New album is a bit different, and also a bit special.
New albums from Bruce Springsteen, Jason Becker, Neil Young, King Crimson, Beth Hart, Tank, Mark Knopfler, Tyla’s Dogs D’Amour… Reissues from Rush, Def Leppard, Manic Street Preachers, Marillion, Ginger Wildheart, Long Ryders, Tangerine Dream, Eden’s Curse… DVDs, films and books on Led Zeppelin, Joan Jett, Dave Hill, Peter Grant… Live reviews of Slayer, Anthrax, Robert Plant, Steve Miller, Shinedown, Greta Van Fleet, Obituary, MC50, Pixies…
Baby he was born to run, and run, and run…
All protruding lower jaw and On The Waterfront-chic, Bruce Springsteen has been stepping on to the Walter Kerr Theatre stage for 236 nights since October 2017, delivering pretty much a one-man show based on his autobiography Born To Run like virtual Kindle. Featuring 14 monologues, it has a song to match every experience, accompanied by guitar and piano. A dramatically stark, if somewhat manipulated, affair from Bruce’s team, produced by manager Jon Landau, there are longueurs as well as highlights.
Exploring the concept that his art is “a magic trick”, Springsteen gets his excuses in early: “I have become wildly and absurdly successful writing about something that I have no knowledge of…” pointing out he was writing songs about Cadillacs long before he’d ever driven one. It’s deadpan honesty, although you sometimes feel he’s overly desperate to justify his legend. But then he didn’t get to where he is today without being both driven and crazy ambitious.
Springsteen On Broadway is best when he tackles his fractured relationship with his father, whose boozy presence he credits with forging his tenacity, and by extension that of his own children, his sisters and his mother (“with Alzheimer’s these past seven years”) to whom he’s gloriously devoted. Dancing In The Dark, dedicated to mom Adele, is universally poignant, while My Father’s House (note the religious symbolism) is similarly loaded. His other love affairs, with Patti Scialfa, who he can never understand staying with a man like him (cue duets with the missus on Tougher Than The Rest, and a deliciously sentimental Brilliant Disguise), and Uncle Sam add substance. Born In The USA makes sense, hammered home as an elegy for the Vietnam veterans; likewise The Ghost Of Tom Joad, a subtle reworking of civil rights anthem Joe Hill.
Springsteen’s Catholic guilt (is there any other kind?) is dealt with from the viewpoint of someone forced to monotone The Lord’s Prayer as a youth but who returns to the fold. America’s shocking state is made apparent during Land Of Hope And Dreams, by which time the emotionally draining performance seems to have turned Bruce into a version of Marlon Brando, aka Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather, mumbling “I drink more wine than I used to”.
Equal parts communion and catharsis – an immaculate deception – SOB is available to view on Netflix, and listen to over four LPs, two CDs plus the usual modern media.
All the cowbells, all the time