25 years ago, I was the label manager for Warner Bros. in Tel Aviv. I’ve written about this a little bit before; it was a gig I fell into because I was in the right place at the right time, spoke English and had been working at the outer edges of the U.S. music business for a couple of years. There was a lot of music I was continually told would not ever be popular in Israel, and R.E.M. was one of those bands.
Late last year, an editor I was working with at Vulture asked me if I was interested in taking on the assignment of ranking and rating all of Bruce Springsteen’s songs, similar to other major ranking projects they have on their site. I immediately said “yes.” I like hard assignments that take me out of my comfort zone and give me a chance to go deep.
We deliberated a bit on what made the list — no covers, only officially released songs — and I went to work.
It would have been good if I’d remembered to post about this sooner, but suddenly it’s Episode 7. Over at Salon I’ve been recapping “Vinyl” each week from a music fact checking perspective. If you know me, this is basically the equivalent of “sitting next to Caryn while she’s watching a music documentary.” If you don’t, you get to have this delightful experience in writing form. Best way to follow along is my author page over at Salon; posts go up every Monday morning.
(This is not a debate about whether or not the show is good. I’m not addressing that, I’m just critiquing the music history and what they get right or wrong.)
Bruce was in an excellent, jovial mood. He played to the back often and even acknowledged the fans up on the Chase Bridge seats in the rafters. The crowd also was engaged and energetic and the overall crowd energy was a million times better than the first Garden gig. They were loud. They sang in all the right places. The joint bounced from “Meet Me In The City.” You remember why you love seeing Springsteen at the Garden on nights like this.
There was so much to like about Philly. That said, I thought it lacked the intensity of Pittsburgh or the focus of MSG, and it definitely took a while for the band to get momentum going during the album segment. But it is so great to be in a room with the people of Philadelphia watching Bruce Springsteen. There were a lot of moments tonight where it felt like the Spectrum (without the lack of women’s bathrooms). There were vibes. Philly showed up and was loud and proud. It was nine million trillion (yes, this is a precise measurement) times better than the crowd at the Garden.
Rounding up my work following the man’s passing:
- Salon.com: “Look up, I’m in heaven”: Bowie’s haunting farewell “Blackstar” is a triumph
- Bitter Empire: Thank God Ambitious Bootleggers Preserved A David Bowie and Stevie Ray Vaughan Rehearsal
- Salon.com: Bowie’s Live Aid magic: An unforgettable show, from the spine-tingling “Heroes” to his audacious “Dancing in the Street” duet
- Village Voice: DAVID BOWIE’S BEST LIVE MUSIC MOMENTS IN NYC (Also in the print issue out today)
I went on record on Twitter during the show stating that Saturday night in Pittsburgh was one of the strongest tour openers in years, and an overall fantastic performance, especially of The River. I stand by that now, even later. I literally do not have enough superlatives to apply to what was a first-night-of-the-tour performance, or in fact any performance. When great bands rehearse, it only helps them, and this was so clearly visible on Saturday. It also takes pressure off of Bruce, because he’s less worried about leading the band, and that lets him apply his energies towards the performance.
I had been assigned to review this for a website, but since I didn’t get the record until 12:01am Friday morning, didn’t get to file it over the weekend as I had planned. I told my editor that I would get it to her on Monday during the day. But once I woke up on Monday, I had to write a whole new set of pieces, and this got set aside.
I actually did look at it on Tuesday, after I had posted an excerpt on Facebook, noting that it was going to be killed, given the circumstances. A couple of writers urged me to post it anyway. Plans to publish it at its original home fell through, and at this point it makes no sense — but I did want to commemorate it here.