As Bruce Springsteen begins the 2nd North American leg of his “Wrecking Ball” tour, it’s hard to think of an analog for the artistic, cultural and political project in which he’s engaged. This isn’t a group of musicians touring on behalf of a cause (e.g., the Amnesty International tours of the 1980s) or a campaign (e.g., the 2004 Vote For Change tour). It’s not an artist hitching his star to a candidate and appearing at rallies (as Springsteen did with Barack Obama in 2008).
Instead, he’s taking his entire song catalog (as well as the hundreds of other songs his band can cover), every bit of stagecraft he’s learned from 45 years of performing, and as much of the past 150 years of American popular music as he can gather, and bringing it all to bear on the central social, cultural, economic and political challenge of our day: how to survive (and overcome?) our current depression, now nearing the end of its 5th year.
Take, for example, the 3 shows in Boston last week that kicked off Springsteen’s return to the U.S. after touring Europe for the previous three months. He sang over 60 different songs. The shows were all at least three and a half hours long. Unlike most performers his age, at least a third of the songs—including most of the ones at the heart of any given show—were written in this century.
Here are some of the key elements that—in one observer’s view—Springsteen uses to create this unprecedented series of shows. More (much more) after the jump.