Hard-charging night from Boss

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2003-03-01, by: Craig Seymour
Bruce Springsteen's concert Friday night at Gwinnett Arena was packed even though the Boss played the Atlanta area just two months ago at the Philips Arena. For fans, a Springsteen show is like a religious service: Every time you attend is another opportunity to renew your faith.

Springsteen even picked up on this church vibe when he introduced the members of the E Street Band. In the voice of a revival tent preacher,

he called his wife, singer Patti Scialfa, "the first lady of love and my personal savior." And he referred to the ever popular saxophone player Clarence Clemons as "minister of soul" and "secretary of the brotherhood."

Springsteen and the band played for more than two hours. And the 53-year-old rocker seemed especially virile and frisky. He slid across the stage, jumped up on a piano and twirled around the mic stand with the fluidity of a stripper working a pole.

The set list was a mix of tunes from last year's 9/11-themed album "The Rising" as well as fan favorites like "Candy's Room" and "Out in the Street." In many ways Springsteen's charging, earnest anthems are about as relevant to contemporary rock as Chuck Berry and the Big Bopper. But he still has a hold on a certain audience.

His popularity with folks in their 30s, 40s and 50s lies in his ability to reconcile the passions of youth with the realities of middle age. He was "born to run," but now he's a committed family man. He's politically skeptical, yet hopeful.

"I'm going to send this out as a prayer for peace," he said after singing the ballad of loss "Empty Sky." And he offered another anti-war message before launching into "Born in the USA." "I wrote this in 1983 about the Vietnam War," he said. "I don't want to have to write it again."

More than any other rocker of his ilk, Springsteen is committed to making his audience think about social and political issues. He dedicated "My City of Ruins" to the Atlanta Community Food Bank. The crowd received Springsteen with numerous standing ovations and hoarse cries of "Bruuuce." And one man, who appeared to be in his late 40s, even jumped onstage during "Born to Run."

"He's too old to be doing that," Springsteen remarked.

The fan seemed to epitomize the sometimes odd evening, when people old enough to afford $75 concert tickets were singing along to lyrics about "tramps like us."

The much feared traffic situation at the arena turned out to be much less of an issue than during last Friday's George Strait concert. By 8 p.m. only a few stragglers remained in the arena lot.

Congestion was heaviest coming from west of the arena as many opted to take back roads to the event.

"Last week was hell," said John Sibley, an attendant with Standard Parking. "This is so much better."

Parking was the bigger issue. Once the arena lot filled, many were confused about where to park. Most were directed to the old Boeing plant off Satellite Boulevard.

Staff writer Don Fernandez contributed to this article.

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Topic

2003-02-28 The Arena at Gwinnett Center, Duluth, GA