The Boss finishes Fenway stand in style

Boston Globe, 2003-09-08, by: Joan Anderman
Bruce Springsteen's history-making concert at Fenway Park on Saturday spawned the predictable spate of puns about rock 'n' roll home runs and musical grand slams. The Boss's second Fenway show - for another sold-out crowd of 35,000 last night - left this second-shift scribe scrambling for new superlatives to describe what happens when a legendary musician, a beloved ballpark, and the cosmic-grade fandom attached to both collide.

Fenway groundskeeper David Mellor set the tone by leaving a surprise message on the infield grass this morning: B-r-u-c-e mowed in perfect Red Sox font and three musical notes between the bases. Appropriately, Springsteen came out to conduct a singalong on "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." But it was a rip-roaring read on "Glory Days," Springsteen's paean to baseball, that brought it all together midway through an exuberant and often incandescent set.

Springsteen changed roughly half the set list from Saturday's show. He stuck with a generous nod to Boston, opening with "Diddy Wah Diddy" by the local band Barry & the Remains and closing with the Standells' "Dirty Water" - J. Geils singer Peter Wolf returning for rollicking vocal accompaniment. He also repeated a handful of songs from his recent album "The Rising" early on in the set, and the loose, laid-back intensity of those built exponentially throughout yesterday's three-hour performance, which several fans who attended both nights described as the far better of the two.

With cries of "Can you feel the spirit?" (which began the saucy, shuffling "Spirit in the Night") and "Are you ready?" (the invitation to celebration that anchors "Mary's Place"), Springsteen delivered a riveting call to song that inspired fans to lift cellphones in the air and let tears stream down their faces. He infused a mournful "Empty Sky," its playful antidote, "Waitin' on a Sunny Day," the dark love anthem "Because the Night," and a coiled, primal "She's the One" with intoxicating vigor that transcended genres and styles. The ballads and the rockers, the political statements (he delivered a truncated version of his plea for civil vigilance) and party tunes were bound by Springsteen's diehard faith in the transformative power of music.

Communal spirit starts at home, however, and the E Street Band was in rare form. There were spontaneous gatherings at microphones, group jaunts to the far sides of the stage, and an abundance of tightly-honed musical goodwill. While solos were kept to a minimum, Springsteen made the most of his moments - ripping through guitar parts and tearing off whole bars as a time, biting into notes and spitting out the pieces.

He was a jubilant ringleader - dousing himself with water and riding an imaginary Slip-and-Slide, hanging upside down from the mike stand, delivering a 10-minute, gospel-inspired band introduction - and a gracious guest, as well.

"We want to thank all you folks in the neighborhood for letting us come and make all this racket. I know you can hear me!" Springsteen shouted toward the end of the evening. And then he offered up a token of his appreciation: "My City of Ruins," "Born in the U.S.A.," "Rosalita," "Dancing in the Dark," and "Dirty Water."

We're guessing no one complained.

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2003-09-07 Fenway Park, Boston, MA