Bruce Springsteen Live in Barcelona

Bruce Springsteen doesn't need Mike Patton to tell him that irony is a dead scene, because there isn't an ounce of irony in the man. Springsteen is nothing if not earnest. There's really no middle ground: either you think he's a working class hero dressed up in operatic designs, or you're swept up in the whole spectacle, believing that "it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive." Any given show is a prolonged series of multiple orgasms, and while you might be exhausted by the end, you're more than satiated. That's why even though this set is heavy on material from the disappointing comeback album The Rising, it's still worth a look. We certainly don't need an 11-minute version of "Mary's Place," let alone three guitar solos during the faux-Arabic plea for peace rocker "Worlds Away," but it's pretty easy to forgive and forget when the band erupts into the vicious "Badlands" immediately afterwards. Some Rising material undergoes a vast improvement on stage, like the poignant "Empty Sky," with Springsteen's chilling falsetto vocals and Patti Scialfa's angelic harmonies. Songs like "Waitin' On a Sunny Day" suddenly make sense in a stadium, where their melodies are tailor made for sing-alongs and grand gestures. Overall, it's interesting to notice the change in dynamic in the core of the band. The seven members have grown to ten, including vocalist Patti Scialfa, guitarist Nils Lofgren and newcomer violinist Soozie Tyrell. Saxophonist Clarence Clemons still gets the biggest reaction during Bruce's drawn-out introduction, and guitarist Steve Van Zandt gets to put his arm around Bruce and share a mic while singing harmony, but the secondary star of the show is drummer Max Weinberg, who steers the ship with expert precision. The camera here seems to cut to the mighty Max at least once every 20 seconds. None of this 160-minute show manages to top the superior hit-packed DVD Live In New York City, which documented the stunning 1999 comeback tour. It is, however, testament to the fact that Bruce proves it all night, every night. Plus: nine-minute documentary. (Sony/Columbia)