By Bruce’s standards, the 1990s were lean, ending with a clear-out, 18 Tracks, all but three songs drawn from 1998’s Tracks boxset. Since one was a 1990 version of The Promise, a fragile outtake from 1978’s Darkness On The Edge Of Town, and another the slow-burning The Fever, it at least proved a useful reminder of his talent. The new millennium, though, began with the E Street Band’s reunion, documented on 2001’s raucous Live In New York City.
Badlands and Jungleland were especially epic, though the quieter moments were most astonishing: a sitar-focused Born In The USA, a gripping, 12-minute The River. Post-9/11, his mood changed, with The Rising hailed as a triumphant comeback from a hero who could wear the Stars and Stripes without a hint of jingoism. Nodding to his multicultural heroes – Sam Cooke on Mary’s Place, Curtis Mayfield on My City Of Ruins – even its most chest-beating moments, like Lonesome Day and Countin’ On A Miracle, weren’t overly bombastic, though the title track was exceptionally stirring.
Furthermore, Worlds Apart bravely integrated Qawwali voices to encourage global unity, while more of Paradise’s reflective qualities might have benefited the world. These, however, dominated the Nebraska-like Devils & Dust, particularly the morose Black Cowboys, the intimate Matamoros Banks, and the quietly uplifting Reno. By 2007’s Live In Dublin, which offered folksy covers such as the traditional Eyes On The Prize, plus reinterpretations of his own material – including a manic, almost mariachi Blinded By The Light – The Boss was back in control.