Western Stars

It wasn’t what I expected. Perhaps it was better. Sometimes on the plane you don’t know what you are choosing.

Bruce Springsteen’s song “Western Stars” is about am aging cowboy/actor. I had thought the movie was a dramatization, with the eponymous album as a soundtrack. I figured it would kill an hour or so on a recent flight.

Instead what I got was a concert film, recorded with a 30-piece symphony, in Springsteen’s century-old barn. Interspersed were ruminations on the songs and some archival footage, and a few clips filmed to accompany the songs. It wasn’t about an aging cowboy, but more about an aging rock star.

In recent years I have found Bruce Springsteen, always a thoughtful writer, to have become more reflective. 
He’s addressing the big questions of love and loss and the fragility of relationships. Western Stars continues that Odyssey.

Able to admit his own mistakes, his own fragility, Springsteen leads the viewer/listener on their own journey of self-discovery. You could say it is a voyage into the heart of God. Or so it seemed to me when I heard these words:

Love is one of the only miracles God has given us daily proof of on Earth. And while we do our best to disprove this idea, love is there to better us but you must work for its blessings. Love and the creative life it births is a small sweet sign of God’s divinity within us.

When the album came out I streamed it a couple of times. I thought it was pleasant, but can’t say that it overly impressed me. That may be because I was using it as background music while walking, rather than listening to the words. Or maybe because it was more reflective than anthemic.

With the added visuals of the film, the songs suddenly had meaning. Springsteen’s between-song commentary also gave them new life.

There were a hundred or so movies I could have chosen on the flight. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have chosen something music-related – I’m usually interested in something with a plot.

On this occasion though I am glad I took a chance on Western Stars.

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