The best way to tell the story is to play the music ...
Schattenmann | 09/05/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD is the expanded and re-edited version of a show aired on VH-1 in the US in April 2005. The concept of VH1 storytellers has its problems, as Springsteen admits right at the start of his session: "Tonight, I'm gonna play a few songs and try to give you an idea about where they come from. It's kind of an iffy proposition. Talking about music is like talking about sex. Can you describe it? Are you supposed to?"
8 songs from 6 different albums are featured on this DVD. With most of them, Bruce's explanation consists in going through them again line by line and making some comments. Especially in the later part of the show, it's nice to see him getting carried away. He more or less starts really playing the song again ... Doesn't that indicate that often times, the music really speaks for itself? Or like someone said (possibly Miles Davis): Writing about music is like dancing about art.
For Springsteen fans who have been to some of his shows, particularly on the Tom Joad and D&D tours, many aspects of this show are not much of a surprise. In contradistinction to many other musicians and bands, this is a rock and roll singer who regularly talks to his audience and sometimes at length. And it has been captured on official releases before: just think of the long introduction to The River on Live 1975-85. So, on the one hand, there is not much that is new or surprising. On the other hand: it has all the excitement and joy and human touch that Springsteen fans are used to. So go and get it!"
Disarmingly honest and with perceptive insights into human n
"Any inclination to put Bruce Springsteen into the mold of being a shallow pop performer is wiped away after watching "Bruce Springsteen - VH1 Storytellers".
"VH1 Storytellers" is a television program where singer-songwriters perform some of their songs and tell about the how and why of each song's creation. One can argue that the program is more for the education and inspiration of budding songwriters than for fans of the artists invited to participate. Still, I'm reviewing this DVD version of "Bruce Springsteen - VH1 Storytellers" as a fan, not as an aspiring songwriter.
In this program Bruce sings eight songs, accompanying himself on guitar or piano. No band. On "Brilliant Disguise" he invites his wife Patti Scialfa to sing backup, but otherwise he is alone on the stage.
Between the songs Bruce tells the story behind each song. This results in about 40 minutes of music and 56 minutes of talk, at least for the PAL version of the DVD. (Timing may be a bit different on the NTSC version.)
Bruce's discussion of his songwriting is very enjoyable, even confidence-inspiring. He comes across as a disarmingly honest person with perceptive insights into human nature. I found myself liking him a lot, much more than I had expected, having my prejudices regarding what show business and success does to people.
For example, Bruce mentions that he wrote up a lot of notes in preparation for this program. He then quips that on reviewing the notes he thought they made him sound very self-centered, and figured that for that purpose he didn't need notes!
And when discussing "Thunder Road", he dissects the line, "I got this guitar and I've learned how to make it talk." His verdict: "Probably the hokiest line I ever wrote - and I've written a few of them, let me tell you!"
Bruce presents both serious songs and fun songs. The serious songs are followed up by serious discussions of personal ideals vs. politics and reality, the influence of religion (his Catholic background) on his songwriting, and the multiple personalities that we each present depending on the situation. All of which I found fascinating - I was impressed by his understanding and his modesty.
Following the main program there is a 16-minute question and answer session. This too was very interesting, with Bruce talking about his feelings and motives as a songwriter. For example, when asked about "Devils and Dust", he mentions that he has a couple of boys who are 14 years old, so a parent's concern about his child going off to war has become relevant for him.
A few final notes about the DVD itself. As mentioned above, for the PAL version the program is 96 minutes and the Q&A session is 16 minutes, for a total of 112 minutes. Subtitles are available in Dutch, French, German, Italian and Spanish, but not, unfortunately, in English.
Highly recommended, even if you're not a Bruce Springsteen fan.
Thank you bruce!
W. Laroche | Aurora, Co United States | 09/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am so glad Bruce put this out. While I loved the VH1 storytellers there is really no comparison. This has great sound and it makes the show on vh1 just an appetizer. The format is much better and the full explanations from Bruce much nicer to have instead of the chopped up ones and the question and answer period is wonderful. Bruce does talk to his fans in many many ways and we miss some of the long raps he would do at shows until about 88 or so. He definitely talks to us now and there are interviews now that didn't use to happen as often but this is just classic Bruce and how he thinks, performs and talks. GET IT!"
For TOTAL Bruce Fans -- or Aspiring Songwriters
Nicholas J. Lester | Park City, Utah | 11/06/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you love Bruce and go back to the Asbury Park days, you'll love this DVD. Bruce's sense of humor and raw honesty make this so enjoyable for fans. And if you're a musician (or even ex-musician like me) his insights into composing songs are worth the $12.
Bruce took his task of "decoding" his lyrics seriously -- bringing with him a book of notes to which he continually refers. He reminded me of a very hip college professor who is in love with his topic.
The performances themselves are OK, nothing special, but certainly up to Bruce's high standard (in most cases). Sure, he's older (aren't we all?) and it's slightly disappointing to see R&R's most dynamic and honest performer grow slower. So if you can't or don't remember the original Bruce, get one of his earlier DVD performances (but not the Barcelona DVD, it's awful) and definitely pick up "Darkness on the Edge of Town" to get the man at his most powerful. (To really understand the power of his songs and performances get the anniversary edition of Born To Run, which includes a DVD performance of Bruce and the ESB during their first UK tour.)
My daughter knows nothing of early Bruce. She saw this DVD and wondered why so many people love Bruce (yet she loves Dylan's "Unplugged" and Don Henley's "Live", so she has a lot of taste for a 16-year-old). I can see her point. If you don't know Bruce's body of work and can't see this DVD as just a small part of his career, this DVD will disappoint.
But for long-term fans, I highly recommend it."
One of my favorite episodes of storytellers
Jeremy Deats | 02/10/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are two sides of Bruce Springsteen, we have Bruce Springsteen the solo artist who gives us folk albums and then we have Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street which give us rock albums.
So on this episode of Storytellers we find Bruce Sprintsteen the solo artist giving us insight into songs (some popular others much less known) that span his career as an artist in general. Bruce treats the show as if his audience are aspiring songwriters. He delves into how he approaches the craft of songwriting more than focusing on the individual stories and I think that's why I really enjoyed it so much.
Aspiring songwriters will likely watch this one over and over again, casual fans and fans of the more up tempo side of Bruce may be disappointed. "