Celebrating Fenway Park’s 100th Anniversary: The Concerts

Andrew Celani - WODS.com

When the ownership group consisting of John Henry, Larry Lucchino and Tom Werner purchased the Red Sox in 2002, they helped reinvigorate a baseball franchise that had been championship-starved for nearly an entire century.

However, if it weren’t for their decision to open the beloved Fenway Park to rock concerts, Sox fans might still be waiting for that first World Series title since 1918.

Fenway Park is more than just a baseball stadium.

It’s a blast from the past, a national historical landmark, and for some, a house of worship.

But it’s also used for concerts – one of which helped end 86 years of torment and misery for Red Sox fans.

Back in 2003, the current Red Sox ownership group made one of their best decisions to date and booked “The Boss” Bruce Springsteen to play an open-air concert at Fenway over that summer.

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Bruce Springsteen performs with the E Street Band, including Patti Scialfa and Steven Van Zandt on Sept. 6, 2003, at Fenway Park. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

At the time, Red Sox President Larry Lucchino said, “I bet some of our predecessors are rolling around wondering what the heck is going on. 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.”

During the live show, Bruce promised a “rock and roll exorcism” of Fenway Park to end “The Curse Of The Bambino” once and for all.

Springsteen yelled to the sellout crowd, “What this park needs is a rock & roll baptism, a rock & roll bar mitzvah…a rock & roll exorcism.”

Once the park cleared and fans made their way home, Springsteen’s promise was merely an afterthought.

It would take one year and one GIANT heartbreak later (for your own good Sox fans, do NOT click this link) but eventually the idiots “Cowboy’d Up” and swept the St. Louis Cardinals en route to their first World Series title since 1918 – effectively ending the curse.

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The view from inside Fenway Park during a live music show. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The initial Springsteen show was such a success that Fenway Sports Group decided at the time to make Fenway Park home to at least one marquee concert each and every summer.

In 2004, Fenway opened its doors to Jimmy Buffett. With a passionate fan base that travels better than almost anyone, it was a no-brainer to welcome Jimmy Buffett and all the “Parrot Heads” to the city of Boston.

Buffett had a lot to live up to following the success of the 2003 Springsteen show, but he certainly delivered and did not disappoint. He played two shows at Fenway in September of ’04 and the recordings would go on to make the live album Live at Fenway Park.

Later that fall on October 27, the Red Sox were World Series champions for the first time in generations.

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The Boston Red Sox celebrate after defeating the St. Louis Cardinals to win Game 4 of the World Series on October 27, 2004. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

After the World Series win, the Sox owners realized they had to step it even more for their annual summer concert tradition.

Their plan? Line up one of the biggest bands in rock and roll history – and that’s exactly what they did.

The Rolling Stones kicked off A Bigger Bang Tour at the friendly confines of Fenway Park on August 21, 2005. The tour would go on to become the highest grossing one of all-time. It now ranks second behind only U2’s 360 tour.

Sheryl Crow opened for The Dave Matthews Band in 2006, succeeded by The Police in ’07 and Neil Diamond in ’08.

2009 was a year to remember for concerts at Fenway, entertaining a record 5 shows in one summer at the famed venue.

DMB would return for two shows on May 29th and 30th, followed by jam band Phish on May 31st.

Paul McCartney came back to Boston for the first time in years and went on to play two shows on August 5th and 6th, rounding out the summer lineup.

In 2010, Boston natives Aerosmith and the J. Geils Band rocked the Fenway crowd. This helped usher in a new era of hometown pride and would make way for additional local bands to play Fenway the following year.

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Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith perform at Fenway Park on August 14, 2010. (Photo by John W. Ferguson/Getty Images)

Pop groups New Kids On The Block and the Backstreet Boys united to become NKOTBSB and co-headlined Fenway Park on June 11, 2011.

Later that year, the Dropkick Murphys and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones followed suit.

So what does the future hold for Fenway Park concerts?

Rock idol and former Pink Floyd star Roger Waters will bring The Wall Live to Fenway Park and other famous US ballparks including Chicago’s Wrigley Field and Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park this summer. At Fenway, The Wall stage will be set up, fittingly, right in front of the Green Monster.

This Friday, April 20, 2012, will mark yet another memorable moment in Fenway Folklore as the Boston Red Sox celebrate 100 years of residency at America’s Most Beloved Ballpark.

Fenway Park remains as Major League Baseball’s oldest facility, but that’s not to say that “it’s a dump,” like one Tampa Bay Rays player suggested.

This ownership group has spent upwards of $300 million on renovations to the stadium, which means baseball will be played there “for decades to come.”

And luckily for us, that includes concerts too!

Andrew Celani, CBS Local

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