Springsteen, the Magician

I saw Springsteen On Broadway last night. I’m not sure that I can say anything more than what’s already been said. What’s already been said is all true. [No spoilers]

Although, of course, it’s also all relative. Oprah said that the show was so transformative she started reading poetry every day. I don’t feel I was changed, but not because the show doesn’t have that potential. It’s because Bruce and his magic are so thoroughly embedded in my heart, mind, and soul that I’ve already been changed, moved, overwhelmed, and inspired by him many, many times. Instead, I primarily felt deeply grateful to witness his latest magic trick.

As others have noted, the style of this show is very different than his concerts. He inhabits the presence of a stage actor and it was fascinating to see him take on that new role. The usual spontaneity is not there in this kind of setting – and this is not a criticism. It’s just different. But that script allows us to see a new side of Bruce. The intimacy has also shifted – in a 900+ seat venue, as opposed to a 70,000-seat stadium, it can’t not. Many have said that it’s like you are sitting in his living room. That’s not what I felt. I imagined that this might be sort of what it felt like to huddle in a tiny Greenwich Village club in the 1950s or early 1960s listening to a Beat poet, or to Bob Dylan, weaving their mesmerizing tales. Not a homelike setting, because the storyteller is also a magician, a shaper of 900+ hearts, a leader guiding and molding the spirit of his devoted flock. Not homelike, but still family.

Some have worried that this is a goodbye letter, a prelude to retirement. Given all he’s ever said about his personality, passion, and drive – that music and performance (and Patti) keep him alive – I can’t imagine that this is the case. He declares each tour to be better than the last, better than any that ever came before. Why would he stop? But I do think that given his age and all he’s lost, like Clarence, Terry, and Danny, he’s saying and doing what he needs to while he knows he still can. This seems to be something he’s been occupied with for several years now. This show, like the book, is certainly a look back, a taking stock of a long, successful career and the life that informed it.

But this is not a wrapping up or a saying goodbye. He is, in fact, looking forward. He is a master at the top of his game, stretching himself in new ways. Who would have imagined him a Broadway actor? He’s still Bruce, and he gives loving nods to the band, the concerts, and the historical journey we’ve all taken together. But he’s exploring new versions of his public and musical self. It’s a glorious, inventive iteration of our man. There is nothing final about that. He could easily continue the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, house-rocking, earth-quaking, booty-shaking, Viagra-taking, love-making, legendary E Street Band shows – and goodness, we all hope he does. But I think this run is evidence of his infinite desire to reinvent himself. That's not a man who is done.

And we, his audience, grow with him. That’s part of the “magic trick” he contemplates in the show, the way in which he creates an endless road that we all travel together. The show – like the concerts, but in a different way – is magical. His vulnerability is breathtaking. The intimacy and oneness that he and Patti project is awesome. Long-familiar songs are jaw-dropping.

I’m so in love, more and more all the time. I’m so thankful and honored to have had the opportunity to be a part of this, as I am for the years of his companionship, inspiration, and comfort. He connects me to a deep well of gratitude, love of life, joy. Magic, indeed. I’m so happy that our relationship – him to us as a fan community – continues to evolve. Thank you, Uncle Bruce! And thank you, lovely fellow fans!