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Bruce Springsteen - 'Springsteen On Broadway' Live Album/Netflix Special Review


DISC 1 1. Growin’ Up (Introduction) 2. Growin’ Up 3. My Hometown (Introduction) 4. My Hometown 5. My Father’s House (Introduction) 6. My Father’s House 7. The Wish (Introduction) 8. The Wish 9. Thunder Road (Introduction) 10. Thunder Road 11. The Promised Land (Introduction) 12. The Promised Land DISC 2 1. Born In The U.S.A. (Introduction) 2. Born In The U.S.A. 3. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out (Introduction) 4. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out 5. Tougher Than The Rest (Introduction) 6. Tougher Than The Rest 7. Brilliant Disguise (Introduction) 8. Brilliant Disguise 9. Long Time Comin’ (Introduction) 10. Long Time Comin’ 11. The Ghost Of Tom Joad (Introduction) 12. The Ghost Of Tom Joad 13. The Rising 14. Dancing In The Dark (Introduction) 15. Dancing In The Dark 16. Land Of Hope And Dreams 17. Born To Run (Introduction) 18. Born To Run

It could be argued that Bruce Springsteen is one of the final great American songwriters, a performer with energy and vitality that defies his age (he's seventy next year) and gigs with such ferocity and zeal he makes everyone else look like a slacker. There's tales of three hour plus concerts, plucking songs out from the ether like a magician pulls cards from the air to make us wonder how he did it. With this we're given enough hints for us to see what's behind this magicians curtain.

Last year saw The Boss abandon his backing band for their various solo projects so he could perform a residency on Broadway. But this was no show tunes extravaganza, this a man showing us himself in a naked and vulnerable light. After two hundred and thirty six shows he's finally called time on this part of his journey, leaving us with "Springsteen On Broadway", a live album and associated special on Netflix as a parting gift.

Standing on a stage with nothing more than a guitar and a piano, Bruce takes us on journey from his childhood to where he is now in his life. It's part musical review, part song writing masterclass, part biography. It's fair to say that Bruce draws just as much from his autobiography "Born To Run" as he does his album for the performance.

Wearing faded black jeans and a faded black t-shirt, he controls your attention. There is nothing to distract you from him, the plain brick walls of the theatre reminding you that there's nowhere to run from this, just a man and his story.

And what a story it is. Bruce is captivating, talking softly, a gentle rasp to his voice suggesting a sense of weariness to him. He's also quite amusing, peppering his stories with many put downs and quips. Early on he tells us that he's never worked jobs like the people he writes about, he's never had to deal with their lives, in fact he's never had to work five days a week until now and he doesn't like it!

Bruce describes his career almost as a lie, the only real job he's had being the musician we see, working bar bands before starting his recording career. He uses his songs as a way to almost add colour to the sketches he's creating for us of his life. Not only does he have an incredible depth of material to draw from but Springsteen also seems to know the perfect arrangement of each song for the right occasion. Here they're stripped of all pomp and glory, instead you get to hear the nucleus of each song, the spark that each one is built on. There's a chilling version of 'Born In The USA' that's paired with the tale of his friends that were killed while on tours of duty in the Vietnam conflict.

He tells of his growing up with a father who was distant to him, breaking down the moment he reached out to Bruce shortly before he becomes a parent for the first time, almost apologising for his shortcomings to him. It's so personal, something that chimes with the audience. You're so emotionally invested in the moment that you feel that you're almost there, stood in that kitchen with them.

Speaking of emotional, your heart is wrenched from your chest still beating as Bruce explores the relationship with his band, especially the big man, E Street saxophonist Clarence Clemons. Theirs wasn't just a band relationship or a writing relationship, they had a relationship that was incredibly deep and emotional. Springsteen still sounds broken seven years after his passing. It's tender and you almost feel bad; you're a witness to this incredibly personal moment, voyeur to a man's never-ending grief. Of course it's staged, a well scripted glimpse inside his soul, something his songs offer though disguised with metaphor, but here it's naked and laid bare with the simplest of language.

Springsteen's entire career is explored and represented here, a best of with personal introductions from the writer, a tour of duty through his life. The songs are performed in a way to help describe his world, to give the listener and viewer something familiar. They signpost tales and anecdotes that we can relate to. Just as he describes the world of the everyday worker without ever to have to work on a factory, we are given sight into his life, the travelling circus we could never be a part of. But we're given a passport to allow us to visit this alien land the Boss inhabits, giving us citizenship for the two and a half hours before we have to return back to this grey and mundane life. It's a journey that will reward all travellers, be you a casual fan or regular attendee of his marathon concerts. You're drawn in by the songs, you stay because you're intrigued and you leave with his passion still ringing in your ears.

Review - Scott Hamilton

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