At age 70, Springsteen forgoes his more typical, invigorating concert experience for an intimate, reflective live show; it's achingly beautiful, tender, and personal, with strains of regret and hope. Marking Springsteen's directorial debut alongside Thom Zimny, Western Stars could rank with the best concert films ever made, with its combination of wonderful songs and touching orchestration and Springsteen's confessional asides. The songs are surprisingly moving; they're great stories of everyday Americans, but -- rather than having the heart-pumping energy of Springsteen's early work -- these songs are wistful and quiet, looking back to find a way to look forward. It's possibly one of the best collections in the singer's career.
In the interludes, Springsteen talks about the songs (he says he doesn't know why he keeps writing songs about cars) and about the characters in the songs -- such as an old cowboy actor -- and how they're based on his own feelings and discoveries. He talks about his former destructive behaviors and how he's worked to put them behind him. He talks about how everyone has "broken pieces," and how, maybe, we might find someone whose broken pieces fit with our own. Western Stars evokes cowboy imagery, certainly, but it's also romantic and philosophical. Springsteen seems to understand the human condition, and, after spending this time with him, we feel a little bit of peace.