A Long and Noisey Prayer with The Boss
What did Bruce Springsteen do with the first guitar he ever owned? Well, after one day, he returned it. What was a kid deep in the heart of New Jersey going to do clunking around on an instrument he didn’t know how to play? Bringing that guitar back could have had a lasting impression – leading to anything else but pursuing music. The guitar is loud, it makes your fingers hurt, it’s big, it takes practice and it takes commitment. But if Springsteen did not return that guitar would he have ever stepped on any stage, let alone a Broadway stage? And if so, who would have ever thought continuously rocking the world’s biggest stages would have then led to Broadway?
As the Boss embarked on this courageous chapter of his artistic career, he embodied every song he ever wrote, performing 236 shows as Springsteen on Broadway. Though the live Walter Kerr Theatre run has officially wrapped, there is now a Netflix special providing a different, yet equally moving experience – where the viewer/listener can get inside the magic of Springsteen, while also stoking the fire of their own ambitions.
The story-telling is exquisite. Springsteen’s attention to detail in describing the scene before you is like a painter making sure to shade the sun placed in the upper-left corner of the canvas. Springsteen brings you right there; you grow up with him, you explore with him, you write with him, you fall with him, then you rise with him. And now, you can take some of this with you. It turns out, getting discouraged and returning that first guitar may have been one of the best decisions of his life.
“Somewhere inside for a moment, just a moment in front of those kids in that backyard, I smelled blood.“
This is a great representation of Springsteen’s entire body of work. It’s a feeling, and something you can’t always describe. Maybe nobody else believes in you. Maybe everybody thinks your passion is silly and leads to a dead-end. But deep-down, you know. And that’s all the matters.
“You don’t know where you’re going now, but you know you won’t be back.”
Everyone has an infatuation with leaving somewhere, perhaps your hometown. Springsteen did it numerous times. You are going to launch right into space and then descend upon a foreign territory with your feet landing directly in a pot of gold. The new place is filled with opportunity and you will soon take over the world. Although sometimes it’s true, the reality is the “opportunity” is perspective and the ability to own the freedom of your mind. You may never go back physically to where you came from, and that’s OK, but you brushed a tree branch on your way up, skyrocketing out of your roots. It may only be one leaf, but there’s a part of your native land that’s always with you. And that’s OK, too.
Dancing in the Dark:
“1+1=3, it’s the essential equation of love, art and rock n’ roll. It’s the reason true bands never die.”
It turns out, you really can’t start a fire without a spark. “Dancing in the Dark” is living proof, as the old legacy goes – Springsteen was partially inspired by the beautiful struggles of being an artist. “They say you gotta stay hungry, hey baby I’m just about starving tonight,” the lyrics sing before the final chorus. The power of music and the artform is what keeps you hungry. One responsive connection can be better than a 10x paycheck. A lot of profound art is created in the dark, and some never make it to see the light of day. But it’s the desire and act to create that matters.
“We go to shows to be reminded of who we are and who we can be. Music does those things.”
Land of Hope and Dreams:
“I wanted to know my story and your story, I felt like I needed to understand as much of it as I could in order to understand myself. Who was I?”
This can all come full-circle. Playing music, getting out of your comfort zone, learning from other people and staying inquisitive can help you subconsciously figure yourself out. You can try a thousand different things and fail at 999 of them. But that one you held onto is the differentiator. Sometimes you know what don’t want more than anything else and that leads you to what you thrive at – you’re real passion. Then, you embrace it.
No, I don’t wear my shirt tucked in. Yes, I will go see that band live for 150th time. And if you feel the same way, well, then…”meet me in the land of hopes and dreams.”
“We live amongst ghosts who reach for us every day.”
The curtains closed on this Broadway show and the tune that looped in my head was, “What matters most to you?” Who and why and how does your personal journey involve them? Better yet, how do I make them a part of it so that they don’t only see the destination but appreciate the climb?
In the opening minutes, Springsteen explains how he has never worked in a factory or even a real 9-5 job, though he sings about it often. But he could relate through his father, his hero, and the voice that narrates his own story.
“We sing for our blood and our people because that’s all we have at the end of the day.”
For over 45 years, Springsteen has been rolling the windows down on his own journey, letting the outside in. He occasionally changes lanes, but never changes cars. Furthermore, he makes sure music is playing on the radio. At each stop sign he picks up some people and invites them to pay attention to what is coming out of his speakers, while at the same time, challenging them to listen to their own sounds – in an effort to fully celebrate life’s beauty.
Springsteen on Broadway captures all of this. For those who have jumped in the car, maybe we are all joining the Boss on a ride to go buy back that old guitar.
Springsteen on Broadway the live performance album is available everywhere now.
*All quotes above from Springsteen on Broadway.