Bruce Springsteen at 65
Rock’n'roll and 65 year olds may be a strange mix for many, but the Boss is turning that hoary chestnut on its head
There was a lot of predictable brouhaha yesterday about Bruce Springsteen reaching his 65th birthday. Leaving aside the fact that he’d actually have to be 66 years old to get an aul’ lads’ pension here in Ireland, turning 65 seems to be one of those milestones which makes people stop and think. Then again, turning 30, 40 and 50 also seems to have that effect. We’re always on the look out for those damn milestones.
Rock’n'roll and 65 year olds, though, still appear to many to be a strange mix. Leave aside the fact that many acts only really get going when they head into the autumn and winter of their lives – come on down the 80 year old Leonard Cohen, whose new album “Popular Problems” is a blast and who, if he tours again, will play once more to sold-out houses – popular music has never had much truck with the older acts. When Springsteen was kicking off in the late 1960s/early 1970s in Asbury Park and along the Jersey Shore, there was absolutely no-one in their sixties on the same circuit. Rock and pop were a young man’s realm and the very thought of acts still blasting it out in their sixties would have raised a wry chuckle from Springsteen and his cohorts.
But things change and long-term rock’n'roll careers have become something many acts setting out strive to achieve. In 2014, the notion of a 65 year old Springsteen leading out The E Street Band is one to be greeted with relish, not rotten tomatoes. Apart from the fact that their leader is in fine fettle (especially judging by his holiday snaps), the rest of the band, oldies and newbies alike, are also firing on all cylinders.
As anyone who has seen them in the last decade knows, they’ve found a certain mojo as the years have gone by. Springsteen revitalises his creativity with the solo albums and offshoot projects like the Seeger Sessions Band, but the E Street-ers themselves remain the best rock’n'roll show on the planet because they’ve still got the authenticity down pat and they have a charismatic leader out front giving it socks. You go to see the Rolling Stones and it’s a few old fellas going through the motions. You go to see Springsteen and you get three hours of blood, sweat, tears and beers. It’s the real deal.
What’s interesting about Springsteen in the last few years too is that he’s found a new momentum on record as well. Sure, there’ve been a few lame ducks in the catalogue in the last dozen years compared to the glory days, but last year’s “Wrecking Ball” the seventeenth album of his career, was a damn great record. Songs from that one often got as great a reaction as the classics on his Irish tour last year. By contrast, few but the diehards and the deluded will want to hear anything from “Songs Of Innocence” or “No Line On the Horizon” when U2 rev up their engines and tour in 2015. Again, as with Cohen, there’s still fire in Springsteen’s six-pack as the years stack up, compared to a band of extremely rich fiftysomething men trying desperately to remain relevant.
So there you have: Bruce as a pensioner looking way, way, way better than you or me or anyone else on the other side of that great divide. He’ll go on for many years more, that lad, though it will interesting to see if those legendary three hour live extravaganzas will remain part of the canon. Something tells me, though, that they will.