annual checkup at St. Barnabus Health Center.
"Whenever I get physical, I get a lung scan. I wasn't going to have it done this year. Had I canceled it, the result might have been deadly," Stuart said. "They caught it quick. It was centralized around my lung. It was stage 3 and localized. It was a lucky break... As bad as it has been, I've had a series of lucky breaks."
Battling cancer has given him a new perspective on life, Stuart says. He has begun writing and recording original music and intends to finish his new body of work in a few weeks. He plans to release the songs on iTunes, Spotify, and will keep playing them on the B Street Band's Facebook page, where he has posted close to 100 videos.
"It gave me something to do. I call it 'Greetings from Club Kitchen' and have been doing my original songs. In 45 years of performing music, I've never really played by myself. It's been fun and interesting," he said. "I was doing one video a day until treatment got more intense."
Stuart says he is taking things one week at a time since he does not know how he will feel and whether coronavirus restrictions will continue to inhibit his band's schedule.
"A lot depends on how I feel. We can do outdoor gatherings that are socially distant, but a bar or a casino at 25% capacity, it's hard to say," he explained. "I did my first ever solo gig, a private party this summer. It was fun, but different."
Stuart says that being off and being sick have given him a different perspective on life.
"The other night while playing a gig by the water, I watched the moon come up over the ocean. Pre-cancer, I wouldn't have noticed or appreciated it," he said. "That's what stuff like this does. The most important things are things you barely think about. It's part of why I wanted to write and record some songs. A couple of them, I want my kids to think about."
"There is a method to my madness. I didn't plan on being a recording star at 60," he said. "Hopefully next year, there swill be some semblance of normalcy."
Next year the band has big plans. This year marks their fourth decade, but the group plans a 40th anniversary cruise to the Bahamas in May 2021.
Anyone interested in attending the B Street Band's performance at the VoTech on Sept. 20 must reserve a spot for the free show, sponsored by the Union County Freeholders, should visit www.ucnj.org/concert-register. The registration link goes live on Tuesday, Sept. 8, beginning at 9:00 a.m.
“As so many New Jersey residents do, I enjoy the music of Bruce Springsteen, and the B Street Band presents a compelling and enjoyable show,” said Freeholder Chair Al Mirabella. “We encourage our residents to come out for a free night of entertainment and great music in a safe setting.”
To help promote social distancing, no walk-ups, bikes or chairs are permitted. Vehicles will be arranged at least 6 feet apart with adequate social distancing. Port-o-johns and wash stations will be available. Masks will be required when using the port-o-johns. Attendees must stay in their vehicles (unless they need to use the port-o-johns). Those who are attending can bring their own food, and non-alcoholic drink. Alcohol is prohibited. Here's a sample of what you'll see.