I'm going to go ahead and get this out of the way right now: I hate Bruce Springsteen. I have hated him for years. Every so often he'll write a good song or two, and I absolutely adore David Bowie's cover of "It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City," but as for the man himself (I refuse to use the term, "The Boss" as I also cannot stand that), well, he just doesn't do it for me. Maybe it's his "I'm just a normal joe like anyone else with my blue jeans and checkered shirt" image, which is as fake as any stage persona, or his scratchy attempt at a lived-in voice, but I just cannot stand hearing the guy sing his own songs. And then you throw in his insipid "rock anthems" like "Born In The USA," which are simplistic to the point of actively draining the intelligence of the listener, and you don't get a pretty package.
However, I'm not the only person in the world, and many of the other people co-habitating this planet enjoy The 'Steen (I like this moniker much better than "The Boss" and will proceed to use it as often as I can). I understand that I am clearly not the target audience for this Blu-ray release of Springsteen and the Sessions Band live performance in Dublin, so I will attempt to review it keeping in mind that some people actually will want to watch it.
I was actually pleasantly surprised at this live set. Not surprised with Springsteen, but with his group, the Sessions Band. The only 'Steen backers with whom I am familiar are the E Street Band, and I have no idea whether any of the E members are in the Sessions Band. Whether they are or not, this group of musicians Springsteen has collected are highly talented. Their level and the variety of their musicality is really stunning, and kudos to Springsteen for jazzing up so many established numbers with new and interesting arrangements.
Many of the songs themselves come from Springsteen's Pete Seeger cover album The Seeger Sessions. By very dint of the fact that The 'Steen didn't write a lot of these songs, they have an immediacy and freshness that he can no longer get with his own material. Bruce still sounds like Bruce, with his gravelly voice. And he still looks like he's having a bowl movement every time he opens his mouth, but I suppose that's par for the course.
The entire group is very spirited and lively, with plenty of spirit and verve. Bruce lets several other members of the band sing and take the spotlight, which gives the set a nice communal atmosphere. Like I said, this isn't my bag, but I could easily see a longtime fan enjoying the change of pace Springsteen introduces here, especially with such strong musical performances from his backing band.
The tracklisting for the disc is as follows:
"Old Dan Tucker"
"Eyes On The Prize"
"Further On (Up The Road)"
"O Mary Don't You Weep"
"If I Should Fall Behind"
"My Oklahoma Home"
"How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live"
"Long Time Coming"
"Open All Night"
"Pay Me My Money Down"
"When The Saints Go Marching In"
"This Little Light of Mine"
"Blinded By The Light"
The Blu-ray Disc:
Sony BMG presents the show in an AVC encoded 1080i 1.77:1 transfer. Having been shot in high definition, the image benefits from the straight digital to digital transfer, often looking very sharp. However, as I have pointed out several times before, live concerts generally do not make the best material for high definition. As usual, a lot of the stage is generally covered by colored lights, which flash rapidly, making it difficult to get good detail or have the image stay entirely stable. A middle of the road transfer.
Sony offers up three audio tracks on this release. The first and most pleasing is the uncompressed PCM 5.1 track. The fidelity and sonic detailing really blew me away. I was digging everything about it, and I didn't even like the show! For even the mildest Springsteen fan, this brilliant PCM mix makes this worth at least a rental. We also get a very strong PCM stereo mix and a relatively disappointing Dolby Digital 5.1 track as well.
Performances of "Love of the Common People" and "We Shall Overcome."
I myself do not like Bruce Springsteen, but I can see how a fan of his would enjoy Live In Dublin. Both Bruce and The Sessions Band play with energy and conviction, and the show is more than just another greatest hits rehash. The sound on this Blu-ray disc has to be heard to be believed. I'm not really sure this disc would get a lot of replay, though, even by Springsteen fans, as it's so off the beaten track for him. Rent It.
Daniel Hirshleifer is the High Definition Editor for DVD Talk.