Of Bruce Springsteen’s headlining set at the Glastonbury Festival’s Pyramid Stage last night, the Guardian’s Dorian Lynskey — killing all chances of a guided tour of the Bronx from Peter Abraham — opines, “being bored, irritated and only occasionally thrilled by the man routinely called the most electrifying performer in rock is no fun at all…this critic felt like someone standing in front of a magic-eye picture and being told that, if he stares long enough, he will see the Statue of Liberty but who finds, two-and-a-half hours later, that it’s still just squiggly lines.” These John Cafferty sympathizers are everywhere, I tell ya.
For someone acclaimed as a perceptive blue-collar bard, he’s rarely far from self-parody. Many of his songs sound like numbers from a Broadway musical about a guy who works in a garage. If you drank a shot every time he sang the words work, dream, streets, highway or refinery, you would be unconscious within an hour (less than halfway through the set). During Working on a Dream (two shots), he begins testifying like a southern preacher, or, more accurately, like a Saturday Night Live comedian doing an impersonation of James Brown, about building a house of lurve, a building of soul and a loft extension of hope.
But then it seems that the whole point of Springsteen is that he’s a colossal, unashamed, scenery-chewing ham. Born to Run is both the most preposterous song in his catalogue and the most heart-thumpingly joyous. Dancing in the Dark and Glory Days are elevated, rather than marred, by their corny use-before-1985 synth riffs. More of a problem than the garage-guy lyrics, the oh-lawdy business and Clarence “Big Man” Clemons’s reliably ghastly sax solos, is the realisation that, despite Springsteen’s stature, he has very few songs that have entered the mass consciousness. Only the three just mentioned “ along with Because the Night and Thunder Road “ excite mass singing all the way to the back. Calls for Born in the USA go unanswered. Fair enough, because it’s a good song massacred by its bombastic arrangement and is now avoided by the very man who made it, but during long stretches of bar-band rock and American Land’s horrible Irish jig, one wished he would throw another bone to the agnostics.
I don’t wanna argue with Mr. Lynskey, though I saw a Springsteen show earlier this year and found most of the cheesey O.D. bits he describes to be of the kidding-around variety. But as we should all have an informed opinion rather than rely upon the crackpot testimony of self-styled experts, here’s some exclusive footage of last night’s Glastonbury show. Decide for yourself!