The day started very early. Two years ago Bruce Springsteen headlined Jazz Fest and people lined up at the gates of the fairgrounds at 700 a.m. so they could get their prime spot to view their hero. This year was not going to be an exception. The lines were staggering by 900 a.m. The gates opened and it was a fast run to the Acura Stage. The day was spent standing in one position until Bruce commenced at 415 p.m.
The entertainment at the Acura Stage was filled with surprises. Marc Broussard started the festivities in fine form. He is a native Louisiana and he has been singing and writing for years. Marc is outstanding at his craft. He has firm roots in Louisiana music since his father is a Louisiana Hall of Fame guitarist, Ted Broussard. Ted is a former member of the Boogie Kings. Broussard’s music is described as Cajun soul, funk, and pop. He played his old music along with some new material and typically he delivered his goods with aplomb.
Allen Toussaint’s set had a big surprise. The set started with a couple of Toussaint’s song, “Sneakin Through The Alley” and “Two Trains.” The New Orleans legend introduced one of his friends to come join him. Jimmy Buffett came on stage to sing two songs with Mr. Toussaint! First they sang “Fortune Teller.” Then, "Wave Bye Bye," was done to pay homage to Jesse Winchester who has recently deceased. The “Parrotheads” in the crowd were ecstatic.
Next was The Voices of The Wetlands Allstars! This band makes up some of the “best of the best” of local entertainers. Anders Osborne, Tab Benoit, Johnny Sansone, Cyril Neville, Big Chief Monk Bordeaux, and more. The band was created in 2004 to raise awareness of the erosion of the gulf coast. That mission became more imperative after Katrina. This “crème de la crème” group of entertainers has provided the best Louisiana has to offer. Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone was the standout today with his blues harmonica and raw vocals. For more information on VOW and their environmental concerns, click here.
Bruce and the E Street Band charged on the stage and immediately served up “High Hopes” and “Johnny 99” and “Badlands.” The show was in high gear and they were there to stay. He seemed to be trying to get as much in their 2½ hour set that he could squeeze. Steven Van Zandt was missing, but Tom Morello (former Rage Against The Machine guitarist) seemed to be his replacement.
The first guest Bruce invited on stage was Rickie Lee Jones. Jones had a gigantic hit in the late seventies with “Chuck E’s In Love.” She has been a very eclectic performer since the early times in her career. Surprise guest Rickie Lee Jones sang backup on the gunslinger saga “Jesse James” with Patti Scialfa.
Shortly after the set started, Springsteen made the first of several trip down the middle of the crowd to two platforms close to the soundboard. Many fans were able to see their hero up close. At age 64 his performance was filled with remarkable vitality regardless of the hot sun during the day. Much younger performers would not have stood up to Springsteen’s vigor.
The most emotional point of the show was “Mary Don’t You Weep” an old spiritual song that he opened his set at jazz fest in 2006 after Katrina. It was emotional then and again in 2012. This set was no different. It was taken from his “Seeger Sessions” album.
The most dynamic song was “The Ghost of Tom Joad ”. Tom Morello shared the vocal and his guitar work was stellar. There was also a somber version of the song “When the Saints Go Marching In,” with Morello and Scialfa each taking a verse before the horns came forward. It was a hair-raising experience.
Another surprise guest was introduced. John Fogerty came to play and sing with Bruce! “Proud Mary” and “Green River” were fiery duets that were fun for everyone to sing along.
Bruce Springsteen has become New Orleans Jazz Fest’s favorite adopted son. He won the hearts of a “City In Ruins” in 2006. New Orleans Jazz Fest will surely see him again. For a complete set list, click here.