During these moments of supreme banality, Springsteen & I feels like something that should’ve been a supplement to a deeper, more insightful documentary (especially considering the presence of ace filmmaker Ridley Scott as producer). Thankfully there are some really cool moments along the way that almost justify the entire project. One fan, an Elvis impersonator, was invited onstage during a Springsteen show to perform “All Shook Up.” We not only hear him recount the unlikely story, we see the proof. One aging street busker recalls the day the Boss happened to stroll up to him and perform a 15-minute, impromptu mini-concert. Again, we see video footage to support his story.
A few fans are more philosophical about their love for Springsteen than others. We hear several times from a young, female Asian American truck driver who explains that his music makes her feel that the work she does has importance. An interesting inclusion is a fellow who can’t stand Springsteen, but gets dragged to shows repeatedly by his significant other. What would he say to Springsteen directly if given the chance? “Shorten your concerts.” Along the way, the potential monotony of one superfan testimonial after another is broken up by vintage performance clips.
While there are a number of additional fan submissions included in the bonus features (about a half-hour’s worth) and a “Meet the Fans” montage (ten minutes), the meat of the supplements is the 35-minute excerpt from the 2012 Hard Rock Calling festival at London’s Hyde Park. Honestly, this release would’ve been essential if it had presented that entire concert as the main program and offered the fan documentary as an extra.
This is a knock-out performance featuring “Thunder Road,” “Because the Night,” “Shackled and Drawn,” “We Are Alive,” and concluding with something very special indeed. For the last two numbers, the E Street Band was joined by none other than Paul McCartney. First they do “I Saw Her Standing There,” a song McCartney has done millions of times and has taken on a by rote quality in his own performances. But something about duetting with the Boss seems to elicit real energy and fire in Macca. Then they launch into “Twist and Shout” (never heard McCartney sing lead on that one before!), with everyone clearly relishing the moment.
As for Eagle Rock’s Blu-ray presentation, the documentary itself, by its very nature, doesn’t really need technical scrutiny. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix only comes to life during the concert clips (and even then, it’s all mostly amateur-taped audio rather than soundboard). But the Hard Rock Calling footage looks and sounds tremendous, only serving to emphasize how much more valuable this release would’ve been if there was more of it.