April 30, 2006

New Orleans

Springsteen and his new Sessions Band hit the road to support We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, beginning in the birthplace of their sonic gumbo, New Orleans. This post-Hurricane Katrina Jazz Fest performance is an important night for Springsteen: aside from breaking in a new 20-piece band, it has been years since he has really had to prove himself to an audience.

He isn’t preaching to the choir for the first time in a long time; following Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint, it is a decidedly non-partisan crowd. But Bruce and the Sessions players more than meet the challenge, laying the sun into the ground for a two-hour set that has the crowd eventually eating out of their hands, many with tears streaming down their faces. Springsteen talks about getting to town the previous day and heading down to the Lower Ninth: “I saw some things I never thought I’d see in an American city.” The emotional “My City of Ruins,” which begins the encore, might as well have been written on that visit; during the song, the whole packed fairgrounds field has hands in the air.