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Here is my review of the second disc:
, April 4, 2002
This review is from: Bruce Springsteen - The Complete Video Anthology, 1978-2000 (DVD)
This collection of music videos shows Springsteen's sometimes love/hate relationship with the music video format. He obviously recognized their value but never quite seemed comfortable in front of the camera. Not surprisingly, the best videos here are the live performance clips, although some of the conceptual pieces are impressive.
Here's a breakdown of some of the highlights (and lowlights):
"Human Touch": The first video of the post-E-Street-Band era, this comes from the same director responsible for "Tunnel of Love" and "One Step Up" and shows the same basic approach. The pictures are pretty but the formula was starting to get a little repetitive by this point.
"Better Days": One of Bruce's least known videos, it breaks away from the "Tunnel of Love" formula, even though its from the same director, featuring a live-in-the-studio performance of the song, interspersed with Bruce clowning with his new band and his kids (someone's kids anyway). The ragged, uneven end to the song is oddly endearing.
"57 Channels (And Nothing On)": I had never even heard of this video before getting this DVD. It's as close as Bruce ever got to the too-literal "match the image to the lyric" school of video. Probably the least interesting pure-conceptual video Bruce has done.
"Leap of Faith": Another video from the same director as the live "Tougher Than The Rest" clip and it shows the same basic approach, mixing in footage from other songs and even other concerts. The performance is energetic enough but the formulaic approach and the lack of the E-Street Band's chemistry undercut the video somewhat.
"Streets of Philadelphia": The video for Bruce's Oscar and Emmy-winning song from the Jonathan Demme movie. Similar in some respects to "My Brilliant Disguise", combining the studio instrumental track with a new live vocal track by Bruce recorded as his walks the aforementioned streets. Clever editing lets Bruce exchange meaningful glances with Tom Hank's character from the movie.
"Murder Incorporated": A live version of the legendary "lost" Springsteen song (It was to be the title track of the album Springsteen scrapped in favor of the more upbeat and accessible "Born In The U.S.A."), this was Bruce's first performance with the E-Street Band in almost seven years. Filmed in front of an audience at a small New York club, the cramped quarters limited the mobility of Jonathan Demme's cameras and the inadequate lighting makes Bruce and the band look almost sinister. The blistering performance, however, carries the day.
"Secret Garden": Bruce's love letter to the fairer sex, he's the only person with a Y Chromosome in this video, showing a large variety of women of all shapes, sizes and ages, emoting for the camera. Tender and beautifully filmed, this is one of my favorites of Springsteen's recent videos. There are actually two versions of the video on this DVD, the second using the alternate "Strings" mix of the song.
"Hungry Heart": This is a really strange bird, apparently filmed for an anniversary release of the song in Germany, it was filmed "live" in Berlin with a new vocal by Bruce over the original 1980 instrumental track. Features shows of a Bruce playing with a local band and driving around the city past sections of the Berlin Wall.
"Dead Man Walking": Unlike "Streets of Philadelphia", this video features significant footage from the film that insprired the song, making it more of a trailer for the film than the video. Nothing wrong with that I guess, but makes for one of the lesser contribution to Springsteen's video oeuvre.
"The Ghost of Tom Joad": In a lot of ways, this is the spiritual cousin to "Atlantic City", in that it combines black and white documentary-style footage and nothing of the singer (except as a silhouette in a couple of shots). This is the more effective of the two because the footage is a better match to the theme of the song.
"The Ghost of Tom Joad": The second video for the same song, this was taken from Bruce's appearance on the Tonight Show. I don't have anything against this performance or this song, but if they were going to take a second video for a song from a talk show, I would have preferred the version of "Murder Incorporated" he did on the Letterman show earlier that year.
"Highway Patrolman": Here's a video with a long, unique history. A song recorded in 1982 inspires a Sean Penn film in 1991 and the two get combined for a music video in the year 2000. I'll say this much, it made me want to see the film ("The Indian Runner").
"If I Should Fall Behind": Shot during rehearsal for the 1999-2000 reunion tour, this features a single camera shot of the E-Street Band trading vocals on Springsteen's 1992 song. Unfortunately, the vocals are a bit overwrought. The version on the second disc of the "Live in NYC" DVD is more restrained and more effective.
"Born In The U.S.A.": If the last video was OVERwrought, this video is badly UNDERwrought. From Bruce's appearance on the "Charlie Rose Show", the best description I can offer of Bruce's performance is "autistic." It's a kinder word than "lifeless." If I had been a member of Springsteen's inner circle, I would have sat on Bruce until he came to his senses and left this video off this collection. It brings the second disc to a limp and unsatisfying conclusion.
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