“Western Stars” shines bright on the big screen

Adam Zerman, Herald Contributor

After 14 months and 236 shows, Bruce Springsteen ended his run on Broadway on Dec. 15, 2018. Six months later, he released his 19th studio album “Western Stars,” which is considered to be Southern California pop and country inspired.

While the album does not feature his famous E Street Band, it does include a 30-piece orchestra along with standard backing instruments. In addition, the focus is on his voice and acoustic guitar.

Unfortunately, Springsteen decided he would not tour for this album, due to another album he’s currently working on with the full E Street Band. However, he still wanted to do something for the album, so he chose to make a documentary-style film of him performing the “Western Stars” album.

The film first premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Then, as a part of Fathom Events, theaters across the country showed early previews of the movie on Oct. 19 and 23. At a theatre in Freehold, New Jersey where Springsteen grew up, fans who were there to see a preview of the movie got a special surprise when Springsteen himself came out to introduce it.

The movie was about life in general and the individual characters he wrote about in each of the album’s songs. Throughout the album, Springsteen writes about made-up characters and sometimes uses stories from his life.

In the film, Springsteen gives an introduction to each song before he plays it, just like he did on Broadway. During the introductions, the film transitions to short clips where he talks about the struggles people go through in life and how he incorporates that into his music. Some of the songs are about heartbreak, happiness and true love. There is even one about a bar on the side of the road where truckers and bikers go to drink and listen to music.  

The concert segment of the film was shot in front of a small audience of friends and family in a breathtaking 100-year-old barn with sky-high ceilings. As Springsteen puts it, the barn is full of “the best kinds of ghosts and spirits.”

While the short clips between songs are filmed in both Southern California and other parts of the southwest, Springsteen included old photos and videos of himself, his wife Patti and the rest of his family.  

One of the shining moments of the show was Springsteen’s rendition of Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy.” 

While this type of music is not the most popular today, the film is worth watching before it leaves theaters. It gives the audience a new perspective on life and includes amazing music and footage.