CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Rising income inequality in the United States and South Africa threatens to tear their societies apart, rocker Bruce Springsteen said on Sunday before his first performance in Africa for almost three decades. Riding high on the global charts with his latest album "High Hopes", the musician stayed true to his New Jersey working class roots and socially conscious lyrics when answering media questions. "There is a tremendous problem with income inequality in the States right now and it's been increasing and increasing," Springsteen said a few hours before his opening night performance in South Africa's tourist capital Cape Town. "Initially it tears society apart and I don't think society can make good when economic differences and economic inequalities are so widespread. It is a real problem in the United States and a big problem here too," he said. A journalist had asked him whether things had got worse since 1988 when Springsteen famously compared "the systematic apartheid of South Africa" to "the economic apartheid of my own country," during an appearance in neighbouring Zimbabwe. Springsteen and the E Street Band will play three concerts in Cape Town and another one in Johannesburg, before flying on to Australia and New Zealand on February 2. It is their first concerts in South Africa since his guitarist Steven van Zandt led a campaign by rock musicians in protest against apartheid nearly thirty years ago. Springsteen played in neighbouring Zimbabwe and the Ivory Coast in 1988 as part of the Amnesty International human rights concert series, and he said it was "special" to eventually be in South Africa. "It is really incredible and special to be here," he said. One of his fans, waiting since 10 a.m. outside the concert venue about 30 km (20 miles) north of Cape Town, said they had been waiting for years for this performance. "I love his music, he is left of the government," Nico Blignaut said of the gravelly-voiced singer, known to a legion of fans as "The Boss". His latest album debuted on top of the Billboard 200 album chart in the United States and also took top spot in Britain. The album "High Hopes" is a follow-up to his 2012 album "Wrecking Ball", which also debuted at number one, and sees his regular band joined by Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello. "I don't want to spend years sitting around trying to come up with the perfect ten songs ... We want to play, we want to get out there and play for people," said Springsteen. (Reporting by Wendell Roelf)
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