I was FaceTiming my parents a couple of weeks ago, and I have never seen two people more ecstatic in my life. They looked as if they had just been in the presence of a god. Some would say they were. They were on their way back from "Springsteen on Broadway," Bruce Springsteen’s concert residency that began in October and will run until February. Tickets are selling at Hamilton–level, and my parents had to fight, scheme, and work their way to score tickets. “It was worth everything,” they told me. “Truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.” I did some investigating, and found out that producers are releasing twenty–six $75 dollar tickets per performance as part of an online lottery. I entered my name a couple of times just for kicks. I won.
I spent the train ride to New York brushing up on my Springsteen. I took a friend who goes to school in New York, and as we waited on line amongst the die–hard fans, we became increasingly insecure for a number of reasons. First, we brought the average age down by 20 years. Second, our knowledge of Springsteen was limited to his most famous songs: “Dancing in the Dark,” and “Born in the USA.” We were familiar with the image of a folded up American flag in a back pocket, but compared to the rest of the crowd, we were clueless. Little did we know that once the show began, we wouldn’t be the only ones learning new things about the Boss.
The stage was set like a recital. We were only 15 blocks away from Springsteen’s usual venue, the 20,000 seat Madison Square Garden. Instead, we were seated 20 feet away from The Boss, in the 975 seat Walter Kerr Theatre. In what can only be described as a cross between a one–man show, a book reading, and a concert. Springsteen revealed a deeply emotional, somber, and introspective version of himself. Interspersed with stripped down, acoustic versions of his greatest hits and more experimental songs is Springsteen’s narrative of his life story, with elements that surprised even the most dedicated fans.
Myth 1: Springsteen Embodies the Blue Collar Worker
“I’m a fraud,” the Boss announced in the first minute of his show. “I’ve never held an honest job in my entire life. I’ve never worked nine to five. I’ve never done any hard labor, and yet it is all that I’ve written about.” So don’t assume that the lyrics to “Factory” or “Working on a Highway” are from personal experience. The Boss has never actually had a boss.
Myth 2: Springsteen was “Born to Run”
He may have sang “I went for a ride and never went back” in “Hungry Heart,” and told Mary in “Thunder Road” to “climb in,” because his hometown is “a town full of losers,” but Springsteen actually lives only ten minutes away from his hometown of Freehold, New Jersey.
Myth 3: Springsteen is the Quintessential Patriot
You would think that the man whose repertoire consists of titles such as “Born in the USA,” and “American Land” would have jumped at the opportunity to serve in the military. Think again. Springsteen admitted in his performance that when his draft day came around during the Vietnam War, he and his friends did everything they could to avoid going.
Sincere or not, Springsteen’s songs remain iconically representative of the American working experience. His performance put all of his fans on the same level, the most fanatical Springsteen worshippers and pretty clueless young adults would be equally floored by his revelations. But even with the myths debunked, as I left the performance, I felt like my parents did on FaceTime: humbled to have been in the presence of the average–American–turned–rock–icon. So maybe we shouldn’t only “write what we know.”