Wednesday, January 02, 2019

SPRINGSTEEN ON BROADWAY -- My review

I understand tickets were going for $2000 a pop. And people were saying it was a bargain. Bruce Springsteen was on Broadway. In a theatre that sat 975, which is somewhat more intimate than 80,000. Plus, it was for a limited engagement. And even though it was extended, it has now closed.

Fortunately, it was filmed and the SPRINGSTEEN ON BROADWAY phenomenon is now available on Netflix – for the same price you pay for season two of FULLER HOUSE.

It’s not a concert film. It’s more like MARK TWAIN TONIGHT. It’s just Bruce, a few guitars, and a piano.  No E. Street Band.  No band of any street.  For 70% of the show he just talks, telling his life story.

Now there are tons of these one-person shows. If you have friends who are actors you’ve doubtless been to at least four of them. Personal memoirs that range from fascinating to who the fuck cares?

These shows can be judged on four categories. 1) Is the person himself interesting (famous helps)? 2) Does he really have a story to tell? 3) Is the person a good storyteller? and 4) is the show theatrical?

Well Springsteen is certainly an interesting individual. And how he went from a grim blue collar upbringing in New Jersey to become one of the premier artists and superstars of his generation is (with apologies to my waiter) way more compelling than not getting a call-back for DOG WITH A BLOG.

As for the storytelling itself, Springsteen is an absolute master. The show is very scripted and a lot of it is so poetic and descriptive it sounds like he’s reciting lyrics. The Boss obviously has a real presence, but more than that, he understands phrasing, vocal impact, the power of pauses. He’s funny, candid, touching, and revealing. All those songs about working in factories – he admits he never worked in a factory and made all that shit up. Unlike some artists who clearly think they’re God’s gift to the world, Springsteen considers what he does a “magic trick.” And best of all, the humility, the desire to “find himself” and make sense of the world – all comes off as truly genuine.

In terms of theatricality, well, he sings a number of songs. Who needs slides and home movies when you’ve got the Boss singing “My Home Town?”

And for a one-man show it’s pretty long. 2 ½ hours. But that’s Springsteen. His concerts generally last four hours. You may pay a lot to see him, but he always gives you your money worth – and then some.

At one point when I was watching it I thought, what if someone sees this in fifty years and is unfamiliar with Springsteen or his work? Would they appreciate it or be bored hearing some stranger’s life story? Hopefully I’ll be around to let you know. But failing that, I do think someone being introduced to Springsteen by this special would recognize what a layered, passionate, brilliant artist he is. The songs, even if heard for the first time, would resonate due to their powerful lyrics, the universal stories, and the soul in his voice.

I’ve been to several of his concerts but did not get to see his Broadway show live. I’m sorry but for $2000 I want him to do his show in my living room. However, I loved the Netflix special.

That said, if I were given a choice (for the same price) of seeing the one-man Broadway show in an intimate setting or a full-out concert in a stadium, I’d still take the concert. The stories were great. I want more music.

19 comments :

Peter said...

He really is The Boss. I only own his greatest hits CD, so I can't claim to be a fully dedicated fan, but I love his music and his voice, and whenever I've seen him in interviews, he comes across as a totally decent guy whose fame and riches haven't turned him into an SOB.

Given most of the songs in the charts are bereft of melody, at least here in the UK anyway, Springsteen is a great reminder of when hit songs had lyrics and a tune.

Johnny Walker said...

I've not seen the special, but his memoirs were equally fascinating and revealed a very smart and eloquent person (as the poster here in the UK declared: "His autobiography in his own words" -- apparently the publishers were unaware of what "autobiography" means). Same goes for his WTF interview. Never been a big fan of his music, but I have time for the man.

Karan G. said...

I will definitely be watching this. I read his autobiography, which I recommend. Seen him several times in concert. Despite his very challenging upbringing, Bruce always had an inner compass that propelled him toward evolving beyond that rough beginning. He sees the right and wrong, the falsehoods and truths. There are many songwriters, but few poets. When Bruce speaks….he generally has something interesting and profound to say.

Rick in MN said...

Ok. You convinced me to give it a shot, right after I finish season 2 of Fuller House

DrBOP said...

Just got out of the USArmy in 1972, and stumbled upon Bruce doing a solo acoustic set (opening for Odetta yet). Been a follower ever since. LOTS of stories to tell.....including a 4 1/2 hour show, (New Year's Eve Cleveland 1978) only because there was a 45-minute break at midnight to check that Bruce hadn't been injured too badly:

http://ultimateclassicrock.com/bruce-springsteen-firecracker-show/

Clarence Clemons could have been a Cleveland Brown if he hadn't tore up his knee in practice a few years before that evening.....well we never saw better evidence that his knee was fully repaired that night as he quickly back-peddled away from the front of the stage as the firecrackers went off.
The article talks as if there were only one firecracker.....there were about 6 big fat cherry bombs. Threw them at the entire band. Aren't there some IDIOTS in this world? Crowd then caught the guys and forced them to the front of the stage into the waiting hands of Cleveland's finest. Only time I ever attended a rock concert where the cops got standing O's!

Anyways.....and however, as I've traveled to his shows over the last 2 decades, I've found myself asking if it was worth the money and the hassle of "modern" concert-going to see him one more time. He, and the wondrous E St Band, have answered that doubt with overwhelming passion. If your a rocker of any kind, they touch your heart and soul EVERYtime!

(PS: Kinda figured you might be a tramp ;>)

JestJake said...

Having been in a band in the 70s and once played drums behind him (we were one of a couple of bands playing at the time when Bruce showed up to try out some songs and sing some old stop - nobody ever refused Bruce) for two whole songs - Bruce was still editing the album Darkness on the Edge of Town, the cover photo was taken three blocks from our house in Haddonfield, NJ - and Bruce being a legendary showman (he knew how to work the crowd) his Broadway show is no surprise.

gottacook said...

I guess I'm a contrarian, but in my opinion Bruce's songs are best with accompaniment other than solo guitar or piano. Even Nebraska, as stripped down as it was, benefited mightily from the additional tracks (one or two additional instruments, his own background vocals) that he mixed in. And after decades of exposure to the solo-guitar version of "Born to Run," I'm sorry but that song is so much more interesting with the E Street Band, if not necessarily the string section heard on the studio version.

I miss the original, eclectic Bruce of the first two albums. Moreover, I was never an uncritical fan of what followed; I enjoy the Tracks outtakes collection but can do without ever hearing again Darkness on the Edge of Town, Born in the USA, or "Dancing in the Dark." But those first two albums, especially the second one, were special - they were the reason I first went to a Springsteen concert in late July 1975, whereupon I found myself dancing on top of a flimsy folding chair in a college gym during "Kitty's Back," which in turn led to my attending two others in 1977 and 1988. Regrettably I don't think he has written anything since Tunnel of Love that compares to the best of the earlier stuff.

Cowboy Surfer said...

It was a fantastic show. Loved it.

Rob in Toronto said...

In fairness,there were multiple price points for tickets well below $2,000. My friend and I were able to score $400 seats (not together, but who cares for something like this?) through the lottery system set up by the box office. And there were price points below that as well, although they were not available when
our window of opportunity came though for our chance to purchase tickets. People forget that even the worst seats in most Broadway houses are better than 90% of the seats that you could get for a stadium performance.

One thing you didn't mention that struck me (as a casual fan who went because my pal wanted to go) : Who thought Springsteen could be so funny ?

Mike Bloodworth said...

Once again I'm in the minority, but I have never really been a fan of Bruce Springsteen. I have never understood his mass appeal even though I know many people that just go apeshit for "The Boss." I don't particularly like the songs he wrote for other people either. (e.g. "Blinded By The Light" for Manfred Mann. O.K., I did like "Born to Run" and a couple of others, but I've never paid to see him at any price. And that's despite the fact that so called "classic rock" is the genre I listen to the most. Now that the holidays are over I must also confess that his version of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" is one of my LEAST favorite of any Christmas song. It's right up there with Manheim Steamroller's "Deck the Halls."
Maybe if I had Netflix I might check it out. But, I don't. So, it's a moot point.
M.B.

sanford said...

You slightly exaggerate about him doing four hour shows. I know of two, one he did in I believe Sweden and this one in 2016 in Philadelphia. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZfyDMJQ0xF0. No doubt he has come close other times. There are a bunch of his concerts You Tube and some are around the 3:50 mark. Most of the concerts on line are audio, but there is also some video. The Philadelphia one I posted is a great video. Not all videos of his shows are this good as how clean it is. I subscribe to almost any You Tube channel that post his concerts. There are two or 3 that upload a lot. The poster of this one does quite a few. Almost one a week. And this channel is great. https://www.youtube.com/user/MsBrucejuice/playlists If you look at what was uploaded today she put a compilation of concert, some put up by other fans. The first one is from before the E Street Band. If you are a fan there are hours to watch and listen. As for the incident in Cleveland in Milwaukee this happened. https://onmilwaukee.com/music/articles/bombscareshow40.html

Milton the Momzer said...

Bruce hasn't had a decent song since around 1980. I loved him then but I won't be watching this, especially after his horrible performance on the Tonys. When I see him now, I think "Didn't that guy used to be Bruce Springsteen?"

Wayne from Maine said...

Just before his Broadway show opened, he was on the Imus in the Morning show. He actually said “I’m not doing this for the money, I’m an artist”, to which Imus shot back “your charging $2000 a god damned ticket!” He had no answer for that. LOL

MikeKPa. said...

"Born to Run" came out when I was in college, so I've always liked the early Springsteen. After songs like "Dancing in the Dark" and "Born in the USA," I kind of tuned him out. I've never been to one of his concerts, even though he grew up about 40 miles from me, but I feel I should probably make one before he stops touring. I regret I never saw Bowie or Tom Petty in concert.

"Springsteen on Broadway" was very personal. Obviously, pulled from his autobiography, which I now want to read. A lot of pain in his life that was reflected in his songs. And despite being worth hundreds of millions of dollars, he's still tried to remain true to his roots.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that he (like Jon BonJovi) was born to run but never really left Jersey. A few years back a young couple were on the boardwalk for their engagement photos and Bruce just happened to be sitting on a bench nearby alone. They put him in their engagement album. He shows up from time to time at various Jersey boardwalks usually alone on his bike. It always makes the local papers. He even broke down and had to thumb it. Seems like long rides on the bike alone are how he handles his depression. Interesting man. Janice B.

Burke Long said...

I've always liked his music but don't own any of his albums. When I saw this special a week ago I was blown away. It's an amazing performance by a very talented and real man.
Thanks for your review,Ken. Your comments were spot on.

Breadbaker said...

I strongly recommend listening to the audiotape of his autobiography, which he reads. One of the best I've ever listened to.

dkxkee said...

We saw the show live in October, after nearly renouncing my fandom because of Ticketmaster's BS verification process. After watching the Netflix presentation also, seeing it in the theater was better. The show was poignant, raw, surprisingly funny as hell at times, and I'm glad we went. The film makes it drier (for lack of a better term) than it was in person. As for the music, while I've always liked the acoustic Born to Run and Born in the USA, without the sax Promised Land, Tenth Avenue Freeze Out, and Land of Hope and Dreams just aren't the same.

bbison said...

I saw the show on Broadway 3 times, did not pay $2,000 total for my tickets. If I didn't live on the other coast, I would have gone 3 more.

It was like having Bruce in your living room telling stories about his life and singing stripped-down versions of his songs. The Netflix special does a great job of capturing that, avoiding the frenetic editing that plagues so many music-related video releases.