Bruce Springsteen | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Bruce Springsteen 

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Earlier this month National Review reporter John J. Miller compiled a list of the top 50 conservative rock songs of all time. (In case your Google doesn't work, the top slot went to "Won't Get Fooled Again," and "Taxman" and "Sweet Home Alabama" both made the top five.) Miller made a few confounding choices--he ranks the Clash's "Rock the Casbah" number 20, apparently because lots of people think it's about bombing Arabs instead of defying a repressive regime--but the complete absence of Springsteen songs is totally understandable. Though Bruce is as beloved in red states as he is in blue, if not more so, even his most triumphant anthems are shot through with a tough, New Deal-style progressive populism, a sentiment that's all the more powerful for the deft, subtle way he expresses it. If you need proof, look on your favorite P2P network for one of the many live acoustic versions of "Born in the USA," where the stark backdrop puts the song's weight on the bitterness and grief in the verses, not on the rousing but easy-to-misread chorus. Or compare Springsteen's recent projects with Neil Young's. Young released the rallying cry "Let's Roll" within weeks of 9/11, "Ohio" style, but next to Springsteen's album The Rising, which answered the tragedy with a meditation on the nature of hope, it sounds hastily conceived and morally suspect. Young's "Let's Impeach the President" is about as nuanced and engaging as a mediocre NOFX track, while Springsteen's recent We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (Columbia), which revives lefty folk classics from Pete Seeger's songbook, can actually make you believe, at least for the album's length, that it's possible to bring Americans together and make the country better. Crazy, right? If the Democrats could whip up even a hint of that feeling, the folks at the National Review would be scrambling back to their battle stations in no time. To re-create the album's mix of folk, blues, gospel, and Dixieland jazz, Springsteen is touring with a 17-piece band. Tue 6/13, 7:30 PM, First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, I-80 & Harlem, Tinley Park, 708-614-1616 or 312-559-1212, $92. All ages.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Danny Clinch.

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