Judge Patrick Naugle is an E-Street irregular.
I can remember the moment when everything changed. It was on a spring break trip with my father and brother in 1992. We went down to Florida to scuba dive and as we were leaving for the airport we stopped by a music store. I had heard the song "Human Touch" on the radio and liked it well enough, so I picked up the album of the same title on cassette. From that point on I was hooked. Not just hooked, but addicted. It didn't take long for me to collect every single Bruce Springsteen album on cassette. Eventually I purchased the entire catalog on CD, and began attending record conventions to pick up bootlegs of Bruce's shows and outtakes from his albums. Eventually I was able to catch Bruce on tour in Normal, Illinois on his "The Ghost of Tom Joad" solo tour (sans the E Street Band). I'd have to wait a few more years to see him reunited in concert with the E Street Band, but when it happened it was pure unadulterated magic. All told I've seen Bruce Springsteen close to a dozen times in concert, most recently this past spring on the "Wrecking Ball" tour. It was an amazing night of music and spiritual renewal by way of rock and roll.
I share all of this because a story like mine is at the heart of Springsteen & I. It's a documentary (only 77 minutes long) made by the fans and punctuated with performances by Springsteen, some of them archival and some of them from recent concerts. There is no linear storyline, no character arc, no amazing revelation at the end; this is simply Bruce Springsteen fans telling their stories to the camera as directly as possible. It's a powerful film filled with laughter, crying, joy, excitement, melancholy, faith, and renewal.
The most powerful thing about Bruce Springsteen is his connection to his fans. Time and time again we witness Springsteen going out of his way to extend himself to the audience. One fan dresses like Elvis and is invited up on stage to dance and sing songs by "The King." Another holds up a sign saying he just got dumped by his girlfriend and Bruce invites him on stage for a hug. Yet another gets the chance to dance with "The Boss" ala Courtney Cox in the "Dancing in the Dark" music video. Stories like this can't help but pluck your heartstrings; not because of how extraordinary Bruce is, but because how extraordinary they are to ordinary people. The people who've sent in their videos are from all over the map—everywhere from the United States to Poland and Germany is covered. Bruce's reach is further than just blue collar workers or New Jersey-ites. If music is the doctor of the soul, Bruce may just be the resident surgeon of rock and roll.
Springsteen & I is worthwhile for those of you are already part of the congregation, and for those who want to see what all the fuss is about (or at least hear fans say what the fuss is about). One of the most powerful statements I can muster—and it's true to my very bones—is that no other performer or artist will ever touch me and change my life the way Bruce Springsteen has. I've spent hours—nay, days, weeks, months—listening to Bruce's songs. I will follow the musical path he has laid out for us until either his or my dying day. I have never met Bruce Springsteen and most likely never will. But we are blood brothers by song, by lyrics, and by the mystery of rock and roll. That's one of the most beautiful things I'll ever experience.
Springsteen & I (Blu-ray) is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen in 1080p high definition. The image quality of this film is all over the map. Some of the footage of Bruce Springsteen playing on stage looks anywhere from terrible to excellent. The fan videos are the same way; some of them look very good, others are pixilated and rather mediocre. The soundtrack is presented in a fine DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround mix in English. The audio track fluctuates between front heavy (during the interviews) to sonically aggressive (during the concert moments). Those coming into Springsteen & I should expect an only decent video and audio presentation. Also included is an LPCM mix in English, as well as English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Netherlands, and Portuguese subtitles.
Extra features include Springsteen performances from Hard Rock Calling 2012 ("Thunder Road," "Because the Night," "Shackled and Drawn," "We Are Alive," "When I Saw Her Standing There," Twist and Shout"), some extra fun submissions, and a featurette called "Meet the Fans."
Springsteen & I is clearly preaching to the converted. I'm not sure how much non-fans will enjoy this documentary (it really doesn't focus on Bruce as much as his impact on others), but if you're curious what all the rabid fandom is about, this isn't a terrible place to start.
A worthy trip down Thunder Road.
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