Spring­steen is a rock ’ n’ roll rev­e­la­tion in ‘ Broad­way’

Chicago Sun-Times - - LIFE - Maeve McDer­mott @ maeve_ mcder­mott USA TO­DAY

“I’ve never done an hon­est day’s work, I’ve never worked 9 to 5, I’ve never done any hard la­bor, and yet, it is all I’ve writ­ten about,” Bruce Spring­steen yells from the stage about 10 min­utes into Spring­steen on Broad­way, to ri­otous ap­plause from the crowd.

Spring­steen must’ve known the joke would land, a wink­ing al­lu­sion to a life de­voted to a dif­fer­ent type of la­bor. The 68year- old artist’s as­cent from New Jer­sey dives to the world’s largest stages is an es­sen­tial part of rock ’ n’ roll mythol­ogy.

Yet, Broad­way is one of the great equal­iz­ers, its phys­i­cal de­mands ca­pa­ble of hum­bling even the most sea­soned en­ter­tain­ers. With Spring­steen on

Broad­way, which opened Thurs­day, fans aren’t just pay­ing to see their hero at the in­ti­mate Wal­ter Kerr The­atre. They’re pay­ing to see him tus­sle with a dif­fer­ent kind of beast.

And it’s quite a show, as Spring­steen de­liv­ers two hours and 15 songs worth of mem­o­ries, and rev­e­la­tions, and — for some — plenty of tears.

Spring­steen con­cep­tu­al­ized the show af­ter play­ing a Jan­uary 2017 set in the Oval Of­fice for then- Pres­i­dent Obama and his staff. Spring­steen bor­rows gen­er­ously from his 2016 mem­oir, Born To Run, for the lengthy mono­logues.

That means die- hards will rec­og­nize pas­sages from his book.

Does that ruin the magic? Maybe for some. But not for the au­di­ence that cheered dur­ing one pre­view show, as Spring­steen pre­sented his bill of sale in the show’s open­ing mo­ments — cribbed from the fore­word of

Born, but no less evoca­tive. “I am here to pro­vide proof of life to that ever- elu­sive, never com­pletely be­liev­able ‘ us,’ ” he re­cites. “That is my magic trick. And like all good magic tricks, it be­gins with a setup. So …” With that, he takes off into

Growin’ Up, stand­ing in front of dingy brick walls in a stage­hand’s uni­form of black shirt and pants.

The show’s nar­ra­tive doesn’t con­tain any rev­e­la­tions for fans, as Spring­steen guides his au­di­ence through vividly imag­ined scenes of his small- town up­bring­ing through his move West.

Spring­steen lets one of rock’s most en­dur­ing love sto­ries speak for it­self, bring­ing out Patti Scialfa to duet on Tougher Than the Rest

and Bril­liant Dis­guise. He hon­ors an­other of his great loves, the late Clarence Cle­mons, dur­ing a rau­cous Tenth Av­enue Freeze- Out.

Spring­steen dis­penses with the ex­po­si­tion in its fi­nal stretch, and that’s when things get cos­mic. The singer steps into the role of rock ’ n’ roll preacher, in­vok­ing Martin Luther King Jr. and the Lord’s Prayer as he ser­mo­nizes on his coun­try and his craft.

If the tears haven’t yet flowed, have Kleenex ready for the show’s end­ing, with a breath­tak­ing pair of med­leys — Long Walk Home/

The Ris­ing and Danc­ing in the Dark/ Land of Hope and Dreams — that end with Spring­steen bless­ing the crowd, thank­ing them for serv­ing as his trav­el­ing com­pan­ions, and clos­ing with a med­i­ta­tive take on Born to Run.

“This is what I have pur­sued as my ser­vice,” he says as part of his farewell. “This I have pre­sented to you as my long and noisy prayer, as my magic trick.”

ROB DEMARTIN

Patti Scialfa duets with hus­band Bruce in Spring­steen on

Broad­way at the Wal­ter Kerr The­atre.

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