BOSTON (AP) – Fenway Park echoed with the chords of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” Boss-style Saturday night as Bruce Springsteen took the field for the first rock concert of the park’s 91-year history.

“What this park needs is a rock ‘n’ roll baptism, a rock ‘n’ roll Bar Mitzvah … a rock ‘n’ roll exorcism,” Springsteen told the capacity crowd of more than 36,000, as he and his E Street Band launched into standards including “The Rising” and “Lonesome Day.”

Springsteen and Fenway, both legends in their own spheres, came together as part of the Jersey rocker’s worldwide tour, which began last summer and will wrap up Oct. 3. Fans gathered again for a second concert Sunday night.

No concerts had been held at the fabled ballpark since 1973, when 15,000 came to see the Newport Jazz Festival over the course of two days.

While past Red Sox owners rebuffed requests to play there, the new owners – who took over at the beginning of last season – said they were swayed by how closely Springsteen’s fan base matched the ball team’s.

They also said advances in field-protection technology convinced them the field’s playing surface would not be damaged and would be ready for play well before the team returns for its next home game on Friday night.

And if the Boss weren’t enough, Red Sox fans could also cheer their team’s 11-0 trouncing of the Yankees in New York earlier in the day.

“It couldn’t have been a better day,” said Mark Baron of Lexington. “There is more buzz here than at a playoff game.”

Springsteen, a known Yankees fan, gently ribbed the crowd in the Red Sox shrine regarding the teams’ lopsided rivalry. “You all know we come from New Jersey which is perilously close to New … New … New Rochelle,” he joked as he danced around the name of the hated New York Yankees. “We understand, we know how you’ve struggled with your enemies to the south.”

The first-place Yankees beat the Red Sox Sunday afternoon.

But he also took time to pay homage to the old ballpark.

“There are few places that when they’re empty you can feel the soul of the city you are in. This is one of those places. It’s always full, even when it’s empty.”

Springsteen ended the show with The Standells classic ode to Boston, “Dirty Water,” sending fans into delirium as he sang the refrain “Boston, you’re my home.”

Construction crews descended on the oldest and smallest stadium in the majors earlier this week to begin reconfiguring it for the inaugural rock concerts.

The new Green Monster seats were off limits for the show, as were the bleacher seats and a few sections in right field. But 9,100 seats were added on the field, keeping the ballpark at its usual capacity of 36,298.

The concerts are two of the final stops on a tour that began during the summer of 2002 and has gone around the country and the world. Earlier this summer, Springsteen started adding several dates at baseball parks around the country. The band announced Wednesday that they would make Shea Stadium in New York the final stop on the tour, with concerts there on Oct. 1 and Oct. 3.

City officials pulled out all the stops on the Fenway concerts, posting “Welcome to Boss-ton” signs near the park.

Tickets for the concerts sold out in less than an hour.

AP-ES-09-06-03 2328EDT



Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.