"Maybe everything that dies one day comes back."
The Metro Times, 1992-09-02, by: Stewart Francke
A note on the "death" of Springsteen. The recent notices in the mainstream entertainment press referring to Bruce Springsteen's untimely artistic demise produced in me the same strange feeling that one has when, after talking at length with someone, it is suddenly clear that neither you nor he has understood a word of what the other is saying. Much was made in magazines of Springsteen's age and income; his records were slipping because he is out of step with today's youth culture and removed from his highly empirical source--the numbing dualism of faith and fact in the American class system--after moving into affluent Beverly Hills.
This is a confused criticism, knowing all we know of any star system. It's the quality of detaching itself from its period while still *embodying* its period that creates around a piece of work a sense of excellence or relevance. As has frequently been the case with Springsteen, meaning comes from placing his material into the context of performance, where the crackling polemic becomes loud and physical --a real argument, where things are won and lost. So when the big show rolled into Detroit, opening night was without that lazy sense of affirmation inherent to a rock and roll show today. The crowd came looking for something, something tied to continuance and endurance. It was roughly about "still having it" yet uglier--if we ever did have it, was it worth having? And what did we give away to get it? Does rock and roll forever tie us to our youth, so radiant, so specific, so implied? If so is that a blessing or a curse? And it was no longer hip to like Bruce, which made him, of course, all the more likable.
Much has been written about Springsteen's singular passion and purpose; yet with his two shows in Detroit, his unique achievement was again evidenced. I'll try to get the specifics--the new band, the old songs, the new songs, the bear, did Patty sing, etc--but I find myself more interested in opening the big umbrella. Springsteen remains possibly the one rock and roll artist who has managed to establish and maintain that unshakable moral attitude toward the world we share, and also toward its temporary standards. All of the humorous allusions in his songs and concerts to "havin' a job to do" are real. There is little that is ephemeral about Springsteen; in art, as in life, there is much to be said about just showing up every day.
To clarify further: Springsteen's simultaneously issued albums were both death and birth. The scarcity of songs from _Human Touch_, when matched with the reliance on the _LT_ materials, show _HT_ to be the death, and end--to a production value or sound, to more elaborate sense of poetics, to the myth of romance, to a man nearly destroyed by his own invention. _LT_, on the other hand, is a birth, or a rebirth, of not just a man, but an artist's frame of reference for common humanity. As played by S'steen's new band, the _LT_ material shows _HT_ to be the death, an end--to a production value or sound, to more nate conflict: love and death, youth and age, fidelity and eroticism. By opening with three straight songs from LT, S'steen presents a common vocabulary for these divisions in life. Suddenly one is reminded that rock and roll is the best way we have to refresh this conflict, to embrace it, to allow it into our lives.
When compared to past tours, S'steen spoke very little each night. Instead he let song sequencing and subtle lyric changes say nearly everything. "Darkness on the Edge of Town,"'s line of "I lost my money and I lost my wife" was changed to the deepened " I lost my faith when I lost my wife." Yet now the darkness is not prophetic or poetic; it is as real as rust. It is a man trying to sing his way out of a hole. "There's no complaining of things we do to ourselves," Hemmingway wrote. Springsteen carries this deterministic code to its end--you live as you live and you either get a break or you don't.
As Springsteen launched into a jarring version of Bob Seger's "Ramblin' Gamblin' man" near the end of the second night's show, I heard a loud rush of wind circle the rafters of the Palace. I took it to be 18,000 people sighing--the stars are back in the heavens, the world's all right, he's still got it, the big show is back, we don't really miss Clarence. Or maybe it was just the sound of one guy with a guitar, comin' up for air.
1992-08-17 The Palace, Detroit, MI