Live music fans are all familiar with the “sign request.” Particularly ambitious fans will write the name of the song at the top of their wish list on a piece of poster board, head to the show, and hold it up for the band to see in the hopes of getting their request granted. While the signs are ever-present at shows, the fact of the matter is that, for the most part, the band is going to play what they want, regardless of what you write on the back of that pizza box you found in the parking lot.
Many Phish fans recall the humorous sign incident at the band’s 12/14/95 show in Binghamton, NY (officially released as Live Phish 01). Before the encore, Trey Anastasio remarked that they are going to play a request from one of the signs in the audience, to which a fan holding up a “Brother” sign reacted with visible excitement. However, it turned out Trey was referring to a different sign, for Jimi Hendrix‘s “Bold As Love.” He responded to the fan with a laugh, joking that “you gotta bring a sign, but you also have to bring a sign for something we wanna play.”
However, sometimes these wishful suggestions can make for unforgettable performances. Case in point: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in Leipzig, Germany in November, 2013. Springsteen sees a sign written on what appears to be the top of someone’s cooler bag, which we can only assume was a casualty of the pre-show tailgate. The request is for “You Can Never Tell” by Chuck Berry–a tune many know as the song John Travolta and Uma Thruman danced to in Pulp Fiction.
The sign is passed forward to the stage, and with a wry smile, Springsteen informs the crowd that they “haven’t played that song since they were…I don’t know, 16,” but they’d give it a shot. After going back and forth with guitarist Little Steven trying–with some difficulty–to pick a key, Springsteen confers briefly with the band, gives some directions, and then BAM!–busts out an immaculate, rocking performance of “You Can Never Tell.” Like a boss. The Boss.
You can relive the unforgettable moment in its entirety below, via BruceSpringsteenVEVO:
[h/t – Newsner]