The Late Movies: Springsteen's Last Stand

Philadelphia recently said goodbye to a beloved institution when the Wachovia Spectrum closed its doors forever on Halloween night. Before the 42-year-old arena's final event (a four-night stand by Pearl Jam), Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band set up shop at 3601 S Broad St. and bid farewell to the first arena they ever played (opening for Chicago in 1973) and one of the first ones they ever headlined (1976) with four shows spread over two weeks (the 13th, 14th, 19th and 20th). Here's the highlight reel.

Seaside Bar Song

The band kicked off their first night in town with "Seaside Bar Song," one of the best Springsteen songs to be left on the editing room floor (it was recorded in 1973 during the The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle sessions but left off the album).

When You Walk in the Room

The following week at Show #3, at my first show in the bunch, they opened with a cover of The Searchers' "When You Walk in the Room." Every other show I had seen on this tour started with the shotgun blast of Max Weinberg's "Badlands" drum fill, so I was a bit taken aback. Still a great song, though, and a hint at more wonderful covers to come.

I Wanna Marry You

During almost every Springsteen show, there's a point where Steven Van Zandt leads the band through an instrumental vamp while The Boss roams the stage collecting song request signs from the audience. One sign that Bruce pulled and showed to the audience on night #3 read, "Nellie, will you marry me?" With all eyes in the house on him, the guy who made the sign got down on one knee in the pit and presented Nellie with a ring. She said "yes," and Bruce was left wondering what do to because the other side of the sign read "Two Hearts," which the band had already played early in the show. "I Wanna Marry You" was the perfect song for the moment, and went off without a hitch, considering that the band hadn't played it together since 1981.

All Shook Up

I suppose the next best thing to seeing Elvis live is seeing an Elvis impersonator backed by the E Street Band. There was a guy in the pit decked out in late-era Elvis jumpsuit-and-cape glory, and Bruce was powerless to deny the King's request for a run through "All Shook Up." Bruce eventually pulls the guy up on stage and lets him take the mic, and Elvis basically steals the show from there.

Home Runs and Hungry Hearts

Allow me to jump back in time a little bit. While I wasn't able to go to all four of the final shows, I did get to see both dates at the Spectrum way back in in April, which were supposed to be the last Springsteen shows at the time. I'm happy to have squeezed a few more shows in at the arena, but April's concerts would have been worthy finales. Not only did Bruce dedicate "Thunder Road" to recently departed Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas and summon Harry's voice for a great intro...

...he also dove into the audience so his mom could join him in singing "Hungry Heart."

Now (jumping forward in time again) if you're familiar with 80s music videos and Springsteenian tradition, you know that in the Brian DePalma-directed video for "Dancing in the Dark," Springsteen pulls a young Courteney Cox onto the stage and dances with her, and he usually brings a young female fan onstage for a dance when the band plays the song on tour. Of course, at the last Spectrum show, everyone is wondering who's going to get the last dance in this holy house. Well guess what? That Mrs. Springsteen sure knows how to cut a rug.

Spirit in the Night

Towards the end of show #4, Bruce pulled out all the stops. Original E Street drummer Vini "Mad Dog" Lopez joined the band for "Spirit in the Night." The highlight of the song is arguably the smile on the kid whose hat got borrowed (and miraculously returned) by Bruce.

Higher and Higher

This was it. The highlight of the show. The highlight of all four shows (I didn't even need to see the first two). The highlight of the tour. The finest E Street moment, one could argue, since they reunited 10 years ago. Jackie Wilson's "Higher and Higher" (the very song that brought the Statue of Liberty to life in Ghostbusters II and helped save New York City). After a minute of tinkering, the band works out the main parts and runs with it for almost 10 minutes of key-changing, hand-clapping sing-along joy, and Philadelphia is a better place for it.

And then Spectrum said goodnight...

See Also: '60 Springsteen Facts for Bruce's 60th Birthday'

Begins and Ends: European Cities
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
New Program Trains Dogs to Sniff Out Art Smugglers
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Soon, the dogs you see sniffing out contraband at airports may not be searching for drugs or smuggled Spanish ham. They might be looking for stolen treasures.

K-9 Artifact Finders, a new collaboration between New Hampshire-based cultural heritage law firm Red Arch and the University of Pennsylvania, is training dogs to root out stolen antiquities looted from archaeological sites and museums. The dogs would be stopping them at borders before the items can be sold elsewhere on the black market.

The illegal antiquities trade nets more than $3 billion per year around the world, and trafficking hits countries dealing with ongoing conflict, like Syria and Iraq today, particularly hard. By one estimate, around half a million artifacts were stolen from museums and archaeological sites throughout Iraq between 2003 and 2005 alone. (Famously, the craft-supply chain Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million in 2017 for buying thousands of ancient artifacts looted from Iraq.) In Syria, the Islamic State has been known to loot and sell ancient artifacts including statues, jewelry, and art to fund its operations.

But the problem spans across the world. Between 2007 and 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Control discovered more than 7800 cultural artifacts in the U.S. looted from 30 different countries.

A yellow Lab sniffs a metal cage designed to train dogs on scent detection.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

K-9 Artifact Finders is the brainchild of Rick St. Hilaire, the executive director of Red Arch. His non-profit firm researches cultural heritage property law and preservation policy, including studying archaeological site looting and antiquities trafficking. Back in 2015, St. Hilaire was reading an article about a working dog trained to sniff out electronics that was able to find USB drives, SD cards, and other data storage devices. He wondered, if dogs could be trained to identify the scents of inorganic materials that make up electronics, could they be trained to sniff out ancient pottery?

To find out, St. Hilaire tells Mental Floss, he contacted the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, a research and training center for detection dogs. In December 2017, Red Arch, the Working Dog Center, and the Penn Museum (which is providing the artifacts to train the dogs) launched K-9 Artifact Finders, and in late January 2018, the five dogs selected for the project began their training, starting with learning the distinct smell of ancient pottery.

“Our theory is, it is a porous material that’s going to have a lot more odor than, say, a metal,” says Cindy Otto, the executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and the project’s principal investigator.

As you might imagine, museum curators may not be keen on exposing fragile ancient materials to four Labrador retrievers and a German shepherd, and the Working Dog Center didn’t want to take any risks with the Penn Museum’s priceless artifacts. So instead of letting the dogs have free rein to sniff the materials themselves, the project is using cotton balls. The researchers seal the artifacts (broken shards of Syrian pottery) in airtight bags with a cotton ball for 72 hours, then ask the dogs to find the cotton balls in the lab. They’re being trained to disregard the smell of the cotton ball itself, the smell of the bag it was stored in, and ideally, the smell of modern-day pottery, eventually being able to zero in on the smell that distinguishes ancient pottery specifically.

A dog looks out over the metal "pinhweel" training mechanism.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

“The dogs are responding well,” Otto tells Mental Floss, explaining that the training program is at the stage of "exposing them to the odor and having them recognize it.”

The dogs involved in the project were chosen for their calm-but-curious demeanors and sensitive noses (one also works as a drug-detection dog when she’s not training on pottery). They had to be motivated enough to want to hunt down the cotton balls, but not aggressive or easily distracted.

Right now, the dogs train three days a week, and will continue to work on their pottery-detection skills for the first stage of the project, which the researchers expect will last for the next nine months. Depending on how the first phase of the training goes, the researchers hope to be able to then take the dogs out into the field to see if they can find the odor of ancient pottery in real-life situations, like in suitcases, rather than in a laboratory setting. Eventually, they also hope to train the dogs on other types of objects, and perhaps even pinpoint the chemical signatures that make artifacts smell distinct.

Pottery-sniffing dogs won’t be showing up at airport customs or on shipping docks soon, but one day, they could be as common as drug-sniffing canines. If dogs can detect low blood sugar or find a tiny USB drive hidden in a house, surely they can figure out if you’re smuggling a sculpture made thousands of years ago in your suitcase.


More from mental floss studios