BARCELONA, Spain -- He may have been born in the U.S.A., but Bruce Springsteen's presence was felt pretty strongly in Spain over the weekend.
Springsteen T-shirts were being hawked all along Las Ramblas, the big boulevard that connects the center of the city with its harbor. Posters of the populist rocker, who began his world tour here Friday, hung on walls along the boulevard, and the operator of the local tourist office on the Plaza de Cataluña said there were "many requests for information" on how to get tickets for Springsteen's two sold-out shows at the Palau Saint Jordi.
Cristina Pauna, 33, from Milan, Italy, arranged to fly here with a few friends after realizing she would be away when Springsteen and his E Street Band came to Milan next week. "I realized I was going to miss it ... so we phoned ... this friend of ours in Barcelona, who got us the tickets," Pauna said. "We could not miss it."
Springsteen fans said they had been waiting 10 years for this tour, which reunites the man known as the Boss with his famous backing band. From here, the tour moves to Germany -- Springsteen is scheduled to play Munich on Tuesday (April 13) -- Italy, Austria, Switzerland and other European locales before arriving in the United States in July.
And while some flew across Europe to see the opening shows, others prepared for disappointment.
"I could not find tickets for the show, so I'm forced to miss it, and it's a pity," Jordi Torrejon Guijarro, 33, a photographer, said as he wandered through a downtown record store a few hours before Friday's concert.
"People still ask us for tickets, even if tonight's concert is sold out," said Vanessa Teule, 21, a clerk at the record store FNAC.
Local record stores created Springsteen sections for the event and were especially promoting Tracks, the box set of Springsteen outtakes and rarities that came out in November. (A one-disc set of highlights, 18 Tracks, which features three previously unreleased cuts, was released this week.)
But Springsteen and the E Street Band didn't seem to be hawking the box set. They opened Friday's show with a song from it, "My Love Will Not Let You Down," but didn't play any more of the album's tracks during their nearly three-hour set.
Instead, the band seemed intent on celebrating the reunion as it belted out staples from its now-classic 1970s and '80s repertoire, including "Born to Run" (RealAudio excerpt), "Thunder Road" and "The River."
"This is a special night," Springsteen told the crowd of 20,000. "This is the rebirth of a band."
He sometimes shared the spotlight with his bandmembers. During "If I Should Fall Behind," a song Springsteen originally recorded without the band, he sang one verse, and gave one each to guitarists Steve Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren, saxophonist Clarence Clemons and background singer/guitarist Patti Scialfa, his wife.
"At first I was scared [the concert] would be a nostalgic thing," Pauna said. "But that's not the case. From 1985 on, I saw him at least once every time he played in Europe, and this was one of his best outings."
"I've been listening to his music for 10 years, and I was waiting for this moment to come," said Daniel Ruig, 23, of Reus, a town 75 miles from Barcelona. "I just saw him playing on his acoustic tour in 1996, and I was dying to see him perform with The E Street Band."