Springsteen at the Q: He's Not as Effective as He Once Was

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I was hoping that Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band’s concert at Quicken Loans Arena last night would shed some light on their new album, Magic. I reviewed the CD a month ago, calling it “a tonic for the downer material found on 2005’s Devils & Dust and the post-9/11 musings of The Rising.” I also found the album repetitive and kinda boring. Onstage, Magic’s songs didn’t reveal much. They’re still sluggish and tedious. In fact, I wasn’t the only fan who was disappointed when a riff that sounded an awful lot like the classic “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” turned out to be the new disc’s “Livin’ in the Future.” Plus, Bruce let his wife sing a song. Also, The Rising material – so effective during the 2003 tour, when folks really needed a shot of uplift – came off a little out of time last night. The Rising, a great album, gained a whole new depth in concert four years ago. “Lonesome Day” and “The Rising” are good songs, but they meant so much more coming less than two years after the terrorist attacks. Still, Springsteen pulled out some great songs from his catalog at the Q. In addition to the first performances of “It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City” and “Be True” on the current tour, he and the band reworked Nebraska’s stark “Reason to Believe” into a bluesy swamp boogie, and “Kitty’s Back” was an old-school band workout that still cooks onstage. I stand by my original review of Magic. I think it’s a lazy record. It wants things both ways: On one hand, it’s loaded with anthemic rave-ups the E Street Band perfected 30 years ago. On the other hand, Springsteen never names names and shies away from the confrontational tone that was inherent in his last few albums. The subtext is definitely there: Bush is a dick, things are terrible, yet we have music to help us through. Springsteen even jokingly riffed on this last night, introducing one of the new songs by noting that there’s little a rock-and-roll band can do about it but play songs. And they did it well, if not quite as effectively as they used to. --Michael Gallucci

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