Friday, April 29, 2005

Dallas Morning News: Springsteen Concert Review

Springsteen's subject matter familiar, songs not during Nokia show
08:41 AM CDT on Friday, April 29, 2005
By THOR CHRISTENSEN / The Dallas Morning News

GRAND PRAIRIE – Technically, it's the Devils & Dust tour. But Bruce Springsteen's solo acoustic show Thursday night at Nokia Theatre could have been subtitled the Family Values tour, considering all the new tunes he sang about the ties that bind.

In "The Hitter," he told the tale of an aging boxer trying to reconcile with his mom. In "Silver Palomino," he sang about an orphan trying to fill the hole in his life. Two more new tunes were about parent-child dynamics: "Jesus Was an Only Son" and "Long Time Comin'. "

The Boss said he wasn't sure why the topic dominates his new CD, Devils & Dust. But he admitted he was partly singing about himself and his own kids: When he had his first son, "You think he's Jesus ... but then 13 or 14 years later, Jesus thinks you're an idiot."

The near-capacity crowd of 6,000 or so laughed, but humor and hits were in short supply. Serious and challenging – with tons of unfamiliar tunes – it was a show for hard-core Bruce fans, not the folks dying to hear "Dancing in the Dark."

Four boozy young fans near the front of the stage actually bolted halfway through the two-hour-and-15-minute show, muttering about the absence of the E Street Band. But it was their loss.

Amid all dour tales about "people whose souls are at risk" – as he described the Devils tunes – there was no shortage of great music, like his gorgeous Spanish guitar playing in "Palomino" or the ghostly near falsetto he used on several tunes.

He began the show on a question mark, singing through his harmonica in a strange Tom Waits-like version of "Reason to Believe." But for all the creepy songs, there were moments of pure jubilance, like his gospel-folk version of "The Rising" and the rousing encore, "Waitin' on a Sunny Day."
He did whip out one wacky tune – the rarity "Part Man, Part Monkey," with a new introduction about a certain resident of the White House. And during the encore, he brought out Texas-Oklahoma singer Jimmy LaFave for a lovely version of the Woody Guthrie song "Oklahoma Hills."

Earlier, the Boss unstrapped his acoustic guitar and moved to the piano for a pair of well-loved oldies: "My Hometown" and the Dylanesque "For You." And he ended the show with another: "The Promised Land."

Yet it was most definitely not a greatest-hits concert. During the new tune "Maria's Bed," he pretended he had a full band and yelled: "C'mon Boys! 1-2-3!" – as if to show fans that he, too, missed the E Street.

And maybe they'll be back next year. But for now, Bruce is just fine on his own. In a pop world filled with one-trick ponies, it's nice to see an old legend who has depth and range.


Thursday, April 28, 2005

Terry Mattingly: Year 17 -- Episcopagans in the News

Terry Mattingly's religion column for 04/13/2005

Our story begins with a liturgy entitled "A Women's Eucharist: A Celebration of the Divine Feminine," posted among the online offerings of the Episcopal Church Office of Women's Ministries.

Digital sleuths easily connected this rite to Tuatha de Brighid, a "Clan of modern Druids." Then before insiders could say "Episcopagans," critics found links between its use of milk, honey and raisin cakes and Asherah, Astarte and rituals banned in the biblical book of Hosea.

As a rule, rites connected to Baal are frowned on in Christian churches.
The Internet trail led to the Rev. William Melnyk and his wife, the Rev. Glyn Ruppe-Melnyk, in the Diocese of Pennsylvania. In Druid circles, he is "Oakwyse" and she is "Glispa." Soon, Pennsylvania Bishop Charles E. Bennison, Jr., agreed to discipline the Melnyks -- who publicly repented.
It was crucial to avoid a "where there's smoke, there's fire" response, the bishop told the media. "I will not allow this situation to turn into a witch-hunt of any sort."

A bishop does not, after all, have to hunt witches when he has already found his druids.

However, the priest previously known as "Oakwyse" is now the druid formerly known as a priest. In a recent online post, Melnyk has withdrawn his letter of repentance and resigned from the priesthood. Those seeking Druidic rites and weddings may visit for details.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why some people think religion news is boring. Year after year, I mark this column's anniversary -- this is No. 17 -- by rounding up strange bits and pieces that didn't fit anywhere else during the previous 12 months.
Believe me, I would never dare to make this stuff up.

* Alabama radio preacher Paul Morehead is pushing the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) condom. Thus, this quotation: "When a young man and a young woman give in to Satan, when they strip down like animals in the wild and prepare themselves for a lusty round of heavy petting and full-blown sex, what better reminder for them to buck up than a WWJD condom with the image of our Lord and Savior right there on the package?"

* The most amazing faith quote of the 2004 White House race was on the left, when Sen. John Edwards said: "If we can do the work that we can do in this country -- the work we will do when John Kerry is president -- people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk. Get up out of that wheelchair and walk again."

* Charleston, S.C., church sign: "Stop, Drop and Roll Does Not Work in Hell."

* In the year of the "values voters," I am amazed that no one chased the religion angle in the ABC News poll that said 56 percent of Republicans were "very satisfied" with their sex lives, compared with 47 percent of Democrats. Who has worn "something sexy" to bed? That would be Republicans, 72 percent, and Democrats, 62 percent.

* Someone at Time magazine needs a dictionary. Its recent list of the 25 most influential Evangelical Protestants in America included Father Richard John Neuhaus and Sen. Rick Santorum -- who are Roman Catholics.

* How tough is life on the Jewish dating scene? It seems that is still in business.

* Here's evidence that there is a God: Microsoft's Bill Gates receives 4 million pieces of e-mail per day -- most of it spam.

* Amen! Four Catholic parishes in Monterrey, Mexico, have installed Israeli-made electronic devices that jam cell telephones.

* Note to President Bush: You know that pro-Texas "hook 'em, 'horns" gesture you do by raising the pinky and index fingers on your right hand? Apparently that has another meaning in Norway -- it's a salute to Satan.

* I thought this was an urban legend, but wire service reports indicate that the Rev. Jack Arnold, 69, really did collapse and die at a suburban Orlando Presbyterian church, immediately after saying the words, "And when I go to heaven. ..."

* During CNN's coverage before the pope's death, Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete said that he told Pope John Paul II that he had agreed to speak to the network about the pontiff when he died. The pope replied: "How do they know I'm going first?"

Terry Mattingly ( teaches at Palm Beach Atlantic University and is senior fellow for journalism at the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. He writes this weekly column for the Scripps Howard News Service.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Walter E. Williams: The Productive vs. the Unproductive
Walter E. Williams (archive)
April 27, 2005

"The Greatest Century That Ever Was: 25 Miraculous Trends of the Past 100 Years" is the appropriate title of a 1999 article authored by Stephen Moore and the late Julian L. Simon and published by the Washington-based Cato Institute. Let's highlight some of the phenomenal progress Americans made during the 20th century. During that century, life expectancy rose from 47 to 77 years of age. Deaths from infectious diseases fell from 700 to 50 per 100,000 of the population. Major killer diseases such as tuberculosis, polio, typhoid fever and whooping cough were virtually eliminated. Infant mortality plummeted.

The 20th century saw unprecedented material gains as well. Controlling for inflation, household assets rose from $6 trillion to $41 trillion between 1945 and 1998. Today, more than 98 percent of American homes have a telephone, electricity and a flush toilet. More than 70 percent of Americans own a car, a VCR, a microwave, air conditioning, cable TV, and a washer and dryer. In 1900, no homes had the modern conveniences of today. Today's poor Americans have choices that yesterday's millionaires could have only dreamt of, such as cell phones, computers and color television sets. Added to all this progress, most adults have twice as much leisure time as their turn-of-the-20th-century counterparts.

You say, "Williams, it would take an idiot to deny the human progress Americans made during the 20th century. What's your point?" The productive people who made this progress possible are often painted as villains. I'm talking about the innovators and the risk-takers, in a word -- entrepreneurs. Today's heroes are often seen as the people who attack entrepreneurs -- among them lawyers, politicians, media people, leftist organizations, college professors and others who often contribute little or nothing to human progress. My colleague, Thomas Sowell, calls the entrepreneurs, scientists and inventors the "doers" and their attackers the "talkers."

The talkers who attack the doers are glib and can turn clever phrases and thereby trick the gullible and uninformed, whether it's the general public through the mass media or judges and juries. For example, even if a particular drug has massive benefits, like saving tens of thousands of lives or reducing the suffering of tens of thousands of people, but a few people suffer or die, the talkers are ready to crucify the company. Their first charge is corporate greed.

The attack on the pharmaceutical industry is particularly vicious, led by lawyers looking to make a financial killing like their colleagues who sued the tobacco industry and Microsoft. One target of today's talkers is Merck drug company, the maker of Vioxx, because for some individuals it poses an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. But for other individuals, it is safe and effective for pain relief from arthritis. The operational question for any drug is whether its benefits exceed its costs -- not whether some people are harmed. Moreover, some patients would willingly accept the risk of heart attack and stroke to obtain relief from painful, crippling arthritis. Why should the FDA or the plaintiff's bar prevent them from doing so?

If we developed the practice of removing products from the market because some people are harmed by them, we might starve to death. Anaphylaxis is a sudden, severe, potentially fatal reaction that some people have to foods such as milk, wheat, soy, peanuts, fish, shellfish and eggs. Each year, food-induced anaphylaxis sends about 30,000 people to hospital emergency rooms and about 200 of them die. Since many people are harmed by these food items, should they be removed from our supermarket shelves? If not, why not? The next time we hear a talker attacking a doer, we just might ask: What have you done to further human progress?

©2005 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
Contact Walter E. Williams Read Williams's biography

Michelle Malkin: Bipartisan Bungling on Borders
Michelle Malkin (archive)
April 27, 2005

Whip-cracking Hillary Clinton (call her Hillary Buchanan) wants a "border czar." In a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Sen. Clinton, D-N.Y., wrote this week: "National security and, in particular, security at our borders, must continue to be paramount."

Catch no. 1: Sen. Clinton only wants a border czar for the border between the United States and Canada, despite the fact that the vast majority of illegal border-crossers come from the south.
Catch no. 2: Though stipulating that national security must be "paramount," Sen. Clinton also insists that the Bush administration "be sensitive" to "tourism and the regional economy" -- which is why she opposes a quite reasonable Homeland Security plan to mandate the use of passports for travelers entering the U.S. from Canada or Mexico.

Imposing this security measure on short-term visitors would put needed pressure on both of our neighbors to shore up their ID validation systems. Entry into this country is a privilege, not a right. Yet, border dominatrix Hillary opposes the rule.

Now, before my fellow conservatives get all outraged about Hillary's politically calculated doublespeak on border security, here's another catch: President Bush has the exact same position as Hillary. When he learned about the passport requirement plan earlier this month -- a plan he signed into law last December as part of the so-called intelligence reform bill -- he worried that it could "disrupt the honest flow of traffic." After expressing ignorance about his own policies, Bush ordered State and Homeland Security to reconsider the passport rules.
What a pair: Sen. Conniver and President Clueless. Pick your poison. Either way, we're committing national suicide.

I have said often that the only thing saving the Republicans on the immigration issue is the Democrats' stupidity. No more. Hillary may only be playing dress-up on border security, but that's far more than most of the cowering GOP elite in Washington is willing to do. And she's not alone among Democrats who are beginning to exploit the White House's vulnerability. Sounding positively O'Reillyian, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., complained that an agricultural illegal alien amnesty bill sponsored by GOP Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and defeated last week would have been a "huge magnet" for illegal immigration. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., sponsored a successful amendment funding Border Patrol agents, immigration investigators and interior enforcement agents that the Bush administration had shortchanged.

And as Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald reported on our group website, The Immigration Blog ( "Maxine Waters, who represents South Los Angeles, erupted in a tirade against Hispanic and black gang members last week" on illegal alien gangs. Railed Rep. Waters:

"Why isn't anyone talking about the Mexican Mafia (a gang of illegal Mexicans that controls the California prison system)?" she thundered. "I don't care if you're pink or purple or white or black or brown, I want you out if you're committing crimes." There is no excuse not to control the border, she said. "I'm a liberal with a capital 'L'," she said, "but I'm sick of it."

This week in D.C., following on the heels of the successful Minuteman Project, hundreds of citizen lobbyists descended on Capitol Hill to send the same message. They are being led by some of the nation's most influential conservative radio talk shows in every major market -- including organizer Roger Hedgecock from San Diego, Melanie Morgan from San Francisco, "The John and Ken Show" based in Los Angeles, Lars Larson in Portland, and Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. On their agenda: fixing the nation's broken deportation and detention system; ending sanctuary policies that give illegal aliens safe haven; strengthening interior enforcement; and shutting off illegal alien magnets including health, education and Social Security benefits.

One participant reported that the staff of Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., refused to admit her to his office. But the reception from Beltway Republicans hasn't been much warmer. And the White House still won't meet with pro-immigration enforcement leaders such as Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., and the House Immigration Reform Caucus.

As long as the elites in both parties continue to act like scared monkeys, Americans will be forced to take homeland security into their own hands. We are all Minutemen now.

Michelle Malkin is a syndicated columnist and maintains her weblog at
©2005 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
Contact Michelle Malkin Read Malkin's biography

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Thomas Sowell: Crippled by Their Culture


Race doesn't hold back America's "black rednecks." Nor does racism.

The Wall Street Journal
Tuesday, April 26, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT

For most of the history of this country, differences between the black and the white population--whether in income, IQ, crime rates, or whatever--have been attributed to either race or racism. For much of the first half of the 20th century, these differences were attributed to race--that is, to an assumption that blacks just did not have it in their genes to do as well as white people. The tide began to turn in the second half of the 20th century, when the assumption developed that black-white differences were due to racism on the part of whites.

Three decades of my own research lead me to believe that neither of those explanations will stand up under scrutiny of the facts. As one small example, a study published last year indicated that most of the black alumni of Harvard were from either the West Indies or Africa, or were the children of West Indian or African immigrants. These people are the same race as American blacks, who greatly outnumber either or both.

If this disparity is not due to race, it is equally hard to explain by racism. To a racist, one black is pretty much the same as another. But, even if a racist somehow let his racism stop at the water's edge, how could he tell which student was the son or daughter of someone born in the West Indies or in Africa, especially since their American-born offspring probably do not even have a foreign accent?

What then could explain such large disparities in demographic "representation" among these three groups of blacks? Perhaps they have different patterns of behavior and different cultures and values behind their behavior.


There have always been large disparities, even within the native black population of the U.S. Those blacks whose ancestors were "free persons of color" in 1850 have fared far better in income, occupation, and family stability than those blacks whose ancestors were freed in the next decade by Abraham Lincoln.

What is not nearly as widely known is that there were also very large disparities within the white population of the pre-Civil War South and the white population of the Northern states. Although Southern whites were only about one-third of the white population of the U.S., an absolute majority of all the illiterate whites in the country were in the South.

The North had four times as many schools as the South, attended by more than four times as many students. Children in Massachusetts spent more than twice as many years in school as children in Virginia. Such disparities obviously produce other disparities. Northern newspapers had more than four times the circulation of Southern newspapers. Only 8% of the patents issued in 1851 went to Southerners. Even though agriculture was the principal economic activity of the antebellum South at the time, the vast majority of the patents for agricultural inventions went to Northerners. Even the cotton gin was invented by a Northerner.

Disparities between Southern whites and Northern whites extended across the board from rates of violence to rates of illegitimacy. American writers from both the antebellum South and the North commented on the great differences between the white people in the two regions. So did famed French visitor Alexis de Tocqueville.

None of these disparities can be attributed to either race or racism. Many contemporary observers attributed these differences to the existence of slavery in the South, as many in later times would likewise attribute both the difference between Northern and Southern whites, and between blacks and whites nationwide, to slavery. But slavery doesn't stand up under scrutiny of historical facts any better than race or racism as explanations of North-South differences or black-white differences. The people who settled in the South came from different regions of Britain than the people who settled in the North--and they differed as radically on the other side of the Atlantic as they did here--that is, before they had ever seen a black slave.

Slavery also cannot explain the difference between American blacks and West Indian blacks living in the United States because the ancestors of both were enslaved. When race, racism, and slavery all fail the empirical test, what is left?

Culture is left.


The culture of the people who were called "rednecks" and "crackers" before they ever got on the boats to cross the Atlantic was a culture that produced far lower levels of intellectual and economic achievement, as well as far higher levels of violence and sexual promiscuity. That culture had its own way of talking, not only in the pronunciation of particular words but also in a loud, dramatic style of oratory with vivid imagery, repetitive phrases and repetitive cadences.

Although that style originated on the other side of the Atlantic in centuries past, it became for generations the style of both religious oratory and political oratory among Southern whites and among Southern blacks--not only in the South but in the Northern ghettos in which Southern blacks settled. It was a style used by Southern white politicians in the era of Jim Crow and later by black civil rights leaders fighting Jim Crow. Martin Luther King's famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 was a classic example of that style.

While a third of the white population of the U.S. lived within the redneck culture, more than 90% of the black population did. Although that culture eroded away over the generations, it did so at different rates in different places and among different people. It eroded away much faster in Britain than in the U.S. and somewhat faster among Southern whites than among Southern blacks, who had fewer opportunities for education or for the rewards that came with escape from that counterproductive culture.

Nevertheless the process took a long time. As late as the First World War, white soldiers from Georgia, Arkansas, Kentucky and Mississippi scored lower on mental tests than black soldiers from Ohio, Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania. Again, neither race nor racism can explain that--and neither can slavery.

The redneck culture proved to be a major handicap for both whites and blacks who absorbed it. Today, the last remnants of that culture can still be found in the worst of the black ghettos, whether in the North or the South, for the ghettos of the North were settled by blacks from the South. The counterproductive and self-destructive culture of black rednecks in today's ghettos is regarded by many as the only "authentic" black culture--and, for that reason, something not to be tampered with. Their talk, their attitudes, and their behavior are regarded as sacrosanct.
The people who take this view may think of themselves as friends of blacks. But they are the kinds of friends who can do more harm than enemies.

Mr. Sowell, the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author, most recently, of "Black Rednecks and White Liberals," published this week by Encounter Books.

David Fricke: Devils & Dust Review

Devils & Dust
4 1/2 Stars
Originally released: 2005
Sony Music Entertainment Inc.
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Rolling Stone Magazine

Bruce Springsteen's thirteenth studio album is, in many ways, his most conventional singer-songwriter record since his 1973 debut, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. Devils and Dust is twelve songs of assorted vintage and narrative setting, rendered with a subdued, mostly acoustic flair that smells of wood smoke and sparkles in the right places like stars in a clear Plains sky. There is no connected, redemptive urgency to these stories; this is not The Rising. And there is no E Street Band to turn Springsteen's trademark compulsion to save and be saved into fireball baptism: You get Steve Jordan on drums, producer Brendan O'Brien on bass and Springsteen on almost everything else, with his wife, singer Patti Scialfa, and E Street violinist Soozie Tyrell making brush-stroke appearances.

Yet Devils and Dust is, in striking and affecting ways, also Springsteen's most audacious record since the home-demo American Gothic of 1982's Nebraska. It opens with mortal sin -- the title song, a sand-caked letter home from a war where both sides kill in God's name -- and ends in death: "Matamoros Banks," a prayer for remembrance by an illegal immigrant who doesn't make it across the Rio Grande. With its tender fingerpicking, singing-wire curls of dobro and soft, billowing orchestration, "Reno" floats like a night breeze through an open bedroom window. But the sex inside is adulterous and graphic, and it costs: " 'Two hundred dollars straight in/Two-fifty up the ass,' she smiled and said." In the next song, "Long Time Comin'," Springsteen uses the word "----" for the first time on record, in the sense of swearing never to screw up again. There is no apology, though, in "The Hitter": A fallen boxer frankly recalls the brutality of a life in which a man is paid to all but murder other men for entertainment. Springsteen first played the song in his 1995-1997 solo acoustic shows; he sings it here with a vivid, craggy exhaustion. The knockout punch actually comes in the first verse -- the palooka is confessing to his mother. After that, it's all blood, shards of bone and universal guilt: "Understand, in the end, Ma, every man plays the game/ If you know one different, then speak out his name." "The Hitter" is one of several songs on Devils and Dust that Springsteen wrote almost a decade ago, in a concentrated burst of inspiration as he toured behind the spectral-country song cycle, 1995's The Ghost of Tom Joad. He reprises the dust-bowl topography and marooned spirits of that album with moving results. In "Long Time Comin'," a rustic sprint lit with square-dance fiddle and pearly steel guitar, a father prays for his children as the family sleeps rough, under "the sword of Orion": "If I had one wish in this Godforsaken world, kids/It'd be that your mistakes would be your own." But Devils and Dust is also as immediate and troubling as this morning's paper. These people are our neighbors, and these worries are Springsteen's, too. He wrote the title song in 2003, after the start of the Iraq War, and it shows. His cracked, vocal agony when he looks his God in the eye ("I've got my finger on the trigger/And tonight faith just ain't enough") is as old as Stephen Crane and as fresh as Fallujah. "All the Way Home," in contrast, is much older than it seems, predating Springsteen's plunge into party politics last fall with the Vote for Change Tour.
But he steps into the first lines -- "I know what it's like to have failed, baby/With the whole world lookin' on" -- with the grizzled force of experience. The specific echoes of the Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man" -- the bees-army buzz of sitar and tamboura coating the rolling twang -- are no accident either.

There are times, like Springsteen's outbreak of whispered falsetto in the campfire rockabilly of "All I'm Thinkin' About," when you can't help waiting for the E Street payoff that never comes. But many of Springsteen's best songs, going back to "Born to Run," are about the salvation just out of reach, around the next curve and over the next hill -- and what it takes to get there. The rewards are often slender here, when they come at all. Still, the promise never fades. "These days I don't stand on pride/ And I ain't afraid to take a fall," Springsteen sings with gravelly swagger in "All the Way Home" -- like a guy already back on his feet.

More Bruce Springsteen

Steve Morse: Springsteen is Sharp on Edgy 'Devils'

By Steve Morse, Boston Globe Staff
April 22, 2005

Once a decade, Bruce Springsteen unstraps his electric guitar, goes acoustic, and makes music that marks him as a Woody Guthrie of his time. In the '80s, he issued ''Nebraska," then came ''The Ghost of Tom Joad" in the '90s, and now ''Devils & Dust," which arrives in stores Tuesday.

The new disc has some seriously dark moments, but it's not as grim as ''Tom Joad." That record was the poorest-selling of Springsteen's career, so he may have taken stock. The new album is again laden with humans on the edge (''These are all people who are in danger or at risk," Springsteen says in the DVD portion of this DualDisc), but five of the 12 songs are filled with hope and optimism, providing much-needed release.

''The characters on this record are all trying to find their way," Springsteen says on the DVD, which contains solo acoustic performances of five tunes. ''Some do it somewhat successfully -- and some come to tragic ends."

The net result is an emotional powerhouse -- a high-water mark of Springsteen's career that has seen him go from Asbury Park party boy to literary folk poet of the Western prairie and desert. He compels us to feel for the dust-swept soldier in the somber title track, the displaced street kid in ''Black Cowboys" (which could serve as a companion piece to ''Sinaloa Cowboys" from ''Tom Joad"), the boy grieving his mother in ''Silver Palomino," and the men who have found joy and salvation through committed love relationships in ''All the Way Home" and ''Leah."

Although Springsteen spent last fall doing shows to support John Kerry's presidential campaign, there is an absence of political rhetoric, though the title track was inspired by the Iraq war. It was written just after the start of the war and deals with the anxiety of an American soldier, though Iraq is not specifically mentioned. ''Fear's a dangerous thing and it can turn your heart black . . . I've got my finger on the trigger and tonight faith just ain't enough," Springsteen sings.

The album, which contains songs he has written over the last 10 years, has more overall bounce than ''Tom Joad." There is some twangy country-rock that could have fit onto Springsteen's ''The River" album -- and though he sparingly uses a few members of his regular E Street Band (notably wife Patti Scialfa on harmonies), he stretches out by playing guitar, keyboards, and drums on the euphoric ''All I'm Thinking About." He happily repeats that phrase 24 times as he depicts a man who can't wait to get home. ''Ain't nothin' in this world I can do about it -- all I'm thinking about is you," he sings in a vein similar to ''Mary's Place" from his previous album, ''The Rising."

The darker songs, however, are absolutely heart wrenching. ''Reno" is unlike anything he has done -- a bluesy lament about a hooker who thinks she is really pleasing her client (''She poured me another whiskey, said 'Here's to the best you ever had' "), yet the protagonist concludes, ''It wasn't the best I ever had/ It wasn't even close." The graphic imagery includes a reference to a sex act and is responsible for the disclaimer on the CD jacket: ''This song contains some adult imagery."

Springsteen also explores the bonds between mothers and sons in several mournful numbers. The most affecting is ''Silver Palomino," about a boy whose mother's hand ''slips from his hair" as she dies. He then rides into the mountains and spies a palomino whose spirit is as untamed as his mother's. It's an exalting image. The song is followed by the lightly syncopated ''Jesus Was an Only Son," describing one's mother as ''a light you'll never see in another face."

Further probing these bonds are the recitative ''Black Cowboys" (about a son who runs away after his mother is corrupted by the law-breaking behavior of a new lover) and the spellbinding ''The Hitter," about a boxer who has punched himself into a world of no restraint and mercy yet shows up at his mother's door on a rainy night, saying, ''I ask of you nothin', not a kiss, not a smile/ Just open the door and let me lie down for a while."

Springsteen, who performs a sold-out show at the Orpheum May 20, concludes with the prayerful piece de resistance, ''Matamoros Banks." It ingeniously backtracks a man's journey from the bottom of the Rio Grande, where he has died after trying to cross the border from Mexico to Texas, back to the safety of his lover's arms at home.

It's also a poignant highlight on the flip-side DVD, on which a black-garbed Springsteen sings alone in a dimly framed corner of a country house, lit only by an antique lamp. These live performances are more downcast than the overall tone of the album, and he adds an extended keening wail to ''Matamoros Banks" that is absent from the CD version.

Springsteen's songwriting has never been more precise. The balance he achieves on the album between light and dark, joy and despair, assures that it will touch his most diehard fans, even though it may be too real for a marketplace that seems to require an endless supply of escapism.

Stephen Kiehl: The Spirit Moves the Boss

Bruce Springsteen's latest project reflects the faith-based undercurrents of American life; His fans accept his social activism

By Stephen Kiehl
Baltimore Sun Staff
Originally published April 26, 2005

There are Vietnam veterans who have never forgiven Jane Fonda for visiting with the Viet Cong and Dixie Chicks fans who stomped their CDs after lead singer Natalie Maines made an anti-Bush remark at the start of the Iraq war.

But while other artists have paid a price for speaking out politically, there is at least one who has been given wider latitude: Bruce Springsteen, who over the years has taken on causes like unemployment, AIDS and, now, with his new album, Devils & Dust, the hottest of the current buttons - religion.

The Boss will probably get away with it, just as he seems not to have suffered career damage by supporting the loser, John Kerry, in the last presidential election. It's because, observers say, he's earned it."

If all he was interested in was popularity, he could have churned out 'Born in the USA' parts 2, 3, 4 and 5, and he didn't do that," says Mike Marrone, a programming director for XM Satellite Radio. "He had a license to print money, and he didn't use it."

Instead, Springsteen has followed his conscience and called attention to segments of American society that have been forgotten or left behind - Vietnam veterans and laid-off workers, AIDS victims and immigrants.

The Boss, perhaps one of the most famous products of Catholic school, continues his role as America's conscience with his new CD. Critics are calling Devils and Dust his family values album for its themes of God, church and family.

The title song is about an American soldier with his "finger on the trigger/And tonight faith just ain't enough." And another, "Jesus Was an Only Son," imagines a conversation between Jesus and his mother before his crucifixion.

So many overt references to faith and God may be new for Springsteen, but at least since Nebraska, his 1982 album about those who didn't have a place in Reagan's prosperous America, he has been telling tales that force his multitudes of fans to think about life on the margins.

Springsteen went on to write "Streets of Philadelphia" for the 1993 Tom Hanks film about a lawyer whose firm fires him when it becomes clear he has AIDS. And after the 9/11 attacks he released an album, The Rising, about finding strength through the sorrow of that day.

"With The Rising, he felt it," said Stan Goldstein, who founded the Rock & Roll Tour of the Jersey Shore in 1999, which hits Springsteen sites. "That was his neighborhood. He lost neighbors. I'm sure his children's friends lost parents, and he felt it right in his own community, and I think he was part of the healing process."

Last year, Springsteen enthusiastically campaigned for Kerry, at the risk of alienating some fans. But Springsteen explained his motives at the kickoff of the Vote for Change tour in Philadelphia last October: "I think that if you mislead the country and take the country to war and put our sons and daughters on the line - if you do it for a false reason, you lose your job."

Even his Republican fans say they respected his honesty and had always assumed his politics tilted leftward anyway.

"I didn't really agree with everything he said, but I respected it," said Goldstein. "I've always felt that he wanted to raise up the social conscience a bit."Marrone, of XM Satellite Radio, says Springsteen succeeds in speaking his mind because he comes off as genuine.

"He grew up in a very blue-collar area, and he has never lost sight of that," Marrone said. "So therefore he writes about things that are interesting to him. I think he's always been seen as a kind of conscience because he comes across as somebody who doesn't bull----. He comes across as very, very real."

Marrone points to the speech Springsteen gave last month when U2 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Boss said: "They are both a step forward and direct descendants of the great bands who believed rock music could shake things up in the world, who dared to have faith in their audience, who believed if they played their best it would bring out the best in you."

He was talking about U2, but he may as well have been speaking of himself.

Copyright © 2005, The Baltimore Sun Get home delivery

Springsteen Kicks off New Tour in Detroit

Solo tour a showcase for Springsteen
New songs, old hits get superb treatment
April 26, 2005


Bruce Springsteen
FOUR STARS out of four
Fox Theatre, Detroit

On a night sometimes wistful, often cutting, Bruce Springsteen commanded the Fox Theatre stage Monday as he pared some of his preeminent songs down to their core.

Feeling his way confidently through the opening show of his new two-month tour, Springsteen delivered on an emotionally hair-tingling set, reinterpreting past classics and introducing material from the album "Devils & Dust," in stores today. Alternately standing alone with a guitar and seated at a piano, the 55-year-old artist staged what was in many ways a sequel to his much-acclaimed solo outing a decade ago.

Springsteen took the stage to a standing ovation and familiar cries of "Bruuuce" from the capacity crowd of about 4,600, which watched as he pulled out a harmonica, crouched over and launched into a dark, unearthly rendition of "Reason to Believe" from 1982's "Nebraska." He often worked like a man possessed inside the immaculately lit Fox during the two-hour-plus show, which coupled material from the new album -- which he frequently described as "a record about mothers and sons"-- with chestnuts stretching back 30 years.

Among the latter were incandescent readings of "For You" and "Racing In the Streets" at the piano, which offered Springsteen a fresh canvas for the older work and allowed him to reveal an impressive facility on the keys.

Before a pointed, urgent "Youngstown," Springsteen dedicated the tune to "my good friend Tommy Morello," the guitarist performing next door with Audioslave at the State Theatre. On "Highway Patrolman," he took turns jabbing and strumming at his guitar while rendering the song's narrative with a lonesome but penetrating vocal.

It wasn't just the old stuff that stood up. While the lyrically clumsy "Black Cowboys" fell flat, most of the new material held its own on a night devoted to showcasing Springsteen's songwriting skills. "Long Time Comin'," an older song getting its first public release, sounded like a gorgeous classic, as "Jesus Was An Only Son" and the show-opening "Devils & Dust" were performed with an edgy energy.

"The Rising," title track from Springsteen's 2002 record, showed why it likely has earned a permanent spot in his live repertoire, retaining its anthemic power even when delivered by just a voice and guitar.

Springsteen carried an easy demeanor as he talked the audience through the new album's songs, seemingly relaxed as he embarked on his globe-trotting jaunt. Like the 1995 acoustic tour supporting "The Ghost of Tom Joad," this was a chance for Springsteen to go into character, playing the role of wise, poetic troubador.

While it's a role that certainly pleases Springsteen himself, it's clearly well received by fans too, and for good reason. Monday showed us the side of the artist from which the rest of it all springs: the bare bones of his melodies and words, treated just enough to take on new life and left raw enough to keep their pure parts.

Contact BRIAN McCOLLUM at 313-223-4450 or

Newsweek: Still the Boss

On his new album, Springsteen again eschews his foot-stomping arena rock and continues to evolve as a story-teller

By Susannah Meadows
Updated: 1:09 p.m. ET April 23, 2005

April 23 - There are two Bruce Springsteens. There’s the rousing E Street Band guy. And there’s the quiet story-teller. Many fans go for both, but each Bruce inspires his own exclusive devotees.
The first one’s diehards are in it for the life-affirming romp, the second group prefers a softer voice and louder truths. The first camp knows the words to “Jungleland” and has an inexplicable thing for Clarence Clemons. The second got hooked on the stripped-down “Nebraska” record and thinks the E-Street-free “Tunnel of Love”—about Springsteen’s first marriage falling apart—may be his best album. Springsteen’s latest album may not get the “fun” Bruce crowd out of their seats. But, for those of us in the second camp, this record is what we’re here for.

“Devils & Dust” is quiet Bruce's best self . It’s almost as if the rest has been practice. On this record the lyricism of 1995's “The Ghost of Tom Joad” is informed by the high production value of 2002's “The Rising.” And though “Devils & Dust” isn’t long on melody, the music itself is often pretty, fleshed out with Bruce’s crisp slide guitar, Soozie Tyrell’s plaintive fiddle, and an occasional sitar. Unlike E Street collaborations, where the instruments all sound piled on top of one another, there’s enough room in these songs to be able to hear each musician at work. As a result, the sound of this album is certainly familiar, but it’s more adventurous and satisfying than Bruce’s usual fare.

He's tuned up his lyric-writing as well, bringing what he’s been doing his whole career forward with a running leap. If in the past he relied too often on some of the same metaphors of the highway or a car—or a car on the highway—here he seems determined to tell fresh stories with evocative imagery. “The sun bloodied the sky and sliced through the hotel blinds,” he sings in “Reno.” And in “All the Way Home,” he says “I know what it’s like to have soared and come crashin’ like a drunk on a bar room floor.”

And things have gotten more complicated for all his characters. Springsteen lends his voice to a fighter who wants to come home, a boy who leaves his drug-addicted mother, a Mexican man drowned crossing the Rio Grande. Springsteen is busy dispensing dignity to all their sorry souls.
One of the most touching songs on the record is the sexually explicit "Reno," about a man sleeping with a prostitute. Springsteen sings it in a voice so tender and sympathetic that you might not notice he’s saying how much certain acts will cost the man. But even amid all the hard truths, he still has some fun, splashing around with a handful of winning upbeat love songs.

Springsteen was so focused on being a good story-teller that some songs get scene-setting introductions in the liner notes and he’s included translations of the Spanish words he uses. On some songs, he doesn’t even include a chorus. If the tune isn’t catchy—though several of them are—the drama of the words sticks in a different way. The first time I listened to the album, I kept reading ahead on the liner notes to find out what happens. And what happens isn’t ever trite. That's hard enough to pull off in a short story. He does it in single paragraphs.Throughout “Devils & Dust,” Springsteen sings of God and faith and redemption, as he often has before. In “Jesus Was an Only Son,” he finds an original perspective: Jesus’s mother prays that she’ll always be by his side. A record this good has its own kind of spirituality; “Devils & Dust” is sure to remind his fans why they worship at the altar of Springsteen.

© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Dan DeLuca: The Thoughtful, Storytelling Boss is Back

Posted on Sun, Apr. 24, 2005

Music clips Devils & Dust

Album Review
By Dan DeLuca
Philadelphia Inquirer Music Critic

There'll be no "Bruuuuuuce"-ing this time around.

Devils & Dust, Bruce Springsteen's 13th studio album, is not a rollicking ride down the highway in search of communal salvation with the E Street Band.

Instead, Devils & Dust (Columbia ***), which comes out Tuesday, is in keeping with the Springsteen pattern of following arena-size rock records with scaled-back, more intimate efforts that place his characters in at-risk, if not desperate, situations.

So - if this were an SAT analogy - the sepia-toned Devils & Dust is to The Rising, the Boss' rousing 2002 response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as Nebraska was to The River, and as Tunnel of Love was to Born in the U.S.A.

"I was signed as a guy with an acoustic guitar," Springsteen points out on the DVD side of the album, which features him performing and talking about five songs. The album is being released in the new DualDisc format, the music industry's attempt to package CDs with visuals and combat Internet file-sharing.

On Devils & Dust, he's that guy again - as he will be when he plays the sold-out Tower Theatre, solo, on May 17. Every one of the album's 12 songs is augmented by other musicians. Producer Brendan O'Brien, who also helmed The Rising, plays bass (as well as sitar and hurdy-gurdy) and is joined by Steve Jordan on drums on the handful of forceful, uptempo tracks.

Even such austere cuts as "Reno" - about a man's soul-killing visit to a prostitute - are textured with subtle touches of strings, horns and keyboards. (That song earned D&D a "this song contains some adult imagery" label, and qualifies it as the first Springsteen album you might want to hide from the kids.)

But D&D is, essentially, a solo album. The title song, an authoritative Dust Bowl ballad complete with harmonica rack, sets the stage. Written shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, it's sung in the voice of an American soldier who's been placed, as Springsteen says on an episode of VH1's Storytellers that airs this week, "in a situation where your choices are untenable - and the price that inflicts in blood and spirit."

The crux of the album hangs in the chorus of "Devils and Dust," which asks about the cost of compromised ideals: "I got God on my side / I'm just trying to survive / What if what you do to survive kills the things you love?"

Springsteen - who actively worked for Sen. John Kerry in last year's presidential election - then goes on to critique the U.S. government for using fear to manipulate its citizens: "Fear's a powerful thing / It can turn your heart black you can trust / It'll take your God-filled soul / And fill it with devils and dust."

That's as pointed, politically, as Devils & Dust gets. Anyone expecting an album full of protest songs will be disappointed. By leading last year's Vote for Change tour, Springsteen undoubtedly alienated many longtime fans and risked having the human drama of his songs reduced to campaign fodder.

So the 55-year-old father of three is shrewd to keep the emphasis on the personal, rather than the political, in his empathetic tales of Mexican immigrants, beaten-down boxers, and working-stiff parents. The low-key approach means, too, that commercial expectations are modest: If Springsteen's audience has fallen off, it won't be noticeable until he makes his next outsized rock record.

No anthemic choruses

Going back to "Badlands," Springsteen protagonists are always looking for the faith that can save them. And the characters on D&D - who include the Son of God Himself in "Jesus Was an Only Son," a gospel processional about a mother about to lose her child - are no different. It's just that they don't go looking for it by belting out anthemic choruses with the Big Man by their side.

Which is not to say that Devils & Dust doesn't have its share of catchy tunes. For almost every severe ballad rife with desert imagery of dried blood and bone, there's an energetic toe-tapper: the heart-swelling love song "Leah," the country-flavored "Maria's Bed," and, most intriguingly, the infectious "All I'm Thinkin' About," in which Springsteen sings in a falsetto reminiscent of Canned Heat's "Going Up the Country."

That's the main difference between the new album and The Ghost of Tom Joad, the 1996 folkie Springsteen disc that Devils & Dust will be frequently compared to. Many of the D&D songs were written during the Tom Joad tour.

And much of D&D shares Tom Joad's whispery, ghostly feel. The closing track, "Matamoros Banks," revisits the earlier album's "Across the Border." The new song tells of a failed river crossing in reverse order, to spine-tingling effect. In the first verse, our hero is already dead: "Your clothes give way to the current and river stone / Till every trace of who you ever were is gone." But at the song's end, he is fully alive with the dream that will soon do him in.

Like homework

Tom Joad, though, was so ascetic in its approach that it felt like calculus homework. It was as if the Boss - who refers to himself jokingly on VH1's surprisingly relaxed Storytellers episode as "that holier-than-thou bastard"- wanted us all to don the same hairshirt he'd pulled out of his Woody Guthrie closet.

Devils & Dust doesn't completely avoid Joad's pitfalls. Both "The Hitter" and "Black Cowboys" are impressive, short stories in song. But I couldn't make out what Springsteen was singing about until I read the lyrics. And last I checked, music was meant to be heard, not read.

For the most part, though, Devils & Dust succeeds in leavening despair with hope, and mixing dirges with buoyant songs you might even be tempted to sing along with. Springsteen is a dogged character, a lot like the backsliding family man in "Long Time Comin', " who vows, with a third child on the way, "I ain't gonna [screw] it up this time."

With Devils & Dust, the hard working troubadour has granted himself a Tom Joad do-over. And this time, he hasn't screwed it up.

Contact music critic Dan DeLuca at 215-854-5628 or Read his recent work at

Michael Riley: The Crippled Grace of 'Devils & Dust'

Published in the Asbury Park Press 04/24/05

God is hard enough to find in the safe places of this world, but out there in the wilderness, it can become nearly impossible. In the Bible, the wilderness is the place where God's children wander for a generation, where Satan has free reign to tempt even the holiest of men with power and riches. It's not a nice place to visit, and nobody wants to live there.

But the people who inhabit the world of Bruce Springsteen's new album, "Devils & Dust," bear the wounds and scars of a life lived in barren deserts, in forbidding mountain places and in godforsaken no-man's-lands of dangerous borders and nameless towns.

There are only so many things you can do in the wilderness: You can keep moving, you can hope, you can pray or you can die.

Springsteen's characters do all of those things over the course of the album, from the soldier in the title track, with his "finger on the trigger" afraid that his "God-filled soul" will be filled with nothing but "devils and dust," to the battered fighter of "The Hitter," from young Rainey Williams, who steals money from his mother's drug dealing lover and uses it to save his own life, to the drowned migrant of "Matamoras Banks."

12 small stories

Each of the dozen songs on the album tells a small story, delicate in its depiction of moments, even when the details of those moments are raw or brutal. "Reno" is nothing more or less than a first-person account of one man's assignation with a hooker. Shame, regret and memory come together in the way the singer tells us his eyes drift away from the prostitute in the heat of something less than passion and out the hotel window. He closes his eyes and remembers his true love and all he has lost.

And yet, even here, the singer can be struck by some absurd resemblance between Maria, his lost love, and the prostitute ("she had your ankles") and feel "filled with grace."

Grace, of all things: a divine gift that lets us know, despite all evidence to the contrary, that we are loved, forgiven and cared for by God.

It would be nice if we could experience that grace whole and unadulterated, but apart from saints and mystics, that is unlikely for any of us who spend our days in a wilderness of one kind or another. Our experience of grace is, of sin-rooted necessity, incomplete and crippled somehow. Maybe we can imagine a transcendent grace, but we have to experience it in imminent terms.

Springsteen's characters take grace wherever they find it, and where they find it usually is in another person, in the love that often surprises us with its hope and the miracles it works.

"I want to shoulder my load and figure it all out with Leah," the singer says in "Leah." "I want to live in the same house, beneath the same roof, sleep in the same bed, search for the same proof, as Leah." And that halting imminent grace often is preferable to the "signs and wonders" proffered in Scripture.

The singer of "Maria's Bed" knows this to be true: "I was burned by the angels, sold wings of lead/Then I fell into the roses and sweet salvation of Maria's bed . . . Holy man said, "Hold on, brother, there's a light up ahead'/Ain't nothin' like the light that shines on me in Maria's bed/Well I take my blessings at the riverhead/I'm living in the light of Maria's bed."

Sometimes, grace is as cold and hard as a diamond. It's what happens at the end of the line. The protagonist of "The Hitter," an over-the-hill boxer, struggles through the rain to the door of his mother's home: "There's nothin' I want, nothin' that you need say/Just let me lie down for a while/And I'll be on my way."

Mothers and sons roam through these songs as a kind of subtext. Springsteen gives his version of the Pieta in "Jesus Was An Only Son." In this version, it is Jesus who comforts Mary at Gethsemane, Calvary and beyond: "Mother, still your tears. For remember the soul of the universe willed a world and it appeared."

That's a hard lesson to remember in the wilderness, and a halting, half-hearted prayer is sometimes all we have to remind us.

The broken souls in "Devils & Dust" pray hard and often, even if they don't realize it, even if they give voice to those prayers in wishes and vows. The husband and father of "Long Time Comin' " wishes for his two kids that they could break free of family curses and bad choices.

At the end of the song, lying awake next to his pregnant wife, he promises, "I ain't gonna f—- it up this time." That is, of course, the prayer of every repentant sinner since we were all exiled from Eden.

The question is whether grace extends beyond this life, this world, this wilderness. All we can do is hope as the darkness surrounds us.

In the album's final song, that hope is given words in the drowning of a man trying to find his way into America across a border river. "And the things of the earth, they make their claim/That the things of heaven may do the same."

"Devils & Dust" is a dark work, punctuated by points of light and joy. And we are reminded, as the Psalmist was reminded, that there is no place — not even the wilderness of life, not even in the wilderness of death — where God's love and grace cannot reach us.

Michael Riley is an ordained Baptist minister.

Robert Hilburn: Through the Eyes of the Suffering

April 24, 2005
The Los Angeles Times
Bruce Springsteen returns to moving portraits of struggling individuals on "Devils & Dust."

Bruce Springsteen
"Devils & Dust" (Columbia)

"I got my finger on the trigger, but I don't know who to trust / When I look into your eyes, there's just devils and dust," Bruce Springsteen sings in the opening line of his latest album. And yes, he's speaking about a soldier's anxious vigil in Iraq.

In the track, Springsteen assumes the role of a soldier on patrol, unable to find comfort in even the friendliest foreign face and knowing self-preservation can be all-consuming:

Fear's a powerful thing
It can turn your heart black
you can trust
It'll take your God-filled soul
And fill it with devils and dust.

But America's blue-collar chronicler isn't continuing down the path of "The Rising," his rousing, anthem-packed 2002 reflection on the nation's emotional state after the twin towers terrorist attack.

In this mostly stark, acoustic CD (due in stores Tuesday), he returns to moving portraits of struggling individuals here at home, especially migrant workers in the Southwest, where devils and dust of a different kind can be equally threatening.

This is the Alternative Bruce of 1982's "Nebraska" and 1995's "The Ghost of Tom Joad," albums in which he stepped away from the superhero "Boss" persona and the E Street Band spectacle to examine the gritty, dimly lighted world of characters who have been pushed to society's extremes.

It's not the side that has helped Springsteen fill stadiums. But it's just as heart-stirring in its careful, restrained way, and it's been the source of his most compelling work over the last 15 years.

Springsteen was on such a personal high during the "Tom Joad" theater tour that he frequently returned to his hotel after the performances to work on new songs, some of which are in this album.

Where Southern California was the setting of many of the sketches in "Tom Joad," the locales in "Devils & Dust" stretch from the "rutted hills of Oklahoma," where a young black man longs for the freedom of the cowboy life after fleeing the mean streets back east, to the banks of the Rio Grande, where a young Mexican's search for a better life in this country ends in tragedy.

In these folk- and country-flavored story songs, Springsteen combines the empathy of Woody Guthrie with the storytelling economy of Hank Williams. He's superb at being true to the character yet giving the experience a universal edge.

"Jesus Was an Only Son" creates an evocative link among mothers everywhere — whether in the Southwest worrying about their sons in Iraq or in Mexico fearful of bad news from north of the border.

In the neo-gospel tune, Springsteen sings:

Now there's a loss that can never be replaced,
A destination that can never be reached,
A light you'll never find in another's face,
A sea whose distance cannot be breached.

"Reno" is about a man who spends most of his encounter with a prostitute trying desperately to remember the time long ago when he rode with vaqueros in the Valle de dos RĂ­os and when sex was an act of love. A reference in the song to anal sex makes "Devils & Dust" the first Springsteen album to carry a cautionary sticker.

As is his habit, Springsteen sometimes revisits past themes, approaching them from a slightly different angle. "Matamoros Banks" is a spiritually tinged statement of death, reminiscent of "Across the Border" from "Tom Joad."

Instead of looking forward to "drinking from God's blessed waters," however, the character in "Banks" retraces the journey that took him to the Rio Grande, searching for loved ones left behind.

Amid the album's many storm clouds, there are occasional rays of hope. "All the Way Home" is about hanging out in any old bar where the band is trashin' some old Stones song.

Just as Springsteen writes in different styles on the album, he also tries to get inside the spirit of the characters by singing in different voices, from the familiar country drawl of the "Nebraska" period to an aggressive falsetto. Producer Brendan O'Brien (on bass) and a few others add gentle traces of accompaniment to the album's primary guitar and harmonica coloring.

A couple of the songs are slight, and the DualDisc's half-hour video component is too arty in places for its own good, but the heart of the CD is filled with the compassion and craft that have made Springsteen such an invaluable figure in rock.

An underlying theme in the album, especially in "Maria's Bed" and "All I'm Thinkin' About," is how a good love can help pull you through hard times. It's the blessing, he suggests, of finding an ally who can walk through this world with you hand in hand, skin to skin, soul to soul.

David Menconi: Backstreets of Carrboro

Editor keeps Springsteen fan magazine vital

By DAVID MENCONI, Staff Writer
The News & Observer

CARRBORO -- By now, Chris Phillips is used to weird things showing up in the mail. Not for him, but for Bruce Springsteen -- sent care of Backstreets, the Springsteen fan magazine that Phillips edits and publishes.

"Springsteen doesn't give out an address for fan mail, so people send a lot of that our way," says Phillips. "There are cute poems, the occasional fan letter to the Backstreet Boys. Years ago, someone sent a blanket they had crocheted that said, 'Bruce Springsteen Cover Me.' That was nice. But once, some woman sent a vial of blood with these strange David Lynch-ian writings.

"Yeah," Phillips adds with a laugh, "every now and then we do get something weird that needs forwarding to the proper authorities."

The funny part is that Carrboro-based Backstreets has no real link to Springsteen, operating completely independently of his organization -- a point made quite humorously in the "Frequently Asked Questions" section of But it's an easy mistake to make, given how thoroughly the magazine chronicles The Boss and all his doings.

Since 1980, Backstreets has covered all things Bruce with admirable attention to obsessive detail. When Springsteen released 1998's "Tracks," a four-disc box set of previously unreleased rarities, it had no liner notes to speak of. So Backstreets published a special liner-notes pullout section that traced the history of each song -- and it even fit inside the "Tracks" box.

When Springsteen gets busy, so does Backstreets. With a new Springsteen album, "Devils & Dust" (Columbia Records), dropping Tuesday, Phillips and his staff have been working overtime to get the spring issue out on the same schedule. The magazine will go to the printer this week and start hitting mailboxes by the beginning of May.

"Right now, I'm trying to finish an editorial that's sort of a 'Devils & Dust' review, and sort of an explanation as to why it's not really a review," Phillips says, sitting at his desk on a recent afternoon. "I just haven't had enough time with the record. This issue will also have something about Bruce's Hall of Fame induction speech for U2, and a piece on DJs who were influential in Bruce's career. That's about 12 pages of interviews, archival photos, stuff about how radio changed and what Bruce's career would've been without it.

"A lot of nerd minutiae we can sprawl with," Phillips concludes. "But what would Backstreets be without minutiae?"

Back in the day

Backstreets began in Seattle in 1980, founded by Seattle Rocket editor Charles Cross and named after his favorite Springsteen song (from 1975's "Born to Run" album). The first issue was four newspaper pages, which Cross handed out at a Springsteen concert in Seattle.

While Backstreets remains very much a grass-roots outfit, the product is considerably heftier nowadays. The quarterly glossy magazine has a staff of four and a circulation of 16,000. Most issues are 56 pages, filled up by a stable of about 10 regular freelance contributors plus reader submissions. Backstreets runs very few advertisements. Most of its revenue comes from subscriptions and newsstand sales, and the sale of Springsteen merchandise such as hard-to-find vinyl copies of the new Springsteen album.

"I like the way it covers pretty much every facet," says Charlie Board, a Cary software engineer who has subscribed to Backstreets since 1986. "Bootleg reviews, definitive tour reviews with run-downs of every show -- the rare songs played, guests, fan reaction. You get editorials about the music, articles about tangentially related artists like Southside Johnny or Garland Jeffreys. It's sort of a way to be part of the community, like a print version of being a Deadhead."

Phillips joined Bruce nation in his early teenage years, after seeing what he calls a "life-changing show" on the 1984 "Born in the U.S.A." tour. But he wound up working for Backstreets almost by chance. After graduating from Duke University in 1993, Phillips picked up and moved to Seattle on a whim.

"No job, no nothing," he says. "I'm not sure what I was thinking. But then I remembered, 'Wait a minute, isn't Backstreets here?' I was a fan and a reader, so I got ahold of a back issue to look up the phone number and sent a resume."

Fortuitously, Backstreets was looking for a managing editor. Phillips got the job, and it's the only one he's had since college. He took over from Cross as editor/publisher in 1998 and moved the operation to Washington, D.C., in 2000.

Last summer, Backstreets moved again, to Carrboro. Phillips and his wife both went to Duke, and they count the proximity of Allen & Son Bar-B-Q near their house as a major plus. Also nearby is Phillips' brother Jon, who edits and publishes a book magazine called Bookmarks out of an office in his house. The Backstreets office in Carr Mill is considerably roomier than its D.C. quarters, where the main storage space was a bathtub. But there's still a lot of stuff in boxes.

"Since we moved here, we've had the big 'Vote For Change' tour and now 'Devils & Dust,'" Phillips says. "I hope it will settle down enough so we can eventually unpack, but it hasn't happened yet. I always used to think after every issue, 'This will be the biggest issue for a while, the next one should be smaller.' But that is just not happening."

Talkin' to the Boss

Inevitably, Phillips gets a lot of questions about what Springsteen is "really like." But he can honestly say he doesn't know. Phillips and Springsteen have met only once, at a Patty Scialfa show last year. And Phillips has interviewed Springsteen only once, a phone interview in conjunction with last fall's "Vote For Change" tour -- the only interview that the press-shy Springsteen has ever given Backstreets in its 25-year existence.

"The biggest thing I have to explain is that we're not connected to Bruce Springsteen's organization," Phillips says. "We're not a fan club or anything like that. I used to be able to say, 'I've never talked to or even met the guy.' Getting the interview was a huge thrill. But the down side is that it reinforced this weird impression people have, that I've got a red phone on my desk with a hotline to Bruce's house."

Phillips has dutifully put in another interview request for Springsteen's "Devils & Dust" tour, which isn't coming to North Carolina (Phillips is going to shows in Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago). But he's not holding his breath about getting another audience.

"Haven't heard a word," he says. "My fantasy is they've got a plan. They're waiting until after X number of shows, and then they'll spring it on me. But it probably won't happen. I just hope I won't have to wait another 11 years for the next one."

Staff writer David Menconi can be reached at 829-4759 or

Daniel Henninger: A Pope Who Loves St. Augustine

You Have to Love A Pope Who Loves St. Augustine
Benedict XVI a "hardliner"? Perhaps. But that's what they called Reagan too.
Friday, April 22, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT
The Wall Street Journal

Here are two things you need to know this week about Joseph Ratzinger, a k a Benedict XVI:
He fulfilled the first requisite for being Pope: He looks good in white. And in Germany his book "Salz der Erde" (Salt of the Earth) dislodged Harry Potter as Amazon's No. 1 bestseller.
Something's happening here.

This pope thing has held the world's attention for three weeks now. The interest in these events--the life and thought of John Paul II, his funeral with its sea of earnest young faces, the papal conclave--has stirred something in the public beast beyond idle curiosity at a televised event.
I keep thinking of Joseph Ratzinger's most compelling words the past week. Not the widely quoted reference to a "dictatorship of relativism," however apt. No, the next pope's most haunting words were the refrain of his funeral homily for John Paul: "Follow me."

These of course were not Joseph Ratzinger's words but those of Jesus to Peter, the first pope. But as the Cardinal repeated them in his compelling funeral oration, I took them to mean that he wanted us to follow his thought-line on the life of Karol Wotyla. Follow me.

Joseph Ratzinger's thought-line is precisely what is at issue this week as his papacy begins. Media shorthand has reduced the whole of the new pope's mind to two words: "doctrinal hardliner." It is possible that this caricature is a media judgment error similar to the one made about Ronald Reagan.

At the moment, Amazon's U.S. tracking list has 11 Ratzinger books in its top 50 sellers. One of the most interesting explorations of the Ratzinger mind is his memoir "Milestones" from Ignatius Press. It is difficult to obtain it this week, but an excellent summary exists in Rev. Richard John Neuhaus's 1999 review, "Joseph Ratzinger, Christ's Donkey," in his valuable journal First Things at
In that book, Joseph Ratzinger describes how he prefers Augustine to Thomas Aquinas, "whose crystal-clear logic seemed to me to be too closed in on itself, too impersonal and ready-made." Anyone familiar with Augustine and Aquinas would at least pause to reflect on this remark from a man characterized in the press as an inquisitor, rottweiler, enforcer.

Augustine is the more mystical personality, closer in some ways to the "new age" impulses of our times. In the writings of Augustine, arguably the most complex mind Christianity has produced, the exercise of deep faith carries with it the possibility of what I would call a "high" experience in one's pursuit of and relationship to God. That was the Church of the 5th century. In our time, religion has become freighted with correct politics (the Left) or correct morality (the Right), rather than the substance of one's relationship with God.

I get the impression that Joseph Ratzinger--who reveres the early, transcendent Church Fathers (its "founding fathers")--is at heart more a vibrant 5th-century Christian than a stale 19th-century dogmatist; as conceivably was John Paul II, who often let himself slip into an Upward-directed reverie in public. In short, Benedict XVI looks to be very different from the stolid, authoritarian German described this week in the public prints.

His memoir also gives a more complete understanding of the real source of Cardinal Ratzinger's disputes with his enemies--a battle again penciled in as the dogma cop, bunkered in some Vatican redoubt, giving thumbs up or down on new ideas, according to his whim. In fact, Ratzinger's beef is mainly with the post-Vatican II academic theologians who thought they should be writing, or rewriting, the Church's rulebook based on whatever new theories spun out of their heads--not the bishops, the Pope or even the church faithful. The way the political game is now played, if John Paul and he had opened the door on one reform, say contraception, the whole gang would have roared in behind.

"The impression grew steadily," he writes, "that nothing was now stable in the Church, that everything was open to revision"--by these scholars. This is not just some arcane dispute over how many angels dance on the head of a pin. It is precisely the fight over intellectual authority and daily application being fought right now in the U.S. Senate over the Bush judges and Constitutional interpretation. As Joseph Ratzinger put it, he opposes a "reality" that someone has "simply thought up." Sounds like a soul-brother of Antonin Scalia to me. Like the U.S., the Catholic Church is a huge, sprawling, complex institution, and there are real issues at stake here that affect long-term life on the streets and in the pews.

Now Joseph Ratzinger has the bully pulpit of the papacy, and it will be impossible to marginalize him as an unthinking dogmatist. He is not that. He is a formidable advocate for his ideas. He argues, for instance, (again in language redolent of Justice Scalia) that the Church's centuries of liturgical tradition were essentially "demolished" in the late 1960s. And he knows why he thinks roll-your-own liturgies were a mistake: "When liturgy is self-made, then it can no longer give us what its proper gift should be: the encounter with the mystery that is not our own product but rather our origin and the source of our life." Disagree if you will, but this is more than simply, "No."

"Follow me." How far the Church faithful, Europe's unchurched, or his many adversaries will follow Benedict XVI remains to be seen. I know more about the very interesting mind of Joseph Ratzinger than I did a week ago. And on the evidence of the past several weeks--millions of young in the streets of Rome, millions more watching daily on television, and constant thoughtful questions about the meaning of it all from non-Catholic friends--it is clear that this new Pope has an audience. Stay tuned.

Mr. Henninger is deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page. His column appears Fridays in the Journal and on

AP: Springsteen Gives Sneak Preview of Tour

Apr 22, 12:12 AM EDT

ASBURY PARK, N.J. (AP) -- Bruce Springsteen, appearing in the first of two "rehearsal shows," gave fans at the Paramount Theatre on Thursday night a sneak preview of his upcoming "Devils & Dust" tour.

Springsteen first smilingly admonishing audience members to make sure their cell phones were turned off: "I don't want to hear some stupid jingle in the middle of a song."
On center stage, bearing a guitar and harmonica, he explained the inspiration behind some of his new songs and tinkered with some older material.

"Silver Palomino" drew on his love of horses, he said, and "Black Cowboys" stemmed from his love of Westerns and from his outrage over the dangers facing children in poor, urban America.

Springsteen will perform solo on the "Devils & Dust" tour beginning next week in theaters and arenas scaled down to theater format. His 19th album, "Devils & Dust," is scheduled for release April 26.

Several of his recent albums fit easily into the rehearsal show's acoustic format, and he sandwiched new material between familiar fare from "The Rising" and "The Ghost Of Tom Joad." And at times, he reached back even further, as when he performed "For You" at the piano.

A second sold-out rehearsal show was scheduled for the same theater Friday.

© 2005 The Associated Press.

AP: Springsteen Bares Songwriting Soul on VH1

Apr 21, 3:41 PM EDT
Associated Press Writer

RED BANK, N.J. (AP) -- Bruce Springsteen prefers to let his songs do the talking. When those songs include "Thunder Road," "Nebraska" and "The Rising," it's hard to disagree with his approach.

But for one night, before an intimate New Jersey audience, the Boss delved into his 30-year back catalog to offer a brief window into his songwriting. The oft-reticent Springsteen opened up during a taping for VH1's "Storytellers," detailing influences both obvious and obscure.

There's Roy Orbison's dark romanticism ... and actor Robert Mitchum's blood-chilling preacher in "The Night of the Hunter." Smokey Robinson's soulful voice ... and director John Ford's classic Western "The Searchers." The born in the U.S.A. rock of John Fogerty ... and the pulp fiction of Jim Thompson.

Who knew that a line from "Blinded By the Light," off Springsteen's 1973 debut album, referred to his Little League team? Or that he considers a lyric from the brilliant "Thunder Road" to be "probably the hokiest ... I ever wrote"?

Springsteen spills all this and more during "Storytellers," airing at 10 p.m. EDT on Saturday. The show was recorded at the tiny Two River Theater near Springsteen's Garden State home, an intimate venue with just nine rows of seats.

Springsteen brought along a loose-leaf binder filled with handwritten notes done at his kitchen table.
"I read 'em this morning, and I sounded kind of full of myself," Springsteen deadpanned. "I don't need notes for that."

Over the course of the evening, Springsteen was funny, glib, self-deprecating, chatty and occasionally revealing. His story of Spring-zophrenia - how the "holier-than-thou" Bruce, the blue-collar patron saint of the downtrodden, must co-exist with the guy who enjoys a few drinks in roadside strip joints - was worthy of an HBO comedy special.

The tale ended with Springsteen meeting a pair of horrified fans in the strip club parking lot. He quickly explained how the disparate Bruces co-exist, then informed the fans that they were addressing an apparition rather than the real Springsteen.

"Bruce does not even know I'm missing," he assured them. "He is at home right now, doing good deeds."
Springsteen also referenced his "Blinded By the Light" lyric about a "silicone sister with her manager's mister."
"Possibly the first mention of female breast enhancement in pop music," he said with mock pride. "So I was ahead of my time."

The stage patter gave way to some magnificent musical moments. Over the course of the show, the songs evolved and changed as Springsteen accompanied himself with just a guitar, a harmonica and a piano.

"The Rising," the Sept. 11-derived arena-rock anthem, becomes a gospel/folk song; Springsteen's impassioned version was done with his eyes closed tight as he leaned into the microphone during the chorus.

"Waiting on A Sunny Day," one of his more pop-oriented songs, took on a new patina in its stripped down presentation - exactly Springsteen's point in including it.
"I usually want to throw these right in the trash," he confessed of his pop efforts. But there was another confession to come: Springsteen sometimes imagines Smokey Robinson singing his more radio-friendly songs. And then he launched into an impression of Smokey singing "Waiting on a Sunny Day."

Springsteen clearly put much thought into the song selections, spanning the course of his career: "Nebraska" was included as an example of his narrative style, while "Brilliant Disguise" represented his songs about "issues of identity and love."

The solo Springsteen performance for television was a long time in coming. In 1992, he signed on for a taping of "MTV Unplugged," but did just a single song alone before bringing a band onstage for the rest of the show.
Before the taping began, Springsteen expressed reservations at delving into the secrets of songwriting.
"Talking about music is like talking about sex," he said. "Can you describe it? Are you supposed to?"
© 2005 The Associated Press.

Jon Pareles: Bruce Almighty

April 24, 2005
The New York Times


When Bruce Springsteen talks about his new album, he can sound more like a preacher than a rock star. Soul and spirit, God and family; that's what's on his mind in the quiet, folky songs on "Devils & Dust" (Columbia). He sings, reverently, about Jesus and his mother, Mary; he also sings about a man with a hooker in a hotel room.

"I like to write about people whose souls are in danger, who are at risk," Mr. Springsteen said. At rehearsals for a solo tour that starts on Monday in Detroit, he and his crew were fine-tuning technical details here at the Paramount Theater, the faded movie palace at the Asbury Park Convention Hall.

"In every song on this record," he added, "somebody's in some spiritual struggle between the worst of themselves and the best of themselves, and everybody comes out in a slightly different place. That thread runs through the record, and it's what gives the record its grounding in the spirit."

In a way, "Devils & Dust" is Mr. Springsteen's family-values album, filled with reflections on God, motherhood and the meaning of home. It arrives at a moment when pop is filled with shout-outs to God from rockers as diverse as U2, Los Lonely Boys, Ryan Cabrera and Prince, and when evangelical Christian conservatism seeks mainstream clout.

It might seem that with "Devils & Dust," Mr. Springsteen is making his own offering to an America in which the rhetoric of moral values has grown so vehement and divisive. He did, after all, back the losing candidate in the 2004 elections. Actually, most of the songs on "Devils & Dust" - even the jaunty "All the Way Home," which begins, "I know what it's like to have failed, baby/With the whole world lookin' on" - were written nearly a decade ago, and Mr. Springsteen, 55, said he was working by instinct when he chose to resurrect them for this album. "It's both not connected to the chronology, and yet it always is," he mused. "The canary in the coal mine - that's a pretty good artistic model."

Mr. Springsteen's last album was "The Rising," his response to Sept. 11. It re-established him as America's conscience, questioner and consoler, and gave him his most resounding commercial success since the 1980's. The album sold two million copies, and Mr. Springsteen and the E Street Band barnstormed arenas and stadiums, selling out nationwide.

All of that made Mr. Springsteen's endorsement of Senator John F. Kerry for president more striking. Before the 2004 elections, Mr. Springsteen had supported causes rather than candidates: Vietnam veterans, food banks, the magazine DoubleTake. But with this election, Mr. Springsteen chose to spend some of the credibility he had built over a career of singing about people left out of the American dream, and burnished with "The Rising." He and his band not only headlined the Vote for Change tour in fall 2004; Mr. Springsteen also took his acoustic guitar and literally embraced Senator Kerry at 11th-hour campaign rallies. Then came George W. Bush's re-election. "I had a couple of weeks where it was like, ah, Patti had to peel me off the wall," he said, referring to his wife, Patti Scialfa. "And then it was onward and upward. But it was something I was glad I did."

Was he worried about losing fans who disagreed with his politics? "That was a thing where you sort of let the chips fall where they may," he said. "And you get some nasty letters, and people get angry. But the fans that I've had over the years, well, I perceive it as a big relationship, and a flexible one."

The personal, political and spiritual merge in the new album's title song. Mr. Springsteen wrote "Devils & Dust" shortly after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, and he considered using it to open his sets at the Vote for Change tour. (In the end, he decided to play "The Star-Spangled Banner" instead.)

The narrator of "Devils & Dust" could be a soldier in Iraq or America itself. He sings, "I got my finger on the trigger/But I don't know who to trust," and "I got God on my side/I'm just trying to survive." Then he wonders: "What if what you do to survive/Kills the things you love." The music is a subdued cousin of songs like "Tougher Than the Rest," and while it's easy to imagine a gleaming E Street Band arrangement, it's also obvious why Mr. Springsteen chose to make his narrator sound so alone.

After each blockbuster in his career, Mr. Springsteen has made a shift from booming rock to somber storytelling, from extroverted to pensive. "I like writing pop songs, and I like the band playing loud, and I enjoy playing big places," he said. "But there's something about when an audience comes in, and it's just them, and it's just you."

The direct forerunner of "Devils & Dust" is "The Ghost of Tom Joad," the album Mr. Springsteen recorded largely alone in 1995, full of Woody Guthrie-style ballads about immigrants and displaced workers. Many of the songs on "Devils & Dust" were written about the same time.
"Tom Joad" was downbeat, admirable for its terse, compassionate narratives but singlemindedly bleak. "Devils & Dust" allows itself good times as well as hard ones, love songs between tough predicaments, and it has touches of country along with the spirit of Guthrie and Bob Dylan.

The album's songs don't just observe characters; they reach inside. "Most of the songs on the record, you're listening to someone think," Mr. Springsteen said. Where "Tom Joad" was full of reportorial detail, the songs on "Devils & Dust" dissolve into memories and visionary images. One, "Matamoros Banks," tells the story of a drowned illegal immigrant in reverse. Starting with his body floating in the river and ending with his eagerness to rejoin his lover, the song turns sorrow into hope.

The music shares that reflective tone. Mr. Springsteen recorded nearly all of the songs in a few days, nearly a decade ago, sitting with his guitar in the living room of his farmhouse in New Jersey, doing just a take or two. In the haunting "Silver Palomino," the death of a boy's mother connects him to the apparition of a beautiful, untouchable horse; as in an old folk song, the song's meter never settles on a steady beat. A second take might have pinned it down.

"The minute I get the essence of something, I try to stop," Mr. Springsteen said. "If I go back to re-record, sometimes I can hear the thinking a little more." Last year, he gathered the old recordings and worked with the producer Brendan O'Brien so that the accompaniments - a slide guitar, a string section, distant voices - float up from within like phantoms. The lead vocals are gentle, deliberately avoiding the heroic voice that Mr. Springsteen uses with the E Street Band. And in two songs, he switches to a voice he has used only fleetingly before: a ghostly falsetto.

Thoughts of redemption, moral choices and invocations of God have been part of Springsteen songs throughout his career, but they have grown stronger and more explicitly Christian on his 21st-century albums. "It was something I pushed off for a long time," he said, "but I've been thinking about it a lot lately." He has a trinity of reasons for his connection to Christian imagery and concepts: "Catholic school, Catholic school, Catholic school," he said. "You're indoctrinated. It's a none-too subtle form of brainwashing, and of course, it works very well."

Mr. Springsteen grew up half a block away from his Catholic church, convent and rectory. "I'm not a churchgoer," he said, "but I realized, as time passed, that my music is filled with Catholic imagery. It's not a negative thing. There was a powerful world of potent imagery that became alive and vital and vibrant, and was both very frightening and held out the promise of ecstasies and paradise. There was this incredible internal landscape that they created in you."

"As I got older, I got a lot less defensive about it," he continued. "I thought, I've inherited this particular landscape and I can build it into something of my own. I've been back to the church on many occasions, and I have a lot of friendships with priests. And I've been to the convent where the nuns now give me beer, which they have in the refrigerator. I don't think they had that when I was going to school there."

The album includes "Jesus Was an Only Son," a hymnlike song about Mary's love that ends with Jesus consoling her, saying, "Remember the soul of the universe/Willed a world and it appeared." But "Devils & Dust" also includes "Reno," which has lyrics explicit enough to prompt a warning on the album package that it "contains some adult imagery." Its narrator visits a prostitute who resembles his ex-lover, only to feel more desolate afterward.

"He's in this room with this proxy because he couldn't handle the real thing," Mr. Springsteen said. "The physicality, the sexual content of the song was important, because casual sex is kind of closing the book of you. It's ecstasy, and it's release. Sex with somebody you love is opening the book of you, which is always a risky and frightening read."

The other kind of love on "Devils & Dust" is maternal and filial. Half the songs on the album, like "Jesus Was an Only Son," ponder relationships between mothers and sons. Mr. Springsteen has written often about his uneasy ties to his father, who died in 1998, but rarely about his mother, who is still, he said, "alive and kicking."

In "Black Cowboys," a ghetto teenager leaves his mother and her drug-dealer boyfriend and heads west; in "The Hitter," a broken-down boxer shows up at his mother's door and begs her to let him in. And in "Long Time Comin,' " a man feels his pregnant wife's belly and hopes, for his children, that "your mistakes would be your own/Yea your sins would be your own," once again connecting family and faith.

"Pete Townshend said that rock music was one of the big spiritual movements of the second half of the 20th century," Mr. Springsteen said. "It is medicinal and it does address your spirit, there's no two ways about it. And it came out of the church. Who were the first frontmen? The preachers!"

Onstage at the Paramount, Mr. Springsteen ran through new songs and old ones as crew members tuned guitars, tinkered with reverb settings and made sure that the right harmonica was in the neck rack. A keyboardist named Fitz worked on sounds that would waft mysteriously through some of the songs. Guitar in hand, Mr. Springsteen started fingerpicking the introduction to "Black Cowboys." Looking out at the lone spectator, he said, "I tell a really touching story here," and chuckled, adding, "I hope."