Why Springsteen uses a teleprompter

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.

via Nils Lofgren defends Bruce Springsteen’s use of teleprompter – The Style Blog – The Washington Post.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Pete

    So is this the new indoor record for “latest time in the day for first comment on a Cranach blog entry”? Not much of a ruckus to be stirred up in the confessional Lutheran camp about the Boss’ use of a teleprompter? Lotsa “meh” out there? Maybe it’ll get the Left Coast contingent riled up once they roll out of bed.

  • Pete

    So is this the new indoor record for “latest time in the day for first comment on a Cranach blog entry”? Not much of a ruckus to be stirred up in the confessional Lutheran camp about the Boss’ use of a teleprompter? Lotsa “meh” out there? Maybe it’ll get the Left Coast contingent riled up once they roll out of bed.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Hey, I’m as surprised as you, Pete (@1). I was certain by the time I got to the comments, there’d be lots of “Hyuk hyuk … Obama … teleprompter!” humor. Maybe Carl Vehse’s on vacation?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Hey, I’m as surprised as you, Pete (@1). I was certain by the time I got to the comments, there’d be lots of “Hyuk hyuk … Obama … teleprompter!” humor. Maybe Carl Vehse’s on vacation?

  • Pete

    It does jog my memory about an incident concerning the boss’ (different boss) teleprompter. My older son graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2009 and the graduation speaker was our Vice President – Joe Biden. The festivities were held in the football stadium and, as is often the case along the Front Range, it was windy. During his address, the wind blew one of his teleprompters over and his (quick) response was something to the effect of , “Uh-oh – I’ll be in big trouble if the boss finds out I’ve broken the teleprompter.”

  • Pete

    It does jog my memory about an incident concerning the boss’ (different boss) teleprompter. My older son graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2009 and the graduation speaker was our Vice President – Joe Biden. The festivities were held in the football stadium and, as is often the case along the Front Range, it was windy. During his address, the wind blew one of his teleprompters over and his (quick) response was something to the effect of , “Uh-oh – I’ll be in big trouble if the boss finds out I’ve broken the teleprompter.”

  • Pete

    It ain’t Carl Vehse, but it’s the best I could do on short notice.

  • Pete

    It ain’t Carl Vehse, but it’s the best I could do on short notice.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “It ain’t Carl Vehse” (@4). Indeed not, as it appears to be funny in an intentional way! ;)

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “It ain’t Carl Vehse” (@4). Indeed not, as it appears to be funny in an intentional way! ;)

  • SKPeterson

    The whole concept of getting worked up about an aging rock star relying in some manner upon a teleprompter is rather amusing, but as Pete noted above, mostly just a “meh”.

  • SKPeterson

    The whole concept of getting worked up about an aging rock star relying in some manner upon a teleprompter is rather amusing, but as Pete noted above, mostly just a “meh”.

  • Cincinnatus

    The extent to which I care about this issue is so minimal that I feel compelled to log in and write a comment expressing my apathy.

    Anyway, let’s use the concern pianist analogy: when I go to the symphony, I’m always deeply impressed when the pianist (or first violinist, etc.) is able to perform Beethoven or Liszt from memory–indeed, I expect as much from a professional–but I don’t particularly mind if they use music. Same goes for The Boss.

    Something, something Obama. Seriously, though, politics is a bit different: I think the fact that Obama is so reliant on a teleprompter–he’s practically attached via an electronic umbilical cord–is problematic for a couple of reasons. First, it means decisively that claims about his oratorical brilliance are severely overrated. Second, it speaks to a larger lack of authenticity and sincerity in modern mass politics. Everything is prepackaged message. Where I don’t mind if the pianist has to glance at his transcription of a sonata, I am disappointed (continually disappointed, I suppose) when a politician is merely repeating talking points written in advance, when, while pretending to gaze into the eyes of his audience, he’s just reading the regurgitations of a technological device. But this problem isn’t unique to Obama of course.

    And it’s not relevant to Springsteen, I suppose.

  • Cincinnatus

    The extent to which I care about this issue is so minimal that I feel compelled to log in and write a comment expressing my apathy.

    Anyway, let’s use the concern pianist analogy: when I go to the symphony, I’m always deeply impressed when the pianist (or first violinist, etc.) is able to perform Beethoven or Liszt from memory–indeed, I expect as much from a professional–but I don’t particularly mind if they use music. Same goes for The Boss.

    Something, something Obama. Seriously, though, politics is a bit different: I think the fact that Obama is so reliant on a teleprompter–he’s practically attached via an electronic umbilical cord–is problematic for a couple of reasons. First, it means decisively that claims about his oratorical brilliance are severely overrated. Second, it speaks to a larger lack of authenticity and sincerity in modern mass politics. Everything is prepackaged message. Where I don’t mind if the pianist has to glance at his transcription of a sonata, I am disappointed (continually disappointed, I suppose) when a politician is merely repeating talking points written in advance, when, while pretending to gaze into the eyes of his audience, he’s just reading the regurgitations of a technological device. But this problem isn’t unique to Obama of course.

    And it’s not relevant to Springsteen, I suppose.

  • http://teleprompterrentalla.com mosarof

    It has worked out well, except when the President has failed idiotically to cooperate or an insubordinate teleprompter has gone off on a misguided binge of its own. It has been my privilege as well as my misfortune since . To actually make it happen, teleprompter is urgently needed. The teleprompter rental company usually offers a range of teleprompter types in the friendly budget; it is possible to find a very good one among your choices.

  • http://teleprompterrentalla.com mosarof

    It has worked out well, except when the President has failed idiotically to cooperate or an insubordinate teleprompter has gone off on a misguided binge of its own. It has been my privilege as well as my misfortune since . To actually make it happen, teleprompter is urgently needed. The teleprompter rental company usually offers a range of teleprompter types in the friendly budget; it is possible to find a very good one among your choices.

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