By the time Bruce Springsteen swaggered onto the stage Tuesday afternoon at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion, the crowd was frenzied.
Crediting his opening acts, Democratic Senate hopeful Timothy M. Kaine and a campaign volunteer for President Barack Obama. Kaine, the former governor, minced no words about being in the presence of The Boss.
"Being the last speaker before Bruce Springsteen, that is the toughest thing I have ever had to do," he said.
The New Jersey rocker made the downtown stop to stump for Obama ahead of a concert with the E Street Band later Tuesday at the John Paul Jones Arena. It was the latest in a series of campaign appearances by Springsteen aimed at stirring the president's base as Republican challenger Mitt Romney climbs in the polls.
Springsteen played for 40 minutes before the near-capacity crowd. Tickets to the event were free. His set included an impromptu campaign song, as well as such hits as "The River," "Promised Land" and "Thunder Road."
"I heard there was a good band playing nearby tonight," Springsteen joked as he strummed the opening chords to "No Surrender," a song he used to kick off recent appearances in Ohio and Iowa.
"I am here today because I am thankful for universal healthcare, and I am thankful for a more regulated Wall Street. I'm thankful that General Motors is still building cars," Springsteen told the crowd. "Otherwise, what would I write? I'd be out of business."
Before Springsteen took the stage, Kaine spoke of Virginia's importance as a swing state and encouraged the crowd to vote for Brig. Gen. John Douglass, a Democrat challenging Republican Rep. Robert Hurt in Virginia's 5th District.
"We are gathered here on this beautiful day for one purpose, and that is to keep this country moving forward," Kaine said.
Before Kaine spoke, twin brothers and Virginia National Guard veterans Seth and Eli Lovell told the crowd about their six years of experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their service, they said, was a big part of why they back Obama.
"My twin brother, Seth, and I had the extreme pleasure of serving the United States overseas, and we voted for Obama in 2008 because he made some promises," Eli Lovell said. "He has kept those promises and that is why we are voting for him in 2012."
For some in the crowd, the rally provided an early taste of what was to come from Springsteen at JPJ. For some of those who didn't get tickets to the concert, it was simply a chance to see The Boss.
Steve Sellers, of Charlottesville, no relation to the Albemarle County police chief, got tickets as an appetizer for the evening show, and to show support for the president.
"Obama and The Boss on the same day, it's unbelievable. It's an awesome two-fer," Sellers said. "I have been a dedicated Springsteen fan for years and a dedicated Obama fan for about four-and-a-half years ... We're a big Obama family."
Lester Frye attended the show with his sister Sharon mostly to show support for the president.
"It was outstanding, energizing," Frye said. "I hope Obama wins because there is a lot going on ... A lot of young people had not gotten excited before this."
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