Following his globally successful 19th album Bruce Springsteen has released its magnificent cinematic accompaniment, Western Stars.
The album Western Stars, released this June, took Springsteen’s music in a new direction. The new record takes Bruce away from the iconic sounds of the E Street band and towards more serene orchestral strings. This stark contrast to his usual style prompted The Boss and Thom Zimmy to create a cinematic experience instead of going on the road.
The majority of the movie is set in a 140-year old barn located on Springsteen’s property. Cathedral-like in style, the barn is a glorious setting for the film but more than that it speaks to you in a language everyone can understand. The soul that the barn exudes is indescribable. Once the film enters the barn it feels as though you have stepped through the soundhole of an instrument and are now sat inside. Of course, the barn’s interior is inviting, cosy and in Bruce’s own words “filled with the best ghosts and spirits”.
Springsteen stands in front of a live audience and is joined by his wife Patti Scialfa, an orchestra made up almost entirely of strings and, for the most part, his trusty 1960s red Gibson guitar. Patti’s presence is fundamental to the film and without her, the film’s honesty would be so impactful. By the look in his eyes, you can tell Bruce has something new he wants to say and together with Patti, he shares with us their joint story.
As ever, Springsteen is still singing about cars. Although, this record also touches on themes of Springsteen’s character that he is only now coming to terms with; his tendency to hurt the people he loves, his longing to make changes for the better and the gravitation pull he feels towards running back to emotional pain.
Between each track, there is a black screen and a pause, which allows the audience to absorb the bleak themes and gives the movie rhythm. Bruce also narrates short, meditative mini-films about the songs. Some mini-films show him with his horses or driving but sometimes we are treated to archival footage of family, weddings, dancing, and his honeymoon with Patti. To quote The Boss “these are the things that connect us”. These clips not only tie the songs together but tie the audience with one another and with Bruce. We as people are all motivated by similar things, love and family, and often we face the same demons. Western Stars shows us that the legend that is The Boss is no different. We have always known Springsteen understands the common man but now we know he still is one.
His songs “Tuscon Train”, “Western Stars”, “Drive Fast”, “Stones”, and “There Goes My Miracle” are the obvious focal points of the movie. Although, Bruce’s mournful attitude to his mistakes and his gritty honesty are the key takeaways from the Western Stars film.
The film wasn’t perfect. His voice is still as strong and earthy as ever but just the right amount of mistakes are left in, and that’s the point. Sometimes, the way music is expressed can be too perfect, too manufactured and too thought-out. The Western Stars film showcases musical expression in a raw and authentic way that relates to the everyday person.
The Boss knows that his audience wants to both feel at home with his music, knowing they can rely on him to sing the words we all feel, whilst also surprised by the art he creates. Western Stars does all of that and more.