Who’s the boss?

Dayton Philharmonic interprets Bruce Springsteen

By Josher Lumpkin

Photo: Matt Ryan of Bruce in the U.S.A.

This Saturday, Daytonians have a unique opportunity to experience a show unlike any other. Symphonic Springsteen: the show that takes the music of working class hero Bruce Springsteen, aka “The Boss,” and ups the dynamic about 1,000 percent by putting these songs in front of a 70-piece orchestra, the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Neal Gittleman. The result is a beautiful night of goose bump-inducing music that will not only be loved by fans of Springsteen, but will make a whole new group of fans, too.

“There’s so much symphonic music going on in the keyboard department of Springsteen music,” Matt Ryan, who plays the Bruce Springsteen character in Bruce in the U.S.A. said. “It’s so dramatic, the nine- and ten-minute songs that cater to strings, it’s just always been there. It was one of those things that we knew would just resonate. It was almost like this magical thing, yet it was a very expensive venture and it was one that we really couldn’t afford to bring to life until recently.”

Ryan first began playing Springsteen in the successful Las Vegas show, Legends in Concert, the second-longest running show on the Vegas Strip. The show was such a hit, it paved the way for Ryan to start Springsteen tribute act, Bruce in the U.S.A., a group which would go on to enjoy a constant state of touring the U.S., sharing the music of The Boss with audiences all over the country.

“The show is selling out multiple nights in different cities and we’ve been truly blessed in the last few years,” Ryan said. “It took about ten years to build Bruce in the U.S.A., to make it a relevant national touring act, and get away from that tribute band stigma. We finally fell into a whole different category.”

“Bruce in the U.S.A. came from a legitimate place that wasn’t a creepy, stalkerish type of thing,” he continued. “The only way people were going to embrace it was to go, ‘Oh! OK, this isn’t a head-trip, because they’re serious musicians that are delivering the music respectfully.’ It’s a complete and total performance art show, and because of this, the grudge has disappeared, and they realize it’s OK to like it. That’s why I think it took ten years to turn that corner.”

Saturday will be the group’s premiere engagement of Symphonic Springsteen. Dayton will be the first city to experience the show in this incarnation.

“We wanted to take the Bruce in the U.S.A. experience to a whole other level,” Ryan said. “And so we created Symphonic Springsteen. We did almost $20,000 in musical charts, with an incredible composer that’s a friend of mine, Joe Escriba. This is where it really started.”

The orchestration was in good hands with Escriba, a career musician who has worked with some of the best known rock and R&B acts in the business.

“Joe has been writing for symphonies, and in that high-end environment for so many years,” Ryan explained, “but mostly, he is a creative artist, so he wrote strings and parts that really, truly understand this music. He basically wrote angry strings. He stuck right off the format of the parts that were already written, so instead of our keyboard player playing all of the string parts, and all the bells and whistles and everything that he plays on his synth, he’s just going to leave that behind and the symphony is going to take over.”

“We invest in the actual music, the written parts, which is really the gold,” he continued. “So, we’re invited into the home of symphonies, basically. So we’re in their house. And that’s an area we’re all comfortable in. Everybody in the band comes from the classical world, growing up, learning their instruments. We’re very comfortable in that environment.”

“That’s how it was born. We decided we were going to try to create this really incredible musical experience. So that night is going to be our very first one. Dayton is going to be our very first time breaking this in. And so you can imagine how nervous and excited we are to break the ice and get to the finish line with an experience that is great for everybody, especially with Bruce fans.”

However, one’s enjoyment of Symphonic Springsteen is not precluded by whether or not one is already a fan of The Boss’s music.

“There’s going to be a lot of people there that maybe know three or four Bruce songs, that will be at the show,” Ryan said. “So, there’s an element of us presenting these incredible songs with this enormous backbone of the symphony. I have a feeling that, even the casual listener, who isn’t really a Bruce fan, who’s waiting for ‘Born in the USA’ or something they know, is going to have a real educational experience about what an incredible songwriter Bruce Springsteen is. Sometimes these platforms are the only place you’re ever subjected to something that you’ve never listened to in your car CD player.

“We all knew that the only way Symphonic Springsteen could be embraced was to bring the highest level of written symphony charts to [Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra Music Director Neal Gittleman]. Something challenging, something respectful and something Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra could feel proud of, instead of coming in and doing something very cheesy with a rock band. So we’re blessed, especially in this beautiful theater, with a conductor who is very well known to all of our people. It’s going to be a fantastic evening.”

Symphonic Springsteen will take place on Saturday, March 7, at 8 p.m. at the Schuster Center, 1 W. Second St. Tickets range from $29 to $81, and are available from Ticket Center Stage. For more information, please visit SymphonicSpringsteen.com, or BruceintheUSA.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Josher Lumpkin at josherlumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Josher Lumpkin
Josher Lumpkin is a nursing student and aspiring historian who enjoys writing about music and geekdom of all kinds. He is especially fond of punk rock, tabletop gaming, sci-fi/fantasy and camping with his wife, Jenner, and their dogs, Katie and Sophie. Reach him at JosherLumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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