The BLOG: Culture

Fenway Park: Diamonds, Pearls, the Piano Man and more!

Billy Joel returned to Boston to perform at a sold out Fenway Park for the second consecutive year on July 16, 2015. (Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox)

Billy Joel returned to Boston to perform at a sold out Fenway Park for the second consecutive year on July 16, 2015. (Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox)

Iconic Fenway Park has been a hub of high times for Bostonians since 1912. The hearts of baseball fans have soared on the laces of Lansdowne Street homers, and been torn apart at the seams when a pop-fly’s been caught by the wrong guy. Inhaling the essence of today’s Fenway is to nose the park’s best franks, popcorn, ice-cold beer and well-rounded fun. The crisp crack of Mookie’s, JBJ’s, and Big Papi’s bats reverberate with the memorably smooth sounds of Mo Vaughn, Jim Rice, and Carl Yastrzemski’s syncopated jazz.

Adored by generations who’ve shared its 104-year sporting history, today’s concourses continue to waft with the greatness of legendary performances. But, ooooohhh, the grand scents, sights and sounds of granddad’s diamond can no longer be wrapped in just one paper. The oldest jewel box of professional baseball is also a contemporary condo for philanthropic Pearls, a classic Piano Man and athletic events that fly best when they’re frozen.

Pearl Jam, Seattle’s influential grunge band, whose hits include Breath, Black and Don’t Call Me Daughter, lit up crowds that broke attendance records by selling 72,722 tickets for its Aug. 5 and 6 performances at Fenway. Delighting Boston’s head-banging heavy metal-er’s, Eddy Vedder, Pearl Jam’s hypnotic lead singer, laced his powerful punk performances to the talents of baseball greats Bronson Arroyo and Kevin Youklis.

Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder rocks out at a recent concert at Fenway Park.

Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder rocks out at a recent concert at Fenway Park.

In a charitable agreement with the “Foundation to be Named Later,” (established by Boston social worker Paul Epstein, twin of Chicago Cubs President of Baseball, Theo Epstein) Pearl Jam’s foundation, “Vitalogy,” donated a dollar per sold ticket to each of four local charities: Songbirds, Zumix, Roxbury Youth Works, and Arts Bridge Institute. Each of the non-profits received $18,000 from PJ’s Fenway weekend earnings and collectively aim to improve lives in the Boston area through education, music and skill training. Crowds left the Park’s 02215 zip code under the blaze of big league lights in a the happy haze of a concert that was as good as the deeds it does so graciously.

The outdoor coliseum also hosted Billy Joel on Aug. 18. The 67-year-old Piano Man continues to hit it out of the park as the American singer-songwriter peeled through his greatest hits rocking the baby boomer set in his rhythmic arms with his musical charms. By the light of August’s full Sturgeon moon, Joel owned the outfield stage, singing his fresh as ever retro hits to the Not Your Daughter’s Jeans-wearing crowd. The heart-pounding band, which also sounds like an orchestra, served multi-generational Uptown Girls and Big Shots, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant proving Sometimes a Fantasy, really is …”ooooohhhh all you need.” The extra-inning playlist included We Didn’t Start the Fire and Only the Good Die Young, reminding the well-mannered Bostonians — sinners have much more fun!

Other performers scheduled to play in the Park with the Green Monster reputation include Zac Brown on Aug. 20. A collaborative show with Jason Aldean, Kid Rock, Thomas Rhett, and A Thousand Horses will cover the bases Sept. 9 and 10. In the last regularly scheduled game of the season, our hometown bird hunters will fire at AL East rivals the Toronto Blue Jays on Oct. 2.




Even in winter, the Park’s facets continue to sparkle. Last February, in the atmosphere of Kenmore Square’s stratosphere, a Big Air event previewed 2018’s Pyeongchang, South Korea’s Winter Olympic Games. Snowboarding and freestyle skiing competitors Jamie Anderson, Nick Goeppert, and Joss Christensen were a few of the 20 women and 40 men launched from a 140-foot high center-field steel and concrete snow-covered ramp. The sloping White Monster was built to be taller than the lights inside the urban Park. Olympic-caliber Big Air performers rocketed through the open space of Fenway in aerial performances that rivaled those of Major League Baseball acrobatics. Although unscheduled to return to the Park this winter memories of the event join the pantheon of entertainment thrills that fill the hearts and minds of Hubsters.

The ramp is shown during the Polartec Big Air at Fenway ski and snowboard competition at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts Friday, February 12, 2016. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox)

The ramp is shown during the Polartec Big Air at Fenway ski and snowboard competition at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts Friday, February 12, 2016. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox)

This January, the diamond hosts the return of Frozen Fenway. Boston University, UMass, Boston College and Providence’s stellar college hockey teams take to the ice in a Jan. 7 doubleheader. A week later, Maine, UConn, University of New Hampshire and Northeastern’s bladed ones faceoff on Park ice Jan. 14. Steeled competitions have become a staple of Boston’s brewing social scene of urban action. High school gamers will also be hosted in the Park on various dates, and a free public skate for Boston residents is on tap Jan. 16.

Providence College and Merrimack College play each other in the first period of a game at Frozen Fenway 2014. The game ended in a 1-1 tie. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox)

Providence College and Merrimack College play each other in the first period of a game at Frozen Fenway 2014. The game ended in a 1-1 tie. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox)

Ooooo’s and ahhhh’s of frozen fans may not echo the dulcet tones of Yaz’s jazz, the Pearl’s prose or the Piano Man’s staccato, but enthusiasm for performances on ice and snow are as heated and appreciated as fan reaction to action from any era’s seasonal sporting or musical events. Comprehending the transformational nature of Fenway’s magic as an iconic venue of stellar high times may be the next Impossible Dream for Bostonian’s to analyze … but as true Red Sox fans know Sometimes a (Fenway) Fantasy is “ooooohhhh all we need.”

Contact Diane Kilgore at [email protected].

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