Bruce Springsteen | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Bruce Springsteen 

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It's easy to get all snarkiferous toward the Boss whenever he emerges, slimed with pundit slobber, with an album that's overblown or otherwise flawed in some crucial way. (If there ever was an artist who should be banned from using synthesizers, it's him.) His latest, Devils & Dust (Columbia), doesn't have such problems, but even if it did I'd still have a hard time snarking: last winter I was obsessively rediscovering Nebraska, and "The Rising" scratched a post-9/11 itch I didn't know I had. As John Kerry's opening act at a rally in Madison last October, the Boss delivered a short speech in his patented I'm-just-a-humble-guitar-player way, then delivered stripped-bare, raw, longing, and absolutely paralyzing versions of "No Surrender" and "The Promised Land"--performances that half the crowd probably felt should've decided the election then and there. Rock 'n' roll thrives on the uncool as much as the cool--it's willing to flail around with Emily Bronte emotions in a beige, realist world--and Springsteen has gone so far past uncool he's come out triumphant. Devils & Dust--like Nebraska, like The Ghost of Tom Joad--is as close to a modern-day Woody Guthrie collection as you'll get. With their Beckett-like sadness, misty automotive nostalgia, and short-storyish romantic tales, Springsteen's workingman songs succeed because, unlike revered troubadours such as Bob Dylan, he seems to genuinely love people. Not everything on the new album meets the hair-raising standard set by the title track, and sometimes when he pulls out a full band it sounds more like a retreat than an advance. But you're in good hands with that voice. He performs solo acoustic here. Wed 5/11, 7:30 PM, Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Rd., Rosemont, 847-671-5100 or 312-559-1212, sold out. All ages.

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