Experiencing Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band from the cushy confines of your living room misses the point and then some, but HBO's got it live (live on tape, actually) if you want it. It took 27 years to land Springsteen and the boys (and gal, counting Mrs. Boss, Patty Scialfa) on TV in a full-length concert (The Disney Channel did air the Blood Brothers special five years ago, which was just released on DVD), and it's worth the wait only if you hate to get your rock and roll all over your new Dockers; nothing wears the crease out of your khakis like a little "Born to Run" (a late addition to the special, for some odd reason) or "Prove it All Night" or "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" played louder than a nuclear bomb with twice the fallout. Nice to see the close-ups, though: Turns out Springsteen's got more veins in his forehead than you're likely to find in an average porn vid, and there's something to be said for being able to watch the man play guitar (ferry 'cross the Hudson, Neil Young) instead of having to endure the thousands of schmoes fingering air in cheap imitation during your typical Boss show. (It's nice too to have the choruses of "Bruuuuuce, Bruuuuuce!" mixed way down, though the missus, listening from another room, still wondered why the audience kept booing. I mentioned it had something to do with Clarence Clemons--big man blows, or something.)
The fanatics will get their kicks here: The special, taped June 29 and July 1 at Madison Square Garden, consists of material recorded during the band's 10-day stand in New York City at the conclusion of the 1999-2000 tour; bootleggers have been circulating CD-Rs of the shows for months, no doubt prompting Sony to release its own official version, Live in New York City, four days before the special airs. (The CD contains 20 songs, including a somber "Born in the U.S.A.," as it was originally intended; the HBO show, a mere 14.) There's new material enough to make the special special--the poetic, painful "American Skin (41 Shots)," inspired by the gunning down of unarmed Amadou Diallo by some of New York's finest, and "Land of Hope and Dreams"--and standards enough ("The River," "Youngstown," "Atlantic City," etc.) to keep the casual engaged despite Steve Van Zandt's need to mug more than a coffee cup.
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Still, watching a concert on TV's a bit like watching sausage being made; it's hardly the ideal venue for the world's greatest bar band, which is meant to be felt and smelt instead of merely seen on the small screen. Better for the fetishist and the mere fan is the CD companion (yo, turn it up) or the just-released Video Anthology: 1978-2000, a 33-song, double-DVD collection that stands with its boot on your chest from start (a live version of "Rosalita" from 1978) to finish ("If I Should Fall Behind," recorded in concert last year by director Jonathan Demme). Like it matters: If Bruce is the Boss of you, you already own every boot, book and comp there is, and you aren't even reading this anyway. You're already camped out in front of the TV, softly chanting to yourself, "Bruuuuuce, Bruuuuuce, Bruuuuuce..."