Bruce Springsteen to perform at Verizon Center

Bruce Springsteen at 1st Mariner Arena in 2009

BRUUUUCE! BRUUUUUCE! The boss is back on tour. He'll perform at the Verizon Center April 1.

It's the first tour for Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band since 2009 and the first without saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who died in June.

Springsteen is promoting a brand-new album, "Wrecking Ball," that's out in March. As part of the ritual that precedes every Bruce album release, fans already hate the cover.

Springsteen is one of a handful of marquee acts - Madonna and Van Halen, included - that are expected to buoy flat concert sales this year. In 2011, the top 100 tours lost about 14 percent of their audience, according to Pollstar.

However, Springsteen's choice of the Verizon Center instead of 1st Mariner Arena, where he played in 2009, highlights the Baltimore venue's difficulties in attracting the biggest names in live entertainment.

Though the venue had a hugely successful 2011 - with acts like Sade, Lil Wayne and Rihanna - it still faces stiff competition from larger, newer venues in DC, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, cities where acts/promoters also don't have to pay an amusement tax like they do in Baltimore.

General manager Frank Remesch told me recently he had not expected Springsteen to play Baltimore this year. He explained that getting blockbuster tours to play his venue is an inexact science - a combination of luck and salesmanship. To get Sade to open her American tour here, he offered free rent and marketing.

Other times that's not enough. Earlier this year, 1st Mariner also lost Van Halen to DC. Increasingly, you're likely to see more non-music events - like Disney on Ice and the motorcycle showcase Nuclear Cowboyz - as a way to pump up ticket sales. 

"Concerts are almost the icing on the cake," Remesch said.

Tickets for Springsteen's Verizon show, starting at $71, go on sale Saturday. The 19-city tour kicks off March 18 in Atlanta. It includes two shows at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center.