Le Interviste del Boss

Baby, He Was Born to Play
by Steve Morse
The Boston Globe, 4-1-2001

Baby, He Was Born to Play

The exhilaration still lingers from the reaffirmed bond between the Boss and his legions - and get ready for another surge. A live record and HBO concert special are due this week, serving as classy mementos from a cleansing, transformational comeback that represented the first E Street Band reunion in more than a decade.
Any bad blood was gone - and only great music remained, as Springsteen pulled together his various personas, from social protester to incurable romantic, working-class hero to raspy-voiced minister of rock 'n' roll. He inspired the band to loftier heights than ever during a 130-date tour that exploded with 15 arena sellouts in Springsteen's home state of New Jersey, another five at Boston's FleetCenter, and a surreal 10 more at New York's Madison Square Garden last summer.
Persuasive proof comes in the double CD, ''Live in New York City'' (out Tuesday, it's the first Springsteen stage set since ''Live 1975-1985''), followed by an HBO concert special airing Saturday night at 9. It mirrors the CD and contains all but six of the same songs, recorded during the last two nights of the Madison Square Garden run, when Springsteen's energy level was so high that one wonders what he could possibly do for an encore.
There is talk of the E Street Band's doing another studio album - and Springsteen fueled it by saying at the last New York show: ''We hoped this tour would mark a renewal and rebirth of our band and our commitment to serve you - and we will continue to try to do so.'' And E Street guitarist Steven Van Zandt was just quoted in New Jersey paper The Star-Ledger as saying, ''We haven't formally started anything or decided anything. But I'm certainly hoping that sometime this year we'll get in the studio and do a record.''
In the meantime, fans will content themselves with the latest live discs and the HBO special, both of which are first-class efforts from an artist known for nothing less. Fourteen of the CDs' 20 songs have not been on a Springsteen concert album before - and the high-water mark is the new ''American Skin (41 Shots),'' a controversial protest song that question s the behavior of four New York police officers who poured 41 shots into an unarmed Bronx man, Amadou Diallo, whom they believed was pulling out a gun.
Sings Springsteen in stately ballad style:
Is it a gun?
Is it a knife?
Is it a wallet?
This is your life.
It ain't no secret, it ain't no secret.
You can get killed just for living in your American skin.
Springsteen adds a verse about how ''we're baptized in these waters and in each other's blood,'' and another about a mother telling her son to respect policemen and ''keep your hands in sight.'' The song is not unsympathetic to police officers but still provoked the wrath of some of them, including Bob Lucente, president of the New York state chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, who denounced Springsteen as a ''dirtbag.'' Such a label is absurd, as Springsteen is only raising questions, not assuming he has all the answers. The song eerily closes the HBO special with the abbreviated verse: ''You can get killed just for living.''
Hardly a comforting idea, though most of the album is decidedly upbeat and filled with the hope and faith that has always been at the core of Springsteen's music. After the band members come out arm-in-arm from backstage, they open with the propulsive ''My Love Will Not Let You Down,'' followed by the sax-plosive ''Prove It All Night'' and exuberant ''Two Hearts'' ('' ... are better than one'').
Springsteen then hits a more pensive note with the tale of troubled lives ''Atlantic City,'' the country lament ''Mansion on the Hill'' (a title inspired by his love of Hank Williams), the still-affecting ''The River'' (about his sister and her family, complete with a keening wail at the end), the working-class pain of ''Youngstown,'' the aggressively rocking ''Murder Incorporated,'' and the path out of this darkness, ''Badlands,'' with Springsteen urging, ''Keep pushing!'' In the hands of a lesser artist, it would be hokey. But for Bruce, it's a profoundly moving cry of survival.
''New York City! New York City!'' he screams at the end of the song, as though trying to wake up a crowd that doesn't need the slightest bit of urging to do so. Later, he bellows, ''Is anybody alive out there? Is anybody alive out there?'' And the ricocheting applause suggests it was another rhetorical question, even if it's all part of his showmanship.
After several vintage Springsteen belters, the show peaks with ''Born to Run'' and the new, previously unreleased ''Land of Hope and Dreams,'' with its refrain: ''This train, hear the steel wheels singing / This train, dreams will not be thwarted.''
An advance tape of the HBO concert special underscores the runaway brilliance of these tour-ending, climactic shows. The band's role grew as the tour progressed - more vocal harmonies from Van Zandt, Nils Lofgren, and Patti Scialfa (Springsteen's wife, whom he calls ''the first lady of love''), and more soloing by various members, including cool, collected pianist Roy Bittan and saxophonist/comic foil Clarence Clemons.
The house lights go on toward the end of the concert special, while cameras follow Springsteen racing around the stage, shaking hands with band members, shaking his fist at the crowd, climbing atop Bittan's piano, and wringing the sweat from his shirt.

The minister of rock is back.

by Steve Morse

The Boston Globe, 4-1-2001

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