“Springsteen on Broadway,” May 15, 2020 (2018), Netflix. I really like Bruce Springsteen as a writer and performer. I’ve been to one show (thank you Dr. Yates) but can’t afford the freight to see this man of the people. I suspect he gets the paradox.
Bruce’s one-man/one-woman show (featuring Patti Scialfa, his wife and bandmate for many years) was recorded live on Broadway over a two-night period. I loved parts of this, not least his candor about never working in a factory or how his greatest car and motorcycle hits were written before he learned to drive. He’s a rock star and story teller, not everyman. He hates the work-week of the theater. He’s clearly not an actor, but he’s a fluid and experienced stage performer. He’s thrilled audiences for decades, but there’s a difference between performing as a musician in a band and doing a show of this sort. He’s 70 or thereabouts, and recorded this when he was, by my count, 68.
“Springsteen” is rich with much that I want in a fableist, be they writers, filmmakers, or musical performers, most importantly, genuine empathy. Some of his songs chronicle his life and the band, but he effectively reaches beyond that personal experience.
Parts of his declamation feel overly ‘literary’ because they are taken straight from his memoir. It can seem overly sincere and theatrically smooth. The Clarence Clemmons portion felt that way to me. Other pieces he ‘delivers’ affected me as genuine, conversational and real. This was especially true about his relationships with his parents.
And of course, there’s the music, played without the band, only with a single guitar or piano. Some of the songs don’t work as well in this format, including, sadly, “Born in the USA.” Others soar, most notably the updated Steinbeck/ Guthrie ballad, “Ghost of Tom Joad” and his own “The Rising.”
In the end, this is something of a mixed bag. If you’re a true fan, this is a must see. If you like his work, you’ll enjoy much of this. Like all of his concerts, it’s substantial. I enjoyed the ride to “Thunder Road.”