Loose Ends

By JON LANDAU  |  May 19, 2006

Bruce Springsteen does it all. He is a rock ‘n’ roll punk, a Latin street poet, a ballet dancer, an actor, a joker, bar band leader, hot-shit rhythm guitar player, extraordinary singer, and a truly great rock ‘n’ roll composer. He leads a band like he has been doing it forever. I racked my brains but simply can’t think of a white artist who does so many things so superbly. There is no one I would rather watch on a stage today. He opened with his fabulous party record “The E Street Shuffle” — but he slowed it down so graphically that it seemed like a new song and it worked as well as the old. He took his overpowering story of a suicide, “For You,” and sang it with just piano accompaniment and a voice that rang to the very last row of the Harvard Square theatre. He did three new songs, all of them street trash rockers, one even with a “Telstar” guitar introduction and an Eddie Cochran rhythm pattern. We missed hearing his “Four Winds Blow,” done to a fare-thee-well at his sensational week-long gig at Charley’s, but “Rosalita” never sounded better and “Kitty’s Back,” one of the great contemporary shuffles, rocked me out of my chair, as I personally led the crowd to its feet and kept them there.

Bruce Springsteen is a wonder to look at. Skinny, dressed like a reject from Sha Na Na, he parades in front of his all-star rhythm band like a cross between Chuck Berry, early Bob Dylan, and Marlon Brando. Every gesture, every syllable adds something to his ultimate goal — to liberate our spirit while he liberates his by baring his soul through his music. Many try, few succeed, none more than he today.

It’s five o’clock now — I write columns like this as fast as I can for fear I’ll chicken out — and I’m listening to “Kitty’s Back.” I do feel old but the record and my memory of the concert has made me feel a little younger. I still feel the spirit and it still moves me.

I bought a new home this week and upstairs in the bedroom is a sleeping beauty who understands only too well what I try to do with my records and typewriter. About rock ‘n’ roll, The Lovin’ Spoonful once sang, “I’ll tell you about the magic that will free your soul/But it’s like trying to tell a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll.” Last Thursday I remembered that the magic still exists and that as long as I write about rock, my mission is to tell a stranger about it — just as long as I remember that I’m the stranger I’m writing for.

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