Filmed with a 30-piece orchestra, Bruce Springsteen plays tracks from his latest album, 'Western Stars', intercut with reflections on life, music, love, his career and the characters of his album.
Despite his abiding humility, Bruce Springsteen looks like a star when his face is up on a cinema screen. It's telling, then, that 'Western Stars' - an album about a fading actor who wants to "die with his boots on" - is getting a cinematic release, despite it being something of a misnomer.
You can't really call 'Western Stars' a movie in the traditional narrative sense, though the album and the performance is populated with scenes of extraordinary emotion and weight to them. At 70 years of age, Springsteen is as vital and as authentic as he's ever been and his performance and showmanship never falters throughout 'Western Stars'. Between each song, Springsteen talks candidly and movingly about his life and his music, offering up an examination of the song before launching into it.
There are precious few singer-songwriters out there as long as he's been who still maintain that kind of work ethic, and that willingness to examine themselves as critically as he does. It's not ego and it's not self-obsession, more an honest kind of reflection at where he's been and where he's going. He's never far from his traditional themes and topics, but in 'Western Stars', Springsteen attempts to reconcile them with his career.
Songs like 'Tucson Train' and 'Somewhere North of Nashville' feel like Burt Bacharach-era tracks, and using a live orchestra gives the songs of common struggles a dignity and beauty that are sometimes overlooked. Likewise, the choice of venue - an old barn on Springsteen's ranch - gives it all an intimacy and a joyfulness that just pours out of the screen.
Even if you're not taken by Springsteen's music, it's still a richly made concert movie and there is an authenticity in it that's compelling. If you're a fan of his music, it's required and essential viewing and the best way - short of a live show - to experience it.