RTÉ cur­rent af­fairs man and diehard Bruce fan David McCul­lagh made the pil­grim­age to Broad­way

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DAVID McCUL­LAGH WASN’T ex­pect­ing a per­sonal epiphany when he left his Dublin home on June 1, 1985 but that’s what he got ap­prox­i­mately seven hours later by the banks of the rock ‘n’ rolling River Boyne.

“Yeah, Slane was the mo­ment for me,” the Prime Time pre­sen­ter nods en­thu­si­as­ti­cally. “I was 17, went there quite lik­ing his stuff – like ev­ery­one else in the coun­try, I had Born In The USA – but came away a com­plete con­vert, be­cause it was such a great gig. The dif­fer­ence be­tween Bruce and Dy­lan, who I’d seen there the year be­fore, was startling. With Spring­steen you get the mes­sage – and a damn fine rock ‘n’ roll show.”

David had no idea he was go­ing to see The Boss on Broad­way un­til his wife pre­sented him with a pair of tick­ets as a 50th birth­day present.

“I don’t know how she got the tick­ets or what she paid for them, but she’s a keeper!” he laughs. “We saw him last De­cem­ber when it was snow­ing in New York, so the all-round at­mos­phere was very fes­tive. The Wal­ter Kerr is an old-style theatre along the lines of the Olympia or the Gai­ety, ex­cept smaller, which had been re­stored be­fore Bruce started his run there. Be­ing just six rows from the front, there was a real sense of in­ti­macy that you ob­vi­ously don’t get in the RDS or Croke Park.

“It wasn’t at all like a nor­mal con­cert or even an acous­tic show,” he con­tin­ues. “It was the sto­ry­telling and how those sto­ries in­ter­act with the dozen or so songs he played.”

Asked for his per­sonal high­lights, David says, “How long do you have? Bruce’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy gives you great in­sight into his make-up, but the show takes it to a whole other level. The story about him tak­ing on his fa­ther’s per­sona when he started out is fas­ci­nat­ing and piv­otal to the over­all Bruce story. If you’ve been to the shows or lis­tened to bootlegs, you’ll know he’s been talk­ing about the dad, sat in the kitchen drink­ing beer with the lights off, for years, but this places you right there in the room.

“Some parts are very, very funny and oth­ers, like when he talks about his dad’s death, are re­ally, re­ally mov­ing. He got the bal­ance be­tween the two ex­actly right.”

David left the Wal­ter Kerr feel­ing as close to Bruce as he has done in 33 years of ar­dent fan­dom.

“There’s al­ways go­ing to be a de­gree of show­man­ship when some­body stands up on stage, but the sense you got was of him be­ing to­tally open and hon­est,” he con­cludes. “I’d be in­ter­ested to know how he felt go­ing from stand­ing in front of 80,000 scream­ing peo­ple to be­ing able to hear a pin drop. Nor­mally, when you see Bruce, he’s out on the road and play­ing these cathar­tic three-and-a-half-hour shows that leave him too ex­hausted to even think about his demons, but this was stop­ping still and con­fronting them night after night.”

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