Springsteen performs "Magic" in tour open

HARTFORD, Connecticut (Reuters) - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band kicked off their latest U.S. tour on Tuesday and rocked their way through several cuts from the newly released “Magic,” a collection of songs that mix an up-tempo pop-rock sound with stinging social criticism.

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Fans at the sold-out Hartford Civic Center were sent into a frenzy as the band took the stage and launched into “Radio Nowhere,” a hard-driving cut from the new album officially released earlier in the day, the first album for Springsteen and his long-time backing band since 2002’s “The Rising.”

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer hit the road as a solo act in 2005 behind his somber “Devils and Dust” album, and last year the New Jersey native released “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions,” a fiddle- and banjo-infused collection of American folk songs. The latter won the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album.

But rock and roll was front and center this evening as the 58-year-old and his bandmates, some bandmates since he was a teenager, ripped through several anthems from the Springsteen catalogue including “Badlands,” “Born to Run” and “The Promised Land.”

Introducing the new song “Living In the Future,” Springsteen told the crowd that in addition to cheeseburgers, French fries and motorcycles, the United States was now known for voter suppression, illegal wiretapping and attacks on the Constitution.

“These are all the things that are happening here that shouldn’t be happening here,” he said.

The refrain from “Last to Die,” also from the new album, left little doubt about Springsteen’s opinion of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. “Who’ll be the last to die for a mistake, whose blood will spill, whose heart will break, who’ll be the last to die?” he sang.

One of the new songs not from “Magic” was “Town Called Heartbreak,” a cut from band member and Springsteen spouse Patti Scialfa’s latest solo album, released last month.

The band included Clarence Clemons on saxophone and percussion; Roy Bittan and Danny Federici on keyboards; Nils Lofgren on guitars; Garry Tallent on bass; Max Weinberg on drums; and guitarist Steven Van Zandt, who gained additional fame on HBO’s “The Sopranos.” Also on stage was violin player and backup vocalist Soozie Tyrell.

Springsteen and the E Street Band will wind their way across the U.S. through mid-November before starting a month-long tour of Europe in Madrid on November 26.

While no further dates have been announced, fans and industry watchers expect the announcement of more tour legs that will keep the band on the road well into 2008.