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Springsteen’s still got it

It’s not the string of successful albums or his numerous hit songs.

No, the reasons for Bruce Springsteen’s ever-lasting fame and undying adulation stems more from one reason: outstanding live performances. The 53-year-old dazzled more than 19,000 fans at the St. Pete Times Forum Sunday with a near three-hour set of 25 songs. Even then, “The Boss” practically had to be dragged off the stage as he and the E Street Band kept the encores coming.

Most of The Boss’ fans would have been content after the first encore, as Springsteen and the E Streeters fired off “Dancing in the Dark,” “Glory Days” and “Born to Run” in quick succession. Springsteen seemed so at home on the stage that seconds after he stepped off the stage following his first encore, he was back with the emotional “My City of Ruins,” a song he performed for Sept. 11 tributes and one of the many tracks on The Rising, his latest album, tied to that day. The patriotic flavor to his second encore stayed strong with “Born in the USA,” which Springsteen called a plea for peace.

The show appeared to be winding down as lights went down and the E Street Band walked off one by one on “Ramrod” until only piano player Roy Bittan was left in the spotlight. The lights went down and the piano kept going until all the players reemerged on stage and proceeded to continue the 15-minute jam session. It seemed for sure that they were done right there, but Springsteen and the band surprised everyone with a nice cover of “Twist and Shout” to cap off an amazing evening.

Performing new material with the E Street Band for the first time since Born in the USA hit shelves in 1984, Springsteen displayed just as much fervor for his new stuff as he did for classic tunes like “Darkness on the Edge of Town” and “Glory Days.”

Springsteen turned the Forum into the house party described on “Mary’s Place,” questioned if the crowd was ready, then went sprinting across the stage, sliding on his knees as the audience emphatically clapped along. The song seemed right at home alongside Springsteen favorites such as “Badlands” and “Dancing in the Dark.”

The set list was heavy from The Rising, opening with the title track. The crowd took to the new material slowly, but by “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day,” Springsteen had the fans belting out the chorus, and fan favorite Clarence Clemons closed the tune with one of his trademark saxophone numbers.

Another reason that Springsteen delivers live is the ample talents of the E Street Band. In addition to Clemons’ superb performances, Nils Lofgren’s slow pic intro to “Counting on a Miracle” stood out, and Soozie Tyrell provided the soothing harmony with her violin on “You’re Missing.”

Contact Anthony Gagliano at