‘Springsteen on Broadway’ provides an honest, intimate origin story of the Boss

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‘Springsteen on Broadway’ provides an honest, intimate origin story of the Boss

Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

Bruce Springsteen’s songs stand as anthem to our collective consciousness by exploring what it means to be American. According to his early albums, this identity manifested in fast cars, blue collar jobs, and heteronormative love. However, ​“Springsteen on Broadway” ​takes our previously one-dimensional view of the Boss and turns it on its head. The Netflix film and accompanying album reveal an artist who imitated someone else as his own persona.

Three minutes into the show, Springsteen discloses that he borrowed his identity from his father’s working-class legacy. “I made it all up,” he admits. It’s a testament to his charming nature that the audience laughs. Maybe his human frailty makes him all the more appealing.

This confessional quality of ​“Springsteen”​ serves to create an intimacy that is, at times, overwhelming. Between singing, talking, yelling, and spoken word over quiet piano chords, Springsteen is relentlessly dynamic.

Diehard Springsteen fans will likely be overjoyed to hear about the rise of the American star. More casual fans might have a harder time with the stories, which border on rambling. Springsteen’s comfort onstage sometimes places the listener into a familiar situation. When you’re trapped with a longwinded uncle in a kitchen during the holidays, you love your uncle so much that you just stay and listen for hours on end.

Thankfully, Springsteen is a legendary storyteller, and his performance in this Netflix original showcases this strength well.

The most moving moments of the show are when Springsteen sings. At times, it seems he is singing to himself. The effect is at once captivating and haunting. If the pure narrative can lean towards saccharine sweetness, the songs themselves provide a welcome saltiness. The effect of hearing Springsteen’s mega hits altered and stripped down to bare bones is weird but refreshing. The spare tone and introspection echo Springsteen’s quiet 1982 album, ​“Nebraska​.”

A notable moment is when Springsteen’s wife, Patti Scialfa, joins him on stage for a few duets. The energy between the two is palpable and touching. ​“Springsteen” ​is most interesting when its star’s life seems to be playing out on the stage. When he and his wife take a bow, you can’t help but think they are bowing to the crowd for their lifetimes of success. There is a meta quality to the show that is irresistible.

Springsteen closes the two and-a-half-hour marathon with a performance of his superhit, “Born to Run.” Here, he finally seems to open up — strumming his guitar loudly, and visibly enjoying himself. The rendition is transportive. As the song comes to an end, Springsteen softly slaps his guitar as if to imitate a heartbeat. As gimmicky as this sounds, it works.

By the show’s end, you’ll feel a warm glow — a sense of going through something together with the star and with the rest of audience. You likely won’t care if Springsteen is a fraud or not. The songs and stories of “Springsteen on Broadway” will feel real to you — and that will be enough.