Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bruce Springsteen at Apollo: Righteous indignation gone wrong

Posted By on Tue, Mar 13, 2012 at 5:00 PM

Whenever Bruce Springsteen returns to vogue it usually means one of two things: Either America's working class is feeling really patriotic, or the patriotic are feeling totally outclassed. I'd venture to say it's the latter this time around (though I doubt Bruce and the E Street Band will have a hard time packing out Philips Arena in Atlanta this Sunday, March 18, despite the $69-$99 price tag — which is really a steal considering most ticketed Philips concerts easily break the $100 mark).

But isn't it kind of ironic to watch footage of Springsteen playing last Saturday to a sea of Caucasians at the Apollo Theater, considering the gentrification that's overrun Harlem in the past decade? In a way it seems symbolic of the same socioeconomic themes his new album Wrecking Ball rails against. When Springsteen sings the anthemic, Celtic banger "Death To My Hometown" — "The greedy thieves that came around/And ate the flesh of everything they’ve found" — it's as if he's evoking the very sentiment often shared by longtime residents of the black cultural mecca who were displaced by Harlem's escalating cost of living.

Unintentional, I'm sure. But still, it reeks of the same sort of shortsighted rhetoric that the Occupy movement has held dear, even when displacing homeless in city parks to protest the powers-that-be. Perhaps such subtle hypocrisies are unavoidable when a 1 percenter like Springsteen attempts to empathize with the 99, as Armond White suggests in his thoughtful review of Wrecking Ball:

Having misjudged the motivations of disenfranchised Americans who are incensed more than informed, Springsteen soft-headedly emulates their plaint; his corroboration turns sour. Touted as his “angriest” album yet, it also sounds like a slick politician’s con.

Even if your sympathies lie with #OWS, it's hard to imagine how Sprinsteen's do. After all, his Apollo show was sponsored by the corporate behemoth Sirius XM satellite radio, whose CEO Mel Karmazin is known as a darling of Wall Street.

Nevertheless the Boss's concert was well-intentioned. Besides dedicating it to deceased E Street Band mate/saxophonist Clarence Clemons, he paid rousing tribute to the Apollo, calling it "the home of the Gods and the true temple of soul," before lauding the likes of Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, and the Temptations with a medley. At least we know the Jersey boy's still got soul, even if his vision's frighteningly narrow.

Bruce Springsteen. $69-$99. 7:30 p.m. Sun., March 18. Philips Arena, 1 Philips Drive. 404-878-3000. www.philipsarena.com.

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