Live albums are, generally, hit and miss. They either come off too clean and pristine, sounding like a studio album with canned audience participations, or they’re a gritty and dirty a thing of beauty. From the opening of ‘Growin’ Up’ you realise that Bruce Springsteen’s 24th live album, and 42nd album in total, is somewhere between the two and also neither at the same time.
‘Springsteen On Broadway’ is effectively The Boss delivering a one-man-show at the Walker Kerr Theatre on Broadway to 960 people, one of the smallest venues he’s played in about 40 years. During this shows he delves into his past, discussing his humble begins and how he became a hero, institution, legend and ultimately The Boss. Oh and the songs are a nice bonus too.
Due to the stripped down nature of the performance, some of the songs take on a new feel and vibe. ‘Born In The USA’, ‘Dancing In The Dark’ and ‘Born To Run’ feel fresh, delicate and intimate. ‘Born in the USA’ - a song I’ve personally never cared for or enjoyed - sounds channels Son House into a protest song that is still relevant today. ‘My Father’s House’ builds on the sparse instrumentation of the original, but takes on a more confidential and personal nature. This is the power of the album, and Springsteen, that something you’ve known for longer than you care to remember, can be skewed and converted into something new and exciting.
‘Springsteen On Broadway’ is a snapshot of a man comfortable with his past, present and future. He is a man who has seen it all and done everything, at least twice. If you aren’t a fan of Springsteen before watching ‘Springsteen on Broadway’ you either will be at the end of this almost three hour performance, or it’ll fortify all the reasons you don’t.
That is because for the whole duration it’s just Bruce. Either delivering monologues that tell his life story or playing the songs that defined it. Yes Patti Scialfa joins him for ‘Tougher Than The Rest’ and ‘Brilliant Disguise’, but other than that it’s just The Boss doing what he does best, “To provide an entertaining evening and to communicate something of value”. And in all honesty that’s all we could ask for.
Words: Nick Roseblade
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