Springsteen prays for Iraq, leaves Born in the U.S.A. out of three-hour show

Vancouver Sun, 2003-04-12, by: Amy Carmichael
Bruce Springsteen proved it all night long: he is The Boss. After a 12-year break from touring Canada's West Coast, Springsteen and the E Street band have returned with the same workin' man grit and genuine, good old American boy playfulness. And power.

A sold-out, 15,000-strong audience at Vancouver's Pacific Coliseum was reduced to a state of awe as Springsteen drove through a three-hour set, with hardly a break to chat. But the significance for fans of his return after more than a decade wasn't lost on The Boss or the band as they kicked off their five-city Canadian tour Friday night.

"I ran into a guy and he wanted me to sign a record and I gave him a wave, one of these," he said, curving his hand in a royal salutation, "like the Pope, or something, and he said, 'Man, you haven't been here for 12 years, give me five minutes!"'

The throngs at the front of the stage echoed the adoration, holding up hundreds of white cards inked with red hearts.

Springsteen returned it, showing off the fact that his energy hasn't ebbed over decades of performing.
The 53-year-old soaked himself down with water, running across the stage and sliding on his knees and jitterbugged around in circles on his back on the floor while slamming out classics on his guitar.

He played with the crowd too, donning a 'coon-skin cap and hoisting a girl up on stage who was holding a sign that read Canadian Courtney Cox. (In 1984, the Friends actress gained national attention after being chosen from a swarm of some 300 contenders to star as the girl Springsteen pulled on stage to dance with at the end of his Dancing in the Dark video.)

Springsteen's inner gentlemanliness shone though when next he picked up the girl's mother, a grey-haired lady wearing a track suit and fanny pack. He spun her around before taking the amazed woman backstage.
He paused the frolicking to strike a political note. After bringing a hush to the arena with the mournful Sept. 11 tribute My City in Ruins, Springsteen asked the crowd not to forget the people suffering in Iraq.

"This is a prayer for peace, for the safety and security of the Iraqi people," he said, before launching into Land of Hope and Dreams. A couple of audience members waved the American flag, but Born in the U.S.A., perhaps his biggest hit, was noticibly absent during the three encores and endless standing ovations.

He stuck mostly to new material during the 20-song show, which was studded with old anthems like 1978's Prove It All Night. Springsteen and his wife, veteran E Streeter Patti Scialfa, sang into one mike for Two Hearts leaning on each other, eyes locked in passion. He told the crowd she was "his personal saviour."

His set was spartan, showing the Boss doesn't need all the flash of the Rolling Stones, another power-house dinosaur rock act that hit Canada over the past year. Simply picking up a saxaphone was all Clarence Clemons - "the minister of soul and secretary of the brotherhood," as Springsteen called him - had to do to whip the crowd of boomers into a lather.

Springsteen's dynamics with the band were a major part of the show, especially during rock anthems like Born to Run, which he belted out with The Sopranos star Steven Van Zandt.

Van Zandt says Springsteen's songs, many of which were written 30 years ago, have even more meaning today. And he seems to be once again in tune with the times, opening the show with his come-back hit The Rising, a song that won him a Grammy this year and had the whole crowd singing along in bliss.

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2003-04-11 Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver, Canada