Long Walk Home: Is Broadway the beginning of the end of Bruce Springsteen’s illustrious career?

Steve Milton
Oct 3, 2017 · 5 min read

Bruce Springsteen is 68. He’s been Rocking and Rolling for over 50 years. This week, he starts an 18-week residency on Broadway in a one-man show that while mentally-draining will be physically less taxing than those 3–4 hour marathon shows that have been his signature for decades.

To his fans, it’s unthinkable that Bruce will not return to the stage with the legendary E Street Band, but should we be preparing ourselves for a time when he don’t come round here no more…?

Ahead of the Broadway run at the Walter Kerr Theatre in New York, Bruce sat down with Variety correspondent, Jem Aswad for one of the most revealing interviews for some time — and it gave us some indication of where Bruce is right now.

Photo for Variety: Danny Clinch

And, most revealing of all — and, potentially most worryingly for Fans is that Springsteen revealed that he is not writing much these days:

In the article Springsteen, says:

“I haven’t been writing lately. I think you have to process through your projects. In other words, if I have some songs that I haven’t released, once they’re released, then the machine starts turning for, ‘OK, now I’m gonna write for the band’ or whatever I decide to come up with. But unless something comes along — “Oh, I’ve gotta write this,” which hasn’t happened lately — I have to feel what I’ve just done is realized before [I start something new].”

While at face value the fact that Springsteen is not writing right now is no surprise.

Born To Run, the biography was a huge personal undertaking, The River Tour finished only in early 2017, and now we have the Broadway Show, however what is a worry is WHEN Springsteen wrote the yet untitled, and unplanned for release new album.

According to Bruce:

“I wrote most of that before [2012’s] “Wrecking Ball,” and I stopped making that record to make “Wrecking Ball,” and then I went back to it. So it’s been awhile since I’ve written, but that’s not unusual. That’s occurred plenty of other times in my working life.”

What this admission means is that Bruce has not written significant volumes of new material for over five years, and that is a surprise.

What’s also a surprise is that the Presidency of Donald Trump, has not yet become a beacon for Springsteen to write against.

When asked if he thought is opinions about Trump would matter to your audience, Bruce replied:

“I’m ambivalent about … sort of getting on a soapbox. I still believe people fundamentally come to music to be entertained.”

So where does this leave Springsteen’s career?

Photo for Variety: Danny Clinch

As fans, we are unbelievably lucky that Bruce is drawn to the stage like a moth to a candle. From the Wrecking Ball Tour, to High Hopes, to The River Tour to Broadway — Springsteen has performed as much in the last five years as he ever has — but does the fire still burn?

Through the potentially unwelcome view of Social Media we now see Bruce relaxing on vacation with President Obama, sharing his love of Horses with daughter, Jessica. He has earned the right to enjoy his fame and its rewards.

Perhaps this is what has led to less and less writing in recent years, and a softening in his outlook.

The new album, which will get released sounds intriguing, but somewhat softer… According to Bruce it’s influenced by Glen Campbell, Jimmy Webb, and Burt Bacharach

“I don’t know if people will hear those influences, but that was what I had in my mind. It gave me something to hook an album around; it gave me some inspiration to write. And also, it’s a singer-songwriter record. It’s connected to my solo records writing-wise, more “Tunnel of Love” and “Devils and Dust,” but it’s not like them at all. Just different characters living their lives.”

So, are the days of the four hour shows over? Possibly.

A few days ago, a video of Bruce leaving the Walter Kerr Theatre, gave the impression that Bruce was moving awkwardly. In his book, he wrote candidly about previous Health matters. According the article in Variety, Springsteen sees himself still as a beach-bum, and swims in the Ocean into November, but those four hour shows HURT, and have to take a toll on the body, no matter how trim someone remains.

Photo for Variety: Danny Clinch

For what it’s worth, I think the E Street Band will be back. The money to be made on Tour cannot be left on the table.

There is a new album to promote, and record-company contract to fulfil, but there will be two things missing.

Firstly, I think the 3–4 hour shows have gone forever. For 2018, I see 2–3 hour shows, not 3–4 hours.

And secondly, with the exception of some tracks from the new album, I don’t see any E Street tour deviating from the stadium favorites we saw towards the end of The River tour.

In his biography, Springsteen reflected that he felt that the Wrecking Ball album did not get the recognition, or success, that it deserved.

Personally, I think Springsteen is misguided. Wrecking Ball is — in my opinion — one of Springsteen’s top 3 albums, but perhaps Bruce didn’t see the level of success he felt it deserved. Is this why Bruce is not as politically-charged as before?

So, does it matter if Bruce slows down, tours like the McCartney and the Rolling Stones to big stadiums without putting in four hours night-after-night?

In short, no. Springsteen is 68. The terribly sad news about Tom Petty, and others makes us thankful that Bruce continues to perform, and if Bruce does want to slow down, he should — but we just need to be ready for it.

Steve Milton

Written by

One of the last of the Duke Street Kings aka @greasylake

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