Springsteen & I Blu-ray/DVD review

In November 2012, director Baillie Walsh began work on a film in which Bruce Springsteen’s biggest fans described how The Boss and his music have affected their lives. Inspired by the 2011 documentary, “Life in a Day”, Walsh and the film’s producers (including Ridley Scott) sought short, less than five minute, video contributions from these fans. The result was the movie “Springsteen & I”, just released by Eagle Vision on Blu-ray and DVD.

The movie is at times poignant and funny, and provides some interesting Springsteen live concert footage. It’s obvious that there’s a special relationship between Springsteen and his fans.

“Springsteen & I” starts off a little slow, with several fans using three words to describe what “Bruce means to me”, such as joy, passion, and intense. One devotee shows her Springsteen CD’s, DVD’s, and other assorted memorabilia on a kitchen counter, while off camera, her husband asks her Boss related questions. A fan relates how she was brought on stage at a UK Springsteen concert in the “Courtney Cox role” for “Dancing in the Dark”.

UK fan Rachel Gould dances with The Boss onstage in "Springsteen & I"
UK fan Rachel Gould dances with The Boss onstage in "Springsteen & I" | Source

But the film really kicks in at about the 17 minute mark, when a middle aged Springsteen fan chokes up talking about how the The Boss’s lyrics about sadness and triumph (in certain songs) have affected him personally. This is followed by a clip of Springsteen playing “Mansion on the Hill” on acoustic guitar at Neil Young’s first Bridge School benefit concert in 1986.

“Springsteen & I” then takes a 180 degree turn into humor, as Swindon, England’s David Tulloch complains on camera about having Bruce Springsteen music “rammed down his throat 24-7” by his Boss loving wife, Shagufta. He even complains that Springsteen’s legendary three plus hour concerts are too long.

We also meet Nick Ferraro, “The Philly Elvis” impersonator, who Springsteen brought up on stage from the audience during an October 2009 concert. Through the magic of YouTube, we see “Philly Elvis” perform “All Shook Up” and a tiny bit of “Blue Suede Shoes” with Springsteen and the E Street Band. After Ferraro leaves the stage, Springsteen tells the Philly Spectrum audience, “I have no idea where the…he came from” and laughs.

Bruce Meets the Philly Elvis

Springsteen is known for his many songs about blue collar, working class people. A great sequence in the film features a British former factory employee, who talks about saving money for 20 years to fly across the pond with his wife for a “Bruce Trip” and first visit to America in 2000. The four day New York City holiday was highlighted by their attending two Springsteen and E Street Band Reunion Tour concerts at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

For the first show, their seats were located in the top section, nosebleed level, right at the back of the stage. While settling in their seats, the fan describes being met by a “bear-like character in baggy shorts and a beard”, possibly Springsteen’s late assistant/road manager Terry Magovern. The man asked them if they’d like their tickets upgraded, gave them wristbands and new tickets, and told the couple he worked for Springsteen. He accepted no money for the new tickets, didn’t want to be pointed out, and then disappeared. The couple went to their new seats, which ended up being front row, the best in the house. They were overjoyed to be seeing a Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concert, as close as you could get, at the "World's Most Famous Arena".The story is proceeded by video of Springsteen performing a song written about his father, “Factory” (“Factory takes his hearing/factory gives him life/The working, the working, just the working life”), from a 1978 Landover, Maryland concert.

Born to Run from Springsteen & I

Upon the movie’s brief theatrical release last summer, Walsh told Radio.com that he didn’t want the film to include stories that made Springsteen appear to be a rock deity. “There were stories about how generous he is, stuff about 9/11, and he comes off a bit god-like, and I didn’t feel comfortable with those stories” Walsh said. “I think this film doesn’t build Bruce to be a god. There’s an undercurrent that he’s a very decent man, and that does come across in the stories that are told.” Thus, the movie has no mentions of Bruce’s past support for Vietnam and Iraqi War veterans, food banks, Parkinson’s disease research, Amnesty International (The 1988 Human Rights tour), and more.

Bruce Springsteen, Monchengladbach, Germany 2013
Bruce Springsteen, Monchengladbach, Germany 2013 | Source

The disc’s Bonus Material includes six songs from Springsteen and the E Street Band’s London Hyde Park set from July 2012. This is the infamous show in which the concert organizers cut off the power onstage when Springsteen and the E Street Band, joined by unannounced special guest Paul McCartney, played past curfew. Springsteen's face beams as he shares the stage with the ex-Beatle during “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Twist and Shout”.

Another feature, Meet the Fans, finds Springsteen greeting a few of the people shown in the documentary. That includes Shagufta and David Tulloch the non-Bruce music fan. Springsteen tells David, “ I tried to shorten the show for this man, I gave it my best shot, it just didn’t work that’s all”. David relates how he spoke to Springsteen’s manager Jon Landau at this filming about the concert’s length. David says Landau replied, “Just as a treat then, the London one will be four hours. Just for you.”

Twist and Shout, The Power's Cut Off

Picture quality varies during “Springsteen & I”, especially during the live concert footage, which is surprising since Springsteen videographer Thom Zimny is listed as an “Archive Consultant” in the credits. But the brief 1985 L.A. Coliseum clip of “Born to Run” is crystal clear, and bodes well if by chance a “Born in the U.S.A” 30th anniversary tour DVD/Blu-ray is released. No booklet is included with the "Springsteen & I" disc.

The movie might not be one you’d want to watch repeatedly, Still, after viewing the film, it’s easy to see that “The Ties That Bind” Bruce Springsteen and his fans together remain strong..

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