Emotional show mixes remembrances with performances
New Jersey governor and E Street Band member in audience
Associated Press in New York
Sun 27 Jun 2021 11.10 EDT
Bruce Springsteen returned to Broadway on Saturday night, reviving a show for an audience that included a member of his E Street Band and the governor of New Jersey.
The singer ended his residency at the St James Theatre in December 2018 after 236 performances. He has returned as Broadway begins to reopen after a long shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Most shows are due to come back in September.
On Saturday night, Springsteen was clearly emotional. He wiped away tears toward the end of the show, which mixes remembrances with performances, and said the summer reprise was allowing him to spend more time, figuratively speaking, with his late father and other deceased relatives.
Thrilled to be back, fans cheered Springsteen’s words so often he had to tell them to settle down, lest the show take all night. His longtime guitarist, Steven Van Zandt, received a standing ovation when he took a seat in the audience. New Jersey governor Phil Murphy and US transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg were also there.
“It’s good to see everyone here tonight unmasked, sitting next to each other,” Springsteen said. “What a year. I’m 71 years on this planet and I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Audience members had to show proof of vaccination to enter. A handful of anti-vaccination demonstrators complained Springsteen was promoting segregation.
One audience member, Gina Zabinski of Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, said it felt amazing to see music performed live again.
“I’m going to cry,” she said. “I didn’t think I would miss it as much as I did. I think I just took it for granted because we would go to shows all the time.”
Another fan, Benjamin Smith of Philadelphia, said: “I can’t think of a better person to help us return to a sense of normalcy.”
Springsteen said he and his family were lucky during the pandemic.
“I had a podcast with the president of the United States [Barack Obama],” he said. “I was handcuffed and thrown in jail.”
That referred to his arrest last November for drunken and reckless driving. The charges were dismissed since he had a blood alcohol level below the legal limit and paid a fine for downing two tequila shots in an area where alcohol wasn’t allowed.
“New Jersey,” he said. “They love me there.”
While the case provided fresh fodder for jokes, the structure and stories of Springsteen’s show was similar, if a little streamlined, to the way it was the first time he was on Broadway.
He eliminated the closer, Born to Run, replacing it with I’ll See You in My Dreams. A two-song duet with his wife, Patti Scialfa, featured a smouldering version of Fire, his song that became a 1978 hit for the Pointer Sisters.
In a clear reference to the George Floyd murder, in which the former police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced on Friday, Springsteen performed his own song about a police shooting, American Skin (41 Shots), standing in a blood red spotlight.
Springsteen said he had never seen American democracy as threatened as it is today, and that it frightened him.
“I’m still stubborn,” he said. “I believe we’re going to make it.”
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