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Bo-Noooo! The Boss Falls Flat Filling Bono’s U2 Shoes (video)

Bruce Springsteen stepped on for Bono to perform with U2 at the World Aids Day concert. Talk about Bridge and Tunnel. . (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

Bruce Springsteen stepped up for Bono to perform with U2 at the World Aids Day concert. Talk about Bridge and Tunnel. . (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

Watching Bruce Springsteen try to sing U2’s classic, “Where the Streets Have No Name’ last week in honor of World AIDS Day was a surreal experience–like being in a karaoke bar with actor John Pankow (look him up) doing a bad Bruce impression.

The poor guy sounded like AC/DC’s Brian Johnson reading the evening news. That’s not to say he didn’t have soul.

Bruce always has plenty of soul. But Bruce’s voice, combined with the choice of song — and the way those classic vocals have been embedded in my brain courtesy of Bono and FM radio– just sounded like a car with a bad alternator that you keep trying to start but, ultimately, never turns over.

“RRRAAAHHHHRRRRrrrrrrr…RRRAAAHHrrrr.” Sad to say, if I was Jamie Farr, I definitely would’ve gonged him.

Before you come at me with daggers of righteous indignation, this piece has nothing to do with the merits of Bruce and the boys in U2 donating their time and talents for a great cause. Nor, do I have any interest in pooping on the “bromance” that exists between the Jersey Boy and lads from Dublin. I think it’s cute.

This is purely a knee-jerk “WTF?!” response from a music business point of view focusing solely on the performance of Springsteen with U2 in New York city last week.

If you were crazy enough to brave the Times Square crowd, as well as the rain, maybe it sounded differently to you in the middle of the “mosh pit.”

But, watching the feed of the concert from my comfy couch at home, I’d be hard-pressed to remember when a band so big sounded so small, both musically and technically. But, we’ll get to the tech-bashing portion of the evening in a moment.

First, let’s look at “The Boss” and what he might of — or might not of — been thinking to even agree to take on the iconic song, “Where the Streets Have No Name.” The song was made famous by one of the best, most awe-inspiring voices to ever grace a microphone.

Granted, the band’s opened almost every show they’ve done in the past 20 years with that song. So, perhaps he didn’t have much of a choice. But, if I’m his manager, or his wife, or his dog watching sound check, I’m pulling him aside during dinner and asking him if he’s actually ever heard himself sing this tune? I mean, it’s just so wrong for him.

I don’t care how good a singer you are, or how famous an artist; everyone has a song that’s just completely out of their comfort zone. Case in point, Mariah Carey and “All I Want for Christmas” — #ouch.

There’s no doubt about it. Springsteen is a legend. Outside of Dylan, there’s arguably no songwriter in the past 50 years who does a better job of transporting you to a dead-end town in the heat of summer, drinking cheap beer with your underage, pregnant girlfriend.

There’s no one better at communicating the helplessness and hopelessness of what it must be like for so many kids who grow up in those types of towns and feel they have no choice but to choose between minimum wage or a life of petty crime.

Bruce is an amazing story teller. But he’s no singer. Never has been. It’s the one thing The Boss has never been good at.

In order to sing, you need to be able to hold a note for more than a nano second and infuse it with a bit of air and tone, and let it glide over the music like the instrument it is. These are things ole Bruce is just not good at anymore, if he ever was.

As soon as he walked onto that stage, with The Edge’s stentorian guitars ringing into the night — before he even opened his mouth – I cringed for him (and for me), because I knew what both of us were in store for.

Maybe it was the nasty weather, but even the crowd appeared uninspired by the performance. Every time the camera panned to reveal the audience, they looked like they were lining up for Jersey Boys at TKTS.

The empty, lone whistle and/or occasional holler only made the periods of dead silence in between seem more obvious. Although, this is your typical New York crowd for any performance, so perhaps I’m being too harsh.

I’m even more disappointed – if that’s possible – in the technical aspects of the broadcast.

You’d think in this day and age, with the biggest band in the world playing a gig in the biggest city in the world, the producers might have splurged on a decent mixing console.

Instead, what we got sounded like a home video of a wedding band playing through $50 worth of gear in 1985.

I’m not sure what the crew was doing behind the scenes, or what tools they had –or didn’t have– at their disposal, but damn… if Larry Mullen Jr.’s kick drum didn’t sound like a dripping faucet and Adam Clayton’s bass didn’t sound like Steve Martin’s banjo, I need to have my ears checked.

Incidentally, The Edge couldn’t sound bad if he tried, so don’t even go there. The guy’s so good, he could make a wet sock sound like a Stradivarius.


David Fagin

David Fagin

David Fagin is a New York writer, producer and musician. His resume boasts an incredibly diverse range of contributions, from top news sites such as Salon, AOL News, Yahoo and The Huffington Post to a wide-range of humorous entities such as The Onion, The Muppets, Comedy Central, Dennis Miller, and Howard Stern. He is fascinated by technology and social media and the seemingly love/hate relationship we have with the changing world. He is also a food snob.

Thus, even though the guys in the remote truck made the rest of the band sound as if they were playing through two cups and a string, my man The Edge still sounded flawless. #YesIwouldmarryhim.

Overall, I’m not sure what went wrong between the boys in “BrU2” last week. But, if I was them, or their management, I would think long and hard about playing more live shows together.

Or at least choose the set list more carefully. They are great as individual artists, but together, at least on this night they came off sounding like a U2 tribute band. Please Bono, get well soon.

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