There is nothing quite like being On the Bus. You don’t have to explain or justify the appeal of the Grateful Dead or Phish or even Pearl Jam to fellow passengers. There’s an immediate understanding of the importance, meaning and connection to the artist and you move on from there to the details of individual songs, setlists, onstage banter, catalog, lyrics, arrangements, etc. And during each interaction all the great joy and fulfillment of what art brings to human existence comes welling up inside of you to create a massive full-body smile or in some cases a jagged emotion followed by a flow of tears.
During the documentary Springsteen & I the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame icon’s fans put into words what millions around the world have either thought or were unable to articulate. The film’s concept is simple enough. Mix scores of videos made by devoted followers with relevant live concert segments. Because the filmmakers successfully create a coherent and engrossing storyline it allows this to be of interest to anyone who doesn’t have a strong bond to Springsteen and his music.
You can’t help but be pleased while listening to tales by those who had that rarified moment of dancing, singing and hugging Springsteen, and then watching the pro-shot or fan-shot footage of these incidents as well as unseen live performances of “Dancing in the Dark,” “I’m On Fire,” “Thunder Road” and much more. There’s the man dressed as Elvis Presley leading the E Street Band in a couple of covers by the King, a guy who got dumped by his girlfriend and a street performer who coerced the Boss to join him. In each case, the participants still retain a warm glow felt by the experience.
Testimonials describe how his music has enriched their lives. In some cases their words are meant only for others who have maintained a similar lengthy obsession after a song, album and, in most cases, concert burrowed into their soul. For others it’s a matter of explaining to the uninitiated the feelings that are elicited by a charismatic performer whose million-dollar bank account doesn’t conflict with his ability to tell stories and celebrate the working stiffs on the planet while playing shows that become life-affirming experiences.
Providing heft to the package are bonus features that include six songs from Springsteen’s Hard Rock Calling 2012 set when he shared the stage with Paul McCartney on “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Twist and Shout” as well as several specific submissions and a Meet the Fans section.
At 80 minutes, Springsteen & I is an efficient chronicle featuring a small sample of those affected by his nearly five decades as a songwriter and performer. With a new album and tour coming up countless more stories could easily be added for a sequel.