Despite cold and rainy weather, fans came out to Reunion Park for Sunday's big March Madness Music Festival finale. The Wind and The Wave, Pat Green, fun., and the man of the hour, Bruce Springsteen, put on a rain or shine show that couldn't be stopped or even hampered by the elements.
The usual admission capacity fear mongering that plagues any festival or high-profile live-music event in Dallas was running rampant from the early hours of Sunday morning. The Twittersphere was all a-flutter with reports of fans lining up outside the gates as early as 6 a.m., and promises that the entrance gates, which hadn't shut down due to capacity all weekend, would surely be overrun for Springsteen. Those fears however, were all for naught. Due to the rain and chill, the park never got more than half-full.
Heated and comfortable Capital One Corporate Oppression gifting suites provided a place for fans to rest and warm up in between sets, but most came prepared to brave the elements. Multiple layers, a heavy coat, gloves and a rain slicker actually made for a pretty tolerable day considering that temperatures never did drop below the 50s, and that the rain never got heavier than a steady drizzle. Nonetheless, it definitely had a factor in determining the turnout.
Pat Green had a standout set that should've been seen by a bigger audience, but the Texas country singer/songwriter was so over the moon about sharing the stage with Springsteen, a small crowd didn't seem to bother him at all. Green stated many times that this would be one of the best days of his life, to play the same bill as The Boss.
The numbers began to grow steadily by the time fun. took the stage, though it's hard to understand why. The youth of today may love the application of grandiose pomp-and-circumstance crescendos laced into overly saccharine and awkward melodies, but this reviewer wasn't here for it. Even the band's Rolling Stones cover ("You Can't Always Get What You Want") was a disingenuous swing and a miss that read with the dignity of a car commercial soundtrack.
By the time the E Street Band took the stage, the growing audience roared with delight. The Boss appeared, basketball in tow, and took part in an endearingly cheesy mock tip-off with guitarist Nils Lofgren. Then, in one of the night's biggest surprises, he opened with a cover of Van Halen's "Jump" before playing right into "Badlands," the opening track of his seminal 1978 album, Darkness On the Edge of Town. It was joyful, exuberant and emotionally charged.
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While Springsteen didn't shy away from his bigger hits, there were still a few curveball blessings within his set list. Sure, we heard "Hungry Heart," "Dancing in The Dark" and "Born to Run" -- but we also got to hear fan favorites like "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" and "Atlantic City."
Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, who recently played on Springsteen's latest album, High Hopes, has become The E Street Band's newest recruit as of late. Though he was a thrilling addition to the lineup from start to finish, Morello dropped every jaw in Reunion Park with an incredible guitar solo on "Ghost of Tom Joad" that seemed to ring out into the skyline like a fireworks show.
After a nearly three hour set, multiple Springsteen selfies taken by young girls brought onstage to dance, and the delivered promise of The Boss' ability to "bring the spirit" to Downtown Dallas for a night, things ended somewhat abruptly. After a rousing rendition of "Shout," The E Street Band took their exit from the stage. To finish out the night, Bruce performed a touching solo acoustic rendition of "Thunder Road" with his wife, Patti Scialfa, singing backup. While it was moving and intimate, it left the audience wondering if that was really it.
Overall, March Madness Music Festival was a great success, and will hopefully lead to more live music events in Reunion Park. Dallas, however, is going to need a thicker skin when it comes to springtime weather, a more cohesive lineup, and at least a week to process the powerhouse headlining set that will likely become a fond and special memory for all Dallas music fans.