For 146 consecutive shows, Bruce Springsteen has managed to stick to a very strict strip while onstage at the Walter Kerr Theater in New York, performing his celebrated Broadway show. Last night he finally broke. President Donald Trump’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border who are seeking asylum has proven to be a breaking point for many Americans, and it seems Springsteen included.
During the show, he deviated from the script and spoke directly to the crowd to call the policy “inhumane,” while taking “senior people in government” to task for enforcing it. “For 146 shows, I have played pretty much the same set every night. Tonight demands something different,” he said before busting into a rendition of his rarely-performed 1995 song “The Ghost Of Tom Joad.” He later shared his full remarks on his website:
“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.”
It’s easy to see why Springsteen chose to play “The Ghost Of Tom Joad” to express his frustration and anger with the state of things in this country. Through the verse he sings, “Wherever somebody’s fighting for a place to stand / Or a decent job or a helping hand / Wherever somebody’s struggling to be free / Look in their eyes, ma, and you’ll see me.”
As you might expect, Springsteen isn’t the only rock star who’s had enough of the Trump administration’s border policy. During a recent show in London, Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder took the President to task during the intro to “Love Boat Captain,” saying ,”I would like to send this one to the guy who is in the White House back in the United States. I would like him to hear it, but he doesn’t listen to music or read books. Could someone tweet this to him or something? For moms and dads and children being separated at the border. That isn’t the country I remember.” Then he yelled, “F*ck you!” over and over again.