Bruce Springsteen went seven years between his last two studio albums -- 1995's spare ''Ghost of Tom Joad'' and last year's 9/11-themed ''The Rising'' -- and 18 years between collaborations with a fully constituted E Street Band. He seems at peace with that pace. After 30 years of hard work and harder playing, he's got a realistically skeptical view: While grateful for ''The Rising'''s Grammy nominations, he scorns a music industry that seems focused solely on quick, hit-single careers; his kinship with the bedrock beliefs of his fans has grown, but he thinks the Bush administration is headed in the dead-wrong direction; and out of this troublesome world he's done his best to carve a haven for his family -- wife and E Street Band member Patty Scialfa, and their three children, Evan, 12, Jessica, 11, and Sam, 9. With all the accolades, and sales of just under 2 million copies, ''The Rising'' has revived his career while maturing the man.
After the Feb. 28 airing of a CBS concert special taped recently in Barcelona, Springsteen will resume his ''barnstorming tour'' -- the first leg of which took him and the E Street Band across America through the fall and early winter -- with U.S. dates in March. Then, at least through June, he and the band head overseas, to everywhere from Australia and New Zealand to Germany. Rocker, reader, and peace-seeking road warrior, Springsteen refuses to be pinned down. He holds within him all the surprises and contradictions of an artist not just born in the USA, but now set loose in the world.