But he also tried to make sense of the moment, of a long year filled with loss and isolation during the pandemic.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Springsteen said to the crowd after finishing the first song, stepping away from the microphone and speaking directly to the crowd. “In 71 years on the planet, I haven’t seen anything like this past year.”
He spoke at length of his mother, Adele Springsteen.
“She’s 10 years into Alzheimer’s,” he said. “She’s 95. But the need to dance, that need to dance is something that hasn’t left her. She can’t speak. She can’t stand. But when she sees me, there’s a smile.”
And he addressed the civil unrest throughout the country.
“We are living in troubling times,” Springsteen said. “Certainly not in my lifetime, when the survival of democracy itself, not just who is going to be running the show for the next four years, but the survival of democracy itself is deeply threatened.”
He then launched into one of three new songs to the show, “American Skin (41 Shots),” a ballad written about Amadou Diallo, a Guinean immigrant, who was fatally shot in 1999 by New York City police officers.
Amid the new material (including a new duet, “Fire,” with his wife, Patti Scialfa), the rhythms that marked the initial run of “Springsteen on Broadway” were quickly finding their groove. Hours before the show, a crowd amassed outside the side stage door, a relic of Springsteen’s earlier Broadway run when fans clamored for a glimpse of the rock star’s arrival every night.
“It’s just epic to have the Boss open us back up,” said Giancarlo DiMascio, 28, who drove down from Rochester to see the show (his 49th Springsteen concert). “It’s big for New York, its big for arts and culture here, and to have this open up is a sense of normalcy.”