Review: Bruce Springsteen Exhibit at the National Constitution Center

Casual fans can appreciate the show, but it’s designed for the most hardcore Springsteen fans.

The National Constitution Center is arguably one of the most confusing tourist attractions in our history-steeped town. The Constitution doesn’t even live there! And the programming can be a little … strange. (Remember the Princess Diana exhibit?) But, this time, they’re housing an exhibit that is as American as apple pie and fun to boot.

“From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: the Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen” is a chronological exhibit showcasing the rise of Springsteen and his E Street Band from their origins through “Born to Run,” which music historians consider the band’s first real success. Originally an exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, “From Asbury Park to the Promised Land” opens dramatically with Springsteen’s prized 1960 Corvette, which was his first big purchase after achieving success and was still registered to the Boss when it was shipped to Cleveland for the original show. Behind the car is an over-sized photo of Springsteen leaning against the car. The image—and many others throughout the exhibit—was taken by well-known rock-and-roll photographer Frank Stefanko, whose dining room was the backdrop for Springsteen’s iconic “Darkness on the Edge of Town” album cover.

Courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Though it would be easy to poke fun at a non-historical exhibit at the National Constitution Center, this one makes sense. Springsteen’s music chronicles the plight of the working man and the American Dream. The marriage of Springsteen and a museum dedicated to honoring our rights as American citizens feels natural.

Hardcore E Streeters will geek out over the iconic blue jeans, white t-shirt and red cap worn by Springsteen on the cover of “Born to Run” as well as his writing table—which Springsteen personally offered to chief curator Jim Henke for the exhibit—and an extensive collection of notebooks. Longtime concert goers will appreciate a corner of the exhibit dedicated to fans’ song-request signs, a staple of E Street concerts.

Courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

 

The exhibit is paced well for casual fans with bright red signs guiding viewers through the most notable moments in the history of the E Street Band, including Springsteen’s Oscar for “Streets of Philadelphia,” the band’s Grammys, a collection of guitars and the keyboard-operated glockenspiel played by former band member Danny Federici.

Adding serious authenticity to the exhibit is Springsteen’s well-known Fender guitar, which he “borrowed back” from the Constitution Center with the intention of playing it at the Grammys, which aired five days before the opening of “From Asbury Park to the Promised Land.” At the last minute, he chose to play another guitar, but used the Fender later in the week for a photo shoot before returning it to the exhibit.

Expected to draw thousands of visitors to the Constitution Center, this is a well-curated, interesting exhibit.

From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: the Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen” runs through September 3.