There are many things that Bruce Springsteen cops to up there on the Broadway stage.
With great good humor and the confidence of man who at last has nothing to lose, the 69-year-old rocker tells maybe not all but loads on stage with just his voice, a guitar and a keyboard there at New York City’s Walter Kerr Theater. Egads, yup, time has marched on since the Jersey shore skinny man slowly won over a state, a region, the cover of Time and Newsweek way back then. So now he stands tall at the start of this 240-minute mix of music and storytelling and declares:
“I’ve never worked five days a week until right now. I don’t like it! I’ve never seen the inside of a factory, and yet it’s all I’ve ever written about. Standing before you is a man who has become wildly and absurdly successful writing about something of which he has had … absolutely no personal experience. I made it all up! That’s how good I am.”
Yes, you are.
Ever since I heard my classmate Margie Knapp spinning his 1973 album “The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle” for show-and-tell in our high school Spanish class and the mesmerizing sound and poetic lyrics of “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” emerged from the AV squad record player, I’ve hitched my giddy-yap to Bruce Springsteen’s locomotive of faith, devotion and perseverance.
Who’s your favorite, so many have asked so many times.
So many concert trips, song spins, hands thrusted, breaths exhaled, voice raised.
A connection made.
I didn’t get to Broadway for this one, but I did get to sit back in my living room recliner to let Springsteen fill the flat screen.
His solo versions of the classic songs hit the right spot. I’d seen him this way live, at Syracuse’s Landmark Theatre for his “The Ghost of Tom Joad” tour, when I swore his hard-working sweat hit my front-row center seat.
I did smile my way through that, sure, though, I admit I thought he looked just a little lost without the E Street Band mates flanking him. Perhaps it was more me than him.
Now, though, his power rockers took on a personal touch that fit me fine when slowed down and made intimate this way. Springsteen’s reinterpretations fit the moment.
His confessions, too, as he shed light on his youth, his parents, his bands, his escape of the Vietnam draft.
And love, oh, love.
Wife Patti Scialfa is the only other person to appear in the movie, joining her husband for two songs. “Tougher than the Rest” and “Brilliant Disguise” might be called show-toppers on any other stage, but, well, there were many good ones in this show before and to follow.
To think that Springsteen did this show on Broadway 226 times in 14 months. He had to give and give and give. Something about those parents and that neighborhood and that shore town and rock ‘n’ roll and the need for stuff to just flow out of the man.