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2023/4 Albums Thing 349 - Bruce Springsteen “Springsteen On Broadway”

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In October 2017 Bruce Springsteen started a one man residency at the 975 seat Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway. The idea was for him to play a scripted show, 5 nights a week (Tuesday to Saturday), initially just until the end of November. But demand meant that he continued to play shows up until 2021. The Walter Kerr performances were filmed for a Netflix special and this soundtrack album was released to accompany that.

One of the things that stuck out when I first saw Springsteen live back in 1981 was that he would tell long, sometimes rambling  stories between songs, and I loved them. You can hear some examples on the “Live 1975/85” box set. This Broadway show included (almost) as many of those stories as it does songs. The show itself was 2 and a half hours, over an hour of that was Springsteen just talking,  song intros. add in the extended monologues mid-song and it probably works out even…some of them even bring him to tears. The monologues in the Broadway show loosely follow the story arc of his biography, “Born To Run”. It’s a quite brilliant show, equal parts intensely personal, funny, sad and uplifting.

Anyone with a vague knowledge of Springsteen’s work will be familiar with most of what is here. The big surprise on the setlist for me was “The Wish”. Originally recorded in 1987 in Bruce’s home studio, drums were added to that recording in 1998 for its inclusion on the “Tracks” outtakes set. Here it is used for exactly its correct purpose, for Bruce to sing the praises of his Mom, Adele. He has written a lot of songs over the years about his relationship with his Dad and one of those, “My Fathers House”, and a 5 minute introduction precede “The Wish”, which he he introduces with the line “OK I’m taking you off suicide watch now”. This is the only song I can think of that is so openly about his Mom. On 6th February 2024 Bruce played this song at Adele’s funeral service.

The show was pretty much set in stone during its run, occasionally other songs were substituted in when Patti Scialfa couldn’t join him for their duets on “Tougher Than The Rest” and “Brilliant Disguise”. “The Ghost Of Tom Joad” sometimes made an appearance, particularly on the night Netflix recorded the show. The performance of “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” is made quite special by the mid-song tribute to the E Street Band (“Now Garry, Danny, Little Steve and Mighty Max, Professor Roy, Nils Lofgren and Patti Scialfa is my 1+1=3” (the essential equation of rock ’n’ roll apparently)), and in particular The Big Man, Clarence Clemons, about whom Bruce says “Losing him was like losing the rain”…I may have had dust in my eye just about then.

I know a couple of people who were lucky enough to go to New York and see this show. I wasn’t one of them, closest I got was the Netflix recording which is a quite astonishing performance. It must have been incredible to be that up-close with him while this show unfolded. I’d urge anyone to watch it, it’s a masterclass in storytelling.

Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out - https://youtu.be/-8POkLCKgfM?si=XWzhFs8EERKjb4i3

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