Rather, âSpringsteen on Broadwayâ is a painful if thrilling summing-up at 68: a major statement about a lifeâs work, but also a major revision of it. As music acts go, it thus has more in common with Lena Horneâs revelatory âA Lady and Her Musicâ 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.
Thatâs why the showâs version of âDancing in the Darkâ 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 âBorn in the U.S.A.,â 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 âprotest song.â
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, âBorn to Run.â There he outlined an ideal of rock music as a âculture shaperâ and an ideal of himself as someone who would âcollide with the timesâ in order to change them. âSpringsteen on Broadwayâ distills the same daunting dream; its spoken portions, which make up about half of…