Many of these songs reflect Springsteen’s own leftist political leanings, from the outlaw blues of “Old Man Tucker” and “Jesse James” and the pro-labor anthems “John Henry” and “My Oklahoma Home” to the 1815 anti-war ballad “Mrs. McGrath,” whose words are startlingly similar to those of activist Cindy Sheehan.
Thanks to Charles Giordano’s accordion and the funereal trumpet of Mark Pender, the Dixieland music pays homage to its birthplace in the Mississippi delta and New Orleans. And while it might seem like Springsteen is catching his breath on this retro tangent, the sheer joy and commitment of the playing infuses even old warhorses like “We Shall Overcome” and “Froggie Went a Courtin’” with modern relevance.
David Gilmour at Gibson Amphitheatre at Universal City Walk
The Pink Floyd guitarist manages to have his cake and eat it, too, as do fans, playing the whole of his new Columbia album On an Island in order during the first part of the show (after teasing the audience with the Dark Side of the Moon medley “Breathe in the Air/Time”). And indeed, the title track and “The Blue,” with guest crooners David Crosby and Graham Nash, effortlessly evoked the languid pace and those patented elongated Gilmour leads, masterfully backed by Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright and the subtle but effective fills of woefully underrated Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera.
The warm response of the crowd led me to believe Columbia missed out on marketing the new album to a captive audience by pulling a Prince and including it with the price of admission, though the real pyrotechnics were saved for the 90-minute, laser-driven second act, book ended by a pair of Syd Barrett nods in “Shine On” and “Wish You Were Here.”
The highlights included extended versions of three early-’70s psychedelic nuggets, “Fat Old Sun” from Atom Heart Mother, “Wot’s…the Deal” from Obscured by Clouds and “Echoes” from Meddle, but the true revelation was a Bowie-ish Pin-Ups take on “Arnold Layne,” a ’60s Britpop hit that even pre-dated Gilmour. Despite the space-age trappings, Gilmour makes you realize the music is made up basically of extended blues riffs, distorted and twisted with effects, but still pretty elemental.
By the time “Comfortably Numb” hit, I was just that, the performance’s lugubrious pacing approaching stasis in a haze of druggy smoke and acid flashback. And that was just the audience. I mean, who needs Roger Waters, anyway? This show once and for all answered the age-old question, which one’s Pink?
Matthew Sweet, Girlfriend: Legacy Edition (Volcano/Legacy)
This two-disc reissue combines the classic 1991 Zoo Records album and its ’92 companion piece Goodfriend — originally A&R’d by HITS’ own Grammy-nominated Bud Scoppa, who provides the new edition’s very informative liner notes — with bonus tracks thrown in. Sweet had already been through a pair of failed label deals at Columbia and A&M, when A&R exec (now poker player) Scott Byron and Scoppa convinced the label’s President Lou Maglia to release the album after everyone else in the industry had passed.