WHAT “Springsteen on Broadway”
WHEN | WHERE Through Feb. 3, Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 W. 48th St.
INFO Sold out; 26 tickets for each show are available through digital lottery at luckyseat.com/springsteen-broadway for $75; 877-250-2929,
BOTTOM LINE Springsteen’s grand bid for being The Boss of yet another art form.
Bruce Springsteen likes lists.
He uses them a lot throughout “Springsteen on Broadway,” his extraordinary show, which officially began its four-month run at the Walter Kerr Theatre on Thursday night. He opens with a list of qualities needed when headlining a stadium full of people and includes “naked desire for fame, women, sex and, oh yeah, a buck.” He lists the attributes of his father sitting on a bar stool. And the powers of a great rock and roll band.
Over the course of his two-hour show, Springsteen’s lists often take on lives of their own, gathering steam as they roll off his tongue, like cartoon snowballs down a ski slope. They reflect the prose of his “Born to Run” memoir, which he quotes passages from, at times, but they also show how Springsteen the writer and Springsteen the rocker are two very different people.
Unlike Springsteen concerts, which often feel like an adrenaline-fueled run up steps from one emotional plateau to the next, “Springsteen on Broadway” is linear, weighting each story and song equally. It’s a list come to life.
Alone on the spare stage, Springsteen starts out heavy, dealing with his childhood in Freehold, New Jersey. He knows it, offering, “I’m going to take you off suicide watch,” before talking about and singing to his mom in the lighthearted “The Wish.”
From there, though, the momentum builds. “Thunder Road,” even in this stripped-down context, is a showstopper, the restraint adding to its power. Delivering “Born in the U.S.A.” as snarling blues makes the song feel even angrier after he explained how it was inspired by wounded war veterans. And when wife Patti Scialfa joins him to sing on “Tougher than the Rest” and “Brilliant Disguise,” their chemistry is palpable.
Springsteen wants his life story to be one of America’s stories — one in a list, unique, but equal to millions of others. Though he refers to the current political climate as a “bad chapter,” he stays out of politics, letting “Long Walk Home” and “Land of Hope and Dreams” speak for themselves.
Before “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” he talked about the magic that happens when a band becomes greater than the sum of its parts. “When 1+1=3, your life changes,” he says. That’s what he’s trying to conjure with these songs and stories, what he calls his “magic trick,” and he succeeds. “Springsteen on Broadway” is more than just an opportunity to see the stadium-filler in the most intimate setting he has played in decades. It’s a first-rate trip into his view of how great America can and will be.
SET LIST: “Growin’ Up” / “My Hometown” / “My Father’s House” / “The Wish” / “Thunder Road” / “The Promised Land” / “Born in the U.S.A.” / “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” / “Tougher Than the Rest” (with Patti Scialfa) / “Brilliant Disguise” (with Patti Scialfa) / “Long Walk Home” / “The Rising” / “Dancing in the Dark” / “Land of Hope and Dreams” / “Born to Run”