Sunday, 16 December 2018

Bruce Springsteen - Springsteen On Broadway (2017)


Recorded live on Broadway in 2017

This a is a strange product to review. Taken from Springsteen's four month solo residency at a Broadway theatre which saw him, a guitar, a piano and a nostalgic ageing man's hatful of evocative memories deliver a physical autobiography. I am sure it was an interesting and captivating performance (although not a concept I would particularly have had any interest in attending, preferring a full on band to solo acoustic shows), however, it does not really transfer well to CD, download or vinyl. Half of the time is taken up with Springsteen's extensive monologue introductions to each song. These are often several minutes in length. Even the songs often have a spoken narrative section half way through before he returns to the song. The show was eventually extended and lasted nearly fourteen months.

For me, I just simply have no desire to listen to Springsteen's monologues again and again, however interesting they may be first off, which they often are, as he is an inveterate storyteller. People such as myself who have been aficionados of his music and live performances for several decades now (I date back to 1978) are more than familiar with his upbringing by now - his father, his mother and all that stuff about searching for dreams and travelling down those roads and so on. We have heard the stories many times before, accompanied by Springsteen's nervous little laugh, so it is nothing new. Neither are the narratives on this performance followed by the E. St Band launching magnificently back into a song, such as on Live 1975-1985's Growin' Up, here they just carry on in to more low-key, acoustic performances. Yes, sometimes the acoustic rendition provides something special, such as on Born In The USA, with its sublime bottleneck guitar, but you can't convince me that The Promised Land is better, acoustically. The thought of him doing this show, night after night, for fourteen months is an exhausting one - rehearsed as it is, with no "curveballs" thrown in, as in a regular live set.

All that said, the section about his mother and the accompanying song The Wish had a serious lump in my throat. It is genuinely moving. Tenth Avenue Freeze Out has the same effect too. Furthermore, Springsteen's piano playing has improved considerably, it has to be said. On Freeze-Out it is almost "Professor"-like.

You know, I feel it would have been good for Springsteen to have put some of these great narrations to music, rather like Van Morrison did in On Hyndford Street, where he narrates memories from his youth over a subtle backing. I'm thinking in particular of the "smell of coffee grounds" section of the intro to My Hometown, about Freehold, New Jersey. Or made some of the memories into songs.

So, taking all my feelings into account, it just doesn't really do it for me, neither do I feel it really works well as a live recording. It is not something I would wish to revisit once heard. Just as I wouldn't read an autobiography again and again. That doesn't mean I haven't enjoyed it the once.

TRACK LISTING (songs sung)

1. Growin' Up
2. My Hometown
3. My Father's House
4. The Wish
5. Thunder Road
6. The Promised Land
7. Born In The USA
8. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
9. Tougher Than The Rest
10. Brilliant Disguise
11. Long Time Comin'
12. The Ghost Of Tom Joad
13. The Rising
14. Dancing In The Dark
15. Land of Hope And Dreams
16. Born To Run


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