For the past eight months, Bruce Springsteen has wowed crowds in New York with his “tightly-scripted” performances on Broadway. But on Tuesday, the 68-year-old rocker went rogue, abandoning his script and setlist to send a message to the highest echelons of government.
“We are seeing things right now on our American borders that are so shockingly and disgracefully inhumane and un-American that it is simply enraging,” Springsteen told the audience, referring to the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy that’s led to the separation of thousands of children from their parents.
“We have heard people in high position in the American government blaspheme in the name of God and country that it is a moral thing to assault the children amongst us,” he continued. “May God save our souls.”
Springsteen, whose intimate Broadway residency began last October, launched into his unscripted moment on Tuesday night by telling the crowd that he “never believed that people come to my shows, or rock shows to be told anything.” But, he added, “I do believe that they come to be reminded of things. To be reminded of who they are, at their most joyous, at their deepest, when life feels full ... And to be reminded of who we are and who we can be collectively.”
The “Born in the USA” singer went on to perform his 1995 single “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” a protest song inspired by the protagonist in the book “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck. “Instead of Steinbeck’s dust bowl images of 1930s poverty, the Springsteen song draws on modern images of homelessness and inequality,” The Guardian said of the tune.
“For 146 shows, I have played pretty much the same set every night,” Springsteen said before playing “Tom Joad.” “Tonight demands something different.”
President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday that ends his administration’s policy of separating families at the border. From now on, government agents will detain immigrant parents with their children. The policy change, however, likely won’t apply to the more than 2,300 children who have already been taken from their parents. It remains unclear how the government plans to reunite those separated families.
Read all of Springsteen’s unscripted remarks from Tuesday’s “Springsteen On Broadway” show here:
“I never believed that people come to my shows, or rock shows to be told anything.
But I do believe that they come to be reminded of things. To be reminded of who they are, at their most joyous, at their deepest, when life feels full. It’s a good place to get in touch with your heart and your spirit, to be amongst the crowd. And to be reminded of who we are and who we can be collectively. Music does those things pretty well sometimes, particularly these days when some reminding of who we are and who we can be isn’t such a bad thing.
That weekend of the March for our Lives, we saw those young people in Washington, and citizens all around the world, remind us of what faith in America and real faith in American democracy looks and feels like. It was just encouraging to see all those people out on the street and all that righteous passion in the service of something good. And to see that passion was alive and well and still there at the center of the beating heart of our country.
It was a good day, and a necessary day because we are seeing things right now on our American borders that are so shockingly and disgracefully inhumane and un-American that it is simply enraging. And we have heard people in high position in the American government blaspheme in the name of God and country that it is a moral thing to assault the children amongst us. May God save our souls.
There’s the beautiful quote by Dr. King that says the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. Now, there have been many, many days of recent when you could certainly have an argument over that. But I’ve lived long enough to see that in action and to put some faith in it. But I’ve also lived long enough to know that arc doesn’t bend on its own. It needs all of us leaning on it, nudging it in the right direction day after day. You gotta keep, keep leaning.
I think it’s important to believe in those words, and to carry yourself, and to act accordingly. It’s the only way that we keep faith and keep our sanity.
I’ve played this show 146 nights with basically the same setlist, but tonight calls for something different.”