It’s no secret that Bruce Springsteen puts on one of the most impressive rock shows in the world. Night after night, the 64-year-old frontman throws himself around the stage with fearless abandon while leading one of the best bands in the biz. The band’s current tour has been earning rave reviews from shows in South Africa and across Australia and New Zealand as fans stateside eagerly await for the band to head back this way.
Never content to simply call in the hits, Bruce has managed to reinvent himself once again thanks to the hard rock influence of new guitarist Tom Morello (formerly of Rage Against the Machine), who has added some new flavors to the huge sound of the 18-piece band. Bruce and the E Street Band before have spent the past decade putting on shows that are nothing short of incredible, but this is a whole new monster.
Bruce is no stranger to Jazz Fest, and some have grumbled that he’s back too soon after his headlining set in 2012; he’ll appear on May 3, the second Saturday of the fest. But looking back to his first appearance, in 2006, you get a feel for his originality and deep appreciation for the city. For the first Jazz Fest after Katrina, Bruce premiered his Seeger Sessions Band, whose ramshackle, folk-influenced sound could have easily fit in the French Quarter circa 1920. The exuberant set perfectly captured the spirit of the city, with the song “We Shall Overcome” serving as an anthem for a city still reeling from disaster but determined to party on. Quint Davis was floored by that performance, saying, “I thought it was one of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever seen … Reverend Springsteen held church, and ministered to a flock.” The Boss spent lots of time around the city during that trip, meeting with members of volunteer organizations and dropping off $80,000 to the New Orleans Musicians Clinic.
Much like Phish, The E Street Band has no shortage of diehard fans who lose count of how many shows they have been to and don’t hesitate to jump on a plane to catch a special show, such as Jazz Fest. But The Boss expertly manages to satisfy both hardcore fans and the casual listeners alike with set lists that tastefully mix the classics with newer material and rare, deep cuts. This tour has even seen the band tackle some unexpected covers, with Lorde’s “Royals” and AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” fitting perfectly alongside the original songs. Special guests have also been popping up onstage, with Eddie Vedder lending his trademark growl in Australia and Mos Def rapping on “Free Nelson Mandela” during the stop in South Africa.
The band will definitely play some local tunes, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some local talent joining the band at the Fairgrounds. Certainly there’s also the rare, but plausible, chance of an unannounced sit-in with a local band after the show (Bruce joined the Iguanas at the Maple Leaf in 1992). Of course, the crowds will be monstrous, so definitely get there early and make yourself comfortable. Once Bruce hits the stage, you’ll be on your feet and barreling down the Jersey Turnpike as he drives the band, and crowd, to musical nirvana.
Enjoy NolaVie’s ‘Jazz Fest 45‘ Spotify playlist below featuring 45 artists playing at this year’s 45th Anniversary Fest!