As a rule, concert films are functional but valuable souvenirs for fans. Occasionally, though, they record music history (Woodstock, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars) or an innovative way to stage a show (Stop Making Sense). Springsteen on Broadway is a filmed record of Bruce’s sell-out, no-bells, no-whistles residency at New York’s modest 975-seat Walter Kerr Theatre between 2017-18.
Keen to enjoy a more intimate connection with his audience, the veteran chronicler of working-class life draws from a 40-year songbook. But this stripped-down show (guitar, piano, guest duet with wife Patti Scialfa) is as much about verbal storytelling as banging out his back catalogue.
Reciting from his 2016 autobiography, “The Boss” is open and honest, gaily deconstructing his own wide-open-road mythos by confessing to an early failure to master the stick-shift of a friend’s car.
Over a dozen songs emerge naturally from the autobiographical narrative, a highlight being Born in the USA reinterpreted as a tender blues song. At two-and-a-half-hours, it ought to drag; instead it builds with poetic flourishes and self-examination: “I’ve never seen the inside of a factory and yet it’s all I’ve written about.” He earns warm laughter when confessing to the absurdity of his legend, knocking ’em dead with the conclusion, “That’s how good I am.”
At the end of the road, our muscular, croaky host says, “I hope I’ve been a good travelling companion.” On this entertaining, moving – unobtrusively documented by director Thom Zimny – he was born to run and run.