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on September 5, 2005
This DVD is the expanded and re-edited version of a show aired on VH-1 in the US in April 2005. The concept of VH1 storytellers has its problems, as Springsteen admits right at the start of his session: "Tonight, I'm gonna play a few songs and try to give you an idea about where they come from. It's kind of an iffy proposition. Talking about music is like talking about sex. Can you describe it? Are you supposed to?"

8 songs from 6 different albums are featured on this DVD. With most of them, Bruce's explanation consists in going through them again line by line and making some comments. Especially in the later part of the show, it's nice to see him getting carried away. He more or less starts really playing the song again ... Doesn't that indicate that often times, the music really speaks for itself? Or like someone said (possibly Miles Davis): Writing about music is like dancing about art.

For Springsteen fans who have been to some of his shows, particularly on the Tom Joad and D&D tours, many aspects of this show are not much of a surprise. In contradistinction to many other musicians and bands, this is a rock and roll singer who regularly talks to his audience and sometimes at length. And it has been captured on official releases before: just think of the long introduction to The River on Live 1975-85. So, on the one hand, there is not much that is new or surprising. On the other hand: it has all the excitement and joy and human touch that Springsteen fans are used to. So go and get it!
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on May 6, 2006
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.

Rennie Petersen
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on November 6, 2005
If you love Bruce and go back to the Asbury Park days, you'll love this DVD. Bruce's sense of humor and raw honesty make this so enjoyable for fans. And if you're a musician (or even ex-musician like me) his insights into composing songs are worth the $12.

Bruce took his task of "decoding" his lyrics seriously -- bringing with him a book of notes to which he continually refers. He reminded me of a very hip college professor who is in love with his topic.

The performances themselves are OK, nothing special, but certainly up to Bruce's high standard (in most cases). Sure, he's older (aren't we all?) and it's slightly disappointing to see R&R's most dynamic and honest performer grow slower. So if you can't or don't remember the original Bruce, get one of his earlier DVD performances (but not the Barcelona DVD, it's awful) and definitely pick up "Darkness on the Edge of Town" to get the man at his most powerful. (To really understand the power of his songs and performances get the anniversary edition of Born To Run, which includes a DVD performance of Bruce and the ESB during their first UK tour.)

My daughter knows nothing of early Bruce. She saw this DVD and wondered why so many people love Bruce (yet she loves Dylan's "Unplugged" and Don Henley's "Live", so she has a lot of taste for a 16-year-old). I can see her point. If you don't know Bruce's body of work and can't see this DVD as just a small part of his career, this DVD will disappoint.

But for long-term fans, I highly recommend it.
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on September 10, 2005
I am so glad Bruce put this out. While I loved the VH1 storytellers there is really no comparison. This has great sound and it makes the show on vh1 just an appetizer. The format is much better and the full explanations from Bruce much nicer to have instead of the chopped up ones and the question and answer period is wonderful. Bruce does talk to his fans in many many ways and we miss some of the long raps he would do at shows until about 88 or so. He definitely talks to us now and there are interviews now that didn't use to happen as often but this is just classic Bruce and how he thinks, performs and talks. GET IT!
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on September 25, 2013
This was very entertaining, as one would expect, a much more intimate format than a concert performance. Bruce is sincere and also charmingly funny as he tries to explain the lyrics of some of his more confounding creations, at one point resorting to "catholic school, catholic school, catholic school...."
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on March 6, 2014
Not a whole bunch of songs.. But explanations as to what he was thinking and feeling as he wrote them. I cannot and never would have seen The Rising in the light he wrote it in. Now it always brings tears to my eyes as does Into The Fire..
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on August 5, 2013
This is an intimate concert with a singer, songwriter who usually lets his music speak for him - usually. In this solo performance, he shares memories of the songs giving us a little insight into the artist and his music with sometimes rambling commentary but it rolls from one song through to another and was a delightful change from "The Boss" persona.
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on January 20, 2013
I am a diehard, long term fan and have always known he is a prolific storyteller via his lyrics. I have also known that he is very engaging, personable and down to Earth. All of these things were reinforced a zillion times over when I watched this. He is a fascinating individual...eloquent in his explanations yet simple, full of humor, all works. He clearly loves what he does and knows he has IT, yet doesn't revel in it or flash it around. He sees himself as on a mission to unite us, to enlighten, to give voice to our collective needs, thoughts and struggles. When he accepted the Oscar for best song..Streets of Philadelphia...he said, "The purpose of music is to help everyone see through our veils of differences, to embrace each other for who we are and I hope that I have done my job in this manner". I once heard him say that "he melds his voice to the story he is telling and when a moment comes in our common history, I want to be there". He has been for 40 years and I hope he will be for many, many more to come. We will ALL be the better for it.
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on June 6, 2013
Very revealing look at Bruce and his writing process. The story of how he handles his fans expectations of who he is and the reality that he has a vice he still wants to indulge is worth the price of the DVD.
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on August 20, 2012
If you like The Boss then buy this DVD, it's that simple. It's a great insight into his thought process and opinions of his own work. This DVD contains only eight songs but given the fact that this program was originally made for TV it's not surprising and Bruce did his best to choose at least one song for each type of song he does. And you also have to take into account the transitions between each song where Bruce has some fun and makes some pretty good jokes (he's really laid back in this performance).

I only wish he could've done Born to Run as well, just FYI Born to Run sounds great acoustically. Which brings me to an important point all eight songs are done solely by Bruce on either the piano or acoustic guitar (meaning if you prefer electric guitar to acoustic you may not like this DVD). There is one exception, Brilliant Disguise is done as a duet with Patti Scialfa (Bruce's Wife).

I love this DVD and watch it over and over, and I even listen to it while getting ready in the morning. I'm probably a little bias because I like the sound of acoustic guitar but truthfully the songs he does are fantastic acoustic it's not like he tried to do Human Touch, Pink Cadillac, or Tenth Ave Freeze Out (just to name a few) that I truly believe should only ever be done on Electric. Anyways, enough rambling (I hate long reviews), bottom line buy it and if you're not sure it's only 10 bucks I'd say it's worth taking a risk.

Here is a set list with the instrument it's done on:
Devils & Dust (Acoustic Guitar)
Blinded By the Light (Acoustic Guitar)
Brilliant Disguise (Acoustic Guitar)
Nebraska (Acoustic Guitar)
Jesus Was An Only Son (Piano)
Waitin' On a Sunny Day (Acoustic Guitar)
The Rising (Acoustic Guitar)
Thunder Road (Piano)

Oh, and the Question and Answer Bonus Feature is really good.
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