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Bruce Springsteen kicks off his U.S. tour

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Bruce Springsteen
Kevin Mazur

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are back in the USA. The American leg of their world tour kicked off in (where else?) East Rutherford, N.J., on Thursday night. But even if you weren’t among those lucky enough to snag tickets, don’t fear. There are enough Bruce-related facts, figures, and flotsam floating around on the World Wide Web to satisfy even the most ardent fan.

BRUCE FOR BEGINNERS If you were wearing a bandanna and Reagan was in office the last time you listened to a Springsteen album, the singer’s official site will fill you in on more recent details, including the fact that the first 30 U.S. concerts have each sold out in less than a day and — thanks to a photo gallery — that Bruce has had more bad hair days than RuPaul. But to get beyond the company line, hit Backstreets magazine‘s official site. The people behind this two-decade-old Bruce fanzine bring you meticulously detailed set lists that let you know, for example, that Bremen, Germany, was the first European city treated to ”I’m on Fire” and that Bruce squeezed in a rare cover of ”Who’ll Stop the Rain” in Copenhagen. Plus there are rumors that new concert dates will be added in Toronto, Albany, and Denver.

GOT YOUR TICKETS HERE If you’d like to buy ’em, sell ’em, or trade ’em, try Backstreets’ ticket exchange board, which allows fans to ”share the wealth.” A no-scalping-allowed policy guarantees that you won’t find any price gouging, but that doesn’t mean there’s no drama. One desperate Bruce fan from Boston is offering to throw in a lobster to sweeten the deal, while another says he will take a Bruce trivia test to prove his worthiness.

OBSESS OVER IT Entertain yourself with a Bruce desktop pattern at New Jersey Online, or better yet, pester your friends with Bruce electronic postcards from Glory Days. At NJO’s Fantasy Concert Builder you can construct your very own Springsteen concert (complete with your choice of souvenir concert-program cover, dream set list, location, benefiting charity, and famous guest star). Not recommended for those with a tenuous grip on reality.

BOOTLEG BRUCE Yeah, yeah, you say you can’t get enough Bruce, but maybe you just don’t realize how much of him is out there, at least when it comes to bootleg concert recordings. The Boots Home Page offers a breakdown of the 50 best bootlegs. Not surprisingly, 9 of them are from New Jersey concerts, but fans may also note a little era bias, since 23 on the list are from the ’70s, while only 13 from this decade make the cut. Also of interest is the mysterious tale — which began circulating among Springsteen devotees in 1996 — of the Lost Masters, an unauthorized 19-CD set of rehearsal and studio outtakes spanning 1977-1983.

HIS HOMETOWN True Bruce fans know that Asbury Park, N.J., the home of the crumbling turn-of-the-century amusement park featured in Springsteen’s ”Tunnel of Love” video, has a special place in the singer’s heart. On Backstreet’s Save Tillie news item you can get the latest on plans to resurrect the Palace Ferris wheel, believed to be the oldest existing Ferris wheel in the United States, as well as the rest of the historical site.

YEAH, BUT WHAT ABOUT THOSE OTHER GUYS ON STAGE? Think you know the E Street Band? Okay then, which member other than Max Weinberg was the musical director of a talk show? (Hint: Do you remember the ”Paula Poundstone Show”?) Or try this one: Which member, a fugitive from the law for assaulting a police officer, would disappear into the crowd after concerts to avoid arrest? Even if you get the answers right (Nils Lofgren and Danny Federici), the rest of the Boots quiz is bound to stump you at least once.

BECOME THE BOSS Want to follow in Bruce’s footsteps? You can pluck the lyrics and guitar chords of his songs at Lucky Town, which offers versions of everything from ”Born to Run” to ”The Ghost of Tom Joad.” You’ll even find Bruce’s version of Bob Dylan’s ”Blowin’ in the Wind,” cribbed from a 1988 performance in Paris, France. The answer, my friends, is just a modem click away.

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