A Washington Post critic chastized Bruce Springsteen for using a teleprompter at a recent concert, sparking this letter to the editor by E Street Band guitarist Nils Lofgren. Not only does the letter explain the quite different-from-the-ordinary use of this technology, but it illuminates the spontaneity and “musical recklessness” of a Springsteen concert from the point of view of someone on the inside:
Your teleprompter article left out some important points. Last E Street tour, (”Working On A Dream”) we played 192 different songs on that tour alone. Dozens of those songs were from audience-request signs Bruce would collect and dump in front of the drum riser. He would then rifle through them, sailing them around him until he found a song to attempt — much like the college kid rummaging through the pile of dirty laundry in search of one clean shirt.
Many songs were covers we had never performed live. EVER! He would show us the sign and then immediately “frisbee” it down the stairs to the teleprompter crew to surf the net and find the lyrics while we all talked up a quick arrangement at his microphone, knowing he’d be counting it off in 20 seconds.
Many of those audibles were Bruce songs unrehearsed or played in years or decades. With our collective musical memory, hand signals and teleprompter, it allows for those ambitious, ad lib moments and an inspired, musical recklessness I believe is unique to our shows. These points might have brought some additional perspective to your article. In our case, the teleprompter has a much more ambitious use and purpose than your article indicates.