Springsteen leads jubilant revival

Boston Globe, 2003-08-02, by: Joan Anderman
Celebrates gospel of faith, hope, and joy
There aren't very many people in this world who can pack a party dress, an honest day's work, and spiritual salvation with the same transformational power. It's why Bruce Springsteen is revered, and why last night's sold-out show at Gillette Stadium was a marvel of celebration and purpose.

With few words and a far lighter load than he carried at last fall's FleetCenter show, Springsteen traversed backward from a last year's ''The Rising'' -- a catalog of pain and faith that emerged from the wreckage of Sept. 11 -- to a jubilant encore set that included ''Mystery Train'' (dedicated to the late Sam Phillips) ''Born To Run,'' ''10th Ave. Freeze-out,'' and ''Dancing in the Dark.''

Cloudy skies perpetually threatened to open, and if they had this crowd hardly would have noticed. Springsteen and his E Street Band, which he called ''the best little house band in the world,'' wielded the chiming, propulsive sound that's become a rock 'n' roll archetype like a protective shield. Here was all believers needed to endure a rainy concert or a troubled world: ''Promised Land,'' ''The Rising,'' and ''Lonesome Day,'' a trio of anthems of faith and hope set in motion by Springsteen's mouthful of harmonica, Clarence Clemons's clarion blasts, and Max Weinberg's stately, rolling rhythm. A grown man's songs, they preached the redemption found in community.

But with more warmth, humility, celebration, and conviction than you'll find in most houses of worship, let alone one man, Springsteen revived the young man's dreams. ''Prove It All Night'' whittled the meaning of life down to a kiss, with Springsteen playing one of many scathing guitar solos and Steve Van Zandt yelling in tuneful duet with his Boss. An hour into the show Springsteen was on his back, whooping through ''Darlington County,'' and galloping across a stadium-wide catwalk inviting gospel levels of fervor during ''Badlands.''

The centerpiece of the night was ''Mary's Place.'' Springsteen kicked it off with rock's time-honored baptism-by-water-bottle, sang the band introductions in the middle, and cranked into party overdive with a joyous call-and-response of ''I drop the needle and pray!'' ''Turn it up!''

Springsteen's credibility is the tie that binds feel-good singalongs with mournful ballads: ''Empty Sky'' and ''Into the Fire'' made for graceful, quiet moments, which for better or worse many used as bathroom breaks. And it's his galvanizing grasp of the need for human connection that made that rowdy, chestnut-filled encore set the right time for what he called a public service announcement.

''Demanding accountability from our leaders is our job as citizens,'' Springsteen said. ''Playing with the truth during wartime . . . is always wrong.'' He dedicated ''Land of Hope and Dreams'' to the people of Iraq. All of that and ''Rosalita,'' too, which sent 53,000 people home that much wiser and that much happier.

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2003-08-01 Gilette Stadium, Foxboro, MA