Springsteen wows 'em at PNC Park concert

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 2003-08-07, by: Regis Behe
Let the record show that the first song at a rock concert at PNC Park was "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

E Street Band members Roy Bittan, Danny Federici and Nils Lofgren strode to the front of a mammoth stage in centerfield at 8:25 p.m Wednesday night and -- with accordions -- opened a new chapter at the old baseball yard on the North Shore.

Yeah, Bruce Springsteen knows how to throw a party.

It was a sweet opening night and anyone who was at the show will be talking it about for years to come.

Not that Springsteen's performance will ever be catalogued as one of his best. It was good, sometimes great, as when an acoustic version of the melancholic "Empty Sky" segued into a euphoric "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" an hour into the show.

But the show started slowly with "The River" - with about 75 boats on the Allegheny River hoping to catch stray notes, a fitting opener - that seemed tentative and strained.

But like any good hitter measuring his surroundings, Springsteen followed with "The Rising," and you could feel the energy rippling outward from the stage through the infield into the stands and out onto the concourses.

Call it a double in the gap, and it was followed by "Lonesome Day," a liner off the wall, the fans punctuating repeated choruses of "It's all right" with fists thrust skyward.

Then, the night's first home run, "The Promised Land," full of hope as it implies, and despite the cavernous park you knew then that Springsteen had found himself and the way to connect to those tiny figures in the upper deck of the stadium.

Then came the transcendent "My Love Will Not Let You Down," and "Prove it All Night," Clarence Clemons' first opportunity to step in the limelight with his sax. Springsteen's jagged guitar solo caused fans to erupt in a crescendo of unfettered joy.

"It's unbelievable," said Beverly Liberatore, 43, of Aliquippa, who was dancing on one of the concourses near the right field stands. "This is a perfect place for a concert. It sounds great, and Pittsburgh looks so beautiful."

PNC Park did paint a gorgeous picture, the left rotunda bejeweled in soft blue lights on one side of the gargantuan stage, a brilliantly lit section of the Roberto Clemente Bridge on the other.

It was worthy of a postcard, at least, but the energy Springsteen provided in the rousing anthems of "Badlands" and "Out in the Streets" were quintessential Springsteen moments where the crowd loses its inhibitions and sings along, dancing as if to ward off the demons that afflict the world.

"The thing about Bruce is nobody explodes with such energy in concert," said Al Quaye, 37, a Moon resident who drove from Washington, D.C., for the show. "It's pure music, and it hits your soul."

Quaye would be hard-pressed to find many dissenters on this muggy Pittsburgh night where raindrops threatened early, but didn't arrive. You could credit Springsteen with that, too, if you truly bought into the magic of the night. Many seemed to.

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2003-08-06 PNC Park, Pittsburgh, PA