It seemed highly unlikely that the expectations I had heading in to see Springsteen on Broadway could be exceeded. After all, I’ve been passionate about his music for five decades. His music has been a part of just about every aspect of my life. You can read my earlier blogs about Springsteen, Why I’ve been a Springsteen Fan for Over Forty Years and My Week with Bruce Springsteen to learn more about what he means to me, and why anyone would be surprised that that he could deliver more than I anticipated.
That’s what happened. Any high expectations I had were surpassed. Bruce Springsteen allowed us into his heart and soul like he’s never done before. It was clear that he wanted us all to understand him, to understand the story that made him who he is, that shaped the man behind the music, behind the iconic songs.
I knew it was going to be a very different performance when after close to thirty-five minutes he had only sung three songs. It was a full eight minutes before he even started singing. He opened with a soliloquy that one could imagine came from Shakespeare. But it didn’t, it came from his autobiography. It and his closing spoken words, along with his final song, bookended a performance that is like no other he’s ever given, I’d argue, that it’s like no other performer has, or can give. His experience is unique. He’s one of the few performing artist who is still highly creative and successful after decades. This performance proved it.
I’ve always loved his concerts. They’re filled with energy, with a spark. Even people who aren’t necessarily Springsteen fans leave his concerts with a new appreciation for what a live performance can be. Springsteen on Broadway is a different animal. This piece of art is not about raw power and music. It’s about sharing the heart and soul of a performer. It’s about giving us all an opportunity to see into the man that is Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen.
He shared many stories throughout the two hour and fifteen-minute performance, but it’s the final story that he shares before doing his closing song, Land of Hopes and Dreams, that brought me to tears. He talked about one evening, not too long ago, when he drove back to his hometow, to the house where he grew up. He discovered that the large tree, that he had talked about several times during his performance, that had been part of his childhood was no longer there. He was filled with emotion as he talked about the fond memories he had of that tree, of him climbing to its upper reaches as a boy and dreaming of great things. He talked about how he was still connected to the tree even though it was gone. It was part of his history, it would be forever part of him. Just as his family members and friends who had passed away would always be connected to him. How we are all connected.
Then he slowed everything down and talked about something that he used to recite at the Catholic school next door, something that he found boring as a young boy, but suddenly he felt it coming to him in a new way. He said it was as if he knew it for the first time. So, he recited it.
It was The Lord’s Prayer.
He said every single word with such passion. You couldn’t hear a sound in the theatre. It was as if every single one of the 800 people there were saying it with him, but no one was. It was as if we were all connected to God in that instant. It was surreal. It was divine.
Then he started playing Land of Hopes and Dreams. This has been one of my favourite Springsteen songs for years. Long ago I decided that I would have it played at my funeral. I’m even thinking of creating a video for it. I was a pastor once, and at my last service I put together a video of my time as a pastor, for the video I had Land of Hopes and Dreams as the background music.
When he sang,
This train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls
I said, this train, dreams will not be thwarted
This train, faith will be rewarded
This train, hear the steel wheels singin’
This train, bells of freedom ringin’
I cried. I knew this would be one of the most moving moments of my life. I knew that in that moment we were all connected.
Thank you Bruce Springsteen.