A one-of-a-kind show is coming to the Greenwich Odeum in East Greenwich, RI on Saturday, July 16 when ukulele extraordinaire Jim Boggia brings “Bruce off Broadway” to town.

No, it’s not a tribute show per se, and there’s no E Street Band, just one man, playing Springsteen songs remarkably well on ukulele.

I spoke the Boggia last week to hear more about the show. I learned that it’s not the first time he’s appeared at the Odeum. In 2017, he was in town as a member of Joan Osborne’s band, where he played lead guitar. He’s excited to return, this time as leader. “I’m really looking forward to it. I’m not in that area too often,” he explained

So what can we expect at the show? “The main thing I try to get across – it’s about the music, it’s totally respectful to Bruce, people sing along. It’s the real thing,” said Boggia. “I try to do almost like an orchestra reduction of the records, take all the pieces in the arrangement and see how much of it I can get on 4 strings.”

Boggia’s been in the music business for over 25 years. In addition to the Springsteen show, he’s toured with artists including Aimee Mann, Juliana Hatfield, NRBQ’s Al Anderson and MC5’s Wayne Kramer. He’s also a member of Fab Faux, a Beatles tribute band.

“I started falling in love with music before I can even remember,” he shared. “I was singing along to records as a two-year-old, I got ‘Hey Jude’ when I was four, and that sort of set me off on my musical path. I didn’t get into Bruce until ‘Born to Run’ in ’75 when I was eleven, I remember hearing that on the radio and really liking it, it sounded like a guy doing Phil Spector stuff.”

He’s been touring the “Bruce Off Broadway” show since 2018. The idea for a ukulele-only Springsteen show developed gradually.

“I first started getting into ukulele around 2009. One of the first arrangements I did was ‘Thunder Road’ which I would play at my own shows, as an encore. People seemed to really like it and it was a lot of fun… (the challenge is to) take that arrangement from the record and get it to work on the ukulele,” said Boggia.

“Then when Bruce did ‘Springsteen on Broadway,’ it was just one of those dumb things that pops in your mind …  “Bruce off Broadway,’” he continued. “He certainly has the songbook, he has so many great songs, so it was really about finding the ones that had arrangements that I could take and put on the ukulele, and get across … really find the meat of those songs,” he added.

Boggia plays songs from across the Springsteen songbook but favors the early classics in his show. He shared some insight into Springsteen’s development.

“As Bruce’s career progressed, and as the E Street Band also progressed, early on, they were really meticulous with their arrangements, everything was orchestrated and laid out and there were a lot individual things going on. Now they’ve played together for so long it’s almost like telepathy with those guys. A lot of times now they just kind of know how to stay out of each other’s way. It’s like they just become one organism, one whole sound coming at you as opposed to individual pieces of the puzzle.”

“You’d think with four little strings (on the uke), it would be easier to play the ones that are a little more straightforward in their arrangements but I really like going back to the busier period where he has a lot of the bells and whistles. When you’re playing with one instrument it’s really cool for the audience to hear how you can pick out all that stuff that you’re used to hearing on the record just from a guy standing there with the ukulele.”

He’s considering adding a new ukelele-based show.

“Because of the Fab Faux connection, and with Paul McCartney turning 80, I’ve been thinking about doing some Paul stuff, that would probably be the next thing in the pipeline. It would be the same process, I know I love his stuff, I love all his songs. Is there a show’s worth of material?”

We’ll wait and see on that … meanwhile, Springsteen fans, you don’t want to miss this show.

Click here for more information and tickets to the show.

Ken Abrams

Lifestyle Editor Ken Abrams writes about music and more for What'sUpNewp, Providence Monthly, SO RI, and The Bay. He DJ's "The Kingston Coffeehouse" Tuesday nights, 6-9 PM on WRIU 90.3 FM.