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2014 New Orleans Jazz Festival: The countdown begins!

The black and white photos were taken using film at the 2006 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
The black and white photos were taken using film at the 2006 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
©Mary F. Andrews

There are less than 90 days until the oldest and best music festival in the country begins. The most faithful attendees have anxiously anticipated the lineup announcement, and now that the stellar cast has been announced, we must wile away the hours until its commencement. Doing the daily countdown and reminiscing past fests are some of the activities employed to make the time go by.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are one of the many highly anticipated acts. Springsteen and the band’s history at Jazz fest started with a very emotional appearance after the city had been ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. The city managed to pull the event together in spite of the physical hardships placed on the majority of its local population. Springsteen tailored the show for New Orleans. He had recently finished his album, The Seeger Sessions, prior to his appearance. One of his strengths as a songwriter is his ability to convey some cohesive feelings, emotions, settings and themes that do not feel contrived, and thus provide what feels authentic.

He brought his 18-piece Seeger Sessions band to the show that included horns, fiddles, banjos and more! The stage had a full, rich presence even though it was located outdoors. They performed their complete album and then some. Springsteen wrote new verses about New Orleans for Blind Alfred Reed’s "How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live," and he dedicated it to "President Bystander."

He adapted 9/11’s "My City In Ruins" for New Orleans as well. That brought the handkerchiefs out during both sound check and concert. The song bonded the emotional impact from the devastation of New York’s 9/11 bombings with the emotional impact of New Orleans’ Hurricane Katrina. This show finalized the determination of the music culture to return stronger than ever before.

Bruce returned to New Orleans in 2012. By that time, New Orleans had repaired a lot of its scars from Katrina, but not all of them. Another appearance from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band was highly anticipated. How was Bruce going to surpass the last appearance? With The Wrecking Ball, his new album release. The album has direct references to New Orleans, particularly "We Take Care of Our Own," where he sang "from the shotgun shacks to the Superdome."

This was the first show performed since the death of longtime saxophonist, Clarence Clemons. He asked the audience “Are you missing somebody? Then raise your voices and let them hear you!" The 65,000 in attendance roared with enthusiastic cheer.

The three-hour show was a higher energy event. And even at age 62, Bruce expends more energy on stage than performers half his age. There was a runway leading from the stage into the audience, and at one point in the show Bruce pulled a young fan onto the runway to sing along with him; Having a true knack for keeping a feeling of intimacy, even with a crowd of 65,000. It was an uplifting experience for all.

Now, two years later, Bruce is scheduled to return to Jazz Fest. How is Bruce going to top his previous appearances? According to the Times-Picayune, Quint Davis, the longtime producer of the fest, resolved to bring "The Boss" back after David Foster, a member of his staff, introduced Davis to "High Hopes," the title track from Springsteen’s new album. This track seemed to be quite the showstopper, and it proved to be enough to convince Davis to bring him back for a third consecutive appearance. The fact is that you could see Bruce perform 50 times and you would never get the same show twice!

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