With the Bruce Springsteen fan documentary, Springsteen and I, showing on cable and now available on home video, I thought I would share an early review I wrote for Cash Box magazine from a performance at West Hollywood's Troubadour on July 31, 1974.
Bruce Springsteen is great. Initially he was a scruffy, scowling, moody figure whose physical emulation of early Bob Dylan was mirrored in this rhythmic, image-laden poetry and in his whiney vocals and acoustic guitar accompaniment.
Now, while Springsteen, behind red glasses and beneath curly hair, does exude a James Dean cold intensity, happily gone is his Dylan demeanor. Now, with a saxophonist, two keyboards -- organ and piano -- bass and drums, Springsteen's meaty style and grinding rhythms approach Van Morrison's fiery brand of white R&B (exp. "It Stoned Me"). Unlike the immobile Morrison, however, Springsteen dashes across the stage like Chuck Berry, breaks into an engagingly wide grin, or disjointedly stiffens like a marionette. He's more natural now, and it's satisfying seeing such a talent comfortable with himself.
During his extra-long two-hour set, Springsteen musically and lyrically captured the passion and hardships of the city, dealing with various illusions and desperate situations. "Incident on 57th Street" captures a boy caught between two life styles: success and pressure in the money world, or a surreal form of happiness as an unproductive lay-about. Also performed were "The E Street Shuffle," "Kitty's Back," "New York City Serenade," and "Jungleland." Pulling a complete surprise, the band swirled into a driving, powerful wall-of-sound for the Crystals old "Then He Kissed Me." Judging by the stupendous applause, Springsteen is well on his way towards gaining acceptance on the merits of his own identity.
What I also remember that night was the behavior of a senior executive from Springsteen's label, Columbia Records. I had a good seat, sixth from the stage at a long table. Sitting on the other side, a couple of seats down, was the executive who seemed more interested in chomping on the steak sandwich he had expensed on his record company tab. Bruce was pouring his heart out and the only thing this guy could think about was his steak sandwich.
Harold Bronson's book THE RHINO RECORDS STORY was published on October 22nd.