PRIME TIME OF MY LIFE
RTÉ current affairs man and diehard Bruce fan David McCullagh made the pilgrimage to Broadway
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.”