The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editor's blog

November 20, 2012

The politics and economics of Bruce Springsteen

People smarter than me will be better at explaining why the legendary Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band have achieved their success over nearly 40 years of making music, producing albums and perfecting the genre of the live rock and roll show.

I cannot easily describe their success in words, but I know it when I see it and feel it.

That opportunity came Monday evening at the Xcel Center in St. Paul. It was the third time I had seen Springsteen and his band perform, the last time being 2002, right after his album "The Rising" had come out and when 911 was still fresh on America's consciousness.

The easy analysis: This may possibly be the best E Street Band there has ever been. Springsteen has added a handful of horn players, backup singers, and extra percussion, and oh yeah, a rockin' violinist.

He orchestrates these 17 musicians to make blue-collar, grind-it-out, on-the-road music and lyrics sound like a symphony  - a rock symphony.

A full three hour show produces not one piece of evidence that Springsteen or any of the band is going less than full throttle. The fans wear out before this band does.

 Their current "Wrecking Ball" tour is getting rave reviews.

But in the end, Spring understands "customers" as he referred to them Monday night. He asked how many people in the audience were there the night before. Thousands of hands went up. "That's great," he says, "we like repeat customers and we've got a different show for you every night."

The other piece of the easy analysis is that Springsteen knows how to connect with those "customers" in a genuine, emotional kind of way. Maybe it's just his knack for writing really good songs that can conjure up an image, a memory or one of life's truths that just resonate with everyone who has a sense of what America is about.

And if we paid attention at all in school or listening to records of all the great American musicians, we all should have some clue about that.

Some don't like Springsteen's politics. I heard former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty - a big Springsteen fan - once say he was disappointed when Springsteen came out for John Kerry and other Democrats in the 2004 election. He made campaign appearances for Obama this year.

For a guy who writes so many songs from the gut and the heart, it would be hard to avoid giving his opinion once in a while on the direction he thinks our leaders are going on this whole American story.

I, for one, will be listening.


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