giovedì 29 novembre 2007
TAKE A HOLIDAY IN SPAIN - Bruce Springsteen a Madrid/Bilbao, 26 e 27 novembre 2007
In early September 1982, more than 25 years ago, I was walking the streets of Madrid listening to a cassette tape that had some very good music and more than a little hiss. It was a pre-release of Nebraska that a friend gave me on that holiday in Spain. When the album came out, some weeks later, surprisingly some of the hiss was still there on the vinyl, but I didn't care. It was part of the deal. Those songs sounded so rough and brilliant - and they still do.
Back then, I had the feeling my favorite artist was speaking to me and a few others. Could I imagine that, after those folky songs that followed The River, Bruce Springsteen was going to become everybody's artist? No. Born in the U.S.A. proved that I lacked some imagination. And I still do, when it comes to predicting what Springsteen's next move is going to be.
Now that he is everybody's artist, I don't give a damn that he is still a hard ticket. I travelled back to Spain to see the first two nights of this European leg, and I found what I was hoping for when sitting in La Plaza del Sol a quarter of a century ago, with my headphones blasting "Reason to Believe." I had dreamed of how that spare, bluesy rock'n'roll would sound if played with the magnificent E Street Band. As we all left the El Palacio De Deportes after the opening night of this 2007 European tour, my ears still resonated from what - once again - I was not so brave to predict. The new, roaring version of "Reason to Believe" at least doubled the pleasure I had when San Diego rockers Beat Farmers covered the tune in 1985. This E Street Band treatment shows how powerful Bruce and his mates can be when they challenge themselves to jump the fence and leave some of their cliches behind. That's when they turn from great to extraordinary.
What I now hope is that the challenge continues through what is shaping up to be a long tour, as it returns to the U.S. and comes back here for the summertime.
In 1984-85, Springsteen had a strong album to tour behind, but he still expanded his already brilliant catalogue to extremes that made you think he never stopped writing, thinking, considering or reconsidering his work. Newly written songs like "Sugarland" and "Man at the Top" came. "Shut Out the Light" was not forgotten, as many B-sides tend to be. "Atlantic City," in its live incarnation, became so wild and powerful, I imagined Bruce listening to a lot of U2 and Big Country before hitting the road. To many of us, all of that made Springsteen an artist you wanted to go see perform night after night after night.
Now, in 2007, nine songs out of 12 from Magic are in the set, yet I don't have a feeling they strongly mark the tour. How can that be possible? Are they weak songs? Not at all. "Radio Nowhere" is a powerful opener, and "Long Walk Home" (which shines even more with Steven's vocals) is a magnificent example of how Bruce is probably the only artist of his generation still capable of matching today his finest writing of yesterday. "Girls in Their Summer Clothes" is the perfect pop song you'd might not expect at this point in Bruce's career, but there it is: brilliant, lovable, simply beautiful. So what's the problem?
I thought about it, and the answer (at least to me) lies in what surrounds those new ones in the set. So many of the other songs -- other than "Reason to Believe," of course -- make me feel it's 1999 or 2002 again. "Tunnel of Love," which in Madrid sounded so good and was linked thematically to "I'll Work For Your Love," is a good example of how an old and (recently) rarely played song can pop up and benefit the show much better than others.
Bilbao was a hell of a show. But I also can't help feeling that this tour has an incredible potential hidden somewhere. A smarter rotation of the songs, some sacrifice (ironically, I think dropping a couple of Magic songs might benefit the rest, allowing people to better focus on the new tracks), a couple of covers (think back to 1988 - how great were Tunnel of Love songs in the context of the live show, surrounded by great cover choices?) and a new, more adventurous approach to old classics would make our minds blow.
Or, as the Counting Crows sing in "Holiday in Spain" (a song I think would not exist without Bruce Springsteen), should I "flush my worries down the drain"?
dal sito Sony/Columbia www.brucespringsteen.net