My abiding love and respect for the work of Bruce Springsteen is a matter of public record and of a couple dozen records. But I must report to you that Bend It Like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha’s new movie Blinded by the Light, about how The Boss inspired Pakistani-British journalist Sarfraz Manzoor to pursue his dream of becoming a writer despite the poverty and racism that surrounded him in Margaret Thatcher’s England, is the jazz-handsy Springsteen jukebox musical that Springsteen on Broadway was supposed to protect us from. It boasts some wonderful performances, though, as well as a previously unreleased Springsteen song that at one point was going to appear on the soundtrack of… Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Huh.
Anyway, my NPR review of Blinded by the Light is here.
My first Washington Post byline in two years in a review of Steven Hyden’s new book Twilight of the Gods: A Journey to the End of Classic Rock. I had it with me on my own journey to the end of classic rock, when I caught an Amtrak up to New York two months ago to see Springsteen on Broadway. (I wrote up my impressions for Slate.) Strangely enough, my prior Post item was a review of Hyden’s previous book, Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me. That book was good. This one is better. Maybe your mom would enjoy receiving a copy on Sunday. I don’t know. I don’t know your mom.
I’ve got a piece on Slate today arguing that the element that makes Springsteen on Broadway—which I saw on February 28, the night after I saw Hello, Dolly!—worth the difficulty and expense of getting tickets is quiet. You can read that here, and it is my fond hope that you shall.
And in the spirit of Bruce Springsteen having written more worthy songs for Darkness on the Edge of Town and The River and Born in the U.S.A. than he could possibly use at the time, but contrary to the spirit of him waiting 15-30 years before releasing all those unused songs, which I as a diehard am legally required to claim were better than the ones he put on the albums which by the way is true in many cases… here’s a deleted scene from that piece, wherein I expand upon my 20-show record as a Bruce Springsteen fan:
As someone whose Bruce fandom had bloomed improbably in the mid-90s, when—an Academy Award for Best Original Song notwithstanding—his stock was as low as it’s been in my lifetime, I’d never imagined I would have so many chances to see him. But he called the E Street Band back together in 1999 and kept them together, even once its founding members started dying. (Organist Danny Federicisuccumbed to cancer in 2008; saxophonist Clarence “Big Man” Clemonsdied from complications following a stroke in 2011. Both men had been in Springsteen’s band since 1972. ) Continue reading →
I started making these goofy holiday-themed mixtapes in 2006, inspired by the yule-mixologist Andy Cirzan‘s annual appearances on the great WBEZ radio show and podcast Sound Opinions. I was honored to interview Andy for a Washington Post piece about my mixtape several years later, and to appear with him on a Minnesota Public Radio segment that I’m glad to tell you did not involve Garrison Keillor in any way.
So I’ve been collecting and compiling weird old Christmas-themed recordings for a long time now, but I didn’t buy a turntable until the latter part of 2016. I’d refused to even entertain the possibility of joining the vinyl resurgence, because I knew my discipline would crumble and I’d feel compelled to drain my banking account re-buying dozens of my favorite albums in the most expensive, space-consuming, fragile, and heavy music-distribution format ever conceived, with the possible exception of the wax cylinder. Which is exactly what happened. I have four working turntables in my apartment at this moment. Four. If I had any reasonable estimate of how many LPs there are, I would be too embarrassed to share that number with you. Continue reading →
…wherein I join PCHH host Linda Holmes and regular panelists Stephen Thompson and Glen Weldon to talk about where the beloved hit movie fits into director Ridley Scott’s oeuvre and its fidelity to Andy Weir’s novel.
I suggested How-To Stories as a companion topic, since The Martian — in both its incarnations, albeit moreso in prose than onscreen — goes into unusual detail about the stuff its stranded-astronaut hero Mark Watney must do to survive on a planet that (so far we know) does not sustain life. We all struggled to come up with suitable examples of favorite stories in this genre, and to thread the needle between a How-To and a Procedural. I could’ve talked about several different Michael Mann films, but particularly Thief, Manhunter, Heat, or even The Insider. As is often the case, I didn’t think of that until later. Continue reading →
Last Thursday, I attended the seventh of U2’s eight concerts at Madison Square Garden, which concluded their U.S. tour. It was my 18th U2 concert since 1997. Here are my notes, assembled in mostly chronological order, which is the most boring possible method of review-writing. Let’s go!
1. Bono took the stage by himself, at the opposite end of the arena from the band. Most of the folks surrounding the B-stage on the floor where we were (though it’s called the E-stage now, being that this is the annoying capitalized iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour) were staring at one of house-right floor entrances to the arena, smart phones at the ready, from the moment Patti Smith’s “People Have the Power” started playing on the P.A.
I don’t like that he enters on his own. It contradicts the “just the four of us” narrative U2 have always fostered, and it’s worth fostering. What other band has stayed intact with its original lineup for just a year or two shy of four decades?
2. My fellow superfans were really nice. We were in the G.A. line ahead of a guy named Bob Springsteen, of the Arkansas Springsteens — he showed me his I.D., unbidden. He was at the show with a pal on this evening but returning with his wife and young daughters, he said, the following night.
So Bob Springsteen was in the house the night Bruce Springsteen joined U2 on stage. (I was not.) I’d been reading rumors of a Bruuuuuce appearance on fan sites for a week, and I figured, accurately, that if he showed up he would join in on “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” which he played with U2 after inducting them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 10 years ago. (He was returning the favor. Bono gave Bruce’s induction speech in 1998.) He also played it with U2 at the 25th anniversary concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. So a not-especially-surprising surprise. Continue reading →
That’s The Boss’s imminent album up there, all right. Over at NPR Monkey See this morning, I ask why it — like pretty much every album Springsteen has made in the last 30 years (except for The Ghost of Tom Joad) — must have such a terrible, awful, no good, inexpressive and irreducibly goddamn fugly cover.