Bruce Springsteen recently took a break from arena tours for a 236-date run on Broadway that offered fans an introspective look at his catalogue.

Tickets were notoriously difficult to acquire, leaving many rock fans in the cold, but now everyone has a chance to catch the show.

Netflix has released a recorded version titled Springsteen on Broadway. It's long at a little over 2½ hours and, brother, it's intimate.

Replacing the extended jams between songs are personal stories, anecdotes, reflections and jokes. All the while, director Thom Zimny keeps his camera especially tight on Springsteen, often showing the rocker's face in extreme close-up as he sings or tells revealing tales.


The result is a new kind of concert film, one that exposes a rock 'n' roll icon as a human being, as broken and resilient as the rest of us.

Springsteen lays himself bare by telling the truth: He ain't no factory man.

One criticism people have levied at Springsteen over the years is that he isn't the blue-collar guy his songs make him out to be. That's not to say he grew up wealthy, but he wasn't working in auto shops, having meetings across the river and throwing money on bloodstained beds.

While he disavowed fans of these notions in his 2016 autobiography Born to Run, he doles out the actual story of his life throughout the special, from his childhood to the present. For anyone who isn't familiar with his book, his honesty is fairly eye-opening.

"I've never held an honest job in my entire life. I've never done any hard labour. I've never worked five days a week, until right now," he says after playing his first number, Growin' Up from his debut record Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. "I don't like it. I've never seen the inside of a factory, and yet it's all I've ever written about," Springsteen says.

Throughout the special, he tells his own stories. They start off like he's telling musical myths, such as when he's describing buying his first guitar as a 7-year-old. The story begins to feel apocryphal as he calls the guitar "a sword in the stone, the staff of righteousness, and they sell them at Western Auto downtown!"

He spends a full minute describing opening the alligator guitar case and pulling it out - but instead of the moment of divine revelation the audience expects, he punctures the mood with the hilarious truth.

"From the green velvet lining came the sweet smell of a cherrywood cocktail of power, pleasure, salvation, dreams and dreams and dreams. So I took lessons, dedicatedly," he says slowly, as a wry smile crosses his face. "I took lessons for two solid weeks. And I quit. It was too ... hard! ... The lessons were boring! Just give me the three magic chords, please, and let me twist and shout!"


Springsteen has released 18 studio and several live albums, amounting to hundreds of songs. Devoted fans wishing for an evening of deep cuts might be disappointed. He generally sticks to more popular tunes such as Born to Run, Born in the USA, Thunder Road, and The Ghost of Tom Joad.

The setting and the stories, though, imbue them with new meaning. At one point, the musician sits at his piano and tells a touching story about meeting Clarence Clemons, the iconic "Big Man" who played saxophone in the E Street Band, for the first time. Clemons died in 2011.

"He was elemental in my life, and losing him was like losing the rain," Springsteen says sadly. "If I were a mystic, I guess Clarence and my friendship would lead me to believe we stood together in other, older times, in other lives ... working side by side with the sun setting, doing our modest version of God's work. I'll see you in the next life, Big Man."

Only one person can go toe-to-toe with the Boss: his wife, Patti Scialfa.

"She is the queen of my heart, she is my flaming beauty," Springsteen says before recounting the night he met the singer-songwriter who would become his wife.

She's the only other person who appears on the stage during the show, singing lovely versions of Tougher Than the Rest and Brilliant Disguise.

New York Times critic Jon Pareles described Brilliant Disguise as "a heart wrenching song about never being really able to know someone".

But as the spouses sing it softly together, embracing and sharing a kiss when they finish, it feels like they've flipped the premise on its head, as if Springsteen's heart was cynical when he wrote words that he no longer believes - thanks to Scialfa and the music that brought them together.

So much of the intimacy and warmth of Springsteen on Broadway comes from actually seeing the Boss - his facial expressions, the desperation with which he makes that guitar talk - that it's worth watching it on the biggest screen you can find. Audio of the show is also on Spotify.