"Suddenly he WAS Elvis...."
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“I ain’t here on business / I’m only here for fun”
—Bruce Springsteen “Rosalita”
You know things are bad when everybody gets pissed at Bruce Springsteen. Bruce is supposed to be the incorrigible good guy......the ragged jeans and boot-wearing embodiment of our better angels. A modern day Woody Guthrie who would never forsake us working stiffs, even if he does live on a mammoth horse farm and takes vacations with Spielberg and Tom Hanks on David Geffen's yacht (Tell me if you were invited you wouldn't go!) Hey, at least said horse farm is still a few miles from where he was born. He's a Jersey boy made good who still lives in Jersey. He's frequently spotted around town, doing what normal people do. Having a beer. Grabbing a hot dog or an ice cream cone. He's always got time for a quick chat. A selfie. An autograph. He's one of the most famous men in the world, living in a place that is constantly on the lookout, just in case. He once said these meetings sometimes made him feel like the easter bunny. It can't be easy. But he's conducted himself better than most. What he has, he deserves.
So...you know.....he still has working man bona fides. Grew up with a manic-depressive and only occasionally employed father, whom he alternately ran from and towards. Didn't make a nickel until "Hungry Heart" broke on the radio, and then immediately retreated into "Nebraska", a dark solo acoustic record of often violent, dead-eyed vignettes that was the career equivalent of using hundred dollar bills to light your cigarettes. "Born in the USA" were the same stories, but it made loud noises and was co-opted by Presidents. You could dance to it even if you didn't know how to dance. It changed everything, of course. That day we saw him on MTV doing the "Boogaloo" with the girl from Friends was the demarcation line. BITUSA sold a bajillion copies and Bruce suddenly had to reconcile being an extremely rich man.....while writing songs about poor people. Notably, he never tried to duplicate BITUSA. He seemed to recoil from the image that record created. The bandanas and pumped up biceps and the flag waving from the lunkheads like Reagan who never listened to the almost apocalyptically sad verses of the title track. He's made lots of great music since, but it's been quieter. More personal. He has remained perhaps the greatest live performer in rock and roll history. If you don’t think that’s true, you’ve never seen him live.
A scrawny beach bum who saw Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show and had his life changed. Suddenly he was Elvis.
What else can a poor boy do?
But through it all he had a sort of sheen around him. He married an actress and moved to Beverly Hills and broke up the E Street Band. The purists howled.....and then he divorced her, married a girl from Jersey, moved back home, and got the band back together. All was forgiven. I'm certainly not suggesting that Bruce does or should give a fiddler's fart about anybody's expectations. Merely opining that the further he got from his Father's world the more it seemed he longed to get back there.
Of course this is the sort of pseudo-intellectual gibberish that the man has been subjected to since the mid-80s. It's no wonder he ended up in therapy and on antidepressants. But this neatly brings us to the matter at hand, the case of the $5000 concert tickets.
Ticketmaster is more hated than Congress. When you log onto Ticketmaster, you need both a credit card and lubricant. We're so used to being fucked by Ticketmaster that it barely registers. All the fees and surcharges on top of base ticket prices that resemble mortgage payments. But this "dynamic pricing" shit, in which prices fluctuate based on demand and drive nose-bleed seats into the deep 4 digits caught Bruce fans by surprise, mostly because they assumed such a blatantly shitty money-grab represented everything Springsteen has railed against his entire career (Well.....those who tried to get tickets to his one-man Broadway show might have had a sense of deja-vu, but still).
Fans expected Bruce to address this. He has yet to say a word. He instead sent his manager, Jon Landau, who promptly made things worse...
“In pricing tickets for this tour, we looked carefully at what our peers have been doing. We chose prices that are lower than some and on par with others. Regardless of the commentary about a modest number of tickets costing $1,000 or more, our true average ticket price has been in the mid-$200 range. I believe that in today’s environment, that is a fair price to see someone universally regarded as among the very greatest artists of his generation.”
A few comments here. The "modest" number is, according to Ticketmaster itself, 12% of the tickets, which means 12% of Bruce fans are getting fucked because that's the same percentage of fans that his "peers" fuck. Not a good start. Also, "today's environment" is a complete shitshow, with $5 gas and empty grocery store shelves in the midst of a crippling and global recession, all played out during a seemingly endless pandemic that has killed more of us than our combined wars. If anything, being "fair" would be slashing prices, not raising them to keep up with the guy from the fucking Beatles. The last bit about Bruce being "among the very greatest artists of his generation" is mind-boggling not because it's not true, but because Bruce didn't cross it out before it was sent. It sounds like Bruce is being managed by a carnival barker.
And so much for all that. I’ve been a massive Bruce fan for over 40 years. I’ll remain one. My debt to him is incalculable. But I like to think he wouldn’t want a dollar amount put on it. Because like so many others these days, I’m tapped out.
In a bit…