Bruce Springsteen's Letter to You Review
“The joy I feel when I'm with my band is hard to describe," says Bruce Springsteen, but it's very easy to see in these 90 minutes of Thom Zimny’s marvellous documentary, Letter to You, released to accompany Springsteen’s new album of the same name. In keeping with the tone of the record, this film is a gift to fans. A rumination on ageing, loss and hope. It’s mainly a gorgeous black and white, set within Bruce’s recording studi-cum-cabin, but for the intermittent pieces of archive footage some of which haven’t been seen before.
Springsteen is in his 70s and can be forgiven for a pipe and slippers kind of vibe. It follows on from his last album, solo release Western Stars, but if you’re starting to wince a little and think The Boss has left his Bluesy punk rock roots behind, then you’re reckoning without The E Street Band. They keep each other young and hungry, even when there is nothing left to prove. The easy camaraderie and banter of these old friends is wonderful.
Almost all the new songs are played in full. Bruce gives a quick demo of what he’s written and the guys gather round with notebooks, then go off and between them, the songs are crafted. As Springsteen says at one point, the songs are his ideas, inspiration and writing but they belong to all of them. Each of The E Street Band contribute and watching them come together is fantastic. There’s a hint of bickering, only a good-natured hint, because we’re in the company of the closest of friends.
E Street are very professional geriatrics and if you have the slightest interest in how songs are crafted, there’s lots of nerdy details. And then you remember what they can still do on stage - Springsteen is known for playing way beyond what he should because the band love it so much. They relish it still. Surely they could all afford to call it a day and take it easy? Nah. If anything they’re even tighter and on this evidence, Letter to You is to be a classic album.
I liked Western Stars but E Street have something special as an ensemble. The new album includes a couple of reworked unreleased demos from the 70s, which are fabulous with an old fashioned Dylan feel. Ghosts is a key track, probably the most free wheeling, and that theme features heavily. Vintage footage, memories of friends gone, but fuel still in the tank. They continue to leave contemporaries behind. Springsteen is in great voice and form and that band remains peerless.
If you’re a Springsteen fan you should need little persuasion to seek this out. If you’re not, I worry for you. As we stare another bout of confusion and lockdown in the face, he’s a calming and fiercely relevant voice. His songs speak of a lifetime of ups and downs and though his lifestyle and success would seem to separate us from him for eternity, his Letter to You is written with a reassuring and timeless integrity. The fact E Street remain the best rock band of their era and Little Stevie can still bang out a goosebump-inducing solo is a bonus too.
Bruce Springsteen's Letter to You is available to watch on Apple TV+ from October 23.