NEW ORLEANS - A potentially record-breaking crowd ended the first weekend of Jazz Fest with an unforgettable performance from "The Boss."
And many said Bruce Springsteen's return also is a sign of New Orleans' comeback.
As soon as the passionate, two-and-a-half hour set began, tens of thousands of fans were on their feet to cheer on Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
Some, like Amy Smith, were transported back to 2006, the last time Bruce Springsteen played Jazz Fest. That was eight months after Katrina and the raw, emotional set in a storm-ravaged city is remembered as one of the best in the festival's 40 year history.
"It was like religious," said Smith, from New Orleans. "It was beautiful."
New Orleans has come a long way since then and Springsteen's return is a reminder of a new dawn.
"Sort of flashing back but in a good way, how far we've come, we've moved along, you know, kind of overcome it. Strength," Smith said.
Springsteen spoke to the crowd in New Orleans, saying the show from 2006 stayed with him for a long time before playing "My City of Ruins." Before playing "Jack of All Trades," Springsteen addressed the mayor, speaking out on mental health care cuts, saying we should help those most in need.
"I've seen him over 50 times, and this hands down, he's playing to the crowd, he's playing songs that resonate with New Orleans. It's amazing," said Shannon Gieda of Philadelphia. "Honestly, he (addressed the crowd) more tonight that I've ever seen him do before. I think he's really feeling it with the crowd and the town and what they've been through."
Fans spent the day anticipating Springsteen's performance. Just after the gates opened at 11 a.m., fans said nearly every spot within viewing distance of the stage had been staked out. A spokesman said he had never seen so many fans resort to watching from the dirt track surrounding the fairgrounds.
"We're standing near Porta-Pottys just to watch him so that should tell you that we love him," said Gary Riddell, of Allentown, PA.
"We're rocking out out here on the race track," South Carolinian Laura Bagwell said. "The whole field is full! The whole track is full! This is the only place to be. Right here, right now. Planet Bruce forever!"
The festival's producer, Quint Davis, said Springsteen's' representatives requested his last-minute add to the line-up, a testament to the Boss' connection with the Crescent City.
"Dec. 2, I'm sitting at home in pajamas watching bowl games and Bruce Springsteen calls," Davis said. "But these are relationships."
Meanwhile, fans like Michelle Hill, of New Orleans, said they were hoping for one thing.
"I'm hoping Bruce pulls me up just like he did Courtney Cox, and I'm going to dance just like she did," Hill said while laughing. "I've been working on my dance the whole time."
And tens of thousands were having the time of their lives, knowing New Orleans has come so far from being a city in ruins.