Last Friday (March 30), the Washington Post ran an article by Paul Farhi about Bruce Springsteen’s use of a teleprompter. People have been critical of the devices from their use by guests on Saturday Night Live to the regular usage by President Obama throughout his term.
According to the article, unbeknownst to most people in an arena, Springsteen has a teleprompter at his feet that scrolls the lyrics to “some of his songs.” Farhi states that he’s not the only one using the device with others like Paul McCartney, Barbra Streisand and Elton John also having them on stage with them.
In the end, though, Farhi finds it unsettling that Springsteen, whose songs seem to be so much from the heart, needs the screen to remind him of the words to the songs, especially when the show is only 25 tunes out of a possible 40 that they rotate through during the tour.
The article elicited a detailed, strong response from E-Street Band guitarist Nils Lofgren. Nils points out that, during the last tour, Bruce and the band performed 192 different songs and that some of those came from audience requests. Songs that were either deep catalog that hadn’t been played in years or covers of rock hits by other artists. According to the letter, Springsteen would pick a request and the band would gather around for about twenty seconds talking about parts and arrangements. During that time, Springsteen’s crew would look-up the lyrics on the net and put them up on the teleprompter.
Lofgren said “Many of those audibles were Bruce 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.”
The bottom line is that, whether it be supreme memory or a little help from a TV screen, there’s little doubt that Springsteen puts on one of the most exciting shows in rock. Does it really matter that much how he pulls it off?
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