Review: ‘Springsteen on Broadway’ Reveals the Artist, Real and Intense

Rather, “Springsteen on Broadway” is a painful if thrilling summing-up at 68: a major statement about a life’s work, but also a major revision of it. As music acts go, it thus has more in common with Lena Horne’s revelatory “A Lady and Her Music” from 1981 than with a greatest-hits concert by the likes of Barry Manilow.

Call it a greatest anti-hits concert: Many of the songs Mr. Springsteen has chosen to sing are less familiar and more meditative than his chart-toppers, and those that were chart-toppers are almost unrecognizable.

That’s why the show’s version of “Dancing in the Dark” admits no clapping; sung at a slower-than-usual tempo, and accompanied only by Mr. Springsteen on acoustic guitar, it is no longer the casual invitation to sex it seemed to be in its first incarnation. It is instead a parable about the nihilism underlying such invitations.

Nor is “Born in the U.S.A.,” also from 1984, the jingoistic anthem it once sounded like on MTV, when the thrust engine roar of the E Street Band sent it into orbit. With its choruses now spat away quickly and its bleak verses about damaged veterans dwelt on, it is, as Mr. Springsteen says he always intended, a “protest song.”

Photo

Patti Scialfa, appearing with her husband for two songs in the show.

Credit
Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

This will not be news to fans who have been paying attention to him during the 30 years since his sleeveless T-shirt and bandanna heyday, or to anyone who has read his hair-raising 2016 memoir, “Born to Run.” There he outlined an ideal of rock music as a “culture shaper” and an ideal of himself as someone who would “collide with the times” in order to change them. “Springsteen on Broadway” distills the same daunting dream; its spoken portions, which make up about half of…

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