Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Monday, July 16, 2012

DVD: Bruce Springsteen ~ VH1 Storytellers

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: rock, Americana
Label: Columbia
Year: 2005
Home: New Jersey

Concert location: Two River Theater, NJ, VH1 Storytellers
Year Recorded: April 2005
Length: 115 minutes

Bonus Features: 15 minute audience Q&A

Members: Bruce Springsteen ~ guitar/vocals/piano

Guest: Patti Scialfa ~ b. vocals


This is the complete concert, including an unaired question & answer session, filmed for VH1's Storytellers tv series where artists explain the songs during the performance. BS takes the approach of doing a stripped down unplugged performance with just his voice, his acoustic guitar, a piano for one track & his wife slipping in for backing vocals on "Nebraska". Considering the show follows the release of BS's third folk release Devils & Dust, it's no surprise that he's chosen an acoustic format, while at the same time looking back to where he came from & the music he's honed it's also a no risk moment, as it might be for other musicians. His songs work well stripped down to their absolute basics & BS's voice is as good as ever. It's a very comfortable set-up that doesn't feel gimmicky or odd, let alone it brings the inherent intimacy of the show & in turn the lyrics right up front. It also helps that BS stays away from some of his bigger hits, that are dependent on an electric guitar thump, for more storytelling songs. He also deliberately choses songs that show different lyrical approaches over the years. The result is anything but a disappointment. For those that know the "Born In The U.S.A." bar band BS this concert will show the side of BS that has kept so many fans coming back even when he wasn't topping the charts. It shows the BS so many of don't remember because of the bigger pop songs on MTV. Actually, he often feels a little bit like Tom Waits without the oddness, particularly when he sits at the piano for "Jesus Was An Only Son" & "Thunder Road". It's a guy who writes songs because it seems like the easiest thing on earth to do. Besides the fact that he might be one of the best aging rock stars, he still performs with the same swagger he had when he was just starting his career. As for the behind the lyrics part of the show he goes line by line through each song. As he says of "Devils & Dust", after performing the song fully: "What's working against the lyrics? The music, that's the sound of resistance. It's the unspoken subtext that the lyrics rest on." BS takes the concept of the show to heart. But, then, he confesses: "How much of this was I thinking about when I wrote the song? None of it. I wrote all of that yesterday afternoon on my kitchen table." Thus, he says more about the show than anyone could, moving right on to "Blinded By The Light", made famous by Manfred Mann, which was a deliberate ploy for a pop hit for producer Clive Davis "with a rhyming dictionary in one hand & a notebook in the other." The rest of the descriptions include lots of humor & float between spontaneous stories & pre-conceived lyrical notes in a notebook that stays by his side. At one point he even sings one of the songs imitating Smokey Robinson. It's a must see moment. Even with notepad in hand & the self-confession of having done some homework, never once does BS feel anything but honest. He's certainly not arrogant or claiming to be anything but a humble songwriter. & he certainly is never less than entertaining. Any fan who hasn't seen this is missing the elder statesman at his best. Any fan that only knows the "Born In The USA" BS doesn't know BS. The fascinating thing about VH1 Storytellers, particularly with BS's chosen stripped down & line by line approach, is the pacing is different. There's no flash or polish. The most low-key performance possible. It meanders & he fumbles. He forgets his harmonica a couple times. You hang on every moment. It might be one of the best VH1 Storytellers made, even though its a long way into the series as episode 62. The fact that he did some prep work might make it less spontaneous to some, but it also makes the show everything it can be. Welcome to my studio ... welcome to my pen & paper. Welcome to the end of the Jersey pier on a late night with a bottle of beer. It's also all about the lyrics. Welcome to English 101. It might only be eight songs but few will probably complain. The bonus feature is a fifteen minute Q&A with the audience that opens with an audience member saying he feels like he knows BS, does he? The response: "No. It's part of the job, that whole feeling like I know you." It might be part of the job but the rest of the talk is unpretentious, unshowy & what is VH1 Storytellers is all about, the person under the persona.

Tracks include: Devils & Dust
Blinded By The Light
Brilliant Disguise
Nebraska
Jesus Was An Only Son
Waitin' On A Sunny Day
The Rising
Thunder Road



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