Netflix's Bruce Springsteen special does the impossible, it makes The Boss even better
Released this week, it's essential for any Bruce Springsteen fan.
During an old interview, Bruce Springsteen was once asked to explain the relationship that he has with his fans.
In typical fashion, The Boss perfectly summed things up by describing it as an ongoing conversation that never ends. They talk, I listen. I talk, they listen.
On this note, Springsteen on Broadway is the perfect union of three important facets of his personality.
1) His remarkable talent as a musician
2) His wit as a writer - if you've never read it, Born to Run is a wonderfully honest and moving autobiography - and most importantly...
3) Those who just love his ability to tell a good story.
Right from the off, Springsteen harnesses those onstage skills that he has perfected for the last five decades.
We're told that he's from New Jersey - a place where "everything is tinged with a little bit of fraud, including me" - and this easy-going and self-deprecating manner just effortlessly wins you over.
Tales about his childhood are nonchalantly introduced before the viewer is met with opening track 'Growin' Up'.
What's truly impressive about the performance is that every song is elevated by Springsteen's personal attachment to the lyrics and how they came into being.
Every word has a story behind it and just like the best Q&A imaginable, there's loads to be gleaned from these little fables, tales and anecdotes.
At one moment, he's performing impromptu beat poetry, the next is an unflinching deep-dive about his own insecurities and anxieties.
Whether he's ecstatic, introspective, joyful or mournful, there's never a moment when The Boss isn't absolutely fascinating company to be in.
Don't get too dragged down by any preconceived sense of melancholy though, because he's got a wicked sense of humour and Springsteen's ability to take the mickey out of himself is present at every turn.
For example, he launches into a youthful anecdote about how he felt his band were the hottest property in all of New Jersey.
One night, a local bar owner tells him the exact same thing... and then the same guy goes and sleeps with Springsteen's girlfriend. Nothing quite like a kick in the teeth to bring you back down to earth!
A future superstar that's travelling the road in squalor. A genuine Catholic boy that just loves to sin. A young man that desperately wants to leave New Jersey but still takes draws strength from his mother.
It's this duality that Springsteen revels in - the ability to be everything to everyone - and yet, he openly admits that he's a massive fraud.
Despite being known as The Boss, he happily tells the crowd that he has never worked five days a week in his life but somehow, he can still describe the life of a working man better than anyone else.
Another example, at a time when he couldn't even drive, he wrote 'Racing in the Street'.
One thing that is clear throughout is that Springsteen was born to run away from New Jersey. The guitar was his one salvation, his ticket out, his rebellion, his awakening, his means for a bigger life, his future.
Ultimately, it was our gift.
Even the darker moments of the performance are tinged with levity and colour.
For example, he discusses the problematic relationship that his father had with alcohol.
It's serious stuff but it's impossible not to laugh at the flippant joke Springsteen makes that due to his dad's Irish heritage "whatever he drank, went straight to his face".
Like a master storyteller, The Boss knows his audience inside out and he can instantly switch the mood of the room with one look or one joke.
This being said, it's still about the songs and as previously mentioned, you'll come away from the feature with a newfound appreciation for some old classics.
Even after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's, Springsteen's mother still loves to put on her shows and dance. Springsteen famously told us all that "You can't start a fire without a spark." He's completely open about the fact that his mother is still providing him with his spark.
At one moment, The Boss is as articulate as the likes of Twain and Hemingway when talking about his brand of Americana and its endless sense of opportunity, adventure and beauty.
After creating that image in our minds, it's impossible not to be swept up by 'The Promised Land' because the lyrics are elevated by the atmosphere that they're delivered in.
Moments later, he's switching gears by sharing his views about The Vietnam War and the massive trauma it continues to have on the American psyche.
Homelessness, drugs, PTSD, physical injuries and how Vietnam touched his own life - mainly via two musicians that he was incredibly close to - are all mentioned in a moving segment that's bookended by a spine-chilling version of 'Born in the USA'.
Elsewhere, we get stories about the E-Street Band's most missed member - saxophonist Clarence Clemons - and reflections on romance, marriage and fatherhood.
There's also discussions about how Trump is the antithesis of the ties that bind and the values of community, hard work and decency that The Boss' music embodies.
Following on from this, 'The Rising' somehow takes on a whole different significance for the modern era because just like so many other tracks that were performed during Springsteen on Broadway, the song that somehow defined the post-9/11 mood of America is equally applicable to today's climate.
As the credits roll, one thing is abundantly clear and it's that Springsteen's relationship with the audience is reciprocal.
There's ebb and flow. One feeds off the other.
He says that his version of 'Dancing in the Dark' should be the kick in the arse to get people moving, but without this sense of energy and love from the crowd, Springsteen admits that he would probably still be stuck in Freehold, New Jersey.
Thank god that he's not, because Springsteen on Broadway is the most joyful conversation that fans of The Boss will have this Christmas.
You can see for yourself when it's released on 16 December.
Clip via Netflix