Review: Western Stars (2019)

Western Stars (2019)

Directed by: Bruce Springsteen, Thom Zimny ​​| 83 minutes | documentary, music | Starring: Bruce Springsteen, Patti Scialfa

The career of Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen has peaks and slightly less steep peaks. The first category includes records such as ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ and ‘The River’, but also the fascinating autobiography ‘Born to Run’ from 2016. The second category includes the rest, including the album ‘Western Stars’ from 2019. On this listen-friendly album, the Boss sounds like a folksy crooner from the early 1970s, with songs about cars, aging and love.

The film ‘Western Stars’ is a special concert recording of the entire album, with a cover of ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ as an encore. Between the songs we see images of horses, cars and cacti, with Bruce’s voice in a contemplative mood in the background. The concert was recorded for a handful of friends and acquaintances in a pimped out barn on Bruce’s ranch.

It’s hard to judge the movie without saying something about the character of the music. They are all beautiful songs, but of the most harmless kind. It is difficult to reconcile the music with the man who once sang about a darkness on the edge of town, about the exciting things that happen in Candy’s room and about a violent duo who start their murder spree in the small town of Lincoln, Nebraska. It is also uncomfortable not to hear a fat sax or cutting guitar in the musical breaks, but an orchestra of a few wind players and a lot of strings.

Also getting used to are the lyrics that Bruce mumbles to himself in between the music. Like a third-rate rural philosopher, he debits one cliché after another, with the seriousness of a man who has been through it all and knows it all. The kitschy images of horses, cars and Bruce’s tired head don’t make it any better.

And yet this is a fine concert film. The most important thing in such a project is consistency and the film succeeds in this with flying colors. Music, images and texts fit together perfectly and provide a fifteen minute long, tasteful immersion in the universe of Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen. That we do this from the living pit and not jumping around on the floor is an inevitable consequence of the advancing time. A cliche that would have fit well in the film, by the way.

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