With the announcement of a new Bruce Springsteen tour (the first one since 2017) the GRAMMY Museum’s Bruce Springsteen Live! exhibit could be the perfect way to reconnect Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band with its loyal audience. The ticket prices for this upcoming tour are predicted to be so expensive that it might well be the only glimpse at the Boss I can afford this year. I didn’t visit the exhibit but saw a bit of it when I went to the Museum to attend Chuck D’s launch of his book and PBS documentary “Fight the Power.”
Co-curated by Eileen Chapman, the Director of The Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music, the gallery features 49 years of personal items from the Boss’s career, including original lyrics, exclusive interviews, handwritten notes, rare photographs, stage outfits, instruments (like a number of Springsteen’s guitars and Clarence Clemons Saxophone), and live performance footage. You can also see Bruce’s handwritten setlists, receive a tutorial by drummer Max Weinberg then play along with him, or create your own five-song encore then discover what Springsteen played that actual night.
I saw a few of these stage clothing and instruments from band members, as well as signs held by fans, t-shirts, bumper stickers, backstage passes, tickets… an abundance of memorabilia you can expect from such an exhibit covering several decades of music and touring.
The gallery promises to explore the “evolution of Springsteen through the decades and grants exclusive backstage access to Springsteen and the E Street Band’s legendary performances.” It brings you on a journey starting “from an intimate look into Springsteen’s creative process to shedding light on how he became one of the greatest live performers in rock and roll history.”
On September 23rd, Springsteen’s 73rd birthday, the Museum also asked “fans to be part of the exhibit by submitting a video sharing their live concert experiences from Springsteen shows over the years.” A selection of excerpts is part of a new exhibit film and can be seen throughout the gallery.
It’s difficult to realize that Springsteen’s first-ever West Coast show was at the tiny Troubadour, in 1973. Since that time, he has performed over 100 shows in the Los Angeles area, and I attended one at the (now defunct) LA Memorial Sports Arena in 2016… Iman has attended many on the East Coast!
Here are a few highlights of the exhibit according to the Museum:
- Born to Run Esquire Guitar: A staple of Springsteen’s career, the modified Fender guitar was featured most famously on the album cover of Born to Run (1975), as well as Live 1975/85 (1986), Human Touch (1992), and Wrecking Ball (2012)
- Clarence Clemons Saxophone: Nicknamed “The Big Man,” the legendary saxophonist played alongside Springsteen for 40 years. Upon Clarence’s death in 2011, the iconic instrument was passed on to his nephew Jake Clemons who, since 2012, continues to use it in performance as the newest member of the E Street Band.
- Stage Clothing: Outfits and accessories from Springsteen and members of the E Street Band.
- Tunnel of Love Ticket Booth Stage Prop: From the 1988 Tunnel of Love Tour, this iconic ticket booth symbolized the audience’s admittance to the onstage narrative of the rollercoaster of love, loyalty, commitment, and faith.
- Max Weinberg’s Tunnel of Love drum kit, plus a drum interactive with tips from Weinberg.
- Danny Federici Accordion
- Create Your Encore Interactive: Springsteen is known for his encores! This interactive kiosk allows visitors to view his handwritten set lists and create their own encores to compare against Springsteen’s original.
The traveling exhibit will run through April 2. For more information and advance ticket reservations, visit the Grammy Museum website.
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