It was as if Bruce Springsteen invited 5,100 of his closest friends over for a while to listen to a few tunes he had put together in his spare time.
But the setting was a packed concert hall at the downtown Fox Theatre.
Springsteen performed 27 songs Monday night, including most of the 12 new songs from his latest release "Devils and Dust," which was recorded without the E Street Band.
Springsteen told the audience to switch off their cell phones and sit quietly during the show. The mostly dark stage was often illuminated with red, purple and blue lighting cascading down the drapes on each side, creating an elegant yet intimate setting.
Springsteen, dressed in a black shirt with rolled-up sleeves and jeans, had a harmonica around his neck, a couple of microphones, a guitar, a piano, speaker monitors, a dimly lit beaded lamp on a table and an old-style chandelier. A stagehand brought him several guitars over the course of the night.
The 2 1/2-hour concert marked the first in a 13-city North American acoustic tour. Springsteen will perform in theaters and in arenas scaled down to a theater format. This is his first solo act since the "Ghost of Tom Joad" tour in 1996-97.
Most concertgoers had not heard the new songs; only the title track could be heard online and on the airwaves before the album's release, set for Tuesday.
The romantic, somewhat upbeat "Maria's Bed" got the biggest reaction among the new songs, with one fan yelling, "that's a keeper!"
Springsteen kept it light, occasionally joking with the crowd. He recalled times when his parents would listen to the Top-40 stations filled with love songs on the radio. He said his dad believed love songs "were a government conspiracy to get you married, have children and pay taxes.
"That stuck with me for about 40 years," he said before singing "For You."
After performing what was supposed to be the last song, "Matamoros Banks," from the new CD, Springsteen returned to the stage to chants of "Bruuuuuce!" to do four more of his older works including "Waitin' on a Sunny Day," which he let the audience sing with him, and a stark, stripped-down version of one of his most popular, uplifting anthems, "Promised Land."
"Devils and Dust" was to be released in a dual-disc format, with the full album compact disc on one side and a film and bonus material are on the opposite DVD side.
Springsteen had most of the tunes nearly finished by 1997, but put them aside in favor of a 1999 reunion tour with the E Streeters. That tour led to 2002's "The Rising," a musical reaction to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Upcoming tour dates include April 28 in Dallas, April 30 in Phoenix and May 2-3 in Los Angeles.