The Boss – reliably

It’s not often you’ll get Robert Fripp and Bruce Springsteen in one blog entry but here we go…

image Went to see Springsteen at Hampden last night. Sound wasn’t great, but the sense of occasion and party feeling was.  It’s the fantasy of most performers to have a huge crowd, desperate to see you, knowing all the words and feeding you constantly with energy and love. But after 40 years of this at pretty much every gig, Springsteen doesn’t take any of it for granted. There is clearly as much respect flowing from the stage as there is flowing to it, and he feels he has to earn every cheer he gets.

Fripp recently posted in his blog that what discipline and practice give you is reliability, repeatability and response-ability. You can see that with Springsteen. The mighty E Street Band is the engine, and he clumps around like an engineer overseeing an installation, paying attention to detail and making sure the energy it generates reaches every corner of the auditorium.  Interesting to see how he deals with his musical longevity, history and expectations. While Dylan deals with it by confounding expectations and avoiding repetition, Springsteen’s arrangements are pretty much note for note unvarying over the decades and faithful to the album version. Dylan seems to have little interest or respect for recording. Springsteen records meticulously then performs the recorded version live as closely as he can. But this is no Madonna/Kylie equivalent of dancing to a prerecorded tape. He inhabits every song as if he’d just written it and was desperate to play it. Bruce’s approach also includes ‘response-ability’ where the band are so tight and rehearsed, he can go round half way through the set gathering placards from the crowd with painted requests and easily choose three to do – a different three every night, if you view the set lists on his site. It’s easy to be sceptical and say every E Street arrangement is pretty simple, but it’s not really so, especially with Born To Run and earlier stuff. 

Here’s a group of near 60-year-olds who’ve played together since their 20s and clearly love each other – they seem to even know from Bruce’s ‘Waan two three four’ what the song’s going to be! The only rest he seems to take is to le the crowd sing a few lines and even then he’s running from side to side whipping them up, picking out faces and reaching out to the back stands.

An old friend once said of a Rod Stewart gig that the point was you thought it could be you up there, and his job was make it look as much fun as it would be for you – not to say ‘hey I’m interesting’ or ‘hey, I’m deep’.  More ‘Hey I’m lucky to be here and I’m not going to be seen to waste a minute!’. At its most basic it’s respect – an awareness that everyone there has made a lot of effort and paid a good whack to be there and his job is to make them glad they did. From the opening ‘Badlands’ to the closing ‘Twist and Shout’ three hours later, he did, and he will at every other gig on his tour.

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