Bruce Springsteen has yet to perform a single song from Western Stars in public. However, earlier this year he gathered the large backing band he used on the album at a barn on his New Jersey estate and played it straight through — along with a cover of Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy.”
The whole thing was filmed for the movie Western Stars, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last month and rolls to theaters across America on October 25th. (A soundtrack is coming out that same day.) You can check out a preview of “Sundown” right here.
“As a performance film, Western Stars is a pitch-perfect example of why this music needed to be played and heard live,” Rolling Stone Entertainment Editor David Fear wrote in a review of the movie. “On record, you can feel Springsteen working his way through some uncharacteristic styles: Jimmy Webb-style C&W lite, Brian Wilson’s baroque pop, Everly Brothers-like crooning, musical arrangements that wouldn’t be out of place on an old Harry Nilsson joint…. Seeing him take on those songs on a stage, however, and you get the sense he owns all of it now — he’s turned all of these influences into a seamless Springsteen sound.”
The film was directed by Springsteen himself along with his long-time collaborator Thom Zimny. They got the idea to make it when Springsteen realized he wasn’t going to tour behind the album. Still, he wanted fans to be able to hear the songs in a live setting. In an interview with E Street Radio, Springsteen said the enthusiastic reaction to the LP also motivated him.
“I thought the record was a little off to the left and I really didn’t know quite know what kind of response it was going to get,” he said. “But just walking around and talking to fans on the street and seeing how the record was received was very exciting.” The film lets fans get an approximation of the live experience while Springsteen pursues what he refers to as “other things.”
He hasn’t explicitly spelled out those “other things” at the moment, but he has said that he’s writing songs for a new E Street Band album that will likely lead to a tour. The group has been completely inactive since the end of the River tour in early 2017.