An Icon Turned into a Man: Springsteen on Broadway

Bruce Springsteen’s debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., was released in 1973. 18 records and 25 years later, the American icon signed a deal with Netflix to record his experiment with a new format. Springsteen on Broadway (2018), recorded at the Walter Kerr Theater (New York City) is not just a concert, a monologue or an artistic performance, it is a delicate and intimate journey along the deepest memories of Bruce ‘the man’.

Only decorated by a guitar, a piano or a harmonica, the composition does not place the focus on the list of classics that made Springsteen a rock star. Although some of them are played (Born in the USA, Dancing in the Dark, Born to Run, etc.), the songs work as mere reinforcements of the emotive narration of Bruce’s personal experiences, till the point that they are even interrupted by the story. The device mentioned, in conjunction with the careful selection of the set list, fills the story with reliability, even though the speaker confesses the fictional content of some of his classics.
The monologue is based on the effective interconnection of three narratives: his family life, his role in Jersey rock and roll, and the most influential events of American history since the sixties till today. The topics covered are the basics that shaped his career: childhood, growing up, parenthood, the family, the working class, the hometown or the American dream, to name a few.
By taking profit of his eternal charisma and a slightly surprising actoral talent, the artist establishes a one on one connection with the audience, whose members can easily feel like a judge, a friend or a psychologist to whom the man openly shares its most sacred fears, dreams and obsessions. Both the small and dark space and the constant use of close shots during the numerous emotive moments work perfectly, whereas the collaborations of Patti Scialfa means a breath of fresh air to a risky format that threatens to become monotonous. Springsteen on Broadway is full of nostalgia, that is true, but humour plays a decisive role to soften the most ‘disappointing’ confessions:

I’ve never held an honest job in my entire life. I’ve never done any hard labor […] I don’t like it. I never seen the inside of a factory, and yet, it’s all I’ve ever written about. […] I made it all up. That’s how good I am.

The show is probably not what an all-time fan would use to present the artist to a friend or a relative. Instead, it is an experimental challenge for a consolidated artist, who proves his capability to reinvent himself beyond music. Moreover, it is also a high quality present to the hardcore fans who love the songs and the rock icon, but want to learn more about the person from the most reliable source possible.


Joaquín Saravia

BA in English Studies. MA in American Studies. MA in Strategic Cooperation between Latin America and the European Union. My research interests are: US-Latin America relations, Hispanics/Latinxs, and popular culture.

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