Originally created 05/01/06

Springsteen to close first weekend of jazz fest



NEW ORLEANS - Opening weekend of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival drew thousands of fans as superstar acts and local musicians supported and celebrated the city and its music scene, suffering since Hurricane Katrina.

Bruce Springsteen HEAD:d Sunday's performances - his first appearance at the festival.

Though New Orleans is known as the birthplace of jazz and closely identified with a multitude of genres, including zydeco, blues and rap, its status and a premier music city took a huge hit last year as its musicians scattered in the storm's wake, and some clubs where music played nightly went dark.

So having two weekends of the massive Jazz Fest, now in its 26th year, was critical to helping restore the city's once vibrant music life. And many of its homegrown stars - including Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Terence Blanchard, The Meters and others - have returned to Jazz Fest to help. Joining them were superstar acts like The Dave Matthews Band, Bob Dylan and Springsteen.

Blues legend Etta James, who performed Saturday, hadn't been to New Orleans since Katrina and said at first she worried about one of her favorite haunts. But her performance Friday at the House of Blues in the French Quarter and her Jazz Fest appearance convinced her the city was on the right track.

"Now I can go back to Los Angeles and say, 'There's not too much wrong with it,'" she told The Associated Press after her performance. "It looks like to me it's coming back."

Saturday's acts delivered emotional, passionate performances. U2's The Edge joined New Orleans' NewBirth Brass Band, which has relocated to Houston, as the group sang "Stand By Me" in honor of its wounded city; The Edge later picked up his guitar for a Dave Matthews Band performance.

And New Orleans native Juvenile also tried to raise the beleaguered city's spirits. As the chorus of one rap boomed "Bounce back," Juvenile yelled to the crowd, "That's what New Orleans is about to do!"

Later, noting he was a Katrina victim as well, Juvenile said, "I ain't gonna give up on y'all."

Besides Springsteen, the acts booked for Sunday included Toussaint, performing with Elvis Costello; The Meters and Yolanda Adams.

The festival picks up next weekend with Paul Simon, Irma Thomas, Keith Urban, Jimmy Buffett, Buckwheat Zydeco and Fats Domino, who hasn't performed in public since being evacuated from his damaged Ninth Ward home after Katrina.