"Springsteen On Broadway" officially opened Thursday night at the Walter Kerr Theatre. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
Bruce Springsteen is quite the paradox. He tells us he’s never held an honest job his entire life; never worked a 9 to 5, and yet he has built his reputation writing songs about the working class. He talks about the thrill of leaving his native New Jersey in the rearview, and yet he now lives just 10 minutes from his boyhood home. He readily admits to being something of a magician, in his words, tinged with a bit of fraud. And yet he is as authentic as they come - a true poet musician - and perhaps the best that we've got.
And yet another bit of paradox - Springsteen, a rocker known for selling out stadiums in a matter of minutes with his electrifying concerts, is suddenly unplugged on a Broadway stage delivering a decidedly subdued riff, sounding a lot more like a folk singer than a rock star. And every spoken word, every lyric is read from a teleprompter.
Springsteen is credited with being writer and director of the show. And much like his own persona, the staging is quite basic, gritty and raw. The set is bare all the way to the back wall, adorned only by a set of guitars and a baby grand piano.
The premise is quite simple. Inspired by a White House performance for the departing Obamas, Springsteen sings roughly a dozen songs - you’ll know them - "Thunder Road," "Dancing In The Dark," "Born In The USA," etc. But some of the renditions are very different from his popular recordings. And in between he relates stories and anecdotes, mostly verbatim from his autobiography "Born To Run."
His wife Patti Scialfa joins him for a couple songs, and he delivers a moving tribute to his late saxophonist Clarence Clemons.
At 68, Bruce Springsteen is clearly thinking about mortality, and his show is something of a soulful elegy. That might disappoint some fans. But he is The Boss after all, and listening to his reveries about home and family and song, he comes to own that stage; and for two glorious, intermissionless hours, he owns us, too.