Someone I’m very close to went this weekend to see the revival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music of “Einstein on the Beach”, the 1976 formalist opera by Philip Glass and Robert Wilson. I could have seen it too, but found myself not so strongly motivated.
Theatre works built on pure formalism don’t always work for me — especially, as in this case, if the experience lasts longer than four hours. While I respect the concept, my limit for experiencing abstract performance at BAM doesn’t always veer very far to the other side of Pina Bausch.
So this weekend I went to see a very different performance, also more than four hours long — Bruce Springsteen at the Meadowlands. On the continuum between formalist and romantic art, Springsteen is the epitome of the romantic end of the spectrum. The man can work a crowd better than Bill Clinton, and he had the audience in sheer heaven every moment.
When you attend a Springsteen concert, you become caught up in raw primal emotion — all the ecstasy of a Gospel revival with none of the Original Sin. In Springsteen’s world, we are all saints and sinners both. His songs are stories of how those two states of being coexist, and how that heady mixture makes us beautiful.
So there you have it — two people making very different concert choices on the same weekend, both of us highly aware of the difference between appreciating a work of art and loving it. Then again, there are places where our respective tastes coincide splendidly.
For example, in a few months we will be attending a performance together that is, arguably, in the precise center of the dialectic between BAM and The Boss: We are going to see Leonard Cohen.