Springsteen, band born to run a reunion tour

Washington Times, 1999-02-01, by: George Varga
Fans who hope the impending reunion of Bruce Springsteen and his fabled E Street Band will be a long-term affair may be in for a disappointment. That's the word from "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" drummer and band leader Max Weinberg, who on March 1 begins a leave of absence from the NBC show to start rehearsals for perhaps the most-anticipated rock reunion tour of the decade.

"I think you can only reunite once, and that's what this endeavor is," Mr. Weinberg says from the Manhattan studios for "Late Night," whose seven-man band he has led since the show's 1993 debut. The full lineup for the reunited E Street Band has yet to be disclosed, though bassist Garry Tallent and guitarists Nils Lofgren and Steve Van Zandt also have been confirmed.

"This came about around the holidays, when Bruce asked me," Mr. Weinberg says. "I'm very much looking forward to the tour, and to returning to 'Late Night' sometime after summer. I have found the second act of my life at NBC with Conan to be something I truly and deeply enjoy.

"It's been enormously satisfying to me, and I was in no way looking to make any changes, temporary or otherwise. This tour is the result of positive dialogue between all the parties - Conan, NBC and Bruce's people."

Mr. Weinberg was the third and best-known drummer in the E Street Band, which he joined in 1974. His solid, no-nonsense playing anchored Mr. Springsteen's music until 1989, when the Boss unexpectedly disbanded the group, which had become synonymous with his name.

Apart from a brief E Street Band reunion in early 1995 to record a few new songs and film a video, Mr. Weinberg has not formally worked with Mr. Springsteen during the past decade. He is featured, however, on many of the 66 songs on "Tracks," the new four-CD box set that features 56 previously unreleased Boss songs recorded between 1972 and last year.

"When the E Street Band broke up in '89, my reaction was I would never get to play these songs again," says Mr. Weinberg, a married father of two. "And I've gotten over that; we've been broken up for 10 years and I've gotten over it. But now I'm really looking forward to playing these songs again, and bringing the maturity I've gained in the last 10 years to them."

The veteran drummer predicted the reunion tour would begin after several weeks of rehearsals, which are scheduled for early March. He declined to disclose when or where it would begin, though several unconfirmed reports indicate the tour will likely kick off in Europe before hitting the United States in early summer. No cities or dates have been confirmed.

Mr. Weinberg did say the tour will be in progress by April 13, when he'll celebrate his 48th birthday. He was less certain whether the E Street Band would perform with Mr. Springsteen on March 15 in New York City, when the Boss will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

"No one's ever mentioned that to me," Mr. Weinberg says. "It's safe not to assume anything. But I'm delighted he is being honored in that fashion. No one deserves it more."

Mr. Springsteen and the E Street Band's reunion tour will not be in support of an album of newly recorded material. Consequently, it could be viewed by some as an onstage embodiment of "Glory Days," the bittersweet 1984 Springsteen song about nostalgic yearning.

"When you play with the E Street Band, nothing about that experience resembles nostalgia," Mr. Weinberg says. "It's extremely immediate, it's hard work, it's the top of the field, as far as I'm concerned. I can tell you this There will be plenty of music that we've never played live before.

"We have never played a lot of the songs that people will be hearing. We've recorded them, but not played them live. I think the 'Tracks' box-set is a good indication of a lot of the things I'm working on now to learn for the tour .

"I've had to deal with a repertoire that I've never performed, to a large extent, so it's sort of like new songs. Plus, there are all the songs people would expect to hear. . . . And it's up to the performers to imbue those songs with the proper emotion. In terms of the E Street Band, I have no doubt it will be as exciting and intense as ever."

"This will be hard-hitting, and I think it will be a fairly lengthy show. I know one thing I can't stop till Bruce says to stop."