Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run [30th Anniversary Edition]

Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run
Columbia – Five Stars.
Bruce Springsteen’s concerts have been called the Church of Rock ‘n’ Roll ever since people became easygoing enough to make such comparisons without feeling like heretics.  In 1975, he released what is widely considered to be his masterpiece, Born to Run.  The years following Born to Run saw Springsteen filling more roles than Krispy Kreme; granted, some were self-applied (the pensive, thinking Bruce of Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad) while others were forced on him from the outside (the patriotic, possibly jingoistic Bruce of Born in the USA).  This cartoony Boss, the one with the sleeveless shirts and headbands, is the one that most of us grew up with (or grew up avoiding).  As a result, Springsteen has developed a strange reputation among today’s average twentysomething.  His name is inescapable, but his legacy is somewhat skewed in favor of the Red States.  Need proof?  Go ask someone NOT wearing a pair of Chuck Taylors what they think about Bruce Springsteen.  Those who know who he is will likely pump their fists, class ring gleaming in the mid-day sun, and yell “Brooooooooooose!”
But that’s one of the great things about Springsteen.  He’s got that same big-tent mentality that Christianity or college itself have to offer; there’s room for everyone here.  And nowhere has Bruce the poet, Bruce the rocker, Bruce the rebel been better represented than on the re-release of Born to Run.  The album itself is a literally perfect 40 minutes of rocking soul, and “Born to Run” is without question the greatest rock song of all time in this writer’s mind, but the record is really only a side salad in the midst of prime rib. The true glory of the reissue is Hammersmith Odeon, London ’75, the accompanying concert DVD.  Springsteen brings a set of Jersey street grit and sweaty love to a London crowd that was apparently ready to tear down the Odeon by the end of the set, Boss and all.
Why?  It’s two and a half hours of chipped-tooth love rock.  Every city has a night, and every night has a story, and every story worth mentioning is in a Bruce Springsteen song.  Fists are thrown and dodged, bottles break in the alleyway, yeah, but most importantly, hearts beat blood onto Jersey pavement and love and angst are common bedfellows.  That’s what London ’75 is all about.  No, that’s what life is all about.  On record, he takes the city, any city (the very symbol of corruption, greed, malfeasance, provide your own negativism), and makes it beautiful.  Live, he takes that beautiful-ugly and blows it apart from base to penthouse. Everything is amplified, everything matters more.  Something, God only knows what, hangs in the balance.  And maybe some guy makes it with his girl for the first time during the tissue-y “Thunder Road.”  And maybe someone raises their beer during “Born to Run'”s firecrackers just so he can escape his job for a night.  And maybe the kid who just got religion raises his hands for “It’s So Hard to Be a Saint.”  There are moments when the sweat flows like tears on a river and there are moments with thousand-dollar smiles.  Never, never, never at any moment is it just rock ‘n’ roll.  Sometimes, art can be bigger than that; sometimes anything can be bigger than that.  God talks to us in a voice we can hear.  To paraphrase producer Bob Johnston speaking of Bob Dylan and Highway 61 Revisited, I can just feel the Holy Spirit in him.  And that’s why they call it the Church of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
And if rock ‘n’ roll were truly a religion worth following (and I’d be quick to point out the flaws in worshipping such a deity), Bruce Springsteen would be its St. Paul, forever preaching and reaffirming its beautiful and saving power.  He inspires new life and belief in the beauty of rock ‘n’ roll every time his records get played.  Rock ‘n’ roll can’t save your soul, but Springsteen makes you want to believe.


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