Jon Landau on Rock’s Future, Bruce On Broadway & Elvis

Bruce Springsteen and Jon Landau
Jim Spellman/Getty Image
– Bruce Springsteen and Jon Landau
Attending the 2017 Kristen Ann Carr Fund ‘A Night To Remember’ gala at Tribeca Grill in New York City.

Ever since the night The Real Paper rock critic Jon Landau saw a young artist opening for Bonnie Raitt at the Harvard Square Theater on May 9, 1974, and wrote the immortal words, “I saw rock ‘n’ roll’s future and its name is Bruce Springsteen,” the pair’s careers have been inextricably linked.

Landau went on to co-produce the epic Born to Run, then served as Bruce’s manager, mentor and partner and recently masterminded “Springsteen on Broadway,” which opened last October and has been extended through December of this year. The show has completely sold out its run and grossed, to date, a staggering $54.7 million, nearly $2.3 million a week in the 984-capacity Walter Kerr Theatre, with a top ticket of $850. If rock ‘n’ roll is dead, you wouldn’t know it from Springsteen or his ambitious manager.  Landau took a few moments from curtain calls and boxoffice tallies to answer Pollstar’s questions about rock’s future.

How do you explain the enduring appeal of rock in live performance, and what’s in the future when the old guard – as they have – begin to retire from the road?

The post-rock audience has its own superstars and every future generation will have their own. The curious part is the word “live.”  What does live mean today and what will it mean in the future?

What are your reactions to the success of “Springsteen on Broadway,” and what it means for possible future presentations?  Are you surprised at how overwhelmingly positive the public and critical response has been?

“Springsteen on Broadway” is just a magical matchup of performance, writing and venue. Once you see it on Broadway, it’s hard to imagine seeing it anywhere else.  None of us who have been involved are at all surprised – it was that good from the first time Bruce rehearsed it.

You recently produced the “Elvis Presley: The Searcher” documentary for HBO.  It really is a history of the birth of rock ‘n’ roll and does a bit to change the conversation on Elvis. 

Director Thom Zimny, myself and HBO wanted to focus on the human being and the music – to go beyond the cartoon Elvis.  We wanted our Elvis to be real and to feel real.  My ideal viewer would be a 25-year-old who barely knows anything about Elvis.  If, after seeing the film, that young person stands up, and says, “That guy was great,” then we have done our job.

As the head of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee, you are a prime mover in the organization and its future. Are you prepared to switch its emphasis to R&B and hip-hop after all the true rock pioneers are inducted? 

The future is not yet written, but my hope is that we continue to recognize the best of the best in every form and every genre.  To me, the Hall of Fame is really about what Berry Gordy called “The Sound of Young America.”  That means we must continue to expand our vision and to be open to every style and sound that can be included under that umbrella.