By Joyce Bassett
When your favorite entertainer reveals his magic trick, what’s left?
Now that Bruce Springsteen has ended his run playing intimate shows on Broadway, the majority of E Street Band fans are wondering the same thing: “Will he tour with his full band again?”
Springsteen is taking 2019 off from touring, he said in a statement and in an interview Wednesday on Sirius E Street radio, to work on various recording projects.
“Our closing is bittersweet but more adventures await down the road,” he said. “I’ll see you there.”
He told fans on Sirius E Street radio that Springsteen on Broadway might be revisited.
“It’ll find its purpose again somewhere down the road. We talked about taking it to London and some other places, some other cities in the States,” Springsteen told radio listeners.
At 69 years old and after 236 one-man shows in a small theater — his first regular 5-day-a-week day job, he joked — Springsteen needs a break. He has a finished album fans are hoping to hear early next year. It’s more of a solo album, but he also talked on Sirius about doing more “rock music” in the near future.
In the meantime, E Street Band members are performing live to fill the void and Capital Region venues have hosted several of those shows.
Drummer Max Weinberg performs on Jan. 11 at Proctors GE Theater. (Guitarist Little Steven played at the Palace in May and bassist Garry Tallent in Troy in May 2017.)
I saw “Springsteen on Broadway” twice — on Feb. 1 and, 10 months later, on Dec. 1. His storytelling and performance evolved tremendously: his jokes and timing strengthened and his magic trick was honed to perfection with the addition of “Long Time Coming,” a song about his dad’s surprise visit to his house and his apology to Bruce while nursing breakfast beers in the kitchen just before Bruce’s first son was born.
Most importantly, he added “The Ghost of Tom Joad” in June, as the border separation and immigration policies of the Trump administration gripped the nation. While introducing “Joad,” he referred back to the March for Our Lives where “we saw all those young people in Washington and citizens all around the country remind us of … real faith in American democracy and how sacred that is.
“I never believe that people come to my shows or to rock shows in general to be told anything. But I do believe that they come to be reminded of things. To be reminded of who they are, when they are the most joyous … It’s a good place to get in touch with your spirit. It’s good to be among the crowd. Music does those things pretty well.” Springsteen said all this before launching into his original folk rendition of “Joad,” which gives voice to today’s disenfranchised through the spirit of John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” character.
I’ve watched the Netflix special and I’m still rewinding, pausing, listening closer and discovering new tidbits of his poetic artistry.
I mostly find myself rewatching the segment when he is sitting at the piano — almost awkwardly — and veers away from stories about himself and his family to introduce the band during “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.” It’s there that he begins to reveal his magic trick.
But to introduce that, I have to tell a story involving me first.
Tickets for “Springsteen on Broadway” were tough to get, but if you signed up as a Ticketmaster Verified Fan to purchase seats when the tour was first announced, your faith was rewarded with a chance to purchase two. The 975-seat venue sold out every night, and tickets on the secondary market were very steep because they were in high demand and very limited.
Fans paid $75 to $850 for seats and, for the most part, they kept them. Ticketmaster claimed the Verified fan system worked because fans, not robots, bought the tickets.
At the very last minute, I had an extra ticket to Springsteen on Broadway for Dec. 1. I decided to sell it the morning of the show for face value plus handling fees on a ticket exchange section of the Springsteen fan website Backstreets.
Within minutes, I had responses via email. The second email was from a fan from Sweden who flew to New York City ticketless to try and see the show.
Turns out he had been in New York since Thursday and Saturday’s show was his last attempt to get in the door. He and two friends were poised to stand in line at the theater for the 8 p.m. show to try to get “dropped seats” just prior to showtime. The previous two days, they struck out.
“We are all huge fans, having seen Bruce in various countries in Europe since 1985 and also at MetLife in 2012,” he wrote to me, asking for my phone number so he could explain further.
So my husband and daughter and I drove down for the show and met Daniel Torbjornsson, a 46-year-old high school teacher from Stockholm, at Glass House Tavern on 47th Street. I’m “blond, short guy, glasses. Blue coat,” he told me. He wasn’t hard to spot: he was anxiously looking up at the door when we entered, peering up at us from the basement bar perched on a corner stool.
He bought us a round of drinks. We asked him a few things about himself. “My wife is a little mad at me right now,” for leaving her for four days with two teenagers at home. Flying back Sunday at 5 p.m., he was scheduled to arrive in Stockholm just three hours before he was supposed to be back in front of his classroom.
Later we met his two friends in line: Per Stromback, 45, and Carl Jurell, 48, also of Stockholm. After telling security workers that they lost out the previous two days to people paid by scalpers to stand in line, the theater implemented a new policy on Saturday: After you bought a ticket, you were escorted into the theater. As a result, his pals were third and fourth in line, and they scored tickets. Others in line who were rewarded with tickets were a woman from Liverpool, England, who had been waiting since 2 a.m., a woman who saw the show for the 14th time and three women from Newfoundland, Canada.
I’ve had many encounters with Springsteen fans from abroad through the years, mostly waiting in line for lottery tickets to get into the pit area in front of the stage. And it’s that moment of elation when entering the door together triumphantly and experiencing a show together that makes you “blessed to be alive.” And you’ve officially joined E Street nation.
At the end of the show, my family of three and the Swedes saw each other outside the theater on a festive 48th Street, and we gave each other big hugs and handshakes.
Bruce describes the magic trick during “Tenth Avenue” as one plus one equals three. It’s the equation for true love, true art, true life, he said.
“It’s the reason true rock ‘n’ roll and true rock ‘n’ roll fans will never die,” Springsteen says as he pounds the familiar keys on the piano. And just as the saxophone plays in your head, he talks about the Big Man joining the band. Tears flow again as I listen. But then I realize: Clarence Clemons might be gone, but his spirit lives on and the spirit of the band — tour or no tour — will never die.
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