WHAT I LIKED: Coming from the greatest living showman in all of rock and roll, it should come as no surprise that Bruce Springsteen's 'Western Stars,' is one big, impressive show. It's chock full of glossy slow-mo camerawork, flashy cowboy clothing, breathtaking landscape shots and utterly beautiful orchestral renditions of the album's songs in an old barn. But like all the greatest shows, the legend and imagery surrounding the showman isn't just there to intrigue and enchant, but mainly to service a set of earnest and delicate characters, stories and themes that reach out and touch your soul.
In this case those stories are all about retired movie-stars, stuntmen, cowboys and hitchikers running from life's pains and commitments. They've all set out to find their promised land but have come to realise over time that it doesn't exist without the frightening things that they've run from. Those are moving themes that speak in many ways to the heart of the human condition, and they're articulated beautifully by the songs and expanded further by the segments in between where Bruce also hints at how he personally relates to their plights. This is after all a songwriter who's spent his entire career writing about running, and according his memoir, the demons in these songs bear a close resemblance to his own. This is him once again letting us in just the right amount so that the show comes across as earnest without feeling too personal or inaccessible, and that's the perfect juggling that only a great performer can achieve. Here it ultimately makes for a thoroughly moving experience that will have you engaged in the stories and themes, and enchanted by the showman who's bringing it all to life.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: If anything, Bruce could have gone deeper with the characters and themes, both on the record, and in the segments between the songs here.
VERDICT: A great showman uses all the tools available - including a smattering of his own self - to deliver earnest, moving stories that touch the soul. Bruce Springsteen is the greatest showman alive, and 'Western Stars,' is further proof of that fact.