New al­bum is a bit dif­fer­ent, and also a bit spe­cial.

Classic Rock - - Contents -

New al­bums from Bruce Springsteen, Ja­son Becker, Neil Young, King Crim­son, Beth Hart, Tank, Mark Knopfler, Tyla’s Dogs D’Amour… Reis­sues from Rush, Def Lep­pard, Manic Street Preach­ers, Mar­il­lion, Gin­ger Wild­heart, Long Ry­ders, Tan­ger­ine Dream, Eden’s Curse… DVDs, films and books on Led Zep­pelin, Joan Jett, Dave Hill, Peter Grant… Live re­views of Slayer, An­thrax, Robert Plant, Steve Miller, Shine­down, Greta Van Fleet, Obit­u­ary, MC50, Pix­ies…

Baby he was born to run, and run, and run…

All pro­trud­ing lower jaw and On The Water­front-chic, Bruce Springsteen has been step­ping on to the Wal­ter Kerr The­atre stage for 236 nights since Oc­to­ber 2017, de­liv­er­ing pretty much a one-man show based on his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy Born To Run like vir­tual Kin­dle. Fea­tur­ing 14 mono­logues, it has a song to match ev­ery ex­pe­ri­ence, ac­com­pa­nied by guitar and piano. A dra­mat­i­cally stark, if some­what ma­nip­u­lated, af­fair from Bruce’s team, pro­duced by man­ager Jon Lan­dau, there are longueurs as well as high­lights.

Ex­plor­ing the con­cept that his art is “a magic trick”, Springsteen gets his ex­cuses in early: “I have be­come wildly and ab­surdly suc­cess­ful writ­ing about some­thing that I have no knowl­edge of…” point­ing out he was writ­ing songs about Cadil­lacs long be­fore he’d ever driven one. It’s dead­pan hon­esty, al­though you some­times feel he’s overly des­per­ate to jus­tify his leg­end. But then he didn’t get to where he is to­day with­out be­ing both driven and crazy am­bi­tious.

Springsteen On Broad­way is best when he tack­les his frac­tured re­la­tion­ship with his fa­ther, whose boozy pres­ence he cred­its with forg­ing his tenac­ity, and by ex­ten­sion that of his own chil­dren, his sis­ters and his mother (“with Alzheimer’s these past seven years”) to whom he’s glo­ri­ously de­voted. Danc­ing In The Dark, ded­i­cated to mom Adele, is uni­ver­sally poignant, while My Fa­ther’s House (note the re­li­gious sym­bol­ism) is sim­i­larly loaded. His other love af­fairs, with Patti Scialfa, who he can never un­der­stand stay­ing with a man like him (cue duets with the mis­sus on Tougher Than The Rest, and a de­li­ciously sen­ti­men­tal Bril­liant Dis­guise), and Un­cle Sam add sub­stance. Born In The USA makes sense, ham­mered home as an el­egy for the Viet­nam veter­ans; like­wise The Ghost Of Tom Joad, a sub­tle re­work­ing of civil rights an­them Joe Hill.

Springsteen’s Catholic guilt (is there any other kind?) is dealt with from the view­point of some­one forced to mono­tone The Lord’s Prayer as a youth but who re­turns to the fold. Amer­ica’s shock­ing state is made ap­par­ent dur­ing Land Of Hope And Dreams, by which time the emo­tion­ally drain­ing per­for­mance seems to have turned Bruce into a ver­sion of Mar­lon Brando, aka Don Vito Cor­leone in The God­fa­ther, mum­bling “I drink more wine than I used to”.

Equal parts com­mu­nion and cathar­sis – an im­mac­u­late de­cep­tion – SOB is avail­able to view on Net­flix, and lis­ten to over four LPs, two CDs plus the usual mod­ern me­dia.

max bell

All the cow­bells, all the time

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