Springsteen & JanWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | email@example.com
The audience at Screen 13 at the Westfield Franklin Park Cinema on July 22 was small but enthusiastic. Gathered (at $15 per ticket) to view a special screening of the Bruce Springsteen documentary “Springsteen & I,” the crowd laughed, clapped and sang along with the film. But a particularly loud burst of applause broke out from one row when a woman was shown during a montage of fans thanking Springsteen for his music.
“I discovered Bruce in college (Ohio State, mid-’70s) from a lot of East Coast friends,” she said. “I first saw him live at Joe Louis Arena on Aug. 11, 1981, fell in love with him and went up the next night and saw him again.”
It is not unusual for fans like Dolgin to remember the exact date they first saw Springsteen, and to be able to vividly describe the inner reaction that inspired lifelong fandom.
“My favorite album changes but usually it’s ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town,’” Dolgin said. “My favorite songs are ‘Drive All Night’ and ‘Thunder Road.’
It’s not hard for Dolgin to prove “Thunder Road” is her favorite song; her license plate reads “THNDR RD.”
Dolgin said she has seen Springsteen “72 times and counting,” which may seem obsessive to some but in the world of Springsteen fandom probably ranks her in the lower mid-tier.
“Springsteen & I,” directed by Baillie Walsh, is a compelling compilation of fan-submitted testimony and rare archive footage of Springsteen performing during the course of his 40-plus-year career.
The film manages to avoid the “Star Wars” geekdom such fan-driven projects can become mired in, as its subjects are so clearly emotionally connected to Springsteen’s music in an organic way that transcends idol worship.
The film features fans telling stories of distant followings and intimate interactions with The Boss. One man worked his way onstage in Philadelphia to sing with Springsteen and the E Street Band by dressing like late-model Elvis Presley. Footage of the actual appearance are interspersed with the man and his wife telling the story, with the incredulity and surrealism as if it happened last week.
The film is not a talky history of Springsteen, but a series of love letters from people literally all over the world. More than any other American rock star, Springsteen has cultivated a base of cross-generational, multiclass fans.
One man, who mows the grass at a stadium where Springsteen is performing, waxes nostalgic about being a 9-year-old boy at his first Springsteen concert. He eventually gets to meet Springsteen, and his misty, intense reaction to receiving a small token from the musician is one of the film’s highlights.
The well-chosen testimonials (the film was produced by Ridley Scott) include an Asian truck driver with a master’s degree, a beleaguered spouse who thinks Springsteen’s concerts last too long and a street busker who convinces Springsteen to pick up a guitar and duet on a few streetcorner songs.
The film also includes six songs from last year’s Hyde Park concert with Springsteen and Paul McCartney, shown in stunning high-definition on the big screen.
Dolgin said she first heard about the documentary from the fan web-site Backstreets.com and Facebook.
“I submitted a five-minute piece (that was what they had asked for),” she said. “The producers sent me an email at the end of May letting me know that the part where I say ‘Thank you’ to Bruce would be included. I loved the movie; it was just extra special that I was included even if it was only for a couple seconds.”
Dolgin said her friends and family have been very excited for her as they know what a big fan she is.
Will she be back at the theater when “Springsteen & I” is replayed at 7:30 p.m. July 30?
“Yes, I will see it again,” she said, “and of course buy the DVD when it comes out.”
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.