“This has something to do with basketball, am I right?,” Bruce Springsteen asked at the beginning of his NCAA March Madness Music Fest performance in Dallas on Sunday. He had walked onstage with a basketball, dribbling it once or twice, as “Sweet Georgia Brown” and a bed of ominous synths played in the background. After a mock basketball tipoff, it all congealed into one big Van Halen cover – “Jump” – complete with some of this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, the E Street Band, adding some horns and sax to the song’s iconic synth line.
Springsteen’s set capped off a weekend of music centered around the annual college basketball tournament. On Saturday, the Killers, Tim McGraw and LL Cool J highlighted the festival, delivering greatest hits sets to a massive crowd, while Jason Aldean kicked off the festival Friday night.
In recent months, Springsteen has been on a real covers kick. On his Australian tour, he did his take on AC/DC‘s “Highway to Hell,” INXS’s “Don’t Change” and a twerky take on the Bee Gees‘ “Stayin’ Alive.” He also dabbled in more contemporary fare, putting a blue-collar spin on Lorde’s recent hit “Royals.” Lorde commented at the time that his version of “Royals” made her misty. “He’s such an incredible songwriter,” she said. “I got a little teary. It was very cool.”
But this week is all about recognizing another group of musicians: Springsteen’s longtime bandmates in the E Street Band. The ensemble’s arrival into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame means a lot especially to guitarist Steven Van Zandt, mostly so he won’t have to avoid questions about the Rock Hall anymore. “It’s always a bit strange when you’re in a conversation with somebody and they assume you’re already in,” he told Rolling Stone last year. “You gotta say, ‘Well, actually. . .’ That little bit of awkwardness will be gone now. And of course, you’re honored to be part of the same institution as all of my heroes.”