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.