Springsteen inspires his own Jacksonville roar

Florida Times-Union, 2003-03-05, by: Nick Marino
Whether at football games or rock concerts, Jacksonville audiences have a tendency toward sedateness. Any Jags season ticket holder or regular concert-goer can testify to that.

But the roar that came forth as Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band finished playing Born To Run Tuesday night at the sold-out Coliseum was nothing less than a soul cry. It may have been the loudest sound I've ever heard from a Jacksonville crowd at any public gathering.

People went nuts for this show. I saw grown men hugging in the aisles. I saw air guitar. I saw a group of fans in the seats unfurl a giant American flag, and I saw a fan on the floor waving the flag of Brazil. I saw a father bend over to his young son and point to the stage, as if directing the boy to the messiah himself.

Springsteen has that effect on people. His marathon concerts bring fans -- particularly middle-aged white guys -- to a state of overwhelmed jubilation that ranks somewhere between hitting a World Series home run and holding your newborn infant for the first time.

Springsteen and his crack band played for 155 minutes Tuesday night, giving the faithful all they could have wanted. The show was every bit as good as the Orlando performance that sent many-a local Boss fan on a road trip down I-95 last November.

Much of the setlist was the same. Springsteen again played a generous amount of material from his Grammy-winning 2002 album, The Rising, and several of the older tunes you'd expect -- Dancing in the Dark, Badlands, Born in the U.S.A. and so on.

He also threw in a few curveballs. From his vast back catalog, he played the brooding Tougher Than The Rest and Prove It All Night. He also played the classic Thunder Road, which somehow escaped the Orlando setlist.

The most unexpected Jacksonville highlight, though, had to be a loving tribute to the late singer/songwriter Hank Ballard, the man who gave us The Twist and many others.

Springsteen and the E Street Band honored Ballard with a joyous, piano-heavy trip through Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go, a song that lacked the typical E Street polish -- Bruce appeared to call out the keys as they played -- but nonetheless maintained the band's big-hearted vibe.

That's perhaps the best part about this band: they radiate warmth, playing their shows without a shred of irony or pretense or detachment.

No other arena act so effortlessly and sincerely welcomes the masses to its altar. When Springsteen sings "tramps like us. . ." he really means the us part. Everyone in the building is part of the community.

During Mary's Place, Springsteen accurately compared his show to a house party. That's really how it felt in there.

At most shows, the audience is asked to acknowledge the specialness of the performer. Springsteen makes the fans themselves feel special.

That's a pretty neat trick, enough to inspire hugging and flag-waving. Now if only the '03 Jaguars can do the same.

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2003-03-04 Jacksonville Coliseum, Jacksonville, FL