In Music Commentary

Bruce Springsteen hits the Bradley Center on St. Patrick's Day.

In Music Commentary

For diehard fans, Springsteen shows are as addictive as potato chips. You can't stop at just one.

Why Springsteen still matters

My personal pilgrimage and patronage continue this weekend, along with the majesty, mystery and mystique; the power, promise and potential; and, of course, the questions:

"How many Springsteen shows have you seen, anyway?"

A couple dozen in eight different states, with two more coming up in a 27-hour span.

"Why do you keep going to see that guy? Aren't the shows all the same?"

They're similar in a way, the core elements don't change much and a lot of the music is similar, but each show has its own unique feel. I could explain further, but not without sounding like Frank Caliendo imitating Bill Walton: "You can hear colors! You can see the music! You can experience the explosion as artists on stage and the audience meld into one cohesive and unstoppable force capable of changing the world for 2 ½ hours... "

Let's just say I like the show and leave it at that.

"How old is that dude, anyway? Isn't he about done?"

He's 58 -- and man I hope not.

Snicker if you will (my friends and family certainly do), but this weekend I'll drive to St. Paul, Minn., where some I'll catch up with Bruce and the E Street Band Sunday night at the Xcel Energy Center. Then, I'll head back home to Milwaukee for the St. Patrick's show at the Bradley Center.

Springsteen is touring in support of the album "Magic," which was released five months ago but already seems much older to the aficionados, many of whom (present company included) had advance copies of the disc several weeks before its street date.

Although it was received well by critics and fans, "Magic" certainly didn't break any records in a fractured, fragmented recording industry that is waging a losing battle against technology, its own ineptitude and consumer indifference.

But Springsteen's records -- with the possible exception of "Born in the USA," which hit stores nearly a quarter-century ago and rocketed him to rock star status -- have really never been huge commercial successes.

From his beginnings on the Jersey Shore, he's always been something of a cult figure. The fact that he refers to the E Street ensemble as "the world's biggest bar band," even when playing sold out basketball arenas or football stadiums, is an acknowledgement of that status.

In anticipation of the upcoming concerts, and the intimate gathering at which Harley-Davidson will host Springsteen and about 60,000 fans later this year, I started to question what it is that has led me to all these shows over the years.

It starts with the music. Springsteen's best songs have a cinematic quality that evoke strong and completely unique images in the minds of listeners. Even in the period when MTV and music video dominated the landscape (that's right, kids, MTV used to play videos), Springsteen's videos always seemed to augment and not override the mental pictures conjured by the music. Other bands can't make that claim. Can you listen to a ZZ Top song without thinking of the three bimbos and the red car?

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Talkbacks

Drummah | March 17, 2008 at 8:59 a.m. (report)

No disrespect to tub-thumpin Max but I'm gonna shoot this one out there. M.W. is, at best, the third best drummer in the Springsteen oeuvre. First, of course, is Vini Mad Dog Lopez and if you've heard any of the live gigs during his brief tenure, you know Ernest Boom Carter was brilliant, too. That Zack guy on the Human Touch/Lucky Town tours was good, too, but he'd have to take a back seat to M.W., I think. What's odd, is that for all his love of jazz drumming, with the E Street Band, Max can't seem to think outside the four-on-the-floor Born in the USA-style stadium drumming. Hearing him trudge ham-fistedly through songs like "Lost in the Flood" and "...Saint in the City", which were propelled by Mad Dog, one suspects a drum machine preset would have as much flair.

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Boss Man | March 17, 2008 at 7:39 a.m. (report)

I saw that thing in today's paper and was amazed at the lack of research. The solo Riverside gig was missing, the date was wrong on the Nov. 9, 2000 show (says 1999, but Bruce announced from the stage that Clinton had won). The Uptown gig passingly mentions the bomb scare but nothing about the crazy set of '50s covers with a looooossssee Bruce. I guess that explains the other article I just read on this site about the death of newspapers.

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brewguru | March 14, 2008 at 2:21 p.m. (report)

Good article Drew. Seeing Bruce in concert is like a religious experience. It's hard to describe to someone who's never been there. I've seen him in Philly and Jersey and can't wait for Monday's show. I have floor seats and hope to get right near the stage.

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Blaine | March 14, 2008 at 12:59 p.m. (report)

Have to agree with ol' Sandy. Bruce Flintsone's videos never compared to the panavision movies his songs conjured in yr mind. Even his best album Nebraska worked like a series of old movies. Granted the video-era came from the weaker albums -- Burn to Run onward, but live he still packs the whirlpool emotional punch of Born to Run/Darkness/River.

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dickdave | March 14, 2008 at 11:51 a.m. (report)

I am also a fan seeing him first in 78 and then at Miller Park many years later. The guy still puts on a great show and has tremendous energy. I will be there Monday with my wife who has never seen him.

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