Springsteen and I is a brilliantly unusual rock documentary made from films taken by fans of themselves talking about themselves and Bruce. They include a Danish groundskeeper who speaks with the twang of the American South, suburban mums, factory workers, former teenyboppers, musicians, a girl graduate truck driver, and one long-suffering man who turns out to be a fan’s husband. As they speak, it becomes apparent that Springsteen attracts the nicest fans. Or perhaps he creates the fans, with his perfect pitch for the stories of working people, his image of flawed but striving decency, his random acts of generosity and his readiness to pierce the big-music bubble and touch people, hug them, jam with them? The Grateful Dead could be argued to have created their fans, and Lady Gaga is obviously trying to create hers.
The historical concert footage is riveting, particularly the long chronological montage of “Born to Run,” his signature song, which comes across like “63 Up.” At the release of the album of the same name in 1975, Springsteen was acclaimed as the next Dylan and the resemblance is clear in the earliest clips. He went more wholeheartedly than Dylan into guitar rock, blues, country and soul, though he still drinks at the well of the archival American folk sound to refresh himself. Rather than trying to come up with all the bits and pieces himself, he assembled rock’s premier big band, the E Street Band, who embellished the songs with superior riffs and solos, particularly for keyboard and saxophone. Springsteen also learned to sing. Next to Paul McCartney, who gamely joined him for a three-set of oldies in his Hyde Park concert last year (included in the showing as a “Cinema Only Extra”), he seemed tanned, rested and ready to run a doomed Democratic campaign for President, with Max Weinberg as campaign manager. And he could get the votes. Those of us who’d never seen him live left the cinema thinking: Where have I been all his life? It is the nature of rockumentaries to promote and they succeed, as this one does, when you aren’t conscious of it till after the credits. (July 21, IFTT)