Western Stars


(spoiler free)

The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen released his nineteenth studio album earlier this year to critical acclaim and now he’s inviting audiences to share in a special cinematic event to celebrate it. ‘Western Stars’ is a live concert performance of the songs from this latest album weaved in amongst introductions from the man himself alongside old footage of his life. This sounds like a no brainer for fans of Springsteen but coming off the back of Gurinder Chadha’s crowd-pleasing comedy drama ‘Blinded by the Light’ it might just see the appeal of this cinematic event slightly extend its reach!

There’s no denying that this is a great way to experience the album for the first time. Instead of a simple play through on Spotify audiences are treated to insights from Springsteen about his inspiration for each song and get to see him performing live. However, with that in mind ‘Western Stars’ will probably be enjoyed most by those already familiar with the album and who can anticipate hearing the songs that they’ve come to appreicate in the months since its release.  The film adopts a fairly formulaic pattern in which we see Springsteen introduce a song, he then goes on to sing it and this repeats for the entire running time. The premise is simple and this pattern is never deviated from, delivering exactly what it promises from the trailers and promotion. The segments in which Springsteen talks about the writing process are very produced and whilst he shares the odd nugget of wisdom these moments are somewhat of a jarring contrast to the more authentic performances he then goes on to deliver. It’s when he performs that this film comes to life. However, nearing the end of the film the authenticity from his performances finds its way into his insightful segments, and never more so than when he talks about his marriage to his wife Patti.

For some viewers his moments of reflection and explanation may come across as a little too self-indulgent, although this is unlikely to be an issue for fans. Musically though it’s hard to fault what audiences are presented with. The album itself is full of great tracks, brought to life wonderfully here by the thirty piece orchestra accompanying Springsteen as he performs. The presence of such a group of musicians might come as a surprise to newcomers but the blend of Springsteen’s voice and the music created by the orchestra are a match made in musical heaven. Furthermore, Springsteen provides a score to the overall production which helps connect the film in a way that the more specific content maybe doesn’t fully succeed in doing. The album makes for a great set list and as a result the film has a steady yet chilled pace that allows for an extremely enjoyable introduction, or more than likely a replay of the track-list for  fans and audiences, culminating in a fantastic rendition of a popular country pop song that sends the film off in style.

So if the success of this concert film lies in the set list then the Boss brings it. Fans will not be disappointed and will relish the chance to see him perform this album to a live audience, especially considering the lack of an album tour. It’s a shame that the over production of the non performance segments don’t always match the raw and authentic vocals Springsteen brings to the stage and can feel over rehearsed at times. However, Springsteen in some ways transcends these issues and their ramifications never linger long enough to detract from the effortless enjoyment that ‘Western Stars’ brings in abundance.

Written by Hamish Calvert


Question: What is your favourite concert film?
(Leave your answers in the comments section below!)

Thanks for reading this review and please let us know what you thought about the movie! Leave a comment below or drop us a tweet over at @HCMovieReviews.

Thanks to Movie House Cinemas for screening access

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