Shame about David Brooks’s out-of-touch Op-Ed column, but double-shame on David Remnick for his unctuous, interminable New Yorker profile. Together they spawned a cottage industry of dissent: Robert Christgau hailed the Scandinavian show he caught as “transcendent”: “One problem with that Madison Square Garden audience was that it felt smug — aware of Springsteen’s complications, but certain that he’d sweep all troubling thoughts away. The Roskilde fans weren’t born in the U.S.A. But they never forgot how contradictory it is, and they loved Bruce Springsteen more for remembering that too. So do I…” (His up conclusion couldn’t redeem the sting of his Weinberg potshot, calling him a “funkless show drummer.”)
In the New Republic, Leon Wieseltier labeled Remnick’s gloss softcore “porn,” declaring: “I was twice at The Bottom Line in August 1975 and I have never been in a happier room. But there is nothing daft or insouciant, nothing crazy free, about Springsteen’s exuberance anymore. The joy is programmatic; it is mere uplift, another expression of social responsibility, a further statement of an idealism that borders on illusion. The rising? Not quite yet. We take care of our own? No, we do not. Nothing has damaged Springsteen’s once-magnificent music more than his decision to become a spokesman for America. He is Howard Zinn with a guitar…” I’ve seen shows from 1999, 2003 and 2006 that veered between inspired and rote, but never without completely in-the-moment commitment to the words, and essential professionalism that emphasized music over spectacle in ways that often seemed anachronistic.