Tag Archives: Bruce Springsteen

Born in the Southwest USA

Western Stars

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

Back in 1985, with “Born in the USA”-mania raging, Bruce Springsteen’s small acting performance in the John Sayles video for “I’m On Fire” spurred talk of a Boss move to feature films.

Aside from a cameo or two, it never happened.

But now, after becoming both an author and playwright in the last five years, Bruce hits the big screen as both star and co-director of Western Stars, an enchanting and meditative live presentation of his 19th album.

Gathering his current, non E-Street band, a 30 piece orchestra and a select audience of friends inside his one hundred-year-old barn, Bruce brings emotional new life to his musings on “the struggle between individual freedom and communal life.”

Tramps like us already know these songs are not what many expect from the Boss. There are no fist-pumping anthems here. These are lush pop symphonies, draped in the 1970s California pop sounds of Brian Wilson, Jimmy Webb, Glen Campbell and even Burt Bacharach.

Bruce has toyed with these styles as far back as “New York City Serenade,” but it was his 2007 album “Magic” that unveiled the first major step toward the musical promise fulfilled by Western Stars.

And though the comments by Bruce and band about the music “taking on a life of its own” sound like self-serving cliches, these live performances back them up. His speaking voice may show his 70 years, but Bruce’s singing only seems richer and more inviting.

“Sleepy Joe’s Cafe” is powered by a more joyous swing and “Sundown” soars with a newfound drive. For both “Stones” and “Moonlight Motel,” by sharing one mic with wife Patti Scialfa, Bruce adds layers of confessional intimacy.

The soul searching is only bolstered by dreamy, between-song vignettes from Bruce and co-director Thom Zimny. Amid gorgeous vistas, charming home movies (the Boss likes tequila!) and flashbacks to the America that shaped him, Bruce shares the songwriting inspirations he found in cars, risk, lies and love.

Longtime fans have often heard Bruce speak of the “conversation” he’s always had with his audience. In that vein, after his autobiography and broadway show, Western Stars is a can’t miss portrait of both the artist and the human being taking life’s journey.

And if you’re new to the conversation, welcome. Today’s Springsteen may not be quite what you’re expecting, but the days are still pretty glorious.

Tramps Like Us

Blinded by the Light

by George Wolf

Warning: this article contains some serious pro-Boss bias. Like, copious amounts.

Because a Springsteen fanatic like myself reviewing Blinded by the Light is somewhere close to your racist Facebook friend from high school reviewing Fox News. Expecting a thumbs down is like, oh, I don’t know….

Trying to start a fire without a spark?

Cool, we understand each other.

But beyond the singer or the songs, the real joyous triumph of the film is how it unabashedly adores not just this one particular artist, but the entire concept of inspiration.

Based on the memoir by Sarfraz Manzoor, the film rewinds to the late 80s when Javed (Viviek Kalra in an irresistible feature debut), a British teen of Pakistani descent, is trying to navigate high school amid the austere gloom of Thatcher conservatism and the ominous rise of far-right bigotry.

Drowning in a sea of synth pop, Javed’s life changes when his friend Roops (Aaron Phagura) gives him some Springsteen cassettes.

As both a veteran of that awakening and a witness for others, I can tell you director/co-writer Gurinder Chadha nails it with a perfectly rockin’ bullseye. Bruce’s lyrics dance across the screen and around Javed’s head, his fist pumping and his face beaming with a newfound sense of purpose.

Though his father (a terrific Kulvinder Ghir) bemoans the influence of “that Jewish singer” (“He’s not Jewish – and that’s racist!”), Javed, bolstered by encouragement from a sincere teacher (Hayley Atwell) and a new girlfriend (Nell Williams), takes the first steps toward a future of his own – as a writer.

Chadha (Bend it Like Beckham) manages a wonderful tonal balance, juggling humor (watch for that hilarious Rob Brydon cameo), coming of age pathos, blaring 80s hits, a mighty timely social conscience and even extended dance sequences.

Cynicism doesn’t stand a chance. Chadha keeps the heart on Manzoor’s sleeve beating loud, proud and unmistakable, knowing this borders on cornball and not giving a toss.

For Springsteen (who has been notoriously shy about licensing his songs) to give this project his complete blessing lends an immense layer of gravitas for longtime fans. Until that next Bruce concert, we are a choir eager for the preaching.

But replace Bruce with Aretha, Kurt Cobain, Ed Sheeran or Taylor Swift and the exuberant joy of Blinded by the Light still works.

Inspiration, wherever you find it, is worth celebrating. Embrace it, and it might even lead to your….glory days.

One, two, three, four!

Weekend Countdown: Bruuuuuuuce!

Maybe you just can’t wait until Tuesday’s screening of Springsteen and I, or maybe the E Street doc is not showing near you. Well, if you are suffering from a Springsteen movie jones, we have the cure.

The Boss has lent his talents – and in one case, his actual person – to bunches of films. Most of them are even worth seeing.

6) Light of Day (1987)

In concert, Springsteen has recalled the tale that led him to pen the song Light of Day, which Joan Jett sings for the film of the same name. Filmmaker Paul Schrader had sent him a screenplay entitled Born in the USA – a title Bruce stole outright for this other little song he’d been working on. In return, Springsteen wrote the rocking number that may be the only non-ridiculous thing about Schrader’s film.


5) Limbo (1999)

John Sayles’s weird romance turned noir turned adventure/thriller will keep you guessing. I suppose it’s only fair, then, that you may not immediately link the film’s song Lift Me Up to Springsteen. Singing in an unusual (for that time in his career, anyway) falsetto, Springsteen’s lyrics underscore the characters’ beleaguered search for redemption.

4) The Wrestler (2008)

Mickey Rourke’s succinct and frighteningly honest characterization of a performer with a shelf life found a lovely, lyrical mirror in Springsteen’s song of the same name.


3) Dead Man Walking (1995)

Springsteen garnered an Oscar nomination for his positively devastating song to accompany this positively devastating film. Beautiful, brutal and tragic – like the film – Springsteen’s lyrics put you in the conscience of a man on death row.

2) Philadelphia (1993)

Springsteen’s spare, haunting tune describes a conscience wrestling with  shame, abandonment, redemption, and resignation. Underscoring the humanity in Jonathan Demme’s flawed but powerful film, Streets of Philadelphia won Springsteen an Oscar.

1) High Fidelity (2000)

Springsteen’s The River joins a slew of kick ass songs on the soundtrack, but High Fidelity boasts something the rest of these flicks do not. Bruce himself shows up, guitar in hand, to offer advice to the romantically misguided Rob Gordon (John Cusack).


These People Love Their Boss


by George Wolf


Look, I admit it. Asking me to review a Bruce Springsteen documentary sounds about as fair and balanced as Sean Hannity giving his thoughts on The Sarah Palin Story. I’m a Springsteen devotee, no doubt about it, but Springsteen and I will not only thrill fans such as myself, but also give the uninitiated a glimpse into what drives the Cult of the Boss.

From Executive Producer Ridley Scott, the film doesn’t focus as much on Bruuuuuce as it does his legendary fan base. Utilizing the same approach that drove Scott’s Life in a Day (2011), and Japan in a Day (2012), Springsteen and I is a story told by everyday people.

Bruce fans all over the world were encouraged to submit their own videos, describing how his music has affected them, the place it holds in their lives and, well, anything else they felt moved to share.

Director Baillie Walsh assembles the best of the bunch, mixing in Springsteen performances from the archives, and in many cases, video evidence from moments when the lucky ones rubbed elbows with The Boss.

You can’t help but smile when you hear stories of the man who went to a Bruce show dressed in full-on Elvis, or the women who made an “I’ll be your Courtney Cox” sign, and then watch as Bruce invites them to share his stage.

It’s an entertaining approach, and one that also allows for more heartfelt submissions, such as the man who suddenly bursts into tears when describing how the music has changed him, or the couple who, despite never having been to a Springsteen show, feel part of the fan community simply by dancing to Bruce music at home.

Of course, Springsteen isn’t everyone’s favorite(?), and one women’s fandom is hilariously described by her husband. After years of tagging along to Bruce’s marathon performances, the man pleads for Bruce to “make his concerts shorter!”

Springsteen and I is a thoroughly enjoyable take on the power of music, and much like a Springsteen show, offers a lengthy encore.  Stay put after the credits roll for some great concert footage and a backstage peek at a special Bruce meet and greet session.

Lucky bastards.


Springsteen and I will show again in Columbus, and all over the world, July 30th at 7:30pm. The local showing will again be at Lennox. Outside Columbus, check here for a showing at the same time.