VERO BEACH - One of the most famous drummers in rock and roll history will bring his band to the Emerson Center in Vero Beach April 10.
Max Weinberg, the 45-year drummer for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, who also spent 17 years with the Conan O’Brien television show, will perform with his Jukebox band, ready to play your requests.
“The Jukebox is my four piece band, two guitars, bass, and drums that I created about two years ago,” Mr. Weinberg told Hometown News. “We play all audience requests, the songs that I grew up with. I’m 68. It’s the soundtrack of my life, and judging from the over 100 gigs we’ve done, it’s the soundtrack of the audience’s lives as well.”
“We play the Beatles to Bruce, to Steppenwolf and the Stones. The audience picks the songs in real time, calls them out, and it’s very interactive.”
This is not Max Weinberg’s first visit to the Treasure Coast. When touring with Springsteen and the E Street Band, they occasionally stay at an undisclosed Vero Beach location by the ocean.
The Jukebox band is perfect for classic rock. Jukebox features Glen Burtnik, a sometime member of Styx and The Orchestra, a successor band to Electric Light Orchestra. Along with Bob Burger and John Merjave, the band makes up a popular Asbury Park, New Jersey Beatles tribute band called The Weeklings.
“We grew up playing in bar bands, where you had to learn every song,” Mr. Weinberg said. “We were the guys in bands that learned all the parts, and really had a deep respect for the arrangements and the energy and the good feelings that the songs brought.”
Growing up in the New Jersey bar scene, Max Weinberg learned every style he could.
“As a drummer, my background is I played with anybody and everybody I could. I had to know every style, and I was very good at that. It was hard to stump me, which was great training for being in the E Street Band. When I first joined, half the songs were songs we grew up with.”
“I started working as a drummer, getting paid, when I was about six years old, as a sort of kid novelty act locally in New Jersey. Playing was better than bagging groceries at the local supermarket. So I started doing that in about 1968, just a local wedding band guy. I just kept playing, everything from Latin music, cha-chas, marches, all sorts of different stuff. I figured out early that if you knew how to play a lot of different styles, you worked a lot more. As a drummer you need to have that kind of varied experience.”
“The role of a drummer is sort of like the white line in the middle of a road. People can drift a little, but they always come back to the white line. That’s the role of a drummer in any band.”
“So when I went to put this band together, I wanted to play what I like to play. I decided to go back to the songs I played as a teenager. That’s what our set is, the songs I played when I was a teenager.”
Max Weinberg’s Jukebox plays with a video screen showing about 250 songs. The audience yells out the songs they like on the screen, and the band plays everything from Elvis to the Beatles to Springsteen.
“We do a half dozen Bruce songs. Most of the people who come to my show are Springsteen fans, but I don’t necessarily feature that material. When they ask for Bruce songs, we’re happy to play that stuff.”
Twice he’s been asked to play the quirky joke request Free Bird, and when it comes up, he’s happy to oblige.
“It’s not on the list, but when people request something like that, if one of us knows it, we try it. The last Conan O’Brien show I did in 2010, Will Ferrell was a guest, and he sat in with my band and we played Free Bird. Will of course played cow bell. That may have been the first time I ever played Free Bird.”
“You never know what we’re going to play. It’s not a concert, it’s a party. People should come expecting to have a good time. We encourage dancing in the aisles. I try to go for the emotional response I had to this music. That’s the idea, for us to be fun.”
Mr. Weinberg says he enjoys both being the band leader, as he is with Jukebox, or following a band leader, as he does with Bruce Springsteen.
“They’re very different. I embrace both rolls. I’ve been a band leader for a long time. I think my experience as a band member has very much informed my performance as a band leader. I’m sensitive to everything that band members feel and go through. As a drummer, I need great musicians around me. There can only be one Buddy Rich, who could sit there and play drums for an hour and people wouldn’t complain. But most drummers need great musicians.”
“I like taking direction, particularly from people who know how to direct. I’ve worked with one of the great band leaders in history, and learned so much from that experience with Bruce.”
One important lesson learned from Bruce Springsteen is that the size of the crowd doesn’t matter.
“When the E Street Band is rehearsing with Bruce, in a small room literally the size of a bedroom, he’s as intense in that rehearsal as he is in front of 150,000 people. You only play one way. In terms of performance, there’s no difference between a recording studio, a club, or a stadium.”
“My favorite quote on the subject came from Frank Sinatra. He was asked what kind of gigs were his favorite to play. He replied ‘they’re all $50 dates.’ He was saying I do what I do, whether it’s small, big, medium.”
“If you were dropped on the stage in a Bruce concert, you would notice how incredibly relaxed it is, and that comes from years of playing under every conceivable condition and room and studio. We used to rehearse in Bruce’s bedroom in New Jersey, literally in his bedroom.”
“I play my heart out, whether it’s a small place or a big place. Every time I sit down to play the drums, I really go for it. So when you’re seeing me, you’re getting my best on any given night. I never slack off.”
“People bring their children to these shows, and they tell me how they appreciate the experience of seeing me play live in a smaller place than with the E Street Band. They want their young kids to see the guy who plays with Bruce Springsteen. And they get exposed to good musicians and great songs, so what could be bad?”
Tickets are on sale now at www.MusicWorksConcerts.com, or call (800) 595-4849.
The Emerson Center is located on the campus of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, on the southeast corner of 16th St. and 27th Ave., Vero Beach.