Blinded by the Internet

New York Times, 2005-05-01, by: Tammy La Gorce
If fan site message boards on the Internet accurately reflect the artists they are built to dissect, you might expect those devoted to Bruce Springsteen to represent a comfortable steppingstone between the cranky hippies who congregate on Neil Young sites and the aging pie-eyed idealists who gather on Bono Web pages.

You would expect Mr. Springsteen's e-flock to comprise salt-of-the-earth, regular guys and thoughtful, plainspoken poets draped in denim and leather and gunning the occasional Harley.

But as the days ticked down to the release last Tuesday of Mr. Springsteen's new album, ''Devils & Dust,'' regular loggers-on to the most heavily trafficked Springsteen sites -- brucespringsteen.net, greasylake.org, backstreets.com and nj.com's Springsteen forum -- shelved all inclinations toward Jimmy Stewart humility in favor of airing their ornery sides.

Proprietary outrage was the unexpected byproduct of the ''Devils & Dust'' buildup for fans who are usually more concerned with subjects like ''What is it with Bruce's hair?'' (brucespringsteen.net) and '''Brilliant Disguise' is criminally underappreciated'' (backstreets.com). The awarding of 140 tickets to the April 5 Red Bank taping of a VH1 Springsteen ''Storytellers'' show to the Chapel Hill, N.C.-based Backstreets site, for example, prompted an indignant nj.com forum fan to sniff: ''A lot of friends and family members of Backstreets will be at VH1. Did anyone from Jersey win?''

Days later on the same site, a subscriber was taken to task for calling the title track and first single off the new album, which had been available on America Online, ''ordinary at best.'' ''Even though I have attended over 100 concerts and own every piece of Bruce recorded material (yes even the 17 different bootleg versions of 'You Can Look'),'' the writer known as HazyAgain was elbowed into conceding, ''I am not a TRUE Bruce fan.''

Maybe the most surprising backbiting brought on by the imminent-release fever, though, was aimed at the Boss himself. While the response to the song ''Devils & Dust'' has brought about the usual breathless praise about brilliant lyrics and a haunting melody -- read: dull but important -- HazyAgain was not the only fan left lukewarm by the track. Lord Stanley, a brucespringsteen.net writer, gave the song a B minus, saying, ''The lyrics don't really zing. It seems contrived.''

Another fan, on a Greasylake thread called ''Bruce Stacks the Deck,'' was dismayed to discover that during the VH1 taping Mr. Springsteen, to make his audience appear younger, allowed only the more fresh-faced participants to crowd the stage. (If you were too gray, you got banished to the darkness beyond the edge of the stage.)

And then this: ''Ninety-three dollars for a non-band tour?'' wrote Central Joisey, a Backstreets subscriber, upon being apprised of ticket prices for the Springsteen concerts. ''This is really outrageous.''

Notes

Topic