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Enough rock 'n' roll to last a lifetime
Most music fans remember their first concert. I know I do. The year was 1985. Ronald Reagan was president, Sonny Crockett and Rico Tubbs were patrolling Miami Harbor, and Born in the USA was on top of the charts. I was eight years old, and my parents took me to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at Giants Stadium in New Jersey. I've been a fan ever since, and although (unlike my cousin-in-law Jason) I've never waited in a hotel lobby for hours just to shake Bruce's hand, I do think I'm pretty qualified to review his latest record.
Overall, this album is nothing special. But it's the vehicle for something very special.
Pretty much every review I've seen of Magic has had the same conclusion: It's a return to good old fashioned Springsteen & the E Street Band rock 'n' roll, straight forward, simple, fun, etc. In a lot of ways, it's a bad sign when every review of an album says basically the same thing. You might say, "But what if every review says the album is great?" Well, a truly great album would be different enough that it would turn someone off. Nothing on Magic, however, is different enough to do that.
I could go into detail about each song, but like I said, the other reviews out there have said it already. I just feel that Bruce has already made enough great rock 'n' roll to last more than a generation. If I want to put the windows down and rock out to Bruce, I already have about 10 albums to chose from. I'm not going to reach for Magic. When I first heard "John Henry" off of Bruce's transcendent 2006 Seeger Sessions album, it was an awakening. Magic provides no such inspiration.
Now I don't want to sound completely negative. I'm comparing this to other Springsteen work, which necessitates a higher bar. Compared to most of the pop crap out there, this record still rocks. But I do have a theory on what happened. I think Bruce wanted to go on tour with the E Street Band one more time before they got too old, because the live shows he puts on with them are the best in the history of recorded time. But Bruce is a proud man and a proud musician who would not be keen on touring without a new album, because he needs to remain vital, and an E Street Band tour without a new album might smack of a dearth of ideas.
So Bruce put together Magic, which I'm viewing as the means to an end, in this case the end being a tour with the E Street Band, which just kicked off. (I'll be there at Madison Square Garden on October 18.) Right now it's scheduled to run through mid-December, but all indications are that the tour will extend well into next year, with second stops at cities across the country.
In short, if you want some great new rock music to throw on your iPod, look elsewhere. But if you want to see a concert that will rock your world, get tickets for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. The kids on the scene still can't match them on stage, and this may be your last chance.