The Dogs On Mainstreet Howl: “Springsteen On Broadway” Reviews Are In

Written by | October 14, 2017 8:10 am | No Comments


“Springsteen On Broadway” is open and on and so now it is time to see what people other than me (my review here) thought of Bruce’s borderline vanity project. They loved it, it is making 2.3M a week so why shouldn’t they, there was one outlier along with myself (though I loved it as well, just with big caveats). I went in search of the reviews, and found the lot on Broadway World’s Review Round up (here)’s Bobby Olivier, I agree with just about entirely: “Sorry to break the bad news, Bruce fans, but Springsteen’s choice to develop this four-month residency in New York by himself, without the help of a stage-savvy director, has proven a cavalier and foolish decision by the rock icon — the arc of this disjointed production is saved only by its music and the exclusivity of its venue. He would’ve saved himself some trouble simply rocking a straight, two-hour acoustic set and selling his audiobook with the candy and cocktails. ” –Negative Review

But Bobby and I are outliers, Rolling Stone (the more nonsense they write, the less I will miss em) got Andy Greene to misstate: “Springsteen on Broadway, at the 975-seat Walter Kerr theater, is in many ways a live version of the book, even if reports that he’d be “reading” from it aren’t quite right: Most of the extensive spoken-word segments are brand new or heavily altered from the book versions. It’s clear from the beginning that this is nothing like a typical latter-day Springsteen concert, where set lists can vary wildly from night to night and Bruce often has little to say between songs. There’s no room for his usual athleticism here – Springsteen just shuffles a few feet between a piano on stage left and a microphone at center stage. The intensity is, instead, emotional, as Springsteen digs hard into the bedrock of his life story, and ours: childhood, religion, work, death. The performance is hard to categorize. It’s not a concert; not a typical one-man-show; certainly not a Broadway musical. But it is one of the most compelling and profound shows by a rock musician in recent memory.” That mostly brandly new comment is well beyond a stretch, it might not be word for word from the autobiography but it was sure inspired by, and when it wasn’t it was refined from the book it was taken from his live shows: all that “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” stuff. Still, we expect the Stone to lie about Bruce…. – Positive Review

What about the New York Times? Jesse Green gets about everything wrong about it. It isn’t that solemn, it is like Green got a hook and ran with it even when it wasn’t accurate (I know the feeling): “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 “The Lady and Her Music” from 1981 than with a greatest-hits concert by the likes of Barry Manilow.”  – Positive Review

Time Out New York gave it five stars out of five. They were probably just happy to get a ticket. Adam Feldman wrote: “It’s an intimate show and a generous one, not just to past friends and collaborators but also to the audience, inviting us on a cross-country journey that is now, as he approaches 70, less about the gunning of his engines than the steadiness of his drive. He pulls it all off; he’s understood. It’s magic” Intimate? Maybe. Generous? Not even. – Positive Review

Glenn Gamboa of Newsday is a writer I admire sure, but agree with only on occasion. Again, we find a hook (“lists”) to a story where it doesn’t quite fit. “Over the course of his two-hour show, Springsteen’s lists often take on lives of their own, gathering steam as they roll off his tongue, like cartoon snowballs down a ski slope. They reflect the prose of his “Born to Run” memoir, which he quotes passages from, at times, but they also show how Springsteen the writer and Springsteen the rocker are two very different people.” Again, there is zero difference really between the two Bruce’s but thanks for sharing. – Positive Review

I tend to trust the Guardian -but Laura Barton’s review is like when you see a good concert, but the moment in the moment makes you think it is a great one. She overstates: “Beneath the crisp tailoring and the heady fragrance of the theatre there seems a new and quickened pulse; a sense that something deep and joyful has occurred here tonight. And after the crowd roar, the ovation and the long, long, long applause, the house lights lift, and the woman behind me with the Jersey caw and the scarlet toenails delivers her verdict. “That,” she says, between audible sobs, “was the best thing I have ever seen.” – Positive Review

Entertainment Weekly’s Madison Vain says something I am finding epidemic in these reviews: they say the precise opposite of what happened: “The show’s format and theatrical setting paint a fuller picture of Springsteen, the human, beyond just Springsteen, the rock star.” – Positive review. 

Tim Teeman of The Daily Beast joins the crowd of reviewers saying the exact opposite of what happened: “This is, for Springsteen fan or not, a warmly involving, beautifully sung, and deftly structured evening of song and storytelling.” People of good faith may disagree with warmly but deftly structured it wasn’t. Indeed, the whole problem is that it isn’t deftly structured. Positive Review.

Los Angeles Time’s  Charles McNulty wrote: “Springsteen could easily have turned his autobiography over to Broadway hacks, who would have jumped at the chance at adapting his life story into a jukebox musical. But thankfully he created something more artfully haunting than “Jersey Boy: Asbury Park Edition.” It might be worth noting that SOB can’t lick “Jersey Boys” boots – Positive Review.

Jem Aswad in Variety: “As such, it’s not hard to imagine, decades from now, skilled impersonators taking the script and the songs and performing the show, Hal-Holbrook-as-Mark-Twain style, sustaining The Boss’ music and legend — not to mention the family business — for generations to come.”, No not hard, impossible. Positive Review.

David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter: ” The show is a model of finely chiseled simplicity, by turns contemplative, moving and joyous. It closes, naturally, with “Born to Run.” In keeping with an evening in which so many well-known tracks are given fresh life, that timeless declaration about escaping the ordinary to taste life and love and danger becomes also a soulful reaffirmation of home, ending with a heartbeat tapped out on the body of a guitar.” – Positive Review.

Oh, no: Hardeep Phul of the New York Post: “During “Thunder Road,” I could hear at least three people gently sobbing (full disclosure: one of them was me), and there was no mistaking the seething fury of a forgotten Vietnam veteran in the chilling slide-guitar blues version of “Born in the USA.” This isn’t your usual night out at the Meadowlands, so if you yell “Brooooce!” too much, you run the risk of getting sternly shushed.” – Cmon, et tu Hardeep? My go to guy now Jim Farber isn’t at the Daily News any longer – Positive Review.

New York Daily News’ Joe Dziemianowicz: “intimate and persuasive, satisfying and soul-stirring as it tells the personal journey of an American classic.” I don’t have to share my opinion now do I – Positive Review.

Dan DeLuca in “puts its audience through an emotional wringer” – Positive Review.

Charles Isherwood in Broadway News: “Here he presents himself not as the stadium-filling rock god, whipping his fans into a happy frenzy, but instead he engages in a more intimate and difficult process, collapsing the distance between artist and audience, between his art and the lived experience of those who take comfort and solace in it.” Yeah, repeat not a chance. Positive Review.

Maeve McDermott in USA Today: “Despite his international renown and all but indelible achievement as a rock troubadour, songwriter and band leader, he still appears to retain that most necessary element of a true artist’s constitution: humility.” OK, I get that I disagree with the reviewers here, but really HUMILITY? Did Maeve really, really claim the Boss was projecting humility? I can not even. Positive Review.

Amanda Petrusich in The New Yorker: ” contains suggestions on how to age: admit your flaws and inconsistencies, your put-ons, your masks, your fears and humiliations. Make room for them. Find freedom in the revelation. Let it lead to more art.” Positive Review.

Craig Jenkins on Vulture: “It’s an act of penitent commemoration.” No, it isn’t remotely close to an act of PC. Positive Review.

Peter Marks in The Washington Post: “It’s elegant, its austere, it’s elegant.” It is certainly austere- Positive Review.

Elyse Gardner of BBC News: “a meticulously crafted, deeply personal journey with set words and music, with the star alternately accompanying himself on guitar and piano.”  Positive Review.

Chris Jones Of The Chicago Tribune: :He can take you there for he takes himself there and lives there again.” Positive Review.

The problem with all of this is that with the exception of Bobby Olivier, there is zero sense of proportion, that Bruce could get some things right and somethings wrong. These are major publications and they all write in lockstep. It makes you distrust the media on immense levels, it makes you wonder about group think, a decision previously made and that now has to be lived up to. It makes you wonder about the media’s writing on everything, on Trump.



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