Bruce Springsteen‘s return to Broadway began on Saturday night onstage at New York City’s St. James Theatre. USA Today reported the revamped version of the Tony Award-winning Springsteen On Broadway show had several special guests in the audience for opening night — including E Street Band guitarist Steve Van Zandt and New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy. According to reports, there were protesters outside of the theater demonstrating against the show’s vaccine requirement.
The show featured several new twists and turns — both thematically and musically, with he and wife Patti Scialfa trading their duet of “Brilliant Disguise” for “Fire” as one of their two team-ups — and “The Boss” including his 2000 song “American Skin (41 Shots),” underscoring the murder of George Floyd. The song replaced the 2005 Devils & Dust standout, “Long Time Comin’.” Springsteen also replaced the show’s finale — “Born To Run” — with the 2020 Letter To You closer, “I’ll See You In My Dreams.”
Springsteen told the crowd at one point, “We are living in troubled and troubling times. I don’t believe I’ve seen another moment, certainly not in my lifetime, where the survival of democracy itself, not just who’s going to be running the show for the next four years, but the survival of democracy itself, is deeply threatened.”
Springsteen also addressed the protesters outside: “I’m frightened for us. I understand those folks out in the street. It’s scary, scary times filled with confusion.”
He also didn’t shy away from his November 2019 arrest at New Jersey’s Sandy Hook National Recreation Area, to which pleaded guilty to charges he “imbibed alcohol despite knowing it was prohibited.” Springsteen was sentenced to pay a $500 fine plus $40 in court fees. Springsteen broke his silence on the topic by telling the audience: “I was handcuffed and thrown in jail — that took some doing. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t wake up one morning, get on my motorcycle and say, ‘I think I’ll drive to jail.’ My case was the United States of America vs. Bruce Springsteen. That’s always comforting to hear — the entire nation is aligned against you. My hometown, New Jersey. They love me there.”
Springsteen also spoke lovingly of his 96-year-old mother Adele, who is battling Alzheimer’s, explaining, “She can’t speak. She can’t stand, but when she sees me there’s a smile and there’s still a kiss and there’s a sound she makes and I know it means I love you. When I put on Glenn Miller she starts moving in her chair, reaching out for me to take her in my arms once more and dance. I love her.”
Bruce Springsteen makes no bones about the importance and luxury of performing live for his fans at any given show: “The level of responsibility, to be living in the moment at that time when eight o’clock comes around, or whatever. And I got a real strong desire to do it (laughs) because I’ve gotten so much out of it and it’s meant so much to me and it was really my ‘life rope,’ when I was young, before I was could let other things in my life. Y’know, it kept me afloat.”