In July of 1988, Bruce Springsteen was in Copenhagen, Denmark, for the Tunnel of Love tour when he had some time to kill, so he went for a stroll down Nygade Street, near the University of Copenhagen. He came upon a busker named John Magnusson, who happened to have a spare guitar. The exact details have been lost to time, but somehow Springsteen played and, soon enough, a small crowd formed.
He began by asking for requests. A fellow called out “Down by the River.” He either thought he was looking at Neil Young, got the name of “The River” slightly off or simply wanted Bruce Springsteen to cover “Down by the River.” He had played the song with Neil Young in Australia three years earlier, but it didn’t get a repeat performance here. A woman yelled out for “Born in the U.S.A.” but then decided she wanted something more mellow and withdrew the request. Another guy asked for “I’m on Fire,” and Springsteen obliged. Luckily, someone was running a video camera. They weren’t exactly Martin Scorsese, but they got the job done.
The mini-set continued with “The River” and “Dancing in the Dark” before it wrapped up, leaving everyone that happened upon it with a pretty amazing story to tell their friends. Two days later, Springsteen played the 52,000-seat Idrætsparken Stadium. All three of the songs got a repeat performance, but it wasn’t quite as cool as seeing him do them spontaneously on the street.