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From the Country Standard Time Archives

The Church of Bruce is in session...amen

Fenway Park, Boston, Sept. 7, 2003

By Jeffrey B. Remz

BOSTON - The city became Boss' town for two nights. And when the church of Bruce Springsteen is in town, the joint is rocking, hopping and a happening.

That was certainly the case Sunday in the final of the two-sold out shows in an extremely unusual setting - Fenway Park. Only once in the many decades long history of the home of the Red Sox has the park been used for a concert (Stevie Wonder back about three decades ago).

And while the evening started with an instrumental version of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," this was no nail biter of an evening.

Springsteen, nearing the end of touring behind "The Rising," was in ultra-top form. This was not some sort of by-the-numbers performance, although how often does that happen with Springsteen? He mixed up the song selection by a good amount from the Saturday night show as well.

Springsteen always has been about merging the sense of being at a party with a sense of hope for better times.

That was certainly evident throughout the slightly over three-hour show. "The Rising," of course, was Springsteen's attempt to deal with the horror or 9/11. No humor there.

Springsteen always sings with true grit. There could never ever be any doubt about his conviction. Whether aiming for a good time or searching for better times or the meaning of relationships, Springsteen was clearly on target.

He juxtaposed "Empty Sky" with "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" in consecutive songs.

On the good time sound, he covered The Firebird's gem "Seven Nights to Rock," but then followed with "My City of Ruins" and the triumphant "Born in the USA."

And Springsteen reached way way back into his catalogue, playing "Frankie" for only the second time since 1976 according to a Springsteen web site. The song included a false start or two, but after awhile, the song clicked.

Not to mention classics like "She's the One," the anthemic "Badlands," "Jungleland," "Thunder Road," "Glory Days" and one of several encores, which included "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" and "Dancing in the Dark" before closing with an ode to Boston, "Dirty Water" by The Standells with Peter Wolf coming out for the second night in a row to help out.

The playing of Springsteen on guitar and his E Street Band was energetic and taut, but never sounding over-rehearsed. There wasn't a lot of soloing, a snippet here and there from the Big Man - Clarence Clemons on sax or Miami Steve Van Zandt on guitar. Even if you've heard Clemons wail away on sax during "Jungleland" before, there's no time like the present to hear it again.

Springsteen was shimmying (towards the end, the band joined him all shaking their tushies at the crowd), shaking and dancing all the while. He did several slides on his knees, literally hung on the mic stand upside and led the band across the front part of the stage several times.

During "Mary's Place," Springsteen talked about turning the place into a "rock and roll house party, a rock and roll bar mitzvah...an excorcism." If the intent was to get any bad feelings out of the way, he did that and more.

While video screens sometimes are an excuse because the fans can't see the performer, here they were used to good effect such as when Springsteen faced his band, instead of the crowd, and you could see his face.

Whether serious (Springsteen launched into a short piece about holding government officials accountable and made it clear he did not like Vice President Cheney) or jocular did not matter.

Church was in session. And the amens were heard time and again with good reason.