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Boss’ best and worst at Chicago ballparks

Bruce Springsteen performs Soldier Field 1985. | Paul Natkin

Bruce Springsteen performs at Soldier Field in 1985. | Paul Natkin

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When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: Wrigley Field, 1060 W. Addison

Tickets: sold out

Updated: October 9, 2012 2:07PM

Bruce Springsteen was not only born to run, but he will hit for the cycle this weekend.

When the Boss takes the stage at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Wrigley Field, he becomes the first performer to headline (and sell out) all four major Chicago sports venues. The cycle is a single, double, triple and home run.

I’ve caught Springsteen 26 times going back to 1978 at the Uptown Theatre and seen all previous sports venues gigs.

These are my recollections in order of preference:

United Center, Sept. 20, 2009

Springsteen and the E Street Band played the breakthrough 1975 “Born to Run” album in full on an abbreviated tour. Chicago was just the second stop. The evening was full of abandon, rediscovery and poignant reflection. The album was sandwiched between chestnuts like “No Surrender” and “Hungry Heart” on top and “The Promised Land” on bottom in what turned out to be Clarence Clemons’ final concert appearance in Chicago. There were 29 songs in 31/2 hours.

The U.C. has brought out the best and the worst of Springsteen. His two-hour acoustic performance on Oct. 13, 2005, was not only misplaced in a big venue (“Johnny 99” was inaudible), he was an hour late in taking the stage (now something of a Springsteen tradition, although the Wrigleyville curfew may force him to be more prompt). The vibe was even more soured by clamp-down rules like a ban on moving around between songs and a cutoff of alcohol sales — before the show started! Play the Civic Opera House if you want to be this fancy.

U.S. Cellular Field, Aug. 13, 2003

A 10-piece band, 25 songs and a superb run through “Bobby Jean,” “Ramrod,” “Born to Run” and “Seven Nights To Rock” in a stinging cover. Proof that Springsteen speaks to South Side muscle more than Wrigleyville glamor.

Soldier Field, Aug. 9, 1985

The worst Springsteen show I’ve seen. Soldier Field is hardly fit for football, let alone music. More than 70,000 people filled the stadium to watch Springsteen sadly shake his tush on a big screen to “Dancing in the Dark” and give a rambling speech about turning 35 before “Glory Days.” At least he included the garage rocker “Sherry Darling.”

In the summer of ’84 he had headlined three sold-out nights at the Rosemont Horizon. But Aug. 9 was a Friday, Soldier Field traffic was horrible and before the concert a CTA bus accident on Lake Shore Drive killed seven people. Never again.

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