BARCELONA, Spain -- Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band kicked off their first tour in a decade Friday with a set heavy with E Street staples from the '70s and '80s and surprisingly light in songs from the 1998 box set Tracks.
Many fans have assumed the tour was designed to promote Tracks, a
four-disc set of previously unreleased material from throughout
Springsteen's career, much of it recorded with the E Street Band. But
the only Tracks song played Friday was the show's opening number, "My Love Will Not Let You Down."
Rather than promoting anything, Springsteen and his eight-piece band, who last toured together in 1989, seemed intent on celebrating their reunion.
"This is a special night," Springsteen told the crowd. "This is the rebirth of a band."
During the two-hour, 45-minute set, he and the band rocked through such E Street classics as "Prove It All Night" and "10th Avenue Freeze-Out," while playing only a handful of songs from his '90s albums, which Springsteen recorded without the band.
And for one of the latter songs, "If I Should Fall Behind," he split the vocals with four E Streeters -- guitarists Steve Van Zandt, Nils Lofgren and Patti Scialfa and saxophonist Clarence Clemons. "Should we lose each other in the shadow of the evening trees," they sang, "I'll wait for you/ And should I fall behind/ Wait for me."
"[Seeing Springsteen perform] with these guys, you can really feel the difference," said 25-year-old Victor Maled, one of more than 20,000 fans who gathered at Palau Saint Jordi for the event.
"I was waiting for it to happen," said Maled, who saw Springsteen perform without the band in 1992. "It's great to see them back together."
Springsteen and the E Streeters took their places on the large, bare stage at 9:15 p.m. Max Weinberg got the show rolling with an incessant drum beat that quickly turned into "My Love Will Not Let You Down."
Springsteen, elegantly dressed in black pants, black jacket and a gray shirt, then led the band through such vintage E Street material as the title cuts from Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978) and The River (1980).
After a few songs, Springsteen took off his jacket. As the show went on,
he looked more and more like the nonstop rocker of old as his shirt became increasingly soaked in sweat.
The setlist hewed closely to those from the two warm-up shows Springsteen and the band played in Asbury Park, N.J., in March. Some songs, including two from the 1995 acoustic album The Ghost of Tom Joad -- the title cut (RealAudio excerpt) and "Youngstown" -- were reworked for the band.
Springsteen, making it clear why he's called the Boss, directed his bandmates with glances and took most of the guitar solos himself. Van Zandt and Lofgren stood on either side of him, occasionally stepping into the spotlight.
Clemons, Springsteen's onstage sidekick in the 1970s and '80s, stepped forward to play his first sax solo during "Prove It All Night," causing fans to jump, shout and raise their hands in a human wave.
"It's the first time I saw [Springsteen], 'cause I don't really like going to concerts," said Elena Leralta, 33, of Barcelona, who'd been dancing and singing all night. "I've been listening to his music since I was a teenager, and now that I've seen him live it's hard to describe how great he is."
As the show went on, all the E Streeters -- who also include keyboardists
Roy Bittan and Danny Federici and bassist Garry Tallent -- showed more
confidence. By the time they got to the soulful "10th Avenue Freeze-Out,"
from Born to Run (1975), they were joking and dancing onstage.
The band returned for two encore sets, which included such well-known
anthems as "Thunder Road" and "Born to Run" (RealAudio excerpt).
The arena was completely lit for the latter song. The night ended with a
new, unreleased song, "Land of Hopes And Dreams," which the group had debuted at the Asbury Park shows last month.
Springsteen and the E Street Band played at the Palau Saint Jordi again Sunday night. The tour next moves on to Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, France and England. It's slated to reach the United States in July.
A one-disc sampler of songs from Tracks -- called 18 Tracks -- is due April 13. It will include three previously unreleased songs.