Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band Concert Preview (2000)

(As published in the Times of Acadiana ... )

The Gig: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
New Orleans Arena, New Orleans
Sunday, March 19, 7:30PM
Tickets: $36.50 - $66.50

Last year’s reunion of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and their return to the sports-arena circuit was a long-overdue musical one-two punch to the pierced, tattooed gut of Generation X. “Enough!” Springsteen must have thought after hearing one too many Korn songs. “Not only have I seen the future of rock-and-roll, I was the future of rock-and-roll! Back to the future!”

Actually, it was Huey Lewis who sang on Back to the Future. Springsteen contributed to another Michael J. Fox vehicle, 1987’s Light of Day. So he got confused. It’s the sort of mistake anyone could’ve made, especially anyone for whom 1987 and mistakes went together like love and marriage--or, in Springsteen’s case, marriage and divorce. 1987 was not only the year in which he released Tunnel of Love but also the year in which he and his wife Julianne Phillips realized that the light at the end of the tunnel was a downbound train.

One year later, he was a happily re-married man, but the great music had stopped, perhaps in part because the greatness of his music had always sprouted from the emotionally rich soil of honest convictions passionately held--naive and overstated convictions maybe, but honest ones all the same. Now, by refusing to be bound by solemn ties, he’d revealed his emotionally rich soil to be nothing more than the clay of which his feet were made. As if to make assurance double sure, he divorced himself from his other better half, the E Street Band the following year.

The albums that Springsteen released after this point veered between honorable attempts to maintain old turf (Lucky Town, Human Touch, The Ghost of Tom Joad) and by-no-means-dishonorable attempts to capitalize on his glory days (Greatest Hits, Tracks). Although they sold well and elicited positive reviews, they failed to resonate with such dominant ’90’s demographics as the Lollapalooza and the Garth Brooks audiences--ironically so in that both Lollapalooza and Brooks owed at least some of their ability to unite vast hordes to Springsteen’s having spent two decades whetting the appetite of the common man for large-scale spectacles.

Put it this way: In 1984 Rick Springfield recorded a song called “Bruce” about his frequently being mistaken for Springsteen; by Woodstock III Springsteen could’ve only boosted his profile by recording a song called “Rick.”

If the downward trajectory of Springsteen’s latest decade, however, suggests that too little self-knowledge is a dangerous thing--to what artistic heights might he have risen had he plumbed the spiritual depths required to save his first marriage?--his decision to reform the E Street Band and barnstorm while the barnstorming is good suggests that he now both understands and accepts his limitations.

Recent set lists confirm as much. Of the twenty-four songs that he played on March 6 at the Ice Palace in Tampa, Florida, five of them were from Born to Run (1975), three from Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978), and six from The River (1980). That’s nearly sixty percent vintage Boss.

Yet in some ways the Reunion Tour is anti-nostalgic as well. Conspicuously absent from the Tampa show were songs from Born in the U.S.A. (1984), which has sold over fourteen million copies in the U.S. alone. Of its seven top-ten singles, only the title cut has been making it to the stage. Also missing has been “Rosalita,” the epic climax of Springsteen’s shows for many a year--and quite possibly the best song he ever recorded.

The meaning here, if any there is, is by no means obvious. Then again, from “into the river we’d dive” to “oh, oh, oh, I’m on fire,” Springsteen has often implied a unity in opposites that only the wisdom that comes with age can fathom. That at fifty he remains both willing and able to rouse his fan base by involving them in his self-discovery is as good a reason to go back to the future with him as any.

No comments:

Post a Comment