Opinions Are Like ***Holes

April 6, 2012

That’s right – everyone has one.

And one of the true downsides of all this content and all these platforms is that it opens the door to anyone and everyone to sound off.

Yes, including me.  I try to use this space wisely as our blog blew past the 7 year milestone in February and is going strong.  As we attract new readership, I am increasingly aware of the responsibility to be fair and not act like a jerk.

That’s why when I read Washington Post blogger Paul Farhi’s criticism of Bruce Springsteen’s use of a teleprompter in concert (thanks, Doug Podell), it just sent me over the top.

Farhi admits that as musical transgressions go, a little visual help with lyrics is far less heinous than lip-syncing.  But he sums up his problem with The Boss’ use of a teleprompter with this statement:

“And yet, Springsteen has always seemed different.

Springsteen is such an exciting performer precisely because his art has always seemed to lack artifice. He is exuberant but also sincere, and he makes his fans believe it, too. His tunes aren’t just tunes; they’re mini-anthems of hope and possibility and unrealized dreams. They’re little musical novels.”

Which is why a teleprompter tampers, ever so slightly, with the spell Springsteen has cast for nearly 40 years. If he believes as deeply as we assume he does, why the need for a cheat sheet?

He’s kidding, right?  I mean, the Boss is in his early ’60s – an age where you have to cut yourself a little slack for misplacing your keys or forgetting where you parked your Range Rover. So, how can you expect him to remember the lyrics to everything from “Racing In The Street” to “Adam Raised A Cain” along with all the new stuff?

The reality, as E Street band mate Nil Lofgren points out, is that the band plays nearly 200 songs as part of the tour, shaking up the set list like no other group has in history:

“We played 192 different songs on [our last] tour. Dozens of those songs were from audience-request signs… [Bruce called] audibles that were songs unrehearsed or played in years or decades. With our collective musical memory, hand signals and teleprompter, it allows for those ambitious, ad-lib moments and an inspired, musical recklessness I believe is unique to our shows.”

So, there you have it, a critic with too much time on his hands, trying to shake things up a bit.  Like a talk show host desperate for calls and ratings, you have to wonder what Farhi was thinking when he wrote this blog.

Aren’t there bigger issues in music (and the country) today than Bruce Springsteen using a teleprompter – or is everyone so hyper-critical that we have to pick apart every aspect of entertainers, athletes, and celebrities?

But everyone’s entitled to their opinion.  Even ***holes.


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14 Responses to Opinions Are Like ***Holes

  1. Dan Kelley on April 6, 2012 at 6:56 AM

    Bravo Fred!

  2. David Lee on April 6, 2012 at 8:42 AM

    You Go Brother!

  3. Sheila Sorvari on April 6, 2012 at 9:18 AM

    Remind me again- what is the Washington Post?

    • Fred Jacobs
      Fred Jacobs on April 6, 2012 at 10:14 AM

      Thanks, Sheila, David, and Dan. Sometimes you just need to vent a little.

  4. Dave Martin on April 6, 2012 at 10:16 AM

    Well said, Fred. Reviewing a magic act by standing behind the magician shifts the focus to the mechanics of illusion and deprives the reviewer of the only thing that counts – the performance itself as experienced by the audience. Reminds me of John Lennon on critics: “These critics with the illusions they’ve created about artists – it’s like idol worship. They only like people when they’re on their way up. I cannot be on the way up again.”

    • Fred Jacobs
      Fred Jacobs on April 6, 2012 at 11:06 AM

      Great observation, Dave. It reinforces just how out of step critics can be with artists – and audiences. Thanks fo taking the time to comment.

  5. Scoogie Bambone on April 6, 2012 at 11:11 AM

    I don’t care about the teleprompter – people 1/3 of his age lip sync their way through concerts and have the nerve to charge hundreds for their concert tickets.

    But that’s not the point. A-hole alert!!! Many will brand me one…but here goes…

    Am I the only one who thinks Springsteen has become the emperor with no clothes? Has anyone actually LISTENED to the stuff he releases these days? The vocals are muffled, the high end EQ’d out, with backing vocals doing everything they can to cover up his voice. Give a listen to “Radio Nowhere” and hear it for yourself.

    OK, maybe he can’t really sing anymore – people age at different rates and years of touring may have taken their toll on his voice. But what about his lyrics?

    Compare this:

    You can hide `neath your covers and study your pain
    Make crosses from your lovers, throw roses in the rain
    Waste your summer praying in vain
    For a savior to rise from these streets
    Well now I’m no hero, that’s understood
    All the redemption I can offer, girl, is beneath this dirty hood

    To this:

    Those good intentions have gone dry as bone
    We take care of our own
    We take care of our own
    Wherever this flag’s flown
    We take care of our own

    How can these two songs have been written by the same person? The stuff he makes now not only wouldn’t make him “The Boss”, it couldn’t get him to middle management. IMO, either he’s just phoning it in or he’s lost his creative spark. With a bad toupee no less.

    I used to LOVE Bruce. His concerts in the 70s were awe inspiring to me. So were his lyrics that were loaded with insight expressed and supported with machine imagery and Asbury Park scenes that made you feel like you were there with him. When I was PD of my college radio station, I sent someone down to Philly just to tape “Born To Run” off the air from WMMR when it was first released to them so we could play it too. He was the Michael Jordan of rock. Now he looks like an out of shape Michael Jordan playing a game of HORSE.

    I doubt that many share my view, but so be it. As a big fan, I’m disappointed. He should either up his game or bow out gracefully – what he’s doing now is sullying his legacy.

    • Fred Jacobs
      Fred Jacobs on April 6, 2012 at 11:19 AM

      I thank you for your comments – and to the point of our post – am in agreement with you about the teleprompter issue. Regarding the quality of Bruce’s writing in 2012, that’s highly subjective and you’re entitled to your opinion. I don’t realy wish for this space to become a referendum on whether he’s on the “Back 9″ or still has his fastball. But I admire any rocker who still brings that energy every night and who has stood for the same core values for decades. Bruce is a pop culture jewel and I’m thankful he’s still providing joy and inspiration. Thanks you again for taking the time to weigh in.

  6. Bob Bellin on April 6, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    These are all judgments that will be made by his fans. If they still come to see him and buy his albums, his concerts and records are still relevant – his followers are the ones who count – not critics or bloggers. Springsteen’s fans will decide if and when its time for him to pack it in and they have made it clear now isn’t the time.

    I think its great that he’s touring with a library of close to 200 songs when he could probably sell out playing the same 20 at every concert. He can’t need the money so he’s gotta be doing it mostly for the fun. He may have well lost more than a step, but if Bruce and is fans are still having a good time at his shows…what’s the difference?

    I’d be curious to know how the album is doing on radio. Are any of the tracks testing and destined to become library material?

    • Fred Jacobs
      Fred Jacobs on April 6, 2012 at 1:10 PM

      It is challenging for classic artists (and sorry, that’s how I define Bruce at this juncture) to keep his new material relevant. I look at it this way – if people don’t go streaming up the aisles to hit the concessions and bathrooms when he plays new stuff, it’s successful. As for the rest, your comments are spot-on. The fans rule – the only opinions that matter. Thanks, Bob.

  7. Chuck on April 6, 2012 at 6:23 PM

    Fred-What the critic couldn’t see was the
    TelePrompter was reading off the room
    service menu & Bruce’s Twitter feed. Bruce
    was, in fact, multitasking.

    • Fred Jacobs
      Fred Jacobs on April 6, 2012 at 8:50 PM

      Who knew? Thanks for clearing that up, Chuck.

  8. Danny Czekalinski on April 7, 2012 at 4:19 PM

    I just spent 45 minutes looking for my keys I think Bruce is allowed to use a teleprompter.

    • Fred Jacobs
      Fred Jacobs on April 9, 2012 at 8:44 AM

      Danny, let me know if you see mine!

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