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“Springsteen on Broadway” by Ron Wells

August 6, 2018
Ron Wells recently returned from NYC where he went to see the Bruce Springsteen’s show on Broadway. According to wikipedia, ” Springsteen on Broadway is a concert residency by Bruce Springsteen being held at the Walter Kerr Theatre in New York City. The residency consists of Springsteen performing five shows a week, Tuesday through Saturday. The shows feature Springsteen, solo, playing guitar and piano, performing his music, restating incidents from his 2016 autobiography, Born to Run, and performing other spoken reminiscences written for the show. Springsteen’s wife, Patti Scialfa, has also appeared at most shows.” The show has been extended numerous times due to intense interest but is due to close at the end of 2018. Springsteen on Broadway will premiere for streaming on Netflix on December 15, 2018 on the same date of the final scheduled performance on Broadway. Filming for the special took place on July 17 and 18, 2018, with a private audience in attendance.[15] 
“My vision of these shows is to make them as personal and intimate as possible. I chose Broadway for this project because it has the beautiful old theaters which seemed like the right setting for what I have in mind. In fact, with one or two exceptions, the 960 seats of the Walter Kerr Theatre is probably the smallest venue I’ve played in the last 40 years. My show is just me, the guitar, the piano and the words and music. Some of the show is spoken, some of it is sung, all of it together is in pursuit of my constant goal—to communicate something of value,” says Springsteen.
Here are Ron’s personal reflections on the experience.
“This race and this country and this life produced me, he said. I shall express myself as I am.” 
Oddly enough, it was Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” that came to mind after seeing “Springsteen on Broadway.” For here was Bruce Springsteen, an artist, who was no longer young, but rather a man closer to the end than the beginning of his life, and who was sharing an intimate look at who he was, how he became the person he is today, and how all of this led him to writing certain songs. He was a man who once long ago responded to a fan who yelled, “We love you, Bruce!” by saying, “You don’t really know me.” Here, on Broadway, in the intimate and acoustically perfect Walter Kerr Theater, he was telling an audience some of who he was, and giving some insight into knowing him and many of his songs. Many parts of the show originate from his autobiography which, among other things, dealt with his on-going battle with depression. Overall, it is a life filled with laughter, tears, and most of all, music. He said it was like a “magic trick.”
More importantly, he was inviting the audience to come along on the journey that was his life and compare notes of what their own lives were like. And I, like so many others in the theater, accepted his invitation to join him, to compare and contrast my life with his. When he talked of his struggles with his father, he spoke of those “whose love we want, but can’t get, we emulate,”  for his father’s voice was “sacred to me.” I thought of the distances that sometimes separated me from my own father, and yet whose work ethic defined me. Then he spoke of the love, strength and support of his mother who had a “never say die, thirst for life.” I thought of my mother facing her own challenges, but always fighting fiercely for, and putting me and my brother, as her primary concern in her life.
His rendition of My Hometown showed his love and hate of the place where he grew up, and how he could smell the coffee from the nearby factory, and yet the town was  “surrounded by God.” The song reminded him, and me, of the “fights between the blacks and whites,” and how “there was nothing you could do.” I too had been there, as my hometown was hit more than once with curfews due to uprisings brought on by race, and hatred, and prejudice. It was a shared memory that was separated by 3,000 miles and yet represented a country that struggled mightily with race no matter where you grew up.
Then he talked so lovingly of his New Jersey musical heroes who lost their lives in Vietnam because of the lies told by the government, and I too knew stories of my friends and in my soul I too knew that “someone went in my place.” He pounded his guitar angrily on the opening chords of “Born in the USA” to express his frustration and rage.
So many of us had experienced the same feeling of hopelessness, helplessness, and the pure anger that the war engendered.
Patti’s songs with Bruce added a whole new dimension to his story, for it is impossible to look at her now and not respect the fact that she is the one who has watched over and protected him when he sank into the foggy, nightmarish world of quicksand that was his depression. How many times has she been there to save him from himself? One thing is certain: God has had mercy on a man who sometimes doubted what he was sure of. Patti is living proof.
Turning a very different corner, Bruce shakes his head at the “dark angels” that are running our country now, and how he never thought he’d see his country become what it is today. But he quoted Marin Luther King, Jr. when he said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it tends towards justice.” Let us pray that it is so. Yet, he reminded us that arc needs our support, and as citizens, it is we who must help bend it.
Please do not get the idea that this was a show of absolute seriousness. It most definitely was not. Bruce has always had the ability to laugh at himself, and the humor here was consistently loud, spontaneous and warm. For example, he talked about his first trip driving cross country and how he had to have his manager get the car out of first gear, because he couldn’t work the clutch correctly. Then he added, “The guy who wrote Racing in the Street, didn’t know how to drive a car.” After the laughter died down, he spoke with awe of driving into the pure horizon of the desert, and his love affair with that horizon and the wide open spaces of the desert. Almost as an aside, he connected it with a Promised Land. His self-deprecation continued when he later added that when he was young he wanted to leave his hometown so badly, he was just chomping at the bit. It couldn’t come fast enough nor take him far enough away. And yet, “All these years later, and I live 10 minutes from that same hometown.” Laughter ensued, as it did so often in the show. He knows the punch lines, and he realizes the audience needs and enjoys the bright light of humor, as much as the sometimes darkness of truth.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the entire performance was his consistently coming back to a spiritual context for his life.
That is not unusual, for it certainly happens as one grows older. He even said a prayer during the show. Though he spoke of the Catholicism that would probably never leave him, he opened that door much wider to include all religions and all spiritual beliefs. When he spoke of God, one got the idea that he was allowing you to interpret that word in any way you wished. It was an invitation to a greater understanding of life and our place in the universe. It was his way, once again, of inviting you to contemplate all that life presents you with. He even went so far as to talk about an old tree that was once the center of his hometown, and yet it had been cut down by the county. When he felt the dirt around the tree he felt it was still there. It’s spirit lived on.
When he talked of Clarence Clemons, he said he felt Clarence and he had been together in previous lives, and he would “see you in the next life, Big Man.” Ghosts are always trying to reach us, he said quietly but without hesitation.  And I too believe this to be true, for it has happened to me. Spirits in the night. For we “commune with the spirts, and are surrounded by God.” Bruce’s reminder that “the soul doesn’t dissipate.”
Then he said: “Life is finite. The clock is ticking.” We are, indeed, mortal when all is said and done. And yet even his mother who has alzheimers will dance when she hears music. There is always a reason to dance, a need to dance, no matter where you find yourself in life.
For 43 of my 69 years, Bruce Springsteen has been an integral part of my life.

He is the same age as me. He has put on the greatest rock and roll shows I have ever seen, and I’ve seen 90+ (I think that’s correct) of his shows.
Bruce has inspired me to be a better teacher. He has coaxed me to work harder. He has invited me to laugh at how absurd life can sometimes be.
Yes, I love Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Muddy Waters and a few thousand more singers, writers, and movie actors and directors, but Bruce Springsteen was always a “normal guy,” someone who looked out into the audience and wanted to see faces of people who were just like him. I accepted his invitation in 1975 and never regretted it. 
This is, was, and has been his “magic trick.” It was his art that he “wanted to be somebody you could count on.” For me, he has been all that and more. He was never perfect, but he stood “in witness of joy and heartbreak.”
The show is inordinately expensive, with every night sold out and tickets running from $75 to $850. For the first time in my life, I said money was no object. I needed to see this show. I’m so glad I did. This was one of the most moving experiences of my life. An artist reaching out to hundreds, if not thousands of people, and inviting them to share his life and theirs. It will be on Netflix on Dec. 15. One would hope that the live performance will come through the tv screen just as it did in that wonderful theater.
James Joyce probably spoke for me when he wrote, “He wanted to cry quietly for himself: for the words, so beautiful and sad, like music.” His music and words were not always sad, but they were all encompassing, life affirming and beautiful. I did cry. And I did laugh. It was a spiritual experience, with all the beauty that entails.
When I got his autograph after the show, he looked me directly in the eyes, for he is always making that personal connection, and all I could say was, “Thank you.” I have to believe he understand that I spoke for millions of people. Whatever art or artist touches you, may you experience everything that I did at this show. For as I walked away in a humid and bustling New York City, I felt blessed, for my life and his.

 

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