When I was a little girl growing up in New Jersey, I was aware that everyone made fun of the state–the armpit of America. People thought the state was all factories and refineries and pollution and cities that had been destroyed by race riots. I come from a hard-working, blue collar, Catholic Polish and Italian family. I went to Catholic school and in 1984 when I was 12 years old, I could not wait to get the hell out of there. There was a song that would come on the radio and I would dance around my little bedroom thinking that this guy understood, he got it. I didn’t know then that he was from a town just 35 miles away and that he, too, was from a hard-working, blue collar, Catholic (Dutch, Irish and Italian in his case) family. But the stories, the sound, the feel…it was what I had known my whole life. Some of that music felt then and feels now as though it was being played inside of me. The following summer, my cousin’s neighbor slept out all night in Colonia, NJ and got tickets to see Bruce at Giants Stadium. In New Jersey, that summer, that was the biggest thing going. One of our own had made it big and we all wanted to go out and cheer for him. My cousin, her friend and I stood our little 13 year old bodies on top of our seats and screamed our throats raw and clapped our hands bloody and it was the best night of my 13 year old life. Still stands out as one of the best nights of my life. I was hooked. The next day, I scrounged up all my money and went to the record store and bought every Bruce Springsteen cassette tape I could afford. I listened to them in order, starting with Greetings. I spent weeks just listening to Greetings before I moved on to the Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, absorbing it, just drinking it in. My family and friends thought it was crazy that I had all these tapes and I had not even unwrapped them yet.
When Springsteen on Broadway was announced, I put in for a code and didn’t get one. Second round, nothing. Finally, when they announced that Bruce wanted every single person that had applied for a code to get one and to have the chance to see the show. I got a code. My husband and I could not get seats together and we paid more for the seats we got than we have ever paid for a concert ticket before. But it was worth it. Worth every penny.
Bruce is a master storyteller. He gets to that part that is human experience, that we can all relate to in one way or another. His dad, quiet and stoic, dark and angry, never feeling that he got the love from his dad that he wanted so he emulated his dad to feel close to him. He talked about a dream that he had where he knelt beside his dad and watched the man onstage perform in front of 80,000 screaming fans. He said he wished his dad could have seen this. The woman next to me and I both had our hands over our mouths so that we wouldn’t sob out loud.
He talked about his mom and how proud and happy she was. How hard she worked. How she was always smiling. He sang a song called “The Wish” which is on Tracks, an album I have owned for twenty years and listened to countless times, but it never stood out to me until he sang it last night after talking about his mom.
If pa’s eyes were windows into a world so deadly and true
You couldn’t stop me from looking but you kept me from crawlin’ through
He talked about being a young man, moving out of Freehold. He talked about his sisters, his friends growing up, the tree that had stood in front of his house when he was growing up. He talked about meeting Ron Kovac and he talked about getting drafted and the guys he knew who had died in Vietnam. He said he often wonders who took his place, because someone did. He talked about his relationship with Patti.
He sang songs, raw and acoustic in between the stories and it worked beautifully together. But the stories are what told me that I was right about him. That he was the man that I had always thought he was. A man who cares about family and where you come from, a man with integrity. A man with great soul. He talked about how he has tried to figure out his story and our stories and it’s been a service that he tried to provide over the years and that he could not have done it without the fans.
My one criticism of this performance is that the tickets were priced exorbitantly high. I don’t think it was necessary to price them that high. I think they could have been more reasonably priced. I would just see him more as a man of the people, if he had more tickets in the $75-150 range and nothing over $300. It does bother me to think of how much money he has and that he would charge these prices. But, I do not regret having spent the money because the show was awesome!