Boss barnstorms into town, bringing new brand of magic
Like a great method actor, Bruce Springsteen inhabits his albums on the stage. In recent years "The Seeger Sessions" gave us a jovial folk singer, "Devils & Dust" a sober troubadour, and vital, galvanizing "The Rising" a frontman to match. Last night Springsteen brought his "Magic" show to town, the first of two sold-out shows at TD Banknorth Garden in support of an album that's harder to pin down, personality-wise.
"Magic" is buoyant on the surface, saturated in classic sounds from the '60s and '70: the Byrds, the Beach Boys, and a young dreamer named Bruce. But the blood inside the songs flows dark and deep. "It's about living through a time when the truth gets twisted to sound like a lie and lies get twisted to sound like the truth. It's called 'Magic' but it's really about tricks," Springsteen said before playing the title song. Gently strummed and full of portent, it was - like the rest of the concert - a complicated cross between comforting and disquieting.
Instead of offering stories and long introductions, Springsteen kept the commentary to a minimum. "Is there anyone alive out there?" He shouted it twice, in a fierce voice, before launching into the pulsing new anthem "Radio Nowhere." That inquiry colored the night as Springsteen, dressed along with the E Street Band head-to-toe in black, careened through 2 hours and 15 minutes of fresh and vintage material with signature zeal, often shrugging off his guitar, slinging on another, and charging into the next song without a break.
"We learned more from a 3-minute record than we ever learned in school," he sang on "No Surrender," and Springsteen seems to be taking those lyrics to heart this tour. He alluded once more to the current state of affairs in the United States - the loss of civil liberties and attacks on the Constitution - but otherwise let swelling choruses and searing guitars do the preaching. It's as if the time for discussion had passed, and we'd moved into a moment that called for nothing short of passion - the sort you might find in a Springsteen song.
For example: the hard, honking blues of "Reason to Believe," the pummeling love song "She's the One," or songs of uncommon faith like "The Rising," "Badlands," and "Lonesome Day." While some of the new songs pack a lighter sonic punch than the vintage anthems and sidestep topicality, there's inspiration to be found in the sweet, irrepressible pop of "I'll Work For Your Love" and the jangly gem "Girls in Their Summer Clothes," which worked like balm for the soul.
That last song kicked off an encore set that ranks among the most searing and spirited in memory: a brooding, sinuous read of "Jungleland," rocket-powered "Born to Run," an effervescent version of "Dancing in the Dark," and show-closing "American Land" - an immigrant song that capped the night, appropriately enough, with the sound of chiming guitars and a tale of broken dreams.
Joan Anderman can be reached at email@example.com.