Artist of the Month: Bruce Springsteen
January 1, 2019
As any of the millions of fans across the globe will attest, Bruce Springsteen is one hell of a storyteller. Drawing deep from a well of observation, experience and empathy, The Boss’s ability to drive a narrative through the power of song shows no signs of diminishing over the course of 18 studio albums and a career that has spanned over half a century.
His knack for holding an audience rapt with tales they can identify with and characters that elicit sympathy and compassion has never been limited to the songs. Indeed, part of the charm of seeing The Boss in action has lain in his monologues between songs – sometimes we’ll get explanation, other times a set up, all of the time nothing less than arresting.
And his ability with words took on a whole new dimension with the publication of his 2016 biography, ‘Born To Run’, a tome that gave fans a deeper look at the writer of some of the most vital songs to have contributed to the great rock canon.
So when it was announced that Bruce Springsteen was to combine all of these elements in the relatively snug environs of the Walter Kerr theatre on Broadway in New York City, there was little surprise greeting the international demand for tickets for its initial eight-week run.
Indeed, so great was the hunger for the show that it extended an incredible three times. And when the curtain came down for the last time on December 15, 2018, Bruce Springsteen had performed there a total of 236 times.
In truth, he could have played there night after night until the end of days and still the demand wouldn’t have been satisfied. And yet ‘Springsteen On Broadway’, a filmed document streaming on Netflix and a soundtrack album spread across four LPs or two CDs, will go some way to allowing those who missed the actual performances to enjoy the intimacy of this unique performance.
Here is Bruce Springsteen as so few of us have seen him before. Alone on stage with just his guitar, piano and songs, The Boss colours the performance with stories, anecdotes and revelations that are every bit as important as the songs they’re introducing. And making a special appearance is his wife and E Street Band colleague Patti Scialfa to harmonise with him on ‘Tougher Than The Rest’.
Spread over 150 minutes, Springsteen peels away layer after layer to reveal himself while at the same time revelling in the edifice he’s created. And yet for all that, the music comes into sharp and stark focus. ‘Thunder Road’ is stripped down to its very elements and almost turns on a penny to drive home its message; ‘My Hometown’ becomes even more poignant than the rendition we’ve held so close over the years; and finally, after years of a cultural tug of war, ‘Born In The USA’ no longer needs to suffer misinterpretation. Springsteen’s meaning and message is unequivocal.
‘Springsteen On Broadway’ is his most idiosyncratic live album. And it might just be the best.
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