Not high hopes for Springsteen

SIMON SWEETMAN
Last updated 10:23 15/01/2014

A lot of people have been asking me recently if I'm going to see Bruce Springsteen - he's playing in Auckland in March.

I'm not going to see Bruce Springsteen. I am a fan of the best of Bruce's work - but that really great work all seems like a long time ago, and while I'm happy for those that get what they need from one of his huge workout shows - you'll remember that last year Blog On The Tracks posted this excellent review; a guest post, the show sounded great, sure - but I just couldn't last for three hours of Springsteen. I'd prefer 90 minutes. I don't want the goofy rock'n'roll medleys, I don't want the covers, the honking geese saxophone flailings. And I certainly don't want Tom Morello.

Morello has ruined Bruce Springsteen's new album. Well, actually, Bruce Springsteen has ruinedBruce! the new Bruce Springsteen album. By releasing it. High Hopes - and you should have no such thing towards this record - is like a "bonus disc" without the main album for it to be attached to. It would make more sense as a Fan Club mail out item. All you salivating fans pay an annual sub and you get knockoffs and leftovers like those assembled on High Hopes as a Christmas bonus, a little thank you for keeping the dream alive.

But as standalone album High Hopes serves little purpose and makes no real sense. It's thin, it's weak, it's another bad Springsteen album, the third in a row now, and it shows the gap is just widening. Springsteen is going to play himself into the ground - and though he might well go out giving the show of his life, the last essential record (and this is being charitable) arrived nearly 20 years ago.

Or, you could say there hasn't - really - been a must-have Springsteen album in over 30 years. That might actually be closer to the truth. But there was always something - a little slip-through-the-cracks number. Take that triple disc Essential collection - the b-sides, the soundtrack offerings, there were little clues and crumbs that had you still hooked.

There's nothing even close to that on High Hopes. And there's a lot of really bad - didn't need to happen - material.

But the really-quite-awful new album is not the reason I'm not going to see Springsteen this time.

I just missed my window - I would have liked to have seen him 10 years ago. That's the gig I should have seen. And I didn't. And it bothers me a little bit - but I'll live.

So I never got to see a good Bruce Springsteen gig. So be it. Not a big deal when I can tick off so many other musicians who have meant as much or more to me - Bob Dylan and Neil Young and Elvis Costello and Paul McCartney and Paul Simon and David Bowie and many others. You can't see everything. And I've come close enough, given it a good go. Especially because, with the odd exception, I've barely travelled outside of the city where I live to see the big name players of the past and the best contemporary acts too.

I just can't afford it. A ridiculous - and stubborn - decision to try to make a crust of it by hammering out words for money has meant I'm hardly ever short of words but rarely ever in close contact with money. That's my choice. High Hopes

But if I could see Springsteen - for just 90 minutes - at his peak, well that would have been something. I'd have walked out of a three hour show at just the right point, making it even  better than if I had stayed. You ever done that? Known that you've left a show early and on a high rather than letting it flop back in on itself to eventually grow stale and boring? It's a good feeling. You can do it. You can get it right for the artist by making the call they would never make.

Every new Springsteen album makes me less of a fan - he's going the way of U2, ultimately.

Have you heard High Hopes? Do you have high hopes for it? Are you going to the show?

Here's my review of the new Bruce Springsteen album, High Hopes.

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You can also check out Off the Tracks for The Vinyl Countdown, reviews and other posts.

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