California nostalgia as Bruce Springsteen introduces new sound

Bruce Springsteen will release his first new album in five years on Friday, calling it a ‘jewel box of a record.’ (AFP)
Updated 12 June 2019
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California nostalgia as Bruce Springsteen introduces new sound

WASHINGTON: The sun setting over an open road, small towns down on their luck — and a horse galloping through the desert? The Boss is back, and bigger than ever.
Bruce Springsteen will release his first new album in five years on Friday, calling it a “jewel box of a record.”
“This record is a return to my solo recordings featuring character-driven songs and sweeping, cinematic orchestral arrangements,” Springsteen said.
He still belts out melancholy ruminations on the American condition in his signature gravely voice, but in this his 19th album his inspiration has changed.
Instead of small Rust Belt towns worn down by the decline of the economy and morale, he turns to southern Californian country-pop classics of the 1960s and 70s, infusing his music with a deep nostalgia for a golden era of the United States, slowly becoming buried under Californian sand but with hope for its return.
The result is a 13-track album — titled “Western Stars” — that covers “a sweeping range of American themes, of highways and desert spaces, of isolation and community,” said the 69-year-old rocker in a statement.
But also of “the permanence of home and hope.”
The album’s first single, “Hello Sunshine,” which dropped in April, sounds like a slow country ballad, with lyrics that invite hope back into an old underdog’s life.
Springsteen followed the song with “Tucson Train” in May, which tells the story of a man turning his life around. The tentatively optimistic lyrics are set to classical instruments, including an entire brass section to replace Springsteen’s late musical partner in crime, the much-loved E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who died in 2011.
“Western Stars” — whose cover art shows a horse with a glossy brown coat galloping across the desert — pays homage to musicians of Springsteen’s young adulthood.
The album features echoes of Glen Campbell, Roy Orbison and, particularly in “Hello Sunshine,” Harry Nilsson’s version of “Everybody’s Talkin.”
By playing with what has long fascinated him, Springsteen reveals more of himself, in a manner true to his characteristic sincere melancholy.
This is not the first time Springsteen has looked to California for inspiration.
Back when he was the frontman for the band Steel Mill, he attempted to break out of New Jersey between 1969 and 1971, convinced his blend of rock and rhythm and blues would be better understood in the Golden State.
In 1972, he wrote the song “California,” a year after his parents moved to the titular state. He moved there himself in 1991, where he married guitarist Patti Scialfa, who is still a member of the E Street Band.
A few years later, Springsteen recorded his album “The Ghost of Tom Joad” at his home in Los Angeles, which went on to win the 1997 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album.
“Western Stars” is Springsteen’s first studio album since 2014’s “High Hopes,” which followed “Wrecking Ball” in 2012.
It also comes months after the artist closed his wildly successful run on Broadway, a 236-concert residency that is now available streaming on Netflix.
When the show ended in December after several renewals, it was one of Broadway’s most coveted tickets, with resale prices running upwards of $1,000.


UAE gift helps French palace reopen ‘forgotten theater’

Updated 18 June 2019
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UAE gift helps French palace reopen ‘forgotten theater’

  • Now called the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan Theatre, it is the latest example of the close relations between Paris and Abu Dhabi
  • The UAE capital already hosts the Louvre Abu Dhabi, opened by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and President Emmanuel Macron in 2017

FONTAINEBLEAU: An exquisite 19th-century French theater outside Paris that fell into disuse for one and half centuries has been restored with the help of a €10 million donation from oil-rich Abu Dhabi.
The Napoleon III theater at Fontainebleau Palace south of Paris was built between 1853 and 1856 under the reign of the nephew of emperor Napoleon I.
It opened in 1857 but was used only a dozen times, which has helped preserve its gilded adornments, before being abandoned in 1870 after the fall of Napoleon III.
But during a state visit to France in 2007, Sheikh Khalifa, ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the United Arab Emirates, was reportedly entranced by the abandoned theater and offered €10 million ($11.2 million) on the spot for its restoration.
After a project that has lasted 12 years the theater is now being reopened.
An official inauguration is expected soon, hosted by French Culture Minister Franck Riester and attended by UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.
Now called the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan Theatre, it is the latest example of the close relations between Paris and Abu Dhabi.
The UAE capital already hosts the Louvre Abu Dhabi, opened by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and President Emmanuel Macron in 2017, the first foreign institution to carry the name of the great Paris museum.
For all its ornate beauty, the theater has hardly ever been used for its orginal purpose, hosting only a dozen performances between 1857 and 1868, each attended by around 400 people.
“While it had been forgotten, the theater was in an almost perfect state,” said the head of the Fontainebleau Palace, Jean-Francois Hebert.
“Let us not waste this jewel, and show this extraordinary place of decorative arts,” he added.
According to the palace, the theater is “probably the last in Europe to have kept almost all its original machinery, lighting and decor.”
Having such a theater was the desire of Napoleon III’s wife Eugenie. But after the defeat, his capture in the Franco-Prussian war in 1870 and the declaration of France’s Third Republic, the theater fell into virtual oblivion.
Following the renovation, the theater will mainly be a place to visit and admire, rather than for regularly holding concerts.
“The aim is not to give the theater back to its first vocation” given its “very fragile structure,” said Hebert.
Short shows and recitals may be performed in exceptional cases, under the tightest security measures and fire regulations. But regular guided tours will allow visitors to discover the site, including the stage sets.
The restoration aimed to use as little new material as possible, with 80 percent of the original material preserved.
The opulent central chandelier — three meters high and 2.5 meters wide — has been restored to its original form.