Tuesday, January 27, 2009

glass houses

Nothing gets the ire of fans more ramped up than when a people’s icon is absolutely hammered in a review or opinion piece. When I saw the title of this piece at Slate.com I knew I could bypass the source article and move right along to the comments section for the best value from my entertainment dollar. Once you open on Billy Joel you must know full well that you’re going to get an earful – and he didn’t even massacre the Uptown Girl period which deserves a poison pen more than any other. I suspect the piece might generate more comments than any other in Slate’s history. You might as well have started bashing every person’s grandmother.

In my attempt to show some solidarity with the author, as well as showing support for the rabid commentators and their love of Billy Joel, I’ll present two sides of a similar melee that I find perfectly acceptable: Bruce Springsteen. I’m a big Springsteen fan but I’m also confident enough in my understanding of how musical tides roll that I can safely say he’s only been producing at about a 25% success rate over the last eleven albums, barring one that I’ll cover in a minute. From The River through Magic, and I own them all, only one in three songs, at best, are keepers. Some albums were stronger across the board than others, like Nebraska and The River. But, if we’re being honest, we could have done without most of Tunnel of Love, Lucky Town, Human Touch, Magic, The Rising, and Born in the U.S.A. If you want the best of Springsteen then you’ll always fall back to Greetings, The Wild…, Born to Run, and Darkness; those were the real glory days. I’ve twice seen him with the E St. Band (Athens, Greece in October 1988 and London in 1999 or 2000 on a short tour) and both shows were good, but not great. They certainly don’t appear on my list of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen. To be fair, I don’t much care for huge venues regardless of who’s playing so maybe the lack of feeling is based on that prejudice. I would suspect that if Bruce and boys showed up at the State Theater in Falls Church, set up the kit, and rocked in front of a few hundred fans for three hours then it would probably make my list. But, that hasn’t happened anywhere in decades (at least not where normal fans could attend) so it doesn’t count, does it? The one stunning piece of work he’s produced since about 1980 was the CD and DVD with the Seeger Sessions band. The compilation of those live shows in Dublin is fantastic.

My point, since you’re asking, is this: I could write a similar piece on Springsteen’s work over the last 28 years or so. What has enabled him to continually draw massive crowds is twofold: the depth of his music catalogue allows him to go for three hours and still be hitting on the best stuff. Second, he puts on a great live show. What does it mean? Well, he’s a massively talented artist who has a great collection of music that’s unfortunately been spread a bit too thin over the last few decades. I wouldn’t go so far as to pull out the “he’s a hack” argument that seems prevalent in the Billy Joel article but I’m sure any negative darts thrown at Springsteen would get the wolves a-howling.

Of course, he’s playing D.C. in May and I have an inkling to go if I can swing a good seat.

Before I send you off on your own to study the world, I’d like to pass along this nugget from online reporting last night or early this morning. Feel free to create your own comedy bit.

LONDON (AFP) – Chelsy Davy, the former girlfriend of Prince Harry, has confirmed to friends reports of their split by changing her profile on her "Facebook" webpage, British media reported on Monday.

The 23-year old at the weekend changed her personal profile on the social networking site to read: "Relationship: Not in One", signaling an end to the five-year romance, the Times newspaper reported.

The prince, third in line to the throne, and Davy were reported to have split after the pair found it increasingly difficult to see each other.


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