Bruce Springsteen is an artist constructed for all of his influences - Elvis, Spector, Johnny Cash, Stax Records and the list goes on. It is what makes him authentic and credible. Like all of us he has a record collection and in a house fire, would probably run to save it first.
He has always been a great student of rock and roll and has always been more than happy to share his findings with his audiences through a string of well-chosen cover versions. Often his choices put the original artists back in the spotlight themselves - for instance he regularly covered what was known as The Detroit Medley of "The Devil With A Blue Dress On" and "Good Golly Miss Molly" as a tribute to 60s hitmaker, Mitch Ryder, whose back catalogue will have seldom been dusted off without a nod from the Boss. He would also lend his production and writing skills to various other artists from the period like Ronnie Spector and Gary "US" Bonds. He remains an active member of the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland and seems to enjoy any opportunity to participate.
It is often when resurrecting some of these forgotten classics that he seems to enjoy his set the most - perhaps reminding him of his teen days with the Castiles. You can see many of these all through the YouTube rabbit hole but try the version of Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell" in Leipzig to see what I'm talking about.
He seems to take great pleasure from duetting with his idols as well - be it McCartney, The Stones, Dylan or Neil Young. He can always hold his own and is never the junior partner, always putting his own stamp on the performance.
However, he has also started to be more adventurous in his choices. This may have begun with the short tour in 2006 with REM where the bands would drop in on each other's sets and a performance such as "Man On The Moon" is more challenging than some of his old garage band 45s. He now seems to hook up with U2 quite regularly and joins in on some of their "Joshua Tree" material.
He is of course a master at engaging his audience and giving maximum value. Often, he will perform a favourite from a local band to make the concert more personal and more memorable - what a customer experience marketer he is...
This came to my attention when the afore-mentioned rabbit hole threw up some clips from one of his recent tours to Australia; one of which is an understandably raucous version of AC/DC's "Highway To Hell" that just looks like he's having a lot of fun but is perhaps too unsubtle even for him.
However, during a concert in Brisbane, he decided to completely transform another Australian band's song, The Bee Gees "Stayin' Alive".
Now you might think this would be some slightly odd disco romp but Springsteen really shows his interpretative skills and brings out the true intention of the song. Four-to-the floor disco classic it may have been but it's actually a very strongly delivered lyric from Barry Gibb about desperation and survival - familiar musical territory for Bruce, of course.
Of course, Gibb's trademark falsetto is replaced by Bruce's growling delivery to a more sinister acoustic opening and his vocal transforms whatever you thought about this song into something far darker.
The Bee Gees often seem like a slightly forgotten footnote in pop history but their unique sound, tremendous writing skills and keen production sensibility gave them hits in five separate decades, which is no mean achievement that only a few truly great artists can emulate. Sadly not Mitch Ryder.
Springsteen and the E Street Band has only gone on to perform this on two more occasions later in the tour back in the US but even on a thumbnail video screen you can sense magic was in the air when this surprise turned up on the setlist.
Living proof of what can happen when a great interpreter with a great voice meets a great song.