Bruce Springsteen And The Seeger Sessions Band, The Point, Dublin <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

What's on George Bush's iPod? Not Bruce Springsteen or Neil Young, one suspects - both have just released Bush-baiting albums. And when Springsteen performed material from We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, in New Orleans last week, he spoke of Bush and co's "criminal ineptitude" after Hurricane Katrina. Launching into "How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?", he dedicated the 77-year-old song to "President Bystander".

And so to Dublin to open the Boss's European tour. We're promised an "all-new evening of gospel, folk and blues" - a musical banquet that Springsteen and his 17-piece ensemble are more than qualified to deliver, and they don't disappoint.

They start with the Negro spiritual, "O Mary Don't You Weep." Springsteen gives its potent, simple melody all he has, sometimes spinning with his acoustic guitar held high. Fiddle, accordion, trumpet and piano players all take short, gutsy solos, each instrumentalist refreshing the tune and propelling it forward - breathless, invigorating stuff.

Springsteen feeds on the timelessness of the songs. "John Henry had himself a red-headed woman," he roars on "John Henry", as his own redheaded wife/ backing singer Patti Scialfa joins him at his mic. He's never afraid to choreograph a move, but his music has rarely sounded more spontaneous or vital.

Further in, he introduces "Old Dan Tucker" as "a 150-year-old Bob Dylan song". This bluegrass banjo-led toe-tapper was made famous by Dan Emmett circa 1843, and Springsteen is acknowledging Dylan acknowledging Woody Guthrie acknowledging all who came before. Dublin is just the place to big-up folk music's traditions, so this goes down a treat.

It ends much as it began, Springsteen and cohorts tapping into the Dixieland tradition for an understated version of that epic set-closer, "When the Saints Go Marching In". It's been an astonishingly rich evening, the persevering, life-affirming choruses of tunes such as "Jacob's Ladder" and "Erie Canal" provoking a mass sing-along. At times it felt like a gospel show, and at times a down-home barn dance. Mostly, though, it felt like the biggest pub lock-in Dublin has seen in years.

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