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NEW ORLEANS — Last year, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival was marred by rains that required tractor-loads of soil to make the Fair Grounds merely muddy. This year, as if in compensation, JazzFest passed without a drop of rain and some of the most consistently lovely weather in recent memory. The weather suited the good-time vibe of the festival that began as a celebration of New Orleans' roots music and has grown into something bigger.

THEY CALL HIM BRUCE

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band is emblematic of what JazzFest has become — a band that shares values with the music that defined the festival when it started in 1970 — and The Boss has become its favorite non-local son. He caused long lines Saturday when the gates opened as fans arrived early to set up camp at the stage he would play at the end of the day. Early arrivers were treated to a set of New Orleans classics by one of the architects of the city's music, Allen Toussaint, as well as a cavalcade of stars in the coastal-erosion-conscious supergroup, Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars.

When Springsteen opened with High Hopes, the title track from his recent album, the audience was larger than some towns in Louisiana, and they were unified by their love of the man. The set featured most of the staples from recent tours, along with songs from We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, an album he debuted when he performed in 2006 at the first JazzFest after Hurricane Katrina.

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Springsteen brought new New Orleans resident Rickie Lee Jones onstage to sing backing vocals, then Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Fogerty to play Creedence Clearwater Revival's Green River, followed by a sing-along-friendly Proud Mary. Two and a half hours later — a short set by Springsteen's standards — he finished with Thunder Road and sent the crowd out happy.

SECOND-LINE STANDOUT

Arcade Fire's set Sunday was an interesting counterpoint to Springsteen's. Like, Springsteen, the Montreal-based rockers think big thoughts and have a big band to express them, with as many as 11 people on stage at times. Like Springsteen, Arcade Fire went into the audience, but where Bruce went through a cleared path to a stage erected in the crowd, the local Pinettes Brass Band was waiting for Arcade at the lip of the stage and played the wordless melody to Wake Up as the band second lined toward the soundboard, then turned right and aimed for a pathway on the Fair Grounds' infield with only a security worker to help clear a path. It might have been a first for Jazz Fest — certainly in recent years — and it was a memorable end to their tour and a set that brought much of the band's Reflektor album to life.

FIRST WEEKEND: JazzFest shows staying power

After that, Jazz Fest needed an assertion of classic New Orleans funk values, and today Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue are the contemporary band that best bridges The Meters and other local funk greats with the current music world. There's as much rock as funk in Shorty's sound, but neither are compromised in the union, and like The Nevilles, Shorty's a natural. His smile is easy and unassuming, and he can be as broad as a stage demands without seeming phony. His trumpet- and trombone-playing are equally effortless and appealing; his first trombone solo included a few playful, showy trills to say that he's just having fun.

COACH CHRISTINA

JazzFest fans annually debate what should and shouldn't be on the Fair Grounds, and pop stars are usually singled out by purists. Christina Aguilera followed CeeLo Green and Maroon 5's Adam Levine as the third coach from NBC's The Voice to play JazzFest (is Blake Shelton next?), and she made no effort to hide her baby bump in a tight black minidress. "My senses are heightened," she told the crowd Friday, rubbing her tummy. "You smell wonderful."

Aguilera didn't make any obvious concessions to her pregnancy, but she was also in no hurry to get to the stage, starting slightly more than 15 minutes late. She got in the spirit of the festival by singing Nina Simone's Sugar In My Bowl (the first time onstage, she said) and B.B. King's The Thrill Is Gone. But those songs mixed with her hits, Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love, Maroon 5's Moves Like Jagger and her collaboration with Pitbull, Feel This Moment, left the set feeling unfocused and out of spirit with the festival, even with her powerful voice.

HURRAY FOR LOCAL TALENT

On Friday, the festival got good news when title sponsor Shell announced that it would extend its arrangement with JazzFest another five years. That day also saw the emergence of another major New Orleans talent when Hurray for the Riff Raff performed in the afternoon before labelmates Alabama Shakes. Singer Alynda Lee Segarra has received critical acclaim for her writing on the band's recent album, Small Town Heroes, which tells the stories of people living bohemian lives in New Orleans today with music that harkens back to century-old Appalachian folk songs. The plainspoken quality of Segarra's voice gave the characters in her songs their emotional due while remembering that the music is supposed to be fun.

On Thursday, New Orleans brass band the Soul Rebels showed the benefit of a year with a performance that drew on old-school funk's tradition of non-stop grooves with arrangements that scale marching bands down to five horns and three percussionists. The set was dominated by covers, many from the Power = Power free mixtape on the band's website, but the Rebels expressed their personality on every song, whether they wrote it or not.

The second weekend of JazzFest started Thursday with an appearance by Lyle Lovett. Lovett parted ways with his record label in 2012, so the set had a charming lack of urgency that suited the laid-back Texan. The show was dominated by favorites including If I Had a Boat and Nobody Knows Me, and his performance was impeccable and classy. In the inclusive spirit of the festival, he shared the spotlight with fiddle player Luke Bulla and guitarist Keith Sewell, each of whom sang one of their own songs.

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