On December 15, 2018, Bruce Springsteen will end his run of 236 Broadway performances that began in October of 2017. Netflix will release the official film of the run that day, with “soundtrack” coming out the day before. It’s really coming to an end and with 1,000 seats, the Walter Kerr Theatre is still a virtually impossible ticket. The audio and video will hopefully serve as a fitting document of what the Boss has been putting out night after night for over a year now.
Having attended numerous Springsteen shows in the past, this reviewer was still unsure what to expect. The 1995 and 2005 acoustic shows were one thing, but this was entirely different. On those tours, Bruce begged the crowd for quiet. The Broadway crowd, however, was completely silent. You could hear every vocal inflection and scratch on the guitar string. Even though the show is “based” on his autobiography, there was only one segment that seemed to come directly from the book. In fact, Bruce introduced it as if it was a new song.
The most fascinating thing about the show was to see a performer so known for his interaction with the crowd play in such a controlled environment. But as I kept saying to myself in amazement, this is “fucking Bruce.” I am sure the anecdotes, like the songs, have remained constant throughout the run. But he has this Broadway thing down to a science at this point. To use an appropriate analogy, he knew exactly when to put his foot on the gas and when to ease up. He never quite became the full-on E Street Springsteen and that was clearly by design.
Springsteen was in great voice and it was a treat to hear “My Father’s House” and “The Wish.” At any normal Bruce show, these would constitute rarities. But even the warhorses like “Thunder Road” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” sounded fresh. Some songs were truncated from their usual presentation, along with the more nuanced delivery. But it all felt honest. His admissions about his father, mother, and Big Man are undoubtedly the same each show, but this is fuckin’ Bruce. His duets with Patti Scialfa on “Tougher Than The Rest” and “Brilliant Disguise” allowed a vocal blend impossible at an arena or stadium show. While closing the show with “Land Of Hope And Dreams” and “Born To Run,” Springsteen confessed that the show allowed him to connect with his father and Clarence. He discussed in his book and at the start of the performance his “magic trick” of playing for thousands of people, but the show allows him to pull off an even more difficult task. The fact that he’s able to put on a show so revealing without feeling staged is astounding. If you are unable to see it in person, I urge you to check it out next month.