Anyone who stayed up late enough last Friday to catch the grand finale of Bruce Springsteen Week on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon knows one thing -- Bruce's still got it.
Taking over the entire hour of the show, Bruce performed a sketch with Jimmy then sat down for an interview. Immediately following, Bruce played a half hour set with the E Street Band and guest musician Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine. They kicked things off with two songs from Bruce's new album, "Death to My Hometown" and "Jack of All Trades," and then finished with Bruce's 1973 funky classic, "The E Street Shuffle." During this last song, LNWJF house band The Roots joined Bruce and his gang in one of the best performances I've seen in ages. Toward the end, the entire audience rushed down onto the studio floor in front of the band to dance and party along.
This performance was a fantastic preview of Bruce's great new album, Wrecking Ball. The new album finds Bruce in his typical blue collar and now Occupy Wall Street-inspired glory as he mixes rock and roll sounds with folk and gospel. The album is angry, roaring and ready to fight back. It kicks off with pounding drums and screaming guitar on "We Take Care of Our Own," a Bruce anthem at its finest. Another great track is "Death to My Hometown," which features a full brass section and has almost a Revolutionary War-era sound to it, but with a rock base.
Though the full-out rock and roll and political qualities of this album remind me a bit of Born in the U.S.A., "We Take Care" along with "Death" and the title track bring more of a sense of fighting hope and possibility than songs from Born in the U.S.A., where the characters seem so dead-end. Even the image of a wrecking ball seems like it could symbolize destroying something old to make room for a new birth.
What's so particularly great about Bruce these days though is how much he still really seems to love singing his songs in front of huge crowds that are mouthing every word right back. All the passion and anger and believability are still as present in his performances as they were when he first started back in 1972. Though I wish I could have lived through his entire career and experienced his music from the beginning (despite what some critics say, Greetings from Asbury Park is still one of my favorite albums), I didn't discover Bruce until around 2002 or so. I grew up in Indiana and frequently listened to 95.3 WAOR, a classic rock radio station that one day played "Badlands." It grabbed me with all its great driving passion and grit. After that, I quickly amassed a huge collection of his albums-- some 26 studio, live and compilation albums altogether.
Though I believe in taste, preference and all that, I also believe that some musicians, empirically speaking, are just better. For one, he creates not just great singles, but amazing full albums. Second, his live shows have some of the greatest energy I've ever felt. Third, he sticks up for the little guy and his great state of New Jersey. Forth, at age 62 his voice still sounds great, unlike more than a few of his contemporaries (sorry, Dylan...). And fifth, he still keeps reinventing his sound and gives each album he releases a unique feel.
For fans of Bruce, picking up this new album is a no-brainer. It's classic Bruce rock and roll at its finest.
This article was originally published here.