Bruce Springsteen reopened New York's Broadway Saturday night with the first of his summer Springsteen on Broadway shows. It was the first show on the Great White Way in 471 days.
With anti-vaxxers protesting outside the St. James Theatre, Springsteen opened with "Growin' Up" before saying, "It’s great to see everybody here tonight. Unmasked, sitting next to each other in one room. It’s a long time coming. It’s a big time thrill. What a year. Seventy-one years on the planet and I’ve never seen anything like this past year. And I was lucky. We stayed healthy and busy. I put out a record with the E Street Band. We did a film calledA Letter To You. I did a radio show. I did a podcast with the President [Obama] of the United States. I was handcuffed and thrown in jail,” referring to his DUI arrest in New Jersey last November. He was fined $540 for drinking alcohol in an area where it's prohibited.
“I didn’t wake up one morning, get on my motorcycle and say, ‘I think I’ll drive to jail,'” he said. “And then I had to go to Zoom Court! My case was the United States of America vs. Bruce Springsteen. That’s always comfortable to hear, that the entire nation is aligned against you. ‘You have managed to engage in an act so heinous that it was offended the entire [bleeping] United States! You, my recalcitrant, law-breaking, bridge-and-tunnel friend have drunk two shots of tequila.’ New Jersey, they love me there!”
While the framework of the show was the same as his 2017 and '18 performances, he dropped three songs, including "Born to Run" (the title of his memoir which the show is based on), and added three others. He also changed some of the spoken word segments to bring things up to date.
Fighting back tears, he talked about the declining health of his mother, Adele.
“She’s 10 years into Alzheimer’s. She’s 95, but the need to dance is something that hasn’t left her. She can’t speak. She can’t stand. But when she sees me, there’s a smile, and there’s still a kiss. There’s a sound she makes that I know means, ‘I love you.’ When I put onGlenn Miller, she’ll start moving in her chair, reaching out for me to take her in my arms once more and dance.”
As for the political climate, he said, “We are living in troubled and troubling times. I don’t believe I’ve seen, certainly not in my lifetime, [a time] when democracy itself, not just who is going to be running the show for the next four years, but survival of democracy itself was as deeply threatened. The Rule of Law, Bill of Rights, and the Constitution have been so cavalierly bludgeoned, disrespect and tread upon that I’m frightened for us. I understand those folks [anti-vaxxers] out in the street. It’s scary times filled with confusion.”
And while he didn't mention Black Lives Matter or George Floyd, it was clear that what he was talking about when he did “American Skin (41 Shots),” which he wrote in 1999 following the death of Guinean immigrant Amadou[prn: Ah-Ma-Do] Diallo at the hands of the New York City Police Department.
Like the original shows, he talked about his childhood, his father, Clarence Clemons, dodging the Vietnam draft, and driving cross-country in 1970. And, his wife, Patti Scialfa, was also part of the show, joining him on “Tougher Than the Rest,” and, new to the set, “Fire.”
Springsteen will do 30 more shows through September 4th. Show number-two is Tuesday.
Springsteen on Broadway-- June 26 set list:
- “Growin’ Up”
- “My Hometown”
- “My Father’s House”
- “The Wish”
- “Thunder Road”
- “The Promised Land”
- “Born in the USA”
- “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out”
- “Tougher Than the Rest (w/Patti Scialfa)
- “Fire” (w/Patti Scialfa) --replaced "Brilliant Disguise"
- “American Skin (41 Shots)” -replaced "The Ghost of Tom Joad"
- “The Rising”
- “Dancing in the Dark”
- “Land of Hope and Dreams”
- “I’ll See You in My Dreams” -replaced "Born to Run"
Among those in the audience Saturday night were E Street Band guitarist Steve Van Zandt, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, actor and singer Brian Stokes Mitchell and MSNBC's Brian Williams.