Maxing Out the Music

Max Weinberg is probably best known as the drummer of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, having played behind the kit since 1975 and being part of the Boss’ biggest hits such as “Born to Run,” “Born in the USA,” “Dancing in the Dark,” “Thunder Road,” “Badlands” and “Hungry Heart.”

Additionally, the Hall of Fame drummer served as Conan O’Brien’s bandleader for 17 years, was lead drummer on Meatloaf’s 1977 album Bat Out of Hell and was part of Southside Johnny’s Hearts of Stone and Better Days albums.

Fresh off Springsteen’s hugely successful The River Tour 2016-2017—where the E Street Band performed 89 concerts nearly four hours long each night in 15 countries, Weinberg has spent the better part of the last six months with a touring concept for the small venue—a night he calls, “Max Weinberg’s Jukebox.”

“I compiled a list of about 400 songs that were somehow close to me as I became a drummer, and became close to me as I became a better drummer when I was a little older,” Weinberg says. “It runs the gamut from the Beatles to AC/DC to Led Zeppelin to Bruce, the Stones to all the English invasion bands.”

The drummer first performed his jukebox concert last summer in a club in Evanston, Illinois and immensely enjoyed the playlist.

“People have a really good time because they get to hear the songs that they want to hear, played by guys who take this era of material very, very seriously, except we do it with a lot of fun,” Weinberg says. “If you look back at my history as a drummer, I love sitting in with people, I generally play whatever they play. I came up as a drummer playing whatever the leader of the band wanted. You get adapted to fulfilling requests.”

In 2018, there will be several opportunities for people in our area to check out Weinberg and his tour. First up, he’ll be performing at Rams Head on Jan. 14. Then he’ll close out the Wolf Trap season at the Barns with two shows, May 4 and 5.

Max Weinberg’s Jukebox is set up with gigantic screens enveloping both sides of the stage. On the screens will be a continuous, scrolling list of classic songs and audience members shout out the ones they want to hear.

The list of songs includes 90 Beatles tunes, hits by The Rolling Stones, Tommy James and the Shondells, Paul Revere & the Raiders, and a healthy dose of Springsteen songs. Sometimes, the band even plays songs that aren’t on Weinberg’s list.

“‘Rock and Roll’ by Led Zeppelin was called out the other night, and it’s not on the list. So we said, ‘We’ll give it a shot, we’ve heard it a million times, and it came off great,’” Weinberg says.

He also connects songs to his career. For example, The Who’s “I Can See for Miles” is often requested, and it brings Weinberg back 40 years or so.

Although the Beatles tunes tend to be most popular, he’s found that David Bowie’s “The Jean Genie” and “Daydream Believer” by The Monkees are two songs that always seem to be requested.

“There are songs from the ’60s and ’70s that I grew up with and I feel particularly close to for one reason or another, and it turns out that the people who come to see this band feel particularly close to them, too,” Weinberg says. “It’s a very interactive night. I go out in the audience, say hello to people and ask them where they’re from.”

On most nights, Weinberg will survey the crowd for any wannabe drummers and often invites people on stage to play with the band. He describes his role on the night as a combination of Dave Clark, of the band The Dave Clark Five, and Dick Clark, the legendary host of American Bandstand.

“I’m sort of the host and drummer and we’ve been having just a ball,” he says. “I never know what we’re going to play, it’s up to the audience. But it always ends up being a memorable night.”

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