In terms of popular music writing, Caryn Rose is something of a unicorn--a fan who can also be critical. Trust me, there aren't as many people out there like this as you might think. The fans tend to be all-accepting, and the critics can often be shockingly superficial. Rose has been following Bruce Springsteen for decades now and knows his work as well as anyone, but she has some very definite opinions about what works and what doesn't. Those opinions are highly individual, not at all a product of groupthink, and they are informed by her love and knowledge of artists other than Springsteen too.
This points to another way in which she is a unique music writer: she doesn't have a Golden Age, any Golden Age, to which she hearkens back. For Rose, there is great rock 'n' roll, live and recorded, in every era. You just have to listen with both joy and care. I don't always agree with her, but she makes me think about my own opinions, my own musical tastes, and that usually makes me want to go back and listen with fresh ears.
Much has been written this year (cough cough, David "Bobo" Brooks) about Springsteen in Europe vs. Springsteen in the US. In "Raise Your Hand," Rose reports live from the belly of the beast, or in this case the GA pit. As always, her mind and her viscera are equally engaged, and this brief book is the best intelligent-fan's-eye account I have ever read of a rock 'n' roll tour. That doesn't surprise me, of course, since I consider Rose's "B-Sides and Broken Hearts" one of the most successful rock 'n' roll novels ever.
Read this book to learn about Springsteen at 62; read it to learn about the fate of classic rock in the 21st century; read it to learn about a sprawling megatour in the time of the declining Euro--just read it. Rose will make you smile, feel, and think.