Bruce Springsteen enjoys a unique bond with his fans, one only heightened by his autobiography and Broadway run. For those who couldn’t see the latter, “Springsteen on Broadway” endeavors to give them the best seat in the house, a mission that the Netflix special surely fulfills for anyone who has ever yelled “Bruuuuuce” during one of his concert marathons.
Like those shows, the Broadway special is a testament to both Springsteen’s storytelling skills and his astonishing stamina, holding the stage for 2 ½ hours, with the only company being the stage hands who hand him instruments and his wife, Patti Scialfa, who joins him for a brief two-song interlude.
Otherwise, it’s all Bruce, all the time, moving between the piano and the microphone stand where he plays guitar and harmonica, using his acoustically performed songs to help tell the story of his life. It’s a riveting combination of introspection, nostalgia and assessment of the U.S. circa 2018, acknowledging concerns about America’s present but infused with hope and optimism regarding its future.
Director Thom Zimny opens the special tight on Springsteen’s face, serving notice immediately of the intimate nature of the production. Despite access to numerous camera angles, he doesn’t have much with which to work visually speaking, given the spare stage and static presentation.
To those who have grown up with the Boss’ music, though, no frills are necessary. And as the sold-out engagement would attest, it’s hard to imagine anyone who has ever belted out “Born to Run” would want to miss this, especially if they couldn’t wangle a trip or ticket to do so in person.
Springsteen might be at his best in discussing the contradictions that have defined him — a working-class hero who concedes that he has “never worked 9 to 5,” someone who still speaks for the downtrodden while having become “wildly and absurdly successful” in the process.