Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Bruce Springsteen - my review of a show that was born to win

You may want to attempt reading this - but you may need a strong stomach if you don't like New Jersey's finest. This is my review of Glastonbury headliner Bruce Springsteen as printed in tomorrow's Bath Chronicle et al...

When you are a rock star as big as Bruce Springsteen you only ever usually play to the converted. Every time Springsteen normally takes to the stage on one of his many epic tours he can be confident that everyone there has paid large sums of money because they want to watch, listen and sing along with The Boss. They are on his side – they are his people.

But, as it is for everyone else, Glastonbury is oh so different.

As all the tickets were sold before Springsteen was even confirmed on the bill, he must have known he was facing something very rare for him – the musical equivalent of a sporting ‘away match’ where not everyone was necessarily a worshipper at the altar of Bruce.

Could he cope? Could he entertain and delight a crowd who, for the most part, wouldn’t even know any of his material?

Could he heck.

Springsteen was simply magnificent on that balmy Saturday evening and for the 160 minutes he dominated the Pyramid stage, he gave a performance of passion, exuberance, exhilaration and musical majesty. I am certain he will have satisfied all his true fans (and I speak as someone who has been a devotee for 30 years) and, I imagine, he will have converted many more ‘newbies’ in both the park and in TV land with a staggeringly energetic show that belied the singer’s 59 years.

One of the things that really impressed me was that he also produced a totally uncompromising set. He could have easily relied on better known tracks such as Born In The USA and Hungry Heart to help him through but Springsteen ignored them and gave a fully rounded performance which included not only some of his traditional toe-tappers but a few of the more delicate, challenging and less well known moments from his amazing repertoire. A repertoire remember, that spans nearly 40 years and has yielded 120 million album sales worldwide.

As an example of his approach, on his brilliant new studio album Working On A Dream there are many wonderful, poppy singalongs (This Life, Kingdom of Days, Surprise, Surprise) but Bruce ditched them all and instead played an 11-minute version of the more complex and less immediate Outlaw Pete from that same album. It took guts in a way – but Springsteen has always had those.

So, acknowledged classics like Thunder Road, The River and a delightfully elongated Dancing In The Dark sat alongside lesser known beauties such as Waiting On The Sun and The Ghost Of Tom Joad, and there was even a stunning unreleased track, Hard Times, written in the mid-19th century no less which resonated about the economic situation that we live in in a typically Springsteen-esque socially aware way.

With Bruce it is not just about the songs however. It is about the whole performance and once again he showed what an amazing front man he is. Out of the words of some, his powerful exhorting of the crowd to mirror his musical passion might have sounded cheesy, but with Springsteen you sincerely believe he sincerely believes it. The man does not have a cynical bone in his body and the way he struts across the stage with a smile on his face and a burning spirit in his soul, shows that this is a man at the very top of his game.

OK, I’m sure not everybody ‘got it’ and that’s fine. But for those who did, I’m sure they came away knowing, as I did, that we had been in the presence of a truly great and inspirational man who is, was and always will be the embodiment of the very best that rock and roll has to offer.

Put simply, Glastonbury saw why many of us believe that Bruce Springsteen is the greatest living American.

The Boss bossed it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One of my long standing dreams was to attend Bruce Springsteen concerts live. . I know all the words of his songs by heart …well he is performing this year. Next weekend I’m going to visit my sister and we will attend his
concert; someone recommended me to get cheap tix.So I'll be analyzing as well as enjoying the concert.