The Boss set the tone for the first video release of a full-length E Street Band concert

By Brian Hiatt
November 14, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

Film editor Thom Zimny spent much of the last year looking Bruce Springsteen dead in the eye — and took home an Emmy for his trouble. As Zimny pieced together Springsteen and the E Street Band’s HBO concert special, ”Live In New York City” — and then nearly doubled its length for the DVD version released last Tuesday — he kept in mind one piece of advice from Springsteen’s manager. ”Jon Landau gave me very clear instructions: watch Bruce’s eyes,” Zimny says. ”If you watch Bruce’s eyes you’ll have understanding of when to cut — there’s drama right there.”

Springsteen spent a considerable amount of time with Zimny in the cutting room, hoping to achieve what he never had before: a definitive visual document of his storied performances with the E Street Band. Although Springsteen had employed film crews at numerous concerts in the past, most notably during the ’84-’85 ”Born in The U.S.A.” tour, he has always held off from releasing that footage in any form beyond the occasional single-song clip. ”I promised myself a couple years ago that we would film everything we did, whether we used it or not,” Springsteen tells Bob Costas in a mini-documentary included on the ”Live in New York City” DVD. ”There are no real records of the early days of the band, just small pieces of things.”

Zimny, whose work on April’s HBO special won him an editing Emmy, had a substantial record of the final two nights of Springsteen’s ’99-00 reunion tour with the E Streeters — more than 100 hours of multi-camera footage, directed by Chris Hilson. As much as he wanted to capture the spirit of the music, he says he also hoped to capture the band-members’ personalities ? ”to edit towards movement and facial expressions and away from the beat… Bruce was very clear on how he wanted it to look; he wanted to convey the community of the band and the audience.”

So, before saxophonist Clarence Clemons embarks on his lengthy solo in the 1975 opus ”Jungleland,” we see him look to the sky, apparently praying for strength before taking a long, fortifying breath. We see Springsteen in a fading spotlight, his eyes squeezed shut in contemplation, moments after the band finishes a rare live performance of the 1973 nugget ”Lost in the Flood.” Throughout, we see guitarist (and ”Sopranos” star) Steve Van Zandt grin, roll his eyes, and generally delight in rocking out once more with his old friends.

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