Springsteen on Broadway, 11/24/17

The lights dimmed; and a spotlight zig-zagged across the stage. Suddenly, a silhouette appeared as if out of thin air. It belonged to that noted song-and-dance man Bruce Springsteen, who was decked out for the occasion in top hat, black tie and long tails. He also carried a cane – not for walking, but dancing. The orchestra swelled into a jaunty rhythm and the Boss began a soft shoe, tap-tap-tapping his way across the stage. “Give my regards to Broadway,” he croaked, “remember me to Herald Square…” He extended an arm; and the longtime Ginger Rogers to his Fred Astaire, Patti Scialfa, twirled into his embrace, and delivered her patented lush harmonies on the next lines. “Tell all the gang at 42nd Street/That I will soon be there…”

Nah. Just kidding.

Prior to the show, on our way to the Walter Kerr Theater, I found myself – much to Diane’s chagrin – singing “On Broadway,” the classic Drifters song. In many ways, it’s apropos to Springsteen on Broadway, in which the Boss mixes monologues about his life’s experiences with curated songs from his expansive catalog. His has not always been a luxurious life, and there were moments early on when it seemed it might never be. He was working the Jersey Shore circuit, after all, which guaranteed anonymity; and when lightning finally did strike, and he signed with Columbia Records, his first two albums didn’t exactly catch fire. “They say that I won’t last too long on Broadway/I’ll catch a Greyhound bus for home they all say/But they’re wrong, I know they are/I can play this here guitar/And I won’t quit until I’m a star/on Broadway.”

I don’t wish to spoil the show for those who lucked into tickets but have yet to see it, so will do my best to remain circumspect. I’ll just say that, in a way, it’s reminiscent of the 2005 Devils & Dust tour: Bruce plays acoustic guitar much of the night, though there are a few sojourns on piano, too. Patti also lends her harmonies to two numbers, and provides the inspiration for Bruce to sing the first line of the Exciters’ “Tell Him.” But it’s not an all-music affair; no one should enter expecting a “concert.” Think of the (much-bootlegged) introductions to “Growing Up” and “Independence Day,” among other songs, when Bruce paints vivid word pictures that are often as riveting as what follows – that, translated to an acoustic setting, is what this is. The soliloquies are sometimes funny, often profound, and always spellbinding.

The show is biographical, but not biography, with the shared vignettes being both personal and universal. That it’s in an intimate (by Bruce standards) setting makes it all the more special. The Walter Kerr Theater seats 975 people, and the sight lines – aside from one very tall person thankfully not blocking our view – were great from our vantage point in row N. Pictures aren’t allowed, though by the last song many people had their cameras out. (Which explains the shot up top.)

For the set list, which has remained static thus far, scroll below the picture of Yours Truly…

  1. Growing Up
  2. My Hometown
  3. My Father’s House
  4. The Wish
  5. Thunder Road
  6. The Promised Land
  7. Born in the USA
  8. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
  9. Tougher Than the Rest (with Patti)
  10. Brilliant Disguise (with Patti)
  11. Long Walk Home
  12. The Rising
  13. Dancing in the Dark
  14. Land of Hope and Dreams
  15. Born to Run

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