“Springsteen rehearses deliberately, working out all the spontaneous-seeming moves and postures: the solemn lowered head and raised fist, the hoisted talismanic Fender, the between-songs patter, the look of exultation in a single spotlight that he will enact in front of an audience…Springsteen has to do so much—lead the band, pace the show, sing, play guitar, command the audience, project to every corner of the hall, including the seats behind the stage—that to wing it completely is asking for disaster.”
— Excerpt from “We Are Alive” by David Remnick, The New Yorker, July 30, 2012.
The latest issue of the New Yorker features a great profile of the Boss by David Remnick. For all the criticism I’m inclined to level at modern-day Springsteen, the article demonstrates why he’s still one of my all-time favorite rock & roll songwriters and performers. It is clear from the article that he still takes his craft very seriously, and is particularly attentive to the live experience he provides for his fans. Musicians a third of Springsteen’s age would do well to take note of the dedication and intensity applied to his music. Sure, there have been some musical compromises along the way, and like any artist, the man is fraught with contradiction. But at the end of the day, I’m willing to give some leeway to the creator of timeless anthems like “Spirit in the Night” and “Born to Run.”
The New Yorker piece brings to mind my favorite Springsteen collection, Live 1975-1985. My parents owned a copy of Live on cassette, and it was the album that first got me into Springsteen. It provides a great live retrospective of arguably his most creative decade, a period spanning Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town, Nebraska, and Born in the USA. As the article implies, it’s hard to capture a Springsteen performance wherein the man is not giving his all, and Live includes a well-chosen mix of ballads, arena rockers, and melancholy acoustic numbers.