Thursday, January 24, 2013

Talking About Springsteen

Two authors whose latest works concerned Bruce Springsteen spoke at the local bookstore the other night.

Caryn Rose, who I knew first as fellow Mets fan and neighbor, read from RAISE YOUR HAND, a kind of rock n' roll travelogue about the experience of having followed Springsteen through five countries as he toured Europe last summer. She was joined by Marc Dolan, a professor at John Jay College and author of the new biography BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN AND THE PROMISE OF ROCK 'N' ROLL.

Rose's reading passage described a moment in Dublin when she and her companions realized they were in not for the typical Springsteen live fireworks but the kind of lengthy, thrilling spectacles upon which Bruce continues to build his legend. It's clear that Rose was energized by the opportunity to experience Springsteen perform before an audience that tended to be younger and livelier than what's become the typical American Springsteen crowd of "50-something white guys standing around waiting to hear 'Prove It'" as she described them. The implication is that Bruce returns the energy for the very same reasons.

Dolan's reading also concerned Springsteen's connection with his audience, only from a songwriting perspective, describing the artist's determination and precarious state of mind as the MAGIC album took shape. Dolan is particularly interested in Springsteen's evolution as an artist (perhaps, he's an anomaly among 50-something white male American Springsteen fans) and his point that Springsteen is to be admired for not bashing out the same formula for 40 years but continually struggling to connect was a good one, and not lost on me. I've been reconsidering the Springsteen of my youth for a few years now, and more recently I was unexpectedly stirred by WRECKING BALL's fury. His work is certainly worthy of exploration. I haven't read a Springsteen biography since Dave Marsh's valentine BORN TO RUN as a 14-year-old, but I guess it's time to begin again. I'm reminded also I haven't seen a Springsteen show in more than 20 years.

With two knowledgeable, enthusiastic and opinionated Springsteen fans on the same stage, the presentation in almost no time veered toward the arcane. Tom Morello's coming stint as Steve Van Zandt's replacement in the Australian leg of the tour turned into a nuanced discussion of the meaning of the various E Streeters. They talked about things they liked (David Sancious' contributions to "New York City Serenade") and what they didn't ("Waiting on a Sunny Day," Bruce's guarded self-image and propensity to be less-than-forthcoming in public remarks). I learned a few things (Springsteen wrestles with depression, had no idea); and humiliated myself by submitting near-blind guesses at an impossible 10-question trivia contest. I got four correct; the winner had 9 of 10. Nothing to it, Mister.

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