red lights


New Orleans inspired Boss
favors Seeger over singles

Bruce Springsteen
First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre
Tinley Park, IL
June 13, 2006
Bruce Springsteen
File Photo: Phil Bonyata

Story by Andy Argyrakis

When Bruce Springsteen kicked off his 2006 tour at the New Orleans' Jazz & Heritage Festival, he was cited as being a must see act of the weekend known to revive hurricane survivors' spirits while gallivanting through a gumbo of genres. A month later at the newly renamed First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre (formerly the Tweeter Center) The Boss is still riding high on the emotional escapade, offering up a tribute of sorts to the slain city though a potpourri of folk, rock, Americana, Dixieland, gospel and soul.

The packed pavilion (but lawn-less) concert truly had a style for everyone, though the main muse was actually pioneering troubadour Pete Seeger, who is the subject of Springsteen's latest record We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. And while that tunesmith's originals were known for their mighty spirit, The Boss brought his many expressions, other choice covers and the occasional original to an all new life. Rather than being backed by the E Street Band, the stage was packed out with the 16 member Seeger Sessions Band, anchored by a brass section, stand-up bassist and banjo player, along with its leader's own acoustic strums and charisma. "O Mary Don't You Weep" served as a trailblazer of hope, "My Oklahoma Home" drew eerie lyrical parallels to the recent Gulf Coast destruction, while the spiritual "Eyes On the Prize" paved the way with perseverance.

No matter what the mood, Springsteen was a firehouse showman, at times possessing the zeal of his 70s heyday and also adapting his recently raised profile as a preacher. He introduced "We Shall Overcome" as a track that could heal strife of any kind and spoke of his poignant but sometimes tear jerking Louisiana observations prior to the state's staple "When the Saints Go Marching In." As incredible, uplifting and generous as the two and a half hour set was, one couldn't help but hear occasional cries for the crowd for tunes with "Born" in the title.

Not only were requests for the oldies declined, but Springsteen's catalogue took a significant backseat in favor of the Seeger material. Out of the sheer handful he presented, "Atlantic City" was likely to be the most familiar, unfolding with a Delta rave-up flair. But that's exactly how this concert was billed, which like last year's acoustic tour in support of the excellent "Devils and Dust," shows just how diversified The Boss can be three decades into his career. Hopefully for faithful, he won't abandon the hits forever, but seeing the highly delectable Seeger Sessions Band was both refreshing and inspiring.

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