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Idols: Bruce Springsteen

Kimberley Manderson

Triangle

Quite often people question why I cite a 63-year-old man as my idol. And quite often I get the feeling that if they have to even ask, these people will never get it.

I understand idols mean different things to different people, from admiration to inspiration, role model to respected talent. For me, it’s a blend of all of those things. Although my musical talent extends only to the words I grace this website with, I do definitely aspire to be like Bruce Springsteen as a person.

Although I don’t know him from Adam, from the ever-invasive media/press/social media snippets, to his good nature and high spirits at gigs, he seems so grounded, genuine and likeable that I’d worry if you actively disliked him. His humble attitude and respect for fellow band members and family members past and present (if you’ve been to a Springsteen concert in the last couple of years you’ll know what I mean), ensures that he goes down as one of the music industry’s greatest good guys.

And before the phrase “nice guys finish last” even pops into your head, I put this question to you: How many rock ‘n’ roll bad boys have had a career spanning five decades (and counting!), consistently producing good, new music throughout and performing to fans in world tours decades after their initial successes? Not very bloomin’ many is the answer.

In a world where certain rock bands will fill a festival set or make a whole tour out of performing one particularly successful album straight through, Springsteen can flawlessly throw a whole album into the middle of a set (that’s right – middle) and maintain the crowd’s attention and energy throughout. Take his recent Wrecking Ball tour which graced the UK only weeks ago – Coventry were treated to Darkness On The Edge Of Town, the Wembley Stadium crowd got Born To Run and Hard Rock Calling festival punters got the full Born In The USA album start to finish mid-set.

You’ve got to admit, being able to play any of a choice of albums in full to an unsuspecting crowd who appreciate and sing along nonetheless is a pretty amazing and impressive feat. A feat which is only outdone by the set length itself and in turn the sheer glowing work ethic The Boss has. With an average set time clocking in past the three hour mark – and bearing in mind the man is in his mid-sixties – Springsteen always puts on a brilliant show for virtually as long as he is allowed.

At his closing headline slot at Isle Of Wight festival 2012, he refused to stop playing until he could see the closing fireworks. And I’m sure we all remember the incident at Hard Rock Calling 2012 which saw event organisers pull the plug on him and Sir Paul McCartney. His record stage time is 246 minutes – that’s four hours and six minutes!

For those of you who maintain that it’s not the length of time, but what you do with it that counts, it’s an understatement to say Springsteen certainly utilizes his time well, putting on the best show for his fans. From performing full albums, to taking requests from the crowd, booty-shaking, crowd participation, guest appearances and new live versions of old classics, there really is never a dull moment at a Springsteen concert.

His music itself, work ethic, passion and drive for what he does are all reasons to admire The Boss, but he also has other greatly attractive qualities which make him an idol – and I’m not just talking about his face! His humble attitude towards his life and homeland – something which he sings about more than he publicly speaks about, along with his admission of his faults and mistakes serve him well in my book. Also the way he wears his heart on his sleeve about the loss of long-time E Street Band sax-player Clarence Clements, and the remembrance he gives the big guy at concerts proves he is not a rock star robot out there to hoover up drugs and strut around being invincible and untouchable – he’s human, he has feelings and it’s more than a little touching to see.

This, along with a million other things including his active interest in politics, keenness to help out in the face of disaster for charities and the fact that he’s never really lost his blue-collar outlook on life make Springsteen one of the greatest and most influential people I’ve ever known of. And it’s not as though his personality has got him to where he is now (though I’m sure that’s helped). His music speaks for itself, whether it be a classic household favourite like Dancing In The Dark, or any track off latest album Wrecking Ball. Springsteen’s songs stand the test of time and always remain of the highest calibre in a genre he practically invented. And if these words don’t convince you the man is an idol, then nothing ever will.