Bruce Springsteen Returns to Road

AS the solitary figure strode on stage, the hometown fans roared their welcome: "BRUUUUUCE!"

They sat in rapt silence as Bruce Springsteen - accompanied only by his guitar and his harmonica - introduced his new album, "The Ghost of Tom Joad" (referring to the character in Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath.")

The focus on this rocker's first solo acoustic tour was Springsteen the songwriter. His first show, Nov. 21, was stunningly effective. Springsteen offered a dozen new songs and nine reworked older ones. The gig was a benefit for the late Harry Chapin's World Hunger Year.

The tour moved from New Jersey to California over the weekend, with two shows in Los Angeles and two in San Francisco.

"In a funny way, this is going back to the way I started," Springsteen said. "There's something about traveling light, something very basic."

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