The drums clatter, the guitar strums, the organ swells and the piano hits a set of powerchords, as the E Street Band kicks into last chance overdrive. With BORN TO RUN, Springsteen becomes the Boss, and conquers the word.
What comes next is the subject of this well produced documentary. With a protracted legal battle preventing him from recording, Springsteen amasses dozens and dozens of songs, from Brill-building style rockers to rousing soul numbers like “Fire”
When finally able to record, he spends almost a year in the studio, documented by some remarkable found studio footage of the boys at work. With the delay after a sudden success, this has all the hallmarks of having a sophomore slump with a fourth record, yet Bruce’s vision is becoming honed, as evidenced by this footage, to craft a record of great depth and sophistication.
The filmmakers have managed to collect the relevant actors, from the key band members to the estranged former manager at the heart of the legal conflict. Yet, like the album itself and the previous doc assembled for B2R, this is Bruce’s show. Contemporary footage of hum strumming an electric, providing exegetical insight as to the images at the heart of the songs.
Yet it is that vintage footage that’s the most remarkable, from packed concert venues to clowning in the studio. The most compelling is shots of Miami Steve and Bruce sitting at a piano, Steve beating on a dampening pad with drumsticks with Bruce pounding the keys and belting out one of those tunes that could have easily been a huge hit save for the fact that it not match the idiom, the vision held for the “Darkness” record.
Sure, it runs a bit long, and there are multiple “endings” that interfere with the flow. But by the time we see a 2009 performance of the title track, captured at the rehearsal space in stunning sonics, we can forgive these slight missteps. Like the doc that proceeded it, this is an engaging, insightful documentary exploring intimately the creative process, all with a soundtrack that’s simply boss.