It’s hard to believe he’s 54. And the audience isn’t that much younger than him. Well, unless you count the thirtysomethings.
About 17,OOO fans of The Boss are here to remember their own glory days, when the world’s problems were resumed in songs they could relate to, when Born iIn The USA was an anthem to vary accordingly to one’s own theme. The Boss is still an emblematic figure of the blue-collar American society – and can speak some French too.
A simple “Bonsoir” kicks off Bruce Springsteen‘s European tour in Paris. A most solemn start. Lonesome Day, Into the Fire and the melancholic Empty Sky debut the set. The latter is almost painful as Mrs Springsteen, backing vocalist Patti Scialfa, lets her voice soar over thecrowd, marking the prelude to a song – no, a requiem, more like it. For this is 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 emotional stages he went through following the September 11 attacks. Being from Asbury, New Jersey, where much of the victims hailed from, this was a personal tragedy for Bruce, who found the long-awaited inspiration he had been waiting for rise up in the smoke of 9/11. And tonight, that’s what he’s preaching. His gospel carries hope to rise again, his 17,OOO followers mesmerised by the intensity of this phoenix’s rite.
Waitin’ On a Sunny Day finally breaks the demure aspect of the first half-hour. Despite the seriousness of the new songs, The Boss still remains true to rock and lets it roll. The crowd finally gets what is was waiting for: some good ol’ standard hits, such as Badlands, Darkness On The Edge Of Town, not to forget the classic Born To Run and the upbeat Dancing In The Dark.
I wonder how many girls have come hoping to be the 1984 Courtney Cox 1984? Hmm, I wouldn’t mind dancing in the dark with The Boss. When it’s time for the anthemic Born In The USA, he continues his gospel. “I wrote this song about the Vietnam War,” he announces in French. “I’m playing it 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 nowhere in sound. No, he’s back to his roots playing rock ‘n roll as much for fun as the messages he wants to get across, fulfilling his responsibility as a representative of the blue-collar worker. The difference is that today, he’s more philosophical and reaches beyond to the white-collars.
The legendary E Street Band, disbanded a few years ago at The Boss’s request, is back too, including three new members and the ever-loyal guitarist Steven Van Zandt, taking a hiatus from Silvio Dante, his character on The Sopranos. Clarence Big Man Clemens wows the crowd with his sax, despite being upstaged for the rest of the show by keyboard players Danny Federici and Roy Bittan.
Newcomer SoozieTyrell weaves a country-style violin, that spinning sound of the chords which gives rock an edge unaccustomed to the guitar-gauged ear. And guitars there are. ‘Little Steven’, Nils Lofgren and Mrs Springsteen demonstrate that rock ‘n roll cannot exist without guitars, while Mr Springsteen plays the piano, accompanying My Hometown, a harmonica on stand-by hanging around his neck. That’s what I call multi-tasking.
Over the past three decades, Bruce has become a monument of rock, as foreseen by Rolling Stone critic Jon Landau in 1974. “I saw rock’n'roll future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” Tonight, so did I.