Bruce Springsteen is one of those Marmite artists. People either love him or hate him.
I used to be in the latter category, but after seeing The East St band on the Born in the USA tour at Wembley Stadium in the early 80's I became a convert. The thing that I found so astonishing about the show was the fact that you could not see a single person - including all of the security staff, and even the police - who was not smiling and happy. It seemed to me to be a quite astonishing achievement. I also remember that the songs which had sounded a little pedestrian on record, came alive in concert in a way that I did not think would be possible. His ability to turn a stadium into a dancefloor and turn the audience into the show is a trick which any number of pale imitators have borrowed since.
That show prompted me to investigate his records a little more deeply, and I became drawn in by the seductive combination of the everyman appeal, the amazing skill of the band and the power of a lot of the songs.
Springsteen's remarkable ability to empathise with the man on the street comes across in the songs time and time again. When you bear in mind that this is a man who has not had to concern himself with the price of a pint of milk for over 3 decades, it seems even more astonishing.
A couple of examples to illustrate what I am talking about: -
"End of the day, factory whistle cries,
Men walk through these gates with death in their eyes,
And you'd better believe boy, somebody's gonna get hurt tonight
It's the work, it's the working, it's the working life".
(Factory - Darkness on The Edge Of Town)
"10,000 tons of metal a day
And now you tell me the world's changed
Once I made you rich enough
Rich enough to forget my name"
(Youngstown - Tom Joad)
You may wonder why I am blathering on about this, and I am getting to the point (albeit slowly).
Here's the thing. I went to see Bruce and his band in Hyde Park a couple of weeks back, and remarkably I left less than halfway through his set. "Not much of a fan then", you may well feel, but that was not it. The band were on great form. His voice was it's usual gravelly self, the songs were just as moving.... but sadly only seemingly to me.
Wherever I went I found myself surrounded by drunken redneck yahoos, who were clearly far more interested in drinking and talking utter bollocks with their equally drunken friends than they were in watching one of the truly great artists in popular music history.
In the end, I left because I could not hear above the cacophony of crassness, mediocrity and stupidity that surrounded me, and because I was ashamed to be a part of it.
Sorry Bruce. You deserved better.