Few rock and pop performers today can claim the same connection with their fanbase that Bruce has. For those true believers – the ones who have attended scores of shows, and collected bootlegs of the hundreds more they’ve missed – Springsteen & I is nothing less than an affirmation of their faith.
It’s like going to church, a quality that hardcore devotees will tell you is not at all unlike attending a Bruce Springsteen concert itself.
Springsteen & I does very little to alter that, and is unlikely to win over any new disciples. For the already evangelized, to quote the old Lovin’ Spoonful song, that particularly unwinnable argument has always come down to “trying to tell a stranger about rock and roll.”
The short, fan-made movies that make up this film – pared down from some 2000 submissions received by the producers – are the same kind of testimonies you’d expect to hear preached from the pulpit on any given Sunday.
The faithful will instantly recognize the communal, even spiritual experiences shared by fans recalling their most memorable Springsteen concerts here. For those who “get it,” moments like the fan dressed as Elvis who was able to share the stage with Bruce for an impromptu duet on “All Shook Up,” say all that needs to be said about the bond Springsteen shares with his audience.
Springsteen isn’t the first artist to inspire this intense level of devotion, of course – nor will he be the last. The Grateful Dead have their “Deadheads.” Neil Young has his “Rusties.” But since those who worship at the altar of Bruce also have an occasionally irritating tendency to proselytize about it, the detractors have been equally vociferous over the years.
Springsteen & I is unlikely to resolve that debate anytime soon. The unconverted will likely view the typical middle-aged white male fan who breaks down and weeps in his car for no apparent reason as embarrassing (which it kind of is), and the housewife who points out a picture of Bruce to her son and says “Daddy” as even a bit disturbing. Taken on that level alone, Springsteen and I won’t change many hearts or minds (not that he needs it anyway).
The “just see him live” mantra that Springsteen fans have been chanting for decades now, remains the same here as it always has (although the fan-shot concert footage – including some rare, never before seen stuff from Springsteen’s early years – is for the most part surprisingly choice).
Basically, you either get Bruce or you don’t.
But for the fans already certain to add Springsteen & I to their collection, this is a must-own. The best extra on the DVD is the pro-shot footage from Springsteen’s 2012 show at London’s Hard Rock Calling festival (and the historic duet with Paul McCartney on “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Twist And Shout”). Most of the rest – including fan testimonials unseen in the original film – is incidental.
For those otherwise curious about all the Boss-fuss, you can see Springsteen & I playing on Showtime all this month.