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Review: How Brooooce Became the Boss

“The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town” gives a glimpse into the creative mind of the man

Springsteen fever swept through TIFF yesterday, reaching into the streets, far beyond the Edward Norton Q&A session right through to Roy Thomson Hall, where the rocker greeted fans who had stood for hours waiting to see their hero.

Bruce Springsteen is one of the greatest rock ‘n’ rollers in the history of the art form, a blue collar poet who understands the plight of the common man because he grew up in such a home. Is there anyone else, Bob Dylan included who can find such poetry in small town happenings, girls and cars?

There is something raw about his voice, something deeply passionate, as though he was screaming from his soul messages that only those connected to his art would truly understand. Judging by the greeting he received at Roy Thomson Hall for the screening of the new documentary about the making of his album, “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” that’s not a small group.

“The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town” gives a glimpse into the creative mind of the man people call the Boss, and also give us an indication of how he gained that nickname.

The film is unflinching is showing Springsteen as a tough taskmaster with his band and those around him. He knows what he wants, he struggles sometimes to communicate it, and on more than one occasion snaps at his band. I was reminded of the brilliant sequence in “Amadeus,” where on his deathbed Mozart dictates his requiem mass to Antonio Salieri, the latter unable to keep up because Mozart hears the music, finished in his head. It is genius dictating to mediocrity — and while the members of the famous E Street Band are hardly mediocre, they do not share the genius of Springsteen. It was thrilling to see the man at work, to see him evolving so long ago into the man he has become.

With his seminal album “Born to Run” having made the band superstars, the follow-up album needed to something equally fine. By the time they got back into the studio after a lengthy lawsuit, Springsteen had been influenced by new sources — Hank Williams among them — and his music was far different from that first record. There were new themes explored, dealing with the compromises of being an adult and the realization that life, even for a superstar, was going to be difficult. His political awareness was becoming evident in his lyrics, and his growth as an artist was apparent in every song.

The film gives terrific insight into what holds the band together, even in the later years when they split up only to get back together: their passion for creating music. The smiles on their faces as the songs come together — never knowing what they were doing would change a generation – says it all.