By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Steeped in mid-'60s soul, complete with horns and minus the synth that's become Springsteen's atmospheric crutch, "My City of Ruins" has more in common with "People Get Ready" than just its stately pace and the melody it partly appropriates. Here, an everyman "I" (not an identifiable character, but perhaps Springsteen, the recent Jersey repatriate) describes a town decimated by poverty, where even the churches are drained of life and young men waste on the corner "like scattered leaves."
But thenand this is the leap and the crux of the song's successthe singer demands action. Springsteen transforms "Thunder Road" 's urge to "ride out" into the revolutionary refrain of "Rise up!," a rare exhortation to his unseen audience, delivered with the genuine fervor of John the Baptist. While "The Ghost of Tom Joad" and the ambiguous "My Hometown" paid witness, this song advises, just as "People Get Ready" advised listeners to prepare not only for a heavenly reward but for civil rights victory in America. "My City of Ruins" is Springsteen's gospel imperative, imploring listeners not just to get ready, but to use their hands for work and prayer in the hard times ahead.
Todd Kristel's review of Springsteen's Live in New York.