Bruce Springsteen: Boss or Bore?
Photo by Antonio Rossi
Bruce Springsteen — the Boss, our beloved headband-wearing, blue-jeans-clad, all-American Everyman — is one of the most mind-numbing superstars in the history of rock 'n' roll. Over the course of a nearly five-decades-long career, Springsteen has solidified himself as a well-liked white dude from New Jersey who got rich making safe, midtempo bar anthems for other white dudes just like him: "working class," rough around the edges, and accessible.
So then why do tickets to his current tour run anywhere from $60 to more than $150 after fees and taxes? Why is he consistently selling out shows on a tour in which he essentially plays one goddamned album for three hours? After reading some of the reviews from national publications raving about his "River" tour, I can't help but stop and wonder: Am I missing something? As Springsteen and his E-Street Band prepare for a stop this week at BB&T Center in Sunrise, I've sought out answers to the question of this idol worship by both diehard fans and the media alike.
Even Jon Stewart, known for touting independent, progressive ideas, gushes over him in a 2012 interview he conducted with the Boss for Rolling Stone. Granted, Stewart grew up 30 miles from Springsteen's hometown. Still, it's not just larger media outlets like Stone that bow down to Springsteen, whose "Boss" moniker actually conjures up images of some asshole in a cheap tie lording over an office full of sad, cubicle-dwelling prairie dogs. It's also the arrogant, know-nothing muckety-mucks who run awards shows like the Grammys.
In 2003, Springsteen won the award for Best Rock Album with The Rising. "Are you shitting me?" is a thought that probably crossed my mind back then. That album, on which former band mates reunited after 15 years, came off as pandering and overtly patriotic after the tragedies of 9/11. In the same year in which Absolution by Muse, Transatlanticism by Death Cab for Cutie, and Elephant by the White Stripes came out, the win for Springsteen just didn't sit well with me.
Then there's the record the Boss has managed to fashion into an entire U.S. and European tour, 1980's The River. Rolling Stone ranks it among the greatest rock albums of all time, and All Music scores it with a coveted five stars. And yet, it features a track, "Drive All Night," in which the protagonist drives around town looking for an open shoe store — that's it. Why? You see, he's trying to win back his scorned lover with a new pair of shoes. Could this premise be one of the most insipid, quasi-sexist setups for a love song ever? Oh, and it's eight-and-a-half minutes long.
Outside of "Streets of Philadelphia," a deliberately and successfully maudlin track, no other Springsteen song has ever truly grabbed my attention. Maybe "Born in the U.S.A.," but that's for different reasons; it's the kind of song Americans who chant "U.S.A.!" in large groups, for absolutely no reason, love. It's mindless, nationalistic rabble-rousing.
All that aside, Springsteen is so meh that if he were to be kidnapped by aliens tomorrow, I'd maybe spend a few minutes pondering how long it'd take before the little green men decided to give him and his collection of ho-hum songs back to us. Then I'd forget about it entirely, hit shuffle on my iPod, and enjoy hours of endlessly exciting rock music by much less bossy men and women.
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, February 16, at BB&T Center, 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise. Tickets cost $55 to $150 plus fees via ticketmaster.com.
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