CAPE TOWN: Rocker Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band wowed fans on Sunday night opening their first concert in South Africa with a rousing tribute to the late Nelson Mandela.
He kicked off the show in Cape Town with "Free Nelson Mandela", a song written by British musician Jerry Dammers and made famous in the 1980s by The Specials later renamed The Special AKA.
The track was released to protest against the imprisonment of Mandela by the apartheid regime.
But it soon became the unofficial anthem for the international anti-apartheid movement that piled pressure on the then white minority regime in South Africa.
Mandela died aged 95 on December 5 last year at his Johannesburg home.
It was Springsteen and the E Street Band's first performance in South Africa, nearly three decades after they took part in the famous Artists United Against Apartheid in 1985.
The Mandela song was a "nice surprise because it was a personal song for the audience. People were on their feet," said one fan at the concert, who asked to remain anonymous.
Earlier Springsteen told reporters that the country's transformation to democracy "was a miracle" and that it was "very special to be here".
He and the E Street Band have three concerts slated for Cape Town and one billed for Johannesburg as they kick off a world tour that will take them to Australia and New Zealand next month.
"Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band performed to a sold out audience," in the 10,000-seater Bellville Velodrome, said organiser Big Concerts' spokeswoman Gwen Ironsi.
The performance in Cape Town coincided with the launch of his 18th studio album, "High Hopes" released early this month.
Springsteen, who has sold 120 million albums worldwide and won 20 Grammy Awards is known widely as "The Boss".
During the concert in Cape Town he received rapturous applause as he belted out old favourites that included "Born to Run" and "Hungry Heart" from a career that spans more than 30 years.
The show ended with his signature title "Born in the USA"