It’s hard to believe he’s 54. And the audience isn’t that much youngerthan him. Well, unless you count the thirtysomethings.
About 17,OOO fans ofThe Boss are here to remember their own glory days, when the world’sproblems were resumed in songs they could relate to, when Born in theUSA was an anthem to vary accordingly to one’s own theme. The Boss isstill an emblematic figure of the blue-collar American society – and canspeak some French too.
A simple “Bonsoir” kicks off Bruce Springsteen‘s European tour inParis. A most solemn start. Lonesome Day, Into the Fire and themelancholic Empty Sky debut the set. The latter is almost painful as MrsSpringsteen, backing vocalist Patti Scialfa, lets her voice soar over thecrowd, marking the prelude to a song – no, a requiem, more like it. For thisis what the latest Springsteen is all about.
The Rising is dedicated to,what he calls, a city of ruins; it is like an account of the emotionalstages he went through following the September 11 attacks. Being fromAsbury, New Jersey, where much of the victims hailed from, this was apersonal tragedy for Bruce, who found the long-awaited inspiration he hadbeen waiting for rise up in the smoke of 9/11. And tonight, that’s what he’spreaching. His gospel carries hope to rise again, his 17,OOO followersmesmerised by the intensity of this phoenix’s rite.
Waitin’ On a Sunny Day finally breaks the demure aspect of the firsthalf-hour. Despite the seriousness of the new songs, The Boss still remainstrue to rock and lets it roll. The crowd finally gets what is was waitingfor: some good ol’ standard hits, such as Badlands, Darkness on the Edgeof Town, not to forget the classic Born to Run and the upbeat Dancing inthe Dark.
I wonder how many girls have come hoping to be the 1984 CourtneyCox 1984? Hmm, I wouldn’t mind dancing in the dark with The Boss. When it’stime for the anthemic Born in the USA, he continues his gospel. “Iwrote this song about the Vietnam War,” he announces in French. “I’m playingit tonight as a symbol of peace.” George W Bush, take note.
But between the albums Born in the USA and The Rising, Bruceappears to have laid aside every other one of his works, including thepre-Born masterpiece, Nebraska. The Ghost of Tom Joad lingers nowherein sound. No, he’s back to his roots playing rock ‘n roll as much for fun asthe messages he wants to get across, fulfilling his responsibility as arepresentative of the blue-collar worker. The difference is that today, he’smore philosophical and reaches beyond to the white-collars.
The legendary E Street Band, disbanded a few years ago at The Boss’request, is back too, including three new members and the ever-loyalguitarist Steven Van Zandt, taking a hiatus from Silvio Dante, hischaracter on The Sopranos. Clarence Big Man Clemens wows the crowdwith his sax, despite being upstaged for the rest of the show by keyboardplayers Danny Federici and Roy Bittan.
Newcomer SoozieTyrell weaves a country-style violin, that spinning sound of the chordswhich gives rock an edge unaccustomed to the guitar-gauged ear. And guitarsthere are. ‘Little Steven’, Nils Lofgren and Mrs Springsteendemonstrate that rock ‘n roll cannot exist without guitars, while MrSpringsteen plays the piano, accompanying My Hometown, a harmonica onstand-by hanging around his neck. That’s what I call multitasking.
Over the past three decades, Bruce has become a monument of rock, asforeseen by Rolling Stone critic Jon Landau in 1974. “I saw rock’n'rollfuture, and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” Tonight, so did I.