Springsteen on Broadway, not rated (would be rated R for language)
The film Springsteen on Broadway, showing on Netflix, is a powerful and emotional mostly one man show, featuring the storytelling and music of Bruce Springsteen. The audio version album of the same name debuted at #1 on the iTunes top albums chart. The two-and-a-half-hour show was a part of his Tony Award winning sold-out run at the Walter Kerr Theatre, that began in October 2017 and wrapped up December 15, with its 236th and final performance. Springsteen on Broadway is Springsteen telling us about key moments and people in his life through extended song introductions and sixteen of his songs. If you have read his excellent autobiography Born to Run (see my review here), you’ll be familiar with some of the stories he tells.Springsteen spends most of the time with his guitar, at times with harmonica, occasionally moving to the piano. The 69-year-old artist, looks fit in a black t-shirt, jeans and boots. The music is raw and excellent, but it’s the storytelling that raises this film above others of a similar genre. Springsteen is intimate, transparent, honest, poetic and emotional. He does use a large amount of adult language, so I would rate the show as “R” for that reason. The film is directed by Emmy winner Thom Zimny (Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: Live in New York City).
Springsteen speaks a few times about his “magic trick”, his gift for weaving a spell. He admits that he wrote some songs about things he knew nothing about (working in a factory, driving cars, etc.). And truth be told, the people he wrote about would in many instances be those who voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Springsteen is known for his liberal politics, and toward the end of the show he talks about his love for the country, but displeasure with how things are going now, though never naming Trump directly.
He talks about growing up in Freehold, New Jersey, with generations of family members, the Catholic Church and the local cemetery all within a few blocks.
He tells us about seeing Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show on a Sunday evening, and everything changing from there. He got his first guitar, but quit guitar lessons after two weeks because they were too hard.
His most moving stories were about his Dad and Mom. His Dad was his hero and biggest foe. He tells about walking into the local bar, his Dad’s refuge, to tell him that his Mom wanted him to come home, his Dad suffering from depression and a moving apology late in life from his Dad.
He comes alive when he talks about his Mom, who is currently suffering from Alzheimer’s disease at age 93. His Mom always loved to dance. He remembers like it was yesterday walking home with his Mom from her place of business, and then plays the moving Tunnel of Love outtake: “The Wish”:
I remember in the morning, ma, hearing your alarm clock ring
I’d lie in bed and listen to you gettin’ ready for work
The sound of your makeup case on the sink
And the ladies at the office, all lipstick, perfume and rustlin’ skirts
And how proud and happy you always looked walking home from work
Close behind those moments were his emotional tribute to the late Clarence “The Big Man” Clemons while playing “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” at the piano:
When the change was made uptown and the Big Man joined the band
From the coastline to the city, all the little pretties raise their hands
I’m gonna sit back right easy and laugh
When Scooter and the Big Man bust this city in half
With the Tenth Avenue freeze-out
He soberly talks about friends from his hometown losing their lives in Vietnam, not going himself and wondering who took his place.
Springsteen’s wife of 31 years and bandmate Patti Scialfa is the only other one to appear onstage, as she joins him to sing “Tougher Than the Rest” and “Brilliant Disguise”.
Springsteen, who was raised Catholic, ends the incredible performance by reciting “The Lord’s Prayer” and playing “Born to Run”.