Springsteen’s Rock

September 13, 2012

This article was originally published Oct. 12, 1974

It is quickly apparent why Bruce Springsteen, who performed at Shady Grove Music Fair, Gaithersburg, last night, is soon going to be a name to reckon with.

Springsteen’s not just a desperately vivid lyricist, or an ace guitarist. He turns into a Marlon Brando rock performer on the stage in his black leather jacket, raggedly red shirt and jeans, clutching his fists, flailing his arms and stomping around the stage like a method actor psyching his lines out of himself.

The lines themselves are of frantic city images, street punks and whores, Romeo and Juliet in West Side Story setting, pimps in white Eldorados and gypsy fortune tellers gone mad.

The obvious comparison is Bob Dylan, whose earlier material was steeped in a similar tone of black leather desperation. But Dylan was primarily a lyricist and Springsteen is a performer, dredging up the characters of his songs on stage, playing at his fantasies to the orchestration of a tight, urban blues band that wails out with tenor saxophone and thumping bass and the kind of spider web cascade of piano and organ that surrounds his switchable images with the eery, tense feeling of hoods hiding from the cops in a church.

Springsteen seems to be fulfilling the style Van Morrison has been defining for years now, theatrical music that’s intrinsically connected with the mood of the imagery. While Morrison sings of love of the cosmos, Springsteen is out in the street — maybe being there has given him the kind of stage stamina Morrison has always lacked.

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