Bruce Springsteen Shows That He's No Longer the 'Boss'

Syracuse Post, 1992-11-14, by: Larry Hoyt
The concert had it's high points, but the rock star needs the E Street Band
Bruce Springsteen is rock'n'rolls man-in-the-middle. As he repeatedly showed during his mixed-bag marathon concert at the Carrier Dome Friday night - before a less-than-sell-out crowd of around 30,000 - the singer-songwriter once referred to in pop music as "the Boss" is no longer the top player in the rock'n'roll ballgame. Neither a "golden oldie" nor an upstart challenger on the cutting edge, Springsteen is now, at 43, a cagy rock veteran busy redefining his image, his sound, and the focus of his message.

The concert began shortly after 8 p.m. with Springsteen's warm greetings to the crowd: "Hello, my friends. Ready for a big night in the big room?" Then came Springsteen's drill-sargeant countdown - one of the most familiar send-offs in the annals of rock: "One, two, a one two three FOUR." Springsteen and his new 10-piece band tore into "Better Days". one of the better songs from Springsteen's two recent albums, "Lucky Town" and "Human Touch," opening the show on a positive note. Raising his right hand in the air, as if he were "testifying" at a gospel revival meeting, Springsteen set the stage for the flow of gospel and R'n'B musical influences that appear more regularly in his recent work. "Local Hero," one of his lesser new songs, followed, complete with an extended dual electric guitar jam with second guitarist Shane Fontayne that turned into a jumble of overamplified, earpiercing distortion.

In years past, when Springsteen toured with his former band mates, the E Street Band, Springsteen's melodies often soared in arrangements featuring Clarence Clemons' saxophone, the keyboard work of Danny Federici, and the tasteful guitar work of Nils Lofgren or Little Steven Van Zandt. On this tour, the E Street Band has been left behind, and their presence is sorely missed.

While a former E-Streeter, "Professor" Roy Bittan, still adds his own trademark keyboard licks to such Springsteen classics as "Darkness on the Edge of Town" and "Badlands," too much of Springsteen's new sound relies solely on the sonic attack of the electric guitar. Too many times Friday night, the dual guitar assault from Springsteen and Fontayne came across, not as a melodic exchange, but rather as a chaotic cat-fight. Springsteen's current band features a five-member vocal chorus that added a luch texture to the gospel qualities of "Real World," and complemented the moodiness of "Darkness on the Edge of Town". Backup singer Bobby King was especially impressive when he stepped out front with Springsteen for "A Man's Job" and the strolling exhortations of "Roll of the Dice."

Also included in the first of two roller-coaster sets were new tunes "Lucky Town," "Big Muddy," the overwrought "57 Channels (And Nothing On)," "Living Proof," "I'm Waiting for You" - this dedicated to Bill Clinton ? and the rollicking "Leap of Faith." Generally, the older songs received the best audience response - "Trapped," "The River," "Cover Me," "Bobby Jean," "Thunder Road," "Working on the Highway" and "Born to Run." To his die-hard fans, Springsteen may still be Boss, but to a good part of the mainstream rock audience, the Boss's glory days are fading.

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1992-11-13 Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY