I've been feeling guilty about something I wrote a while back about Bruce Springsteen. It's not that what I wrote was untrue exactly, but it just wasn't complete. It was based on faulty intelligence. I gave a light backhand to We Shall Overcome, the Seeger covers album. But then I saw the Seeger Sessions tour that same summer and was (ahem) weeping by the end of it. Seriously--devastated. It was essentially an old-school religious revival and anti-war rally rolled up into a big sweaty fuck you to modern times. To wit:
Jacob's Latter (Live in Dublin) - Bruce S.
So I saw him at Madison Square Garden last night and it was once again transcendent, the best possible kind of rock'n roll spectacle there is. The New York Times agrees. When you find yourself left in mystified fervor every single time -- that was No. 7 for me -- you either conclude you've got a peculiar need, a special gene, a weakness, or there's something objectively magical happening. I hereby assert the latter, with a sprinkle of the former. For me, he single-handedly redeems the idea of being an American nowadays. Again, I was ready to dismiss the new hit single, "Radio Nowhere," until I heard it live and heard the question in the chorus, posed in shout-along anthem, a plea to our ravaged times, 60,000 fists in the air: "Is there anybody alive out there?" You can imagine the response.
One of Bruce's security detail saw my 70-year-old mother-in-law and her cane-toting 80-year-old boyfriend in the back stands (they're ambitious for their age) and gave them both front row seats. My mother-in-law said "she could have reached out and touched him." At the end, Bruce's people had a wheelchair brought out for her tuckered-out boyfriend and escorted them both out of a private exit to avoid the crowds. They didn't know any of the songs, but they couldn't stop talking about the show this morning. She had that in common with a lot of people, I imagine. Like the dude standing near the mic at Bruce's recent jam with Arcade Fire.
You know the guy's onto something when not even our tawdry, shallow, right-wing, supremely lame and bottom-feeding culture can destroy his essential integrity, as much as it tries. Here's what Bruce said on 60 Minutes last week when CBS's in-house Bush family suck-up Scott Pelley questioned his patriotism: "There's a part of the singer going way back in American history that is, of course, the canary in the coal mine. When it gets dark, you're supposed to be singing. It's dark right now. The American idea is a beautiful idea. It needs to be preserved, served, protected and sung out. Sung out."
He closed with an extended version of this song last night, inspiring jigs in the aisles:
American Land (Live in Dublin) - Bruce (Lyrics here.)
If you don't listen to anything else, listen to this:
Blinded By the Light (Live in Dublin) - Bruce