NEW YORK–Although originally billed as an unplugged appearance–no electric instruments–Bruce Springsteen threw a change-up in his appearance on “MTV Unplugged”: he brought on his touring band, threw out the formula that has made the show a winner and, in the process, delivered a show that lacks the energy and excitement of past live performances. The result is rare TV, but far from a classic.
MTV has developed a gem with its “Unplugged” series. Among those appearing on past shows, standouts include Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney and L.L. Cool J; each has had a moment or two that carries on past the original airing, be it the (now-overplayed) version of “Layla” by Clapton or Mariah Carey’s take on the Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There.”
Perhaps because he has never done a full-concert for television, Springsteen felt he could throw the show format out the window. What could MTV say, “Sorry, Bruce, but rules are rules”?
What viewers get is a television version of his current concert tour. This is pretty much the same show heard via syndicated radio as a dress rehearsal before the tour started, but with pictures. Not very energetic, yet wall-to-wall tunes from the man.
Song selection runs from the current “Lucky Town,””Man’s Job” and “Better Days” to the Jersey chestnuts “Atlantic City” and “Thunder Road.” It’s not that Springsteen isn’t putting out; he just doesn’t deliver a show to go over the top.
Alex Coletti’s production is smooth as usual. Staging is simple, yet adequate for the performance and lighting effectively enhances the program. In all, the MTV folks turned out a pretty good technical performance; the rest was left up to Springsteen.
Despite the lack of energy, it is better to have Springsteen on television than not. Fans have a lot of thanking of MTV to do, because of it.