Bruce Springsteen

I became a Bruce Springsteen fan in 1996. In short succession I bought his 1995 greatest hits album, his acoustic record, The Ghost of Tom Joad, and attended my first show. Unlike many fans that recall their first Bruce stadium gig, my first was a small, acoustic show at Londons Brixton Academy. I was about six rows back and for three hours I listened to just Bruce, his guitar and harmonica (plus a couple of special guests). A combination of that night and the first time I actually listened to the lyrics of Dancing in the Dark and The Promised Land, which about summed up how I felt back then, ensured I became a lifelong fan.

One of the tracks he performed that night at the Brixton Academy (all those years ago when I was 19-years-old, five-and-a-half stone heavier and felt I had no place in this world) was Atlantic City. Ten years later, almost to the day, I saw him perform a very different version of that track during his Seeger Sessions tour. It struck me then how much life had changed in those intervening years, but how the one constant had been Bruce Springsteen.

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Thats what real Springsteen fans understand. His music isn't just a great listen; his songs aren't just beautifully written; the band isn't just the best live act going. Of course, it's about all those things too, but it's so much more. The music, from 1973s Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ to 2014s new release, High Hopes, is a journey. Not just his journey, but a journey familiar to many. From the youthful wild and innocent abandon of his early releases, through to the tough lessons of getting older and realizing the Promised Land is a little further away than you thought. Each album represents a progression, a shift in ideals, values, fortunes. His characters fight and win; sometimes they fight and lose. But they always exist in that gap between how life is and how it should be.

His music is also the story of America, as seen through his perceptive eyes; often critical, sometimes downbeat and pessimistic, but always defiant. From the post-Vietnam era through to 9/11, the on-going war on terror and financial crisis, Bruces lyrics and voice cut through the confusion to offer hope, levity and a dose of realism. While other stars get criticized for wading into politics, Bruce manages to stay both very much connected to current issues, and also an observer from the sidelines. He comments on the issues as someone who cares about the world around him and the effect it has on the people he grew up around. But mainly he is always there, alert to the world; to the fears, hopes and dreams that are common to the human experience.

In truth, this was going to be a review of High Hopes, but I decided to try and put my 18-year Springsteen career in words instead. Since that night at the Brixton Academy, I have seen Bruce (along with the magnificent E-Street Band) around 13 times. I've caught at least one show on every tour since 1996. In 2012, I saw him in his home State of New Jersey when he opened the MetLife Stadium; in 2013, he was kind enough to reciprocate and came to my UK base, Leeds, to open it's Arena (he actually requested the gig)! Unlike a great many other things/people in my life, the Boss has never let me down. For me, along with many other long-time fans, he is a reassuring presence in an unpredictable, weird and often cruel world.

This year, he celebrates both his 65th birthday, 50 years in music and the release of High Hopes, his 18th studio album. Put together during the recent worldwide Wrecking Ball tour, High Hopes is a compendium of previously unreleased material; although a couple of the tracks have been released in their live versions. Like his previous releases of unfamiliar material, 1998s Tracks and The Promise from 2010, it just goes to show his depth and talent. After all, how many artists could craft a second career from their leftover material?

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Posted in Music Post Date 10/20/2015


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