Bruce Springsteen can do little wrong in the eyes of his fans, but his latest HBO special, “Bruce Springsteen’s High Hopes,” isn’t worthy of the man or his music. Essentially a 28-minute infomercial for Springsteen’s latest album, it’s a once-over-lightly look at the singer-songwriter’s collaboration with guitarist Tom Morello that spoons out only dollops of insight. Director Thom Zimny previously helmed the more expansive “The Promise: The Making of ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town,’ ” but this follow-up is either too short or about 20 minutes too long.
Weaving together interviews, rehearsal segments and tour footage, “High Hopes” gets Springsteen to talk a bit about how he comes up with lyrics (“It’s just feeling”); why a guy his age keeps hammering away performing for hours onstage night after night (“He has to”); or his commitment to putting out something with the heft of a record in this digital, a-la-carte age.
For the most part, though, those threads — including how Springsteen maintains the eye of the tiger, as it were, and stays so relevant in what seems to be a younger man’s game — are left hanging, quickly segueing to anecdotes or footage devoted to pushing this latest batch of songs.
If that’s fine for a press kit, it’s a stretch for HBO to market this as an “in-depth documentary,” when depth is perhaps the furthest thing from it.
The pay service obviously has a relationship with Springsteen — with good reason, given the devotion of his following. The E Street Band will be honored April 10 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which HBO will air the following month. The special also ties in with the band’s U.S. tour dates beginning in April.
Still, Springsteen’s reputation as an artist stems in part from his integrity, unabashed activism on behalf of the little guy and the passion he brings to his work. By those measures, lending all that authority to a trifle like “High Hopes” makes the Boss look like just another corporate boss — for the moment, anyway, one of those self-promoting, pragmatic, bottom-line-oriented types.