Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska (1982) & The Rising (2002)
If you can get past Christian Bale’s off-screen personality/on-screen Batman voice, The Dark Knight is a terrific movie.
There’s a great line right at the end, spoken about Batman, delivered by the typically excellent Gary Oldman. “He’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now.”
Whether The United States of America deserves Bruce Springsteen is moot; they needed him in 2002.
Fortunately one fan spoke up. While Bruce was driving in late 2001, a car pulled up beside him. One of the passengers rolled down his window and said, “We need you now.”
Inspiration hit and Bruce went on to deliver exactly the right album at exactly the right time.
Reunited with the E-Street Band after almost two decades, the record is at times hopeful, at times sorrowful, and consistently excellent. Highlights abound but in the interest of brevity, I’ll narrow it down to the two major standouts. Worlds Apart was light years away from anything played on the immediately post-September 2001 radio; it’s probably still ahead of its time and is one of the Boss’ best.
If there’s a more life-affirming song than the title track, I have yet to hear it. Hopefully it will never have to be written.
Whereas the US needed a boost in ’02, Bruce was also there in ’82 when they needed to be brought back to reality. Rampant Ronald Reagan (the actor!)-era consumerism was the name of the game, glitz & glamor were en vogue. Naturally, this was the time Bruce decided to release the bleak Nebraska, a bare-bones album with songs about ordinary people.
A one-man show, initially intended as a set of demos, Nebraska was the stark antidote to the glossier offerings of ’82 (Duran Duran, Flock of Seagulls). The record is nowhere near as immediately moving as The Rising but there’s a certain charm to the stripped down arrangements.
In the sports world, many athletes pegged as ‘the next one’ fall well short of expectations. Bruce had an equivalent music world misfortune of being labelled ‘the next Bob Dylan.’ While that heir apparent destiny may never have materialized, it’s difficult to view his career (now into its fifth decade) as any sort of disappointment.
Bringing it all back home (or at least to the opening of this review), there’s no struggle for listeners to get past Bruce Springsteen’s off-screen personality/on-screen voice. His vocals are the genuine article and by all accounts, he’s one of the more humble superstars in recent memory.
Such humility, combined with the strength of these two very different recordings, confirms the aptness of his nickname.