'STORYTELLERS' Boss describes writing songs
The TV show lets artists tell how they created their music.
By RICHARD HUFF
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Don't tune into VH1's "Storytellers" with Bruce Springsteen Saturday night looking for a full-blown concert experience.
Instead, it's an interesting hour-long peek into Springsteen's creative process, something he has been loath to expose in the past.
"Tonight, I'm gonna play a few songs and try to tell you where they came from," Springsteen says at the start. "It's kind of an iffy proposition, because talking about music is a lot like talking about sex. Can you describe it? Are you supposed to?"
Tell the story
The concept for "Storytellers" is simple: An artist plays and walks the audience through the composition of a song.
Springsteen took the concept literally -- maybe too literally -- and showed up at the Two River Theatre in Red Bank, N.J., for the taping with pages of notes about the eight songs he performed.
"I reread them this morning," he jokes, "and I sounded like I was full of myself."
It took two hours for Springsteen to get through the program when it was taped. And executive producers Lee Rolontz and Bill Flanagan had to work to get the show down to an hour.
Yet, despite losing some of the dialogue (sometimes Springsteen described line by line of a song -- and for a couple of songs), they captured the essence of the evening, laughs and all.
And when the songs are mixed with the Boss' thoughts about his lyrics, the times when he wrote the songs and how the music plays against the words, it's an intriguing hour.
"It was my invitation to a long and very earthly journey," he said of "Thunder Road," "hopefully in the company of someone you love, people you love and in search of a home you can feel a part of."
Because he divulges a personal side of himself, Springsteen's approach shifted from occasional unease to complete comfort. And because he had done such a thorough job writing notes beforehand, the show is weakest when he's just reading.
That said, there are still many strong moments.
"Over 30 years, you internalize your craft, and the mechanics of storytelling becomes like a second language," Springsteen says after singing "The Rising." "You speak without thinking, like a second skin you feel with. So you pray to the gods of creativity and aliveness that you remain awake, and alert, and in command of your senses, so that when the moments arrive, you are ready."
Other songs on the show are "Devils and Dust," "Blinded by the Light," "Jesus Was an Only Son," "Thunder Road" and "Brilliant Disguise." Left out because of time were "Nebraska" and "Waitin' on a Sunny Day."
"Songs shift their meanings, when you sing them, they shift their meaning in time, they shift their meaning with who you sing them with. When you sing a song with someone you love, they turn into something else," Springsteen says before performing "Brilliant Disguise," with his wife, Patti Scialfa.
Springsteen fans will find comfort in this hour, while non-Boss believers may be enlightened by the ride.