Boss jazzes up folk with a rockin? jolt

Boston Herald, 2006-05-28, by: Christopher Blagg
Some classic Springsteen characters went missing last night at the Tweeter Center.

There were no Rosalitas, no Bobby Jeans or even a ghostly Tom Joad to be found.

In their place came a cavalcade of dusty John Henrys, Jesse Jameses and Old Dan Tuckers, as Bruce and his newly formed Seeger Sessions Band tore through an exhilarating and beautifully ragged set of traditional Americana.

For the opening U.S. stop on his highly anticipated Seeger Sessions tour, Springsteen and his enormous 17-piece band completely reinvigorated the folk genre.

This was not delicate coffeehouse folk, but sweaty, blue-collar, buck-and-grind folk music, ringing with joy, anger and all emotions in between.

Opening with the full-throated roar of the classic railroad fable ??John Henry,? Bruce instilled a boozy, rambunctious atmosphere that infected every Springsteen disciple, graying activist and slack-jawed usher in the amphitheater.

The energy was truly that infectious.

Most of the set was devoted to the new disc, ??We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions,? with tunes such as the hard gypsy swing of ??Oh, Mary Don?t You Weep? and the banjo-greased stomp of ??Old Dan Tucker? not allowing the crowd a chance to run for a bathroom break.

The band?s relentless push included the occasional detour into Bruce?s back catalog, all renditions of which received striking reinterpretations.

Punchy, blasting horns gave a radical face lift to the rock ?n? swing of ??Open All Night,? while ??Johnny 99? got reconfigured with a bouncy New Orleans parade streetbeat.

In fact, the beleaguered Crescent City factored into a good portion of the night?s songs and theme, whether it be in the loose and rowdy traditional jazz arrangementsor in the lyrical content.

Springsteen completely reworked the last three verses of Blind Alfred Reed?s ??How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?? with graphic and deeply moving Hurricane Katrina imagery.

Of course, being a Pete Seeger-inspired tour, protest songs made the set, with standards such as ??We Shall Overcome? mixing with lesser-known gems including Seeger?s own ??Bring Them Home.?

As sobering and politically charged as some of the tunes were, the take-home sentiment was one of pure joy.

Fiddles, trombones, and pedal steel guitars, and exuberant shout choruses combined with the all-consuming charisma of Bruce for a rousing night.

Springsteen ended the evening by giving a shoutout to the hometown crowd, inviting the inimitable Peter Wolf onstage to bark out a ragged ??Dirty Water? that morphed into the Americana bounce of ??Buffalo Gals.? Suddenly, it seems the hootenanny and the hoedown have returned.

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2006-05-27 Tweeter Center, Boston, MA