So I spent from 1 to after 4 in the morning listening to this AUDIO of one of Springsteen’s concerts on the WRECKING BALL tour. By LISTENING, evan a tonedeaf guy like me can pick up that the music isn’t all that great all the time, and Carl is pretty right to complain that Bruce ain’t got no rhythm. But his majestic voice is still 90% there. And you can also hear the intensity of the sing-alonging of the crowd that make “the experience” even better than the music. Certainly there’s no one who manages a longing crowd better than Bruce.

The fans are just a bit disappointed when the band plays anything from the last couple of decades, and the LOCUS CLASSICUS of the longing is the BORM TO RUN album. It’s really THUNDERROAD and JUNGLELAND, both of which anyone could listen to time and again all night long. It was even a little difficult to enjoy the band during those songs because the crowd’s singing is so loud. There’s no doubt ROLLING STONE, which does these days, admittedly, give too much of a preferential option to old performers, is right to rate Bruce no. 1 as a live performer.

It’s become way too fashionable to attribute excessive depth to the bare lyrics of Springsteen’s songs, and you shouldn’t get college credit for studying them. Both liberals and traditional conservatives are wrong to see much profundity in his identification of himself with Woddy Guthrie or his polemic against corporate America and so forth.

BUT it’s true enough that there’s nobility in Bruce being a seeker and a searcher and a reader of Walker Percy and Flannery O’Connor. And the placers and porchers ought to say more about his poetry suffering as his longings became both displaced and misplaced. What’s loosely called “the longing for transcendence” is better articulated, as Carl pointed out, in Joan Baez, not to mention Dylan and Leonard Cohen. It’s reasy to respond that Bruce’s “transcendence” is most of all in his performance.

There’s nothing inauthentic about a guy who’s eligible for Social Security giving his all for over three hours, making each song new and real in the present for an aging America and avoiding even selective nostalgia.

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Articles by Peter Lawler

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