Heart of the party

Lexington Herald-Leader, 2002-11-15, by: Walter Tunis
Springsteen belts out songs of hope, redemption and plain fun
"If you're going to have a party," yelled Bruce Springsteen in the throes of the celebratory version of Mary's Place, "the music has got to be righteous."

Like the Boss would have it any other way. For his first Rupp Arena show in a decade, Springsteen roared through a tireless performance marked by heart, spirit and a conscious streak several country miles long.

With 10 tunes in tow from his new album, The Rising, Springsteen stayed fervently true to what has become a lasting vision of rock 'n' roll as an almost medicinal aid for the times.

Sometimes the mood was outwardly evangelical, as in My City of Ruins, a revivalistic rally cry for his hometown, Asbury Park, N.J. Other tunes sought a more personal salvation, as in You're Missing ("everything is everything, but you're missing"). One particular chilly Rising anthem, Worlds Apart, portrayed global strife through a squall line of guitar breaks from Nils Lofgren, Steve Van Zandt and the Boss himself.

That might make this 21/2-hour "house party, Kentucky style" seem like a downer. Hardly. You could decipher the redemptive spirit of last night's songs, from the "hod rod angels" elegy Racing in the Street to the overtly hopeful Countin' on a Miracle all you wanted. And once the Boss set off the party mood of Two Hearts and Badlands, it was as though he cast a line into the Rupp crowd of 10,000 and reeled it in. His contact with the audience was effortless and immediate.

He treated his E Street bandmates as blood brothers (and sisters and wives), from his stage introduction of sax man Clarence Clemons ("You want to be like him, but you can't") to the ghostly duet with spouse Patti Scialfa at the onset of Empty Sky to the endearingly goofy vocal tradeoffs with Van Zandt during Glory Days.

The clear E Street MVP was drummer Max Weinberg. Dressed like an accountant behind a (by arena rock standards) minuscule drum kit, he co-piloted Springsteen's almost-bipolar repertoire. Whether it was the Armageddon beat of Streets of Fire or the giddy soul strut of Waitin' On a Sunny Day, Weinberg matched the changing emotional tide of Springsteen's quite righteous return.

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2002-11-14 Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY