Summer was half over by the time Bruce Springsteen's The Rising hit stores. But there is no doubt that Bruce owned the season, scoring a platinum album in less than a month and mounting the highest-profile tour so far this year.
The Rising landed at Number One on the Billboard charts July 30th, selling 525,000 copies in its first week. Only Eminem, Nelly, Dave Matthews Band and Celine Dion have had comparable debuts this year. “I think he's very happy about things.” says a source close to Springsteen. “It's an artist's dream to have such a large percentage of the audience so interested in their new music.”
The album was backed by a powerful marketing campaign, with more TV appearances (including the Today show, Late Show With David Letterman twice and three interviews with Ted Koppel) than Springsteen has agreed to before. “We'd like to take credit for the success,” says Columbia marketing director Greg Linn, “but it was Bruce who put it over the top.”
Though The Rising has had modest support by radio, Springsteen's tour — which, with thirty-nine shows, could gross upward of an estimated $58 million — has drawn sell-out crowds. “In most major cities,” says Linn, “tickets blew out instantaneously.” Particularly meaningful were shows in New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C. Cops, firefighters and celebrities including St even Spielberg, Billy Joel, Spike Lee and nearly every cast member of The Sopranos turned out for the New York show. In Las Vegas, Steven Van Zandt joined stars for a celebration at the Hard Rock Hotel.
While his tour — which criss-crosses the U.S. and Europe through 2003 — has gotten rave reviews, some hard-core fans miss the days when he played four-hour shows with changing sets. This time, Springsteen is playing mostly the same two-and-a-half-hour set each night — packed with eleven new songs and anchored by “Born to Run,” “Glory Days” and “Born in the U.S.A.” And Springsteen is keeping prices down: seventy-five dollars or less at all venues. Springsteen is playing up to four shows a week, as well as appearing on the MTV Video Music Awards and an October slot on Saturday Night Live. Following that will be European dates, including gigs in the U.K., Germany, Spain and Italy. The Rising debuted at Number One in those countries, proving that Springsteen is also a hero outside the United States.
This story is from the September 19th, 2002 issue of Rolling Stone.