BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN is no doubt the hardest working artist in the music business over the past 10 years or so. I'm gonna try to summarize as much as possible here. It all started in 1999, when Bono inducted Bruce into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, the first year of his eligibility. A few months before turning 50, he decided to reunite and tour with the legendary E Street Band. The reunion tour kicked off in Barcelona, and when the band first reached the States, they played a whopping fifteen night stand at New Jersey's Meadowlands, and finished the tour with ten straight shows at Madison Square Garden.
Bruce was about to make a new record with the band when the tragic events of September 11 occurred. The Rising was released 10 months later in 2002. It was also the year when I discovered Bruce and ultimately, Rock & Roll music. It felt like I was born again in 2002. The Rising was in constant rotation everyday for at least two years. It was the first record that truly meant something to me. I can't even begin to emphasize the enormous cultural significance of this album. It was the first great piece of art in a post-Sep 11th world, and it's a real shame that Bruce wasn't awarded Album Of The Year at the 2003 Grammy Awards. Nevertheless, a hugely successful world tour followed, that lasted for a year and a half, including an unbeaten ten night run at Giants Stadium.
Usually, after a big tour is over, one might think that the artist would take a few years off. Not for Bruce. I'll always remember 2004 as the year when the many great musicians of America fought to reclaim their country from the tyranny of Dubya. And luckily for me, I was big fans of most of these artists (Pearl Jam, DMB, Dixie Chicks, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, R.E.M.). Bruce was one of the artists who openly supported John Kerry, occasionally playing at his big rallies close to Election Day. No Surrender became Kerry's official campaign song. But we all know how the elections turned out eventually. But looking back, the Vote For Change Tour really opened my eyes to the world of American politics and the power of music to change the world, while of course, discovering many more great artists along the way.
2005 was another fruitful year for Springsteen, as he channeled his anger and despair from the presidential elections into the brilliant record Devils & Dust. A solo tour soon followed, which was a real treat for all the fans. Bruce dusted off his big songbook and surprised everyone by playing very obscure songs. This was when I really started to get into the business of trading and obtaining bootlegs, which is one of the greatest treasures music has to offer.
Less than a year after the solo D&D tour, Bruce was back on the road yet again, following the release of We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, this time with a very big band, playing the most joyous music I've ever heard in my life; the melting pot of American music. I still listen to that album from time to time. It feels like you're in church, worshipping God, with Bruce as the preacher, and his backing band as his choir and congregation. If you wanna learn about the musical history of America, start with The Seeger Sessions.
2007 marked the return of the E Street Band. Just when I thought Bruce couldn't top The Rising, he goes on to make one of his best albums since 1975's Born To Run. I won't go into detail, but I'll say this: Magic worked because the songs could be interpreted on two levels, the political and personal. I listen to Long Walk Home, and can't help but think that the character is the same as the one in songs like Thunder Road, Racing In The Street, The River, Atlantic City, Born In The U.S.A.. Through these songs, we saw the evolution, through one man's eyes, a once innocent American society that has long moved away from its democratic values. Long Walk Home is like the end of a thirty year journey.
2007 would also mark the start of a two year tour with the E Street Band, their best ever tour. But it was in 2008, when the band got much stronger after the untimely death of keyboardist, Danny Federici. I think I speak for my fellow fans that the band played some of their best shows of their career since then. And now comes the part where I name-check the greatest live band ever: Nils Lofgren, Steve Van Zandt, Garry Tallent, Roy Bittan, Charles Giordano, Patti Scialfa, Soozie Tyrell, and last but not least, the Big Man, Clarence Clemons.
Working On A Dream came out during a time when America was slowly moving towards the right direction, with Barack Obama becoming President and all. In January 2009, at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, in front of 100,000 people, Bruce opened the historical inauguration concert for Obama with a emotional gospel version of The Rising. The song, originally written in response to the Sep 11th tragedy, would now take on a whole new meaning. This year also saw Bruce winning over a younger generation of fans as the band played the Superbowl and world's biggest music festivals (i.e. Bonnaroo and Glastonbury). And for me personally, my first Springsteen show ever in London would be a significant turning point in my life. After seven years of waiting, I had finally witnessed the Greatest Show On Earth. Towards the end of the tour, The E Street Band did what very few live bands have done, which is play all their classic albums in their entirety. But all good things must eventually come to an end.
At an age where many start to falter and play safe, Bruce didn't fall prey to becoming a nostalgic act. Just look at all the memorable songs he has written over the past decade, many of them which stand shoulder to shoulder with his classics from the 70's and 80's. They've already become staples and crowd favorites in his live shows. And speaking of live shows, he has played over 500 of them in just this decade alone! I'm real certain Bruce will continue making music for many many more years to come. For the time being, it seems like we won't hear much from him in 2010. But who knows, Bruce always likes to surprise us....
Top 10 Bruce Springsteen Songs Of The Decade:
1. The Rising
2. Long Walk Home
3. Kingdom Of Days
4. My City Of Ruins
5. The Wrestler
6. Girls In Their Summer Clothes
7. Long Time Comin'
8. A Night With The Jersey Devil
9. The Last Carnival
10. Radio Nowhere