Picks and Pans Review: Live in New York City
No working stiffs are more proudly blue-collar than cops, so it was odd to find some NYPD officers booing a song that the Boss, a hero to Joe Sixpack if ever there was one, performed during his 10-night stand at Madison Square Garden last year. The fuss was about "American Skin (41 Shots)," a nice bit of rock and roll agitprop that starkly dramatizes the shooting death by New York City police of an unarmed African immigrant in a burst of automatic weapons fire after police mistakenly thought he was reaching for a gun. The song does not indict the police but casts the killing as a tragedy of American race relations. This whopping 20-song, two-CD, two hour and 43 minute set—don't worry, the time flies just as quickly here as it did at the Garden, where it was recorded—is filled with rousing, gospel-infused rock anthems ("Badlands," "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out"). Among them, both "41 Shots," performed with church organ backing and chilling, liturgical vocal arrangements, and a dirgelike version of "Born in the U.S.A." assume the power of hymns. Each is a haunting interlude in the joyous, tent-revival spirit of the concerts.
Bottom Line: The Boss in charge