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Arroyo's show sends crowd into fever pitch

The big question: If he didn't pitch for the Red Sox, would Bronson Arroyo have sold out Avalon last night?

Of course not.

Call it a rock fantasy come true -- the handsome, blond baseball prince enjoyed his 15 minutes of rock fame (actually, about an hour, divided into two sets) and all of it consisted of cover songs. The bonus was that Arroyo brought in crack studio musicians to back him up and he did a very credible job, though he tired visibly near the end. It was as if he had reached the seventh inning and was looking for relief help, which came in the presence of fellow Sox players Johnny Damon, Kevin Youkilis, and Lenny DiNardo. They jumped up and harmonized on a completely predictable, but still zesty, encore of the Standells' ''Dirty Water."

The 2,000-plus fans, many in Red Sox gear (and the vast majority female), completely embraced Arroyo. And if it wasn't the Beatles at Shea Stadium, it wasn't too far off when some of the more eager women started chanting ''We want Bronson! We want Bronson!" just before he came on. This crowd was so friendly that even when Bernie Williams of the dreaded Yankees poked his head over the balcony, the fans cheered rather than greeting him with the typical Yankees chant that might go up at Fenway.

Arroyo made a grand entrance as he and his band (including drummer Kenny Aronoff and Alice in Chains bassist Mike Inez, who both played on his new album, "Covering the Bases") were shown on a video screen walking across the Fenway infield before crossing Lansdowne Street and entering Avalon. They then shot into the Goo Goo Dolls' ''Slide," with its embracing line, ''I want to wake up where you are." The momentum continued to build, but then the band took an unnecessary 15-minute break while the ''ESPY Awards" were shown on a video screen. They had also been shown earlier and might have been fun for some of the true sports fans to see, but they really marred the concert.

Arroyo's new studio album is better than the show he played, but he definitely didn't embarrass himself. He rocked hard on the Foo Fighters' ''Everlong" and summoned a deep passion for Pearl Jam's ''Black" and Alice in Chains' ''Down in the Hole." Tonight, he's back on the mound facing the Yankees. That might not be quite the same fantasy as last night's show at Avalon.

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