Art and Entertainment

Matt Slocum/AP
Bruce Springsteen performs during the half time of the NFL Super Bowl XLIII.

Bruce Springsteen Starts Tour on Sour Note

February 05, 2009 02:02 PM
by Rachel Balik
As the Boss embarks on a new tour, he faces criticism for his Super Bowl performance, glitches in the concert ticketing system and mixed reviews for his latest album.

Super Bowl Reviews and Ticket Sale Troubles Bog Down Bruce

Springsteen’s niche has always been as a working-class hero, but that role has become harder to play the more successful he’s gotten. Slate writer Stephen Metcalf says the Boss failed to give America what it needed with his Super Bowl halftime performance. Metcalf argues that Springsteen was once an icon for a select group of “oddballs”; now that the community he wants to reach is essentially the entire American population, his message has become diluted to the point of irrelevancy. Springsteen played songs that were classics, but they’ve reached a level of cheesiness. He didn’t play—or say—anything that really addressed the current crisis of the country.

The Hartford Courant TV blog argued that Springsteen did a fantastic job of packing his act into the allotted 12 minutes and dubbed the performance the best halftime show in history. But comments on the blog reflect disappointment with the act. And it seems that Springsteen simply has too many popular songs to please everyone; even the positive Courant posting listed many songs that were left out.

And while the Super Bowl performance certainly didn’t seem to dampen enthusiasm for Springsteen’s upcoming tour, glitches in the Ticketmaster system left many without tickets and others overpaying for tickets. Fans purchasing tickets online to Springsteen’s New Jersey shows faced either frozen screens or a message that the show was sold out and a redirect to TicketsNow, a broker owned by Ticketmaster that sells tickets at a significant markup from the face value.

The Springsteen organization officially apologized to fans on the Boss’ Web site; the Ticketmaster CEO has also issued an apology, and the matter is now under investigation by the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General and the Division of Consumer Affairs.

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Background: Fans outraged that Springsteen “sells out”

During the past 20 years, Bruce Springsteen has always turned down invitations to play the Super Bowl halftime show. Serious fans felt that by agreeing to perform this year, he was selling out, reported. Springsteen has expressed a preference for smaller venues, but over the years, popular demand has led him to push aside his reservations about large areas. But many still feel that his latest decision was motivated by the desire to increase album sales.

Opinion and Analysis: “Working on A Dream” Doesn’t Work

Springsteen’s newest album, “Working On A Dream,” has received mixed reviews.

The Los Angeles Times blog’s reaction was lukewarm, noting that the effort to create a message of hope meant that the hard rock element of Springsteen’s previous albums was lost. Instead of impassioned trumpet solos or guitar riffs, the title track is punctuated by whistling.

Springsteen played at Obama rallies and at the inaugural concert, but a Guardian review notes that none of the songs in the album address America’s state of economic despair or anxiety. The songs reflect an outsider motif, but they aren’t very aggressive. The Guardian critic argues that “[a]t least half the songs have the real substance of his best work,” but that there are three to four songs that are quite disappointing.

The popular blog Stereogum compiled critiques from various sources and concluded that the fourth song on the album, “Queen of the Supermarket,” is the worst song the Boss has ever written.

Related Topic: Past Super Bowl Halftime Shows

All criticism of Springsteen’s Super Bowl performance aside, Springsteen failed to rival the disaster of Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction, nor did he get censored like Mick Jagger. Review the best and the worst of Super Bowl halftime shows.

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