Bruce Springsteen, The Point, Dublin

Dublin is treated to the best pub lock-in for years
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What's on George Bush's iPod? Not Bruce Springsteen or Neil Young, one suspects. Both rock legends have just released Bush administration-baiting albums, a song on the latter's Living With War even imploring "Let's Impeach The President".

Springsteen? Well, when he performed material from his latest record, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival last week, he spoke of Bush's "criminal ineptitude" in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. With that he launched into "How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live?", dedicating the 77-year-old folk song to "President Bystander".

And so to Dublin for the opening date of The Boss's European Tour, where we are promised an "all-new evening of gospel, folk and blues". It's a musical banquet that Springsteen and his 17-piece ensemble are more than qualified to deliver, and from the get go they don't disappoint. They open with the old Negro spiritual, "O Mary Don't You Weep". Springsteen gives its potent, nursery rhyme-simple melody all he has. In the space of a few minutes, fiddle, accordion, trumpet and piano players all take short, gutsy solos. It's breathless, invigorating stuff.

A Hootenanny-type mood is quickly established, Springsteen proved just how easily he can reach row ZZ of an arena.

"John Henry had himself a red-headed woman," he roars on "John Henry", as his own redheaded wife - backing singer Patti Scialfa - joins him fleetingly at his front-of-stage microphone. He's never been afraid to choreograph a move, but his music has rarely sounded more spontaneous or vitalising than this. Further in, he introduces "Old Dan Tucker" as "a 150-year old Bob Dylan song". No matter that this bluegrass banjo-led toe-tapper was made famous by Dan Emmett circa 1843: this is Springsteen acknowledging Dylan acknowledging Woody Guthrie acknowledging all that came before him.

As Dublin is just the place to big-up folk music's baton-passing traditions, this goes down a treat.

It closes much as it had begun, Springsteen and his cohorts tapping into the Dixieland tradition for that non-pareil 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 rival show, and at times a down-home barn dance. Mostly, though, it felt like the biggest, bestest pub lock-in Dublin has seen in years.

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