Bruce Springsteen has forsaken his cocky bravado for an altogether more hard-bitten outlook. The transformation could well prove his redemption, writes Alastair Mabbott.

14 The List 23 Feb-7 Mar 1996

Born again in the

ome things hurt more. much more. than cars and girls. as Bruce Springsteen has always known. And he won’t shy away from singing about them either. with or without a hand to back him up. The Boss is touring again. solo and acoustically this time an idea he dismissed some years ago as ‘too cerebral‘. Apparently. the world is ready now. Or Bruce is.

The hushed show he‘s taking around the theatres now is mainly reliant on material from his harrowing. uncommercial new album The Ghost (2/ Tom .lnud. plus a sprinkling ol~ oldies which in the States in December included ‘Adam Raised A ("ziin'. ‘Born In The USA'. ‘Spare Parts‘ and ‘Nebraska‘. though seasoned Boss~watchers will know how drastically his sets cart change. And His Nibs would appreciate your silence while he's performing. Further from the celebratory fervour of his stadium shows it would be harder to come. even it. as Springsteen did. you started off your career alternating between lull-band club shows and sitiger-songwriter nights.

The Stringbean catalogue is one of the best opportunities rock music ol‘l‘ers to follow the growth of an artist. and The Ghost ()f'lbm load will most likely be looked upon as a pivotal record in hisjourney.

A good trawl through his albums to date shows just how far he‘s come as a writer and interpreter of his own material. In the early days. he peppered his songs with “romantic young boys‘ like Spanish Johnny. sitting on his

The recurrent symbol in Springsteen’s new work is the immigrant, the refugee, and in place of the highway is the border.

the escape. pimps swanning around underneath like extras in a seedy remake of West Side Story all very well-delineated. but carrying little weight or authority. ‘Meeting Across The River‘. the least convincing track from the crackling Born To Run. always sounded like a low-rent rock Scorsese grappling with conceits he hadn‘t grown up enough to handle.