Dear god in heaven, I was going to ignore these in their entirety, but I keep seeing them posted, and reposted, and reposted again, with adjectives like “charming!” and “delightful!” and “amusing!” and “insightful!” and this makes me want to stick spikes through my eyes because I find them to be… BORING.
I realize it is probably liberating to mainstream journos that this time out, Bruce is hip and cool and interesting, and you can now write about him without losing your [insert type here] cred, but it would probably help if you read some of what has already been written, because “‘A funny thing happened on the way to the Springsteen show’ travelogues are already in great supply,” to quote Backstreets Magazine (who, full disclosure, I have been writing for for almost 10 years now).
Please, tell me, what is so new and novel and exciting about the fact that Chris Christie, a rich guy with means and resources, has seen Bruce Springsteen 129 times? If it was anyone but Chris Christie, you would talk in low, hushed tones and look kind of disturbed at the thought. The fact that a rich dude who 1) LIVES IN NEW JERSEY 2) doesn’t have to fight Ticketmaster during on-sales 3) worry about his Visa credit limit or 4) wait in drop lines at the box office has a triple-digit show count means absolutely nothing except that he pulled some money out of his wallet and threw it up into the air. He didn’t have to work at it. He didn’t have to worry about it. He didn’t have to do anything except get someone to buy him a ticket.
(It also means that his musical taste is boring as fuck. Because if I only liked Bruce Springsteen my whole life, my show count would probably be over 1000. THIS IS ONE OF MANY REASONS WHY SHOW COUNT AS A METRIC OF FANDOM IS STUPID. [Ok, so metrics of fandom are just plain old stupid, period.])
The second thing that annoys me so much is that this discussion took place during a concert. I am not one of those people who stands there motionlessly and doesn’t make a sound but there is a huge difference between brief comments to the people around you and extended, ongoing conversations during a concert. The fact that this is seen as acceptable is my symptom of WHAT IS WRONG IN AMERICA, it is a symptom of ‘I spent my money on this ticket and I will do whatever I want,’ and it is absolutely ruining concertgoing, especially at Bruce Springsteen shows. I am not telling teenagers to shut the fuck up, it is their parents, it is people who are OLDER THAN I AM (and I am hella old). Even a polite, “Could you please keep it down, I’ve never heard him play this” or “He hasn’t played this song in 30 years, could you just not talk for 3 minutes” generally meets with a death stare and then talking louder, or, in one case, the offending parties then sat down and yelled DOWN IN FRONT every 30 seconds during “Racing In The Street”. If it means so much to you, Chris Christie, why on earth would you carry on an in-depth conversation for publication during your 130th show?
The line that got me the most was the “is Bruce a hypocrite because he stays in a 5 star hotel,” because I got disavowed of that notion back when I was an indie punk kid annoyed that a band was staying at something nicer than the Motel 6. Someone took pity on my stupid punk kid ass and explained to me that the reasons bands stay in nicer hotels as they get popular isn’t just because they’re living on the road and it fucking sucks to be living out of a suitcase (which is true), but the more famous you get, the more you have to worry about things like security, which — guess what? — the Four Seasons is more equipped to deal with than the Hampton Inn. Five star hotels also have things like 24 hour room service and gyms and things that people who aren’t living a 9-5 life might actually NEED. If I could learn that at the age of 19, I am amazed that someone who is paid to write for the Atlantic could not take the five seconds to reason that out.
[No, I take that back, I was most offended that Jeffrey Goldberg couldn’t even have done the research and listened to a few shows to see what happened during “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” but instead got all up in his dudgeon because it was TOO SOON to do it, and then got my hackles up again that this was Officially Approved by Chris Christie. I have to stop thinking about this before I go nuts. And the fact that he was so offended by the presence of “Tenth Ave” but yet TALKED THROUGH IT kind of invalidates his dudgeon.]
I am sorry that Chris Christie and Jeffrey Goldberg cannot get Bruce to say boo to them (although I have to tell you, Springsteen’s outright and deliberate snub of Christie makes me LIKE HIM MORE; he is not Bono, and I do not need or want him to be) but the amount of bargaining that they have to do with themselves to not think about the fact that they are the people that the people in Bruce’s songs are fighting against is not his fault, or my fault, or anyone’s fault but their own. Yes, song interpretation is a personal thing, but to whitewash 40 years of songwriting with a statement like “he thinks it’s all a zero-sum game: in order to get poor people more money, it has to be taken away from the rich” goes much further than the complete tone-deafness involved in playing “State Trooper” over your iPhone when you are being driven by actual NJ State Troopers.
I have not read the David Brooks piece but I have been given the gist of it and promise that I will be writing something better when I publish my ebook this fall on my European trip which starts with the Paris shows next week. (AND YES THAT IS A GRATUITOUS PLUG.)
(For the record, I have been saving for this trip for about five years and have cashed in every airline mile I have ever accumulated and benefited from hotel points donated by family members who travel for business. I realize this is still enormous privilege but it is not like I am going to be wiping the sweat off my brow during shows with $100 bills.)
EDIT to say: If you liked this, you can follow my other Bruce Springsteen writing over at jukeboxgraduate.com and can sign up for my Bruce-specific broadcast list if you want to find out about new posts and when the aforementioned book.